Tales from the road and then some
IF Idina Menzel wins a Tony for “Best Lead Actress in a Musical” at the 2014 Tony Awards on Sunday, THEN…it will be her second such honor against a very competitive field of nominees. Or is it?
Let’s break it down. (Disclosure: I have only seen four of the five nominated musicals but I watched Sutton Foster sing a song from her show Violet on The View, so I will base my highly unofficial appraisal off of that.)
Going through the stage door on a very rainy night
I didn’t see Idina in her Tony-winning turn as Elfaba in Wicked but I get her status as Broadway diva for the pre-teen set ever since she “let it go” for Disney’s Frozen. Her voice is transcendent; so are her eyes, which glisten, even from the front mezzanine. While the production of If/Then was a noble effort in bringing originality and creativity to Broadway (here, here!) I think the show overall missed the mark in that it moved way too fast and didn’t have enough differentiation between its dual story lines to keep us fully engaged. Nice score though, I hope it wins for that!
A note backstage for the orchestra
I was fortunate to be in the audience when Idina perform “You Learn to Live Without” from If/Then on the Late Show With David Letterman and in that intimate setting, with her adorable guitarist soulfully accompanying her, I realized just how good her voice, and the music from that show, is. Unfortunately, I was too busy trying to settle into the storyline during the Broadway production, and regrettably missed out on an otherwise fine set of songs. The fix? I need to see the show again!
"You Learn to Live Without" live on Letterman!
The Bridges of Madison County
I’d leave my husband for him too (if I had one)
Like many, I was reticent to see this show after being a fan of the original story told in the novel by Robert James Waller in 1995. Then, Clint Eastwood’s movie came along and added an obnoxious pair of adult children to absolutely break the trance of the otherwise tender romance between the dutiful but unfulfilled Francesca, and the visiting National Geographic photographer who glides into her quiet Iowa life to photograph covered bridges.The scene in which Francesca holds on to the door handle of her husband’s rickety old jeep for dear life contemplating whether to open it and run into the waiting arms of a very wet Clint Eastwood waiting for her in the rain, is brought to life with understated artistry and precision in the Broadway version – minus the jeep, the rain and Clint Eastwood. Other moments from this movie-based-on-a-book-turned-into-a-Broadway-musical are carefully rendered on the stage and the characters have genuine on-stage chemistry.
The photographer, played by Steven Pasquale, other than being a little young for the role, was a pleasure to look at for upwards of two and one half hours. I loved how they put a bridge on the stage and made me feel like I was in a cornfield in the middle of Times Square. (I hope it wins for set design!) But this post is about the female nominees so I will say that another Broadway veteran, Kelli O’Hara (Nice Work, South Pacific) as Francesca, sure gives Idina a run for her expensive ticket price when it comes to strong leading ladies with magical voices. It’s a tough call, but since Bridges closed last month, I say the Tony goes to Idina, unless…
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Again, I wasn’t running to see this one when it first opened. I hate when “Broadway” takes the easy way out by telling a feel-good story about people that everyone knows, with songs that everyone knows, and calls it “a new musical.” But…Beautiful is great and Jessie Mueller is so good she makes you forget she’s playing someone you “know,” as she provides great depth to “Carole King” beyond the iconic songs off her 1972 album Tapestry. Even though it’s a major crowd pleaser in the vein of Jersey Boys (which I also loved) this feel good story of triumph is a must see for any fan of music over the age of 35, as well as any fan of theater.
My initial thought was that it’s harder to play an original character (i.e. Idina in If/Then) then it is to play a recognizable figure (i.e. - Jessie in Beautiful) which has a built-in “like” factor, but upon seeing Jessie’s performance, I now think it’s harder to play someone we all know (or at least have heard) because the comparisons are inevitable — just as with a substitute teacher, you have a built-in bias. But if you can be so entrenched with the portrayal that you forget whether you know her or not, as l was with Jessie, then that’s the definition of talent.
So that’s why Jessie has a really good shot of winning the Lead Actress Tony, especially because Idina already has one and the leap of triumph off the “Beautiful” stage onto the one at Radio City would so touchingly serve to accentuate this “you go girl” story.
Which brings us to another nominee that had the portrayal of a once living person working in her favor…
A Night with Janis Joplin
This show, which ended its Broadway run in February, was called A Night with Janis Joplin for good reason – there wasn’t really a “script” or storyline the way there was with Beautiful. It was literally a night with Janis, in a theater, hearing her sing and tell stories, knowing the ultimate outcome while our leading lady doesn’t. Mary Bridget Davies deserves to be nominated because of her uncanny ability to channel Janis while at the same time keeping her fresh and keeping us thoroughly entertained as we forgot our troubles while tapping along to “Me and Bobby McGee.” But she’s no match for the other ladies in her category. Nonetheless, I’m glad I saw the show while I could. (Read more about this show and what it took for me to get there in this post.)
So the last nominee in this category is Sutton Foster, yet another Broadway mainstay with two Tony’s (Anything Goes, Thoroughly Modern Millie) in a musical you probably never heard of until the Tony nominations were announced – Violet. Like I said, I haven’t seen it (who has?) but from what I can tell, the show is a little hard to take a la The Elephant Man, in that a disfigured person is the central character, sans disfiguring makeup. Based on Sutton’s performance on The View, the music and singing in this show is meh, but that’s probably not fair to say without seeing the full rendition on Broadway. So if someone wants to send me the $162 for a ticket, I’ll go see it and blog about it here before Sunday.
So the winner is…
I am hoping for Idina but I won’t really be disappointed if Jessie wins. It’s an interesting mash up of ladies and it was a great year on Broadway for for shows in general, and really, isn’t that the point? If any of the others win, then I will stop writing blogs about the Tony’s and you will just have to settle for what I wrote about last year’s winner, Kinky Boots.
Can’t wait til her new book of personal essays comes out in September! Read my blog about it at www.ShelfPleasure.com:
Read my roving reporter adventures from the show floor of BEA/BookCon at Shelf Pleasure:
Move over Comic Con, BookCon is here!
Community2Community (C2C)’s annual “Hope and A Future” celebration – now in its fourth year of commemorating the strength and resiliency of the Haїtian people after the 2010 earthquake claimed 300,000 lives and left more than one million homeless – is a work in progress. Starting last year the celebration was held at the Christian Cultural Center (CCC) in Brooklyn to align with Haїtian Flag day in May. It included a multi-media theatrical presentation depicting the daily circumstances of Kitlee (Roselyn Sylvain), a 13-year old girl who lives on top of a mountain in Haїti, and how she forever changes the lives of those who come into her path – literally, the path that leads to the only place to get water for her village, miles away at the foot of the mountain.
The “progress” part is evident one year later in this year’s production, “The Story of the Trees,” which included artistic interpretations by Haitian guitarist BelO, jazz quintet Mozayik and the CCC Performing Arts Ministry. Kitlee is still walking miles to get water, but she would rather be a teenager enjoying life! While the community is getting closer to realizing a water distribution system, this year’s production highlighted a different aspect equally as important for the land and community to thrive – reforestation. A good deal of the plant life in Haїti was lost due in part to the crumbling of the mountainside post-earthquake. Of the greenery that remained, most of it has been cut away as a dire resort for income, as the short-term benefits of selling the valuable bounty can outweigh the long-term benefits of a reforested mountainside when you are desperate.
So in “The Story of the Trees,” we pick up one year later as Kitlee, and her community, is visited by “T,” short for Toussaint (Lee Marvin Sebastiany), a guy you’ve no doubt seen on the subway if you live in NYC. T is a lovably snarky workin’ dude from Brooklyn looking to have a little fun on his vacation with his buddy Pascal (Ashley Toussaint) – in Haїti. Like our visiting reporter in last year’s production, he got so much more. By the end of “The Story of the Trees,” T goes from looking for the tiki bar to offering to help Kitlee fetch the water and, symbolically and literally, plant a seed.
The point of this year’s production was to demonstrate the intersection and integration of water and trees, how both are equally important for the community to thrive as the water feeds the trees and the trees give root to the land, making it strong and sustaining, a force that can stand up to foul weather or acts of nature.
Haїti is currently only 2% forested. If this keeps up, the once vibrant country will become a desert instead of a lush, tropical, green island. Kitlee closed “The Story of the Trees” by saying “the seeds we plant today are important for everyone tomorrow, even I won’t be here.” T got it, and the hundreds of Haїtian-Americans and supporters in the audience got it too.
This blogger understands T. I look for adventure, fun, food and tropical drinks on my Caribbean vacations, too. But I went to Haїti in October, 2012 and while I wouldn’t exactly call it a vacation, I would call it a life experience that reverberates still, especially when I am reminded of the mountain village – Kitlee’s mountain village – where I slept in a wooden hut with no running water or electricity and broke bread with the locals of Piton Vallue who extended their “home,” and their Haїtian hospitality, to me.Where will Kitlee be next year?
That’s the question Marie-Yolaine Eusebe, Founder and Fire-starter of C2C asked immediately following last year’s show. She was talking about water. We wondered then: Will Kitlee still be walking down a mountain with pots on her head to get water, only to climb back up to deliver it to her family for sustenance, hygienic purposes and life-saving nourishment?
It’s the question Marie asked again immediately following“The Story of the Trees.”
Where will Kitlee be next year?
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Marie said, “but it will happen.” By “it” she means the completion of the water distribution system, which will bring the water to the people instead of bringing the people to the water. “It” is also the sprouting of 14,000 seedlings into trees that will anchor the earth and combine with the water to create much needed food and commerce, which will bring income. The C2C Water Initiative has accomplished 50% of its ultimate goal, but support is still needed in order to see it to fruition. Until these and other projects are completed, Marie and the team at C2C see it as both a commitment and a calling to tell the story each year.
Where will Kitlee be next year?
Since it won’t happen overnight, C2C has implemented a Neighbor Campaign to encourage ongoing financial support. “As a C2C Neighbor,” Marie says, “your monthly commitment will help us continue our work with the people of Petit Goâve, Haiti, to create sustenance in the form of water and trees, infrastructure in the form of accessible roads, and education for our children, with the ultimate goal of self-sufficiency.“
I’m not a living literary icon like Joyce Carol Oates or a best-selling novel churner like Jennifer Weiner, so why would anyone care about my writing process? Well, evidently at least one person does and that person is Joanne Tombrakos. I was invited by Joanne to be part of the “My Writing Process” blog tour, in which women bloggers blog about writing, in sequence, referring each other to continue the chain each week in an effort to drive like-minded women to each other’s sites. Go girl power! So maybe there will be a few people out there who care about my writing process? In that case…
What am I working on?
Oh my, I’m supposed to answer this in just one paragraph? I am working on posts for this blog, “Two Men and a Lady (and an RV),” a few paid business articles (income, yeah!), the endless quest to get a personal essay published in The New York Times “Modern Love” column (although I’d happily “settle” for publication in a top women’s print pub) and even if I’m not at it on a daily basis, I am always “working” on my novel, although “working” at this point means trying to figure out what agent to hit after the next rejection rolls in. Me, pessimistic, never! I prefer to call it—strategic.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Why does this sound like an interview question? Let’s see, what will I be writing in five years…
It all comes down to voice. My stories may have been told before but they’ve never been told by me. And I like to think when I tell my life stories (real and made up) that they somehow reflect my personality, my humor, my experience and my ever-changing outlook on the world. Isn’t that why any of us write and what makes each of us unique as writers?
Why do I write what I do?
Well, they say “write what you know.” I think that was meant more as start by writing what you know—and then become a real writer. But I’m still stuck in writing what I know and hopefully making it interesting enough in the translation from my head and heart to the page…that’s where the craft comes in for me. Maybe one day I’ll try writing something I don’t know and see where that takes me. But I don’t know anything about scuba diving and think it would be really boring if I tried to write about it.
How does my writing process work?
Ha, now we get to the meat of this post all about #mywritingprocess and whomever may care to read about it. I know the politically correct thing to say is: I get up every morning at (insert time here) and sit on my (insert favorite comfy piece of furniture here) with a view of (insert inspiring view here). I write for (insert length of time here) then I break for (insert favorite caffeinated beverage here) and then write some more. But the truth is, I write when I am moved to do so. I don’t have to force myself. I see stories in most things I do, not every day, not even every week. But then there will be a surge of things I want to write about that happen all at once, and I try to get them all down as they occur and post them here on this blog or in an essay that I send off to a publication. So I’m sure Joyce Carol Oates and Jennifer Weiner have a lot more to say about their processes, as does Dani Shapiro who wrote a whole book about it, but for anyone who has made it this far in this post, thanks for taking an interest in what I do, why I do it, and why I love it so much.
Why should you care?
If you’ve made it this far then chances are you’re a writer, you’re a woman and you experience the same frustrations and joys as I do in my writing career. And the more women that support each other, the stronger we all are collectively, the more our voices will be heard and the more fans we create in each other—and hopefully a few others along the way.
Continuing the blog tour next week will be my friend and collaborator, Karen Amster-Young. Karen, who, along with her co-author Pam Godwin, penned The 52 Weeks: How Two Women Got Unstuck, Got Inspired, Got Going, and How You Can Too! as well as The 52 Weeks blog. I was thrilled to be a contributing author to The 52 Weeks book and some of my stories about being “Single in the City” have appeared on their blog. I hope Karen takes this opportunity to tick another one off her 52 list and get unstuck by sharing her writing process with us all so check out her blog next week!
After centuries of evolution from meditation to asana to prana to tantra to hot to acro, what could be next for modern yoga you might wonder? Forget about moves, the only new style when it comes to yoga evident at the 2014 NY Yoga Journal LIVE conference last weekend at the Hilton Hotel was the pants!
We’ve come a long way, baby, from the basic black legging. It seems like only last year that those cute little black mini-skirts were all the rage to wear over those oh-so-tight black spandex leggings to cover our bulging butts when doing downward dog.
It must be a positive sign of the times that women now want to flaunt it big time, sans cover up skirts, letting it all hang out! Maybe Idina Menzel had something to do with the idea that everyone now wants to “let it go” when it comes to their lower halves.
The new styles of yoga pants evident at this year’s event fell into three major categories as far as I could see: 1) tie-dyed, a throwback to the days of yoga yore when eating “organic” meant foraging your own pot, I mean herb, garden; 2) animal prints, or as I call it, the “I am cougar hear me roar look,” and 3) the psychedelic sixties LSD pants – bright, neon-colored, funky designs that make you say, “I don’t care what my ass looks like, I’m a yogini!”
Double-vision leopard spots at the kiragrace booth
Complementing (or clashing with) the pants were a wide array of new funky headbands this year. Not much of a headband person, I walked right by the Violet Love booth until they finally offered to show me how to wear one. Never mind I looked like Rhoda Morgenstern, now I’m hip and fully up-to-date in my new yoga attire.
If there were any other new yoga trends at the event this year, I may have missed them as I was too blinded by the yoga pants. But one other thing I did notice was the refreshments—coconut water fresh from the coconut. Having been to Haiti, where they climb trees to fetch the coconuts, then open them up in plain sight before handing one to you to drink with your bare hands and head tilted way back to take in the nectar, I was impressed with Coco Jack which has invented a do-it-yourself coconut opener, the coolest invention since the umbrella! If this thing would have been on Shark Tank there would have been a bidding war. It’s brilliant!
I had to take a crack (ok, it’s more than a crack to open a coconut) at decimating my naked coconut to get at the succulent juice inside. But once I did…yum, so much better than the packaged kind, which I find to be an acquired taste. Nothing to acquire here except delicious, fresh juice!
Forget Smashing Pumpkins, smashing coconuts really rocks!
So, between the pants and the coconut juice, I did manage to take some classes and learn a few new things. Here are some highlights of the cool poses going on in the halls of yoga studios everywhere:
Wheel pose, as demonstrated by instructor Amy Ippoliti, never looked so good!
Getting down with instructor Shiva Rea
Learning acro-yoga, maybe not “so last year!”
Acro-yoga, not just for the manly men.
Bucking the trend, instructor Kathryn Budig demonstrates a pose on assistant Taylor Harkness clad in basic black leggings!
No matter the attire, yoga is beautiful.
And thanks to SmileBooth, I’m on the cover of Yoga Journal!
…and yes, I did take home a new pair of psychedelic yoga pants from satva.
In spring a young woman’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of…getting unstuck! So it’s time to take a lesson from The 52 Weeks playbook and set about Trying Something New (Chapter 1), Facing Fears (Chapter 6,) or my personal favorite, Flying Solo (Chapter 10).
Here’s a brief selection of tips distilled from Karen Amster-Young and Pam Godwin’s book based on their popular blog, The 52 Weeks: Two Women and Their Quest to Get Unstuck, with Stories and Ideas to Jumpstart Your Year of Discovery (Skyhorse, 2013).
Trying Something New
Sometimes you have to shake it up to get “unstuck” and thrive. Break out of your comfort zone this spring and try new things. It’s good for your health and your brain.
1. Get your caricature done by a street artist.
2. Have a picnic near a pond or lake, preferably one with some cherry blossoms around it!
3. Make out with a stranger.
What better time than spring to take a deep breath and start facing your fears?
4. Go on a rollercoaster.
5. Plan a solo trip to pursue a passion.
6. End a bad relationship and move on.
Photo: Penelope King
If you’re going it alone, by choice or by circumstance, spring is the ideal time to kick start your life in ways big and small.
7. Adopt a rescue dog.
8. See the world through a child’s eyes; spring is all about new opportunities.
9. Go soaring alone in a glider plane.
And the #10 way to get unstuck for spring and thrive…
10, Go pink. On your lips that is.
According to Danielle Langsner, Cosmetics and FIne Frangrances Manager for Nordstrom Natick Mall. “All the colors for spring are corals and pinks. The newest trend for lip color though, is the chunky lip ‘crayon.’ Basically it’s a two in one: if you freshly sharpen before each use, you can use it as a liner first and then fill it in the rest of the lip as a color, saving money and time…and let’s be serious, room in our new spring mini bags!”
You’ll be amazed at how you face the world when you know everyone is looking at your lips.
Other chapters to ignite your spring bucket list from The 52 Weeks include Wellness, Arts & Culture, Relationships, Giving Back and Changing Course. Start your own 52 Week list by downloading a template at the52weeks.com. And join me and The 52 Weeks authors Karen and Pam on April 23rd at Logos Bookstore in Manhattan to share your own tips for getting unstuck for spring, or tell us about them below.
It’s a great month for music here in NYC. While I was out looking for Mr. Big at the 21st Annual Jammy Awards on Friday night at the Cutting Room (Chris Noth is a co-owner), ten of the city’s “best amateur bands” competed for a coveted “Jammy Award.”
Alas, no Chris Noth sightings at the Jammy’s this year
Produced by The Jam NYC, the Jammy’s honor the talent and hard work of the best “recreational musicians” in NYC, who played their hearts out vying for 12 awards in categories ranging from “Male Vocalist of the Year” to “Most Dysfunctional Band” to “Best Dressed Performer.”
The evening began with my personal favorite, Local Heroes, a Bruce Springsteen tribute band. The guys were solid, with Brian August’s pitch perfect piano medleys anchoring the eight other musicians, including David Zensky and his rockin’ guitar licks—he didn’t just play his Fender Custom Shop 1960 Telecaster Relic, he performed it). Guy Villano’s respectable vocals made the iconic passages in “Badlands,” “Backstreets,” “Born to Run” and others resonate without trying to replicate Bruce, while Steve Sheider took home the Jammy for “Bass Player of the Year”— go Steve!
Local Hero David Zensky performs his Telecaster
Local Hero Brian August sports his Jammy badge
The “Female Vocalist of the Year” award went to Heidi Sadowsky of Bustling Hedgerow, a Led Zeppelin tribute band. Not that there was much competition (most of the Jammy performers are men; many, in fact, lawyers moonlighting as fabulous musicians). But even if there had been more estrogen in the jamfest, Heidi would have rocked this award by a long shot just as she has several times in the past; a refreshing female spin a la Patti Smith meets Aimee Mann that made me not miss Robert Plant’s vocals one bit on “Stairway to Heaven,” ingrained as they are into our collective musical memory.
Another favorite of the evening for me was The Petty Thieves, a Tom Petty tribute band. The tweak to the opening lyrics of “Runnin’ Down A Dream” spoke volumes…It was a beautiful day, Me and Hank were singin’…as a nod to the passing of Hank Goldsmith last June, a stunning loss of talent, friendship and support for the Jammy’s. One of its earliest members, Hank helped make sure the Jam continued after its creator Bill Bennett died in a car accident in 2005, and took home several awards himself including the Jammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
The Original Petty Thief: our beloved Hank Goldsmith (1962 – 2013)
Teddy Ames took over the lead vocals in The Petty Thieves with allegiance and deference to “his brother Hank,” the band’s creator and front man who is sorely missed by all who knew him. Ted, you have done Hank proud.
The “Best Tribute Band” award went to The Rolling Bones, deservedly so due in no small part to none other than Teddy Ames, who after shedding his Tom Petty persona, quickly channeled Mick Jagger’s sweaty, tongue-wagging, hyperactive moves with spot on reverence—as a tribute band should—to close the night.
While there was no Billy Joel tribute band at the Jammy’s (there’s always next year?) I would be remiss to not share the experience of Billy Joel singing “New York State of Mind”—in New York—at MSG on March 21st.
Billy has been performing one night a month at the Garden since January and will continue at least through the end of the year…or until people stop buying tickets which seems like a far off, distant notion based on the Billy love evident in the newly renovated Garden that night. Billy’s playlist varies just enough at each show but he always delivers with show stoppers we all want to hear like “I’ve Loved These Days” and “Billy the Kid,” along with obscure gems like “Surprises” (which he hadn’t ever performed live) and an unexpected rock-the-house moment; for us, this was accompanying Brian Johnson of ACDC on “You Shook Me All Night Long.” The renovated MSG is reason alone to attend this show, as it’s now a place to enjoy, rather than just endure, a performance.
Yes, I’ve loved these rock and roll days. Thanks Billy and thanks to the Jammy Awards for keeping great music alive and well in our fair city. And I will be back looking for Mr. Big at his awesome Cutting Room venue again for sure.
To see clips of the music mentioned in this blog, follow the links in the picture captions. Enjoy!
What does a hiker not especially fond of winter hiking do after more than 40 inches of snow falls in just over a month? Why, try snowshoeing of course!
Snowshoeing, to me, has always been a bit like hot yoga — everyone who tries it raves about it but the thought of actually donning a pair of tennis rackets on my feet (or breathing in a room full of sweat belonging to 30 strangers) has always left me kind of meh. But when my hiker buds asked if I wanted to join them to try out their new snowshoes, I figured let’s see what all the fuss is about.
Shows you how much I knew about snowshoeing. They don’t look like tennis rackets (although in 1987 they did); they look like compact, brightly-colored snowboards and you feel like a really cool ski dudette wearing them.
So a few things to navigate:
First, how to put them on. Is there a right and a left? Yes. Look for the little “L” or “R” under the straps where you put your feet. A front and a back? Yes, the round part goes in the front unlike skis where the points go in the front.
Only 35 minutes to figure it out in the parking lot, guys, not bad!
A few ups and downs. When you go up, you have to release the little metal bar so that your heels are elevated and then you have to pop them down again when you go downhill. Easier said than done, especially while you’re moving over a bridge!
Going to the bathroom. When you are a woman peeing in the woods you have to go off trail behind a rock or hardy tree. But when there’s snow, that means trudging through knee-deep, cold, wet powder that makes you wonder how badly you have to go. I did not try peeing with the snowshoes on but if I had known I was going to write about it, I might have given it a shot.
How badly do I have to go?
Snowshoes vs. microspikes. Probably best to have both. If the trail is sufficiently broken in, the freedom and ease of putting on the microspikes is a pleasure. But we had to break trail to get to our destination (Rainbow Falls in Minnewaska State Park) and it was either turn around and go back or walk ankle deep in snow or use the shoes. What would you do?
Microspikes? Not so good in deep snow…
But great for ice climbing!
Once you get the hang of the snowshoes though, you kinda feel like you’re on an elliptical machine gliding through the white, winter wonderland.
Only you’re actually going somewhere.
Why do we do it?
For the falls (the frozen kind!)
For the falls (the sliding kind!)
For the fearlessness!
For the frolic!
For the fun…
And for the friendships.
Thanks guys! More snow coming this week. What’s next?
There is something very cool about being at the extreme point of anywhere - the northernmost or easternmost tip of a country where the land meets the sea and we are reminded just how much else there is “out there.” Maybe that’s part of the charm of Key West Florida, the southernmost tip of the U.S., only 90 miles from Cuba, as its famous landmark boasts.
Okay, maybe that’s the charm for the tour books, but the hedonistic qualities of Key West, minus the debauchery that usually accompanies such places, is what I think did it for me.
There is always something going on in the streets: music, new friends beckoning for you to join them in the bars, singers who can sing anything you tell them, (some of them well!), all while swigging a good, strong rum drink in a plastic cup as you traipse down Duval Street with a smile on your face.
To add to the mayhem and frivolity, we experienced almost twice the average amount of rainfall for the month of January in one night. A straight, steady downpour leading to puddles, streetlight outages and, of course, even more merriment in the bars. What to wear for tiptoeing through the raindrops in Key West, Florida? This intrepid traveler was stumped— no umbrella, no closed-toe shoes, not even a sweatshirt. When I go to Florida, I think palm trees and sun tan lotion, excuse me.
So I pulled together a ridiculous outfit including an over-sized white baseball cap and my black, quilted winter coat (yes, winter coat!) over my black beach schmata and white leggings, gold flip flops on my feet. (It was easier to get your feet wet rather than try to dry any type of shoe during this deluge.) Don’t ask. All this just to hop the ten feet from our room at the Duval Inn to their Tiki Bar by the pool, where they offered a complimentary happy hour – rain or shine!
The bartender, Roy, looked like the Gorton’s Fisherman in a yellow hooded raincoat with his scrappy white beard.
We figured happy hour meant wine or beer, maybe a specialty margarita, but lo and behold, Roy was pouring everything on the shelf! And he kept pouring ‘em, probably because the rain kept everyone from moving onward to check out the sunset. So five rum punches later (apiece), we were bold enough to venture into the streets where we eventually hit a warm, inviting bar, Willie T’s, and I was able to lose the nun’s habit…
…and be serenaded by a local singer and guitarist, Gerd Rube, who made me forget about the rain with his soulful renditions of everything from the Eagles to Neil Young to Garth Brooks, along some original tunes like” Key West Sunset” which make you want to grab a beer with your honey and take in the dipping of the gold ball into the horizon and the famous green flash that follows.
The next day the skies cleared and we hit Southernmost Beach Café (yes they are very proud of their extreme status down there) for brunch and frozen margaritas followed by a buzzed walk down Duval Street in the daytime, complete with its sex “exploration” club (tempted, but no), t-shirt shops (yes) and beer sold on the street (yes). Then we hit our inn’s happy hour again— only one drink this time because we were off to sample the Key West sunset that our friend Gerd had sung about. Yeah, I get it. Be a tourist in Key West and watch the sunset in Mallory Square. It’s a celebration of life, as in, it’s good to be alive.
When we asked a jewelry cart vendor what the best place for seafood was, she did not steer us wrong. We found our way to Conch Republic where we sampled the best peel and eat shrimp (that taste like lobster), blackened grouper and grilled swordfish. Perfect Floridian fare.
And don’t forget the obligatory key lime pie, but ditch your restaurant and head to the Key Lime and Coconut Factory, where personally, I thought the coconut pie was even better than the key lime.
We made it off and out of the southernmost point before the 5.1 earthquake that hit Cuba a few days later and was felt in Key West. We had enough adventure as it was. Don’t ever change, Key West, there is no place else like you. Like Gerd Rube sings:
I’ve never seen a place like this before
Where people are fun and you’re never on your own
Where the sun is home 365 days a year
And the waves and birds are the only sounds you hear
Let me take you by the hand and I’ll show you what I mean
Come here my friend and see how wonderful life can be
Down in the Florida Keys
Just watch the waves after a heavy storm!