Joy rented our Key West apartment well before Irma paid her devastating visit. For weeks, when asked what our next stop would be, we answered, “Key West, if it’s still there.” Our Florida landlords assured us the apartment was fine, that the island escaped the traumas of Caribbean islands and other sites in the Southeast, and that the damage was vegetative rather than structural. So we kept on course, still a bit apprehensive about what we might find. But first came our rendezvous with the Taylors.

After leaving Norwegian’s  Getaway in Miami four hours late–the captain had to sneak by another Atlantic storm—we had a few hours to kill before meeting Mark and Evelyn’s plane. We joined a tour group from the ship for an air boat ride in the Everglades, another of Joy’s bucket list items.

Everglades grasses and  waterlilies. Notice the photographer’s shadow in the water. She didn’t want me to point it out.

The wildlife wasn’t much in evidence, though we did spot a couple of alligators, a heron or two, and some other birds. We were then treated to a short show featuring three other alligators.

This fellow was the object of our search in the Everglades.
This old timer was the star of the show we attended after our cruise through the Everglades.

The trainer looked right at home in the cage as he demonstrated how to handle the ferocious-looking reptiles. We were content to remain on the other side of the barrier.

Mark and Evelyn Taylor standing on the southernmost point of the continental USA.

When the Taylors flew in they picked up their commodious SUV rental, crammed in all our luggage, and pointed southward. We wondered what to expect. I was pretty sure we’d have to make our way slowly, dodging potholes, creeping over damaged bridges, detouring frequently, obeying flashing police car lights. Instead, we drove straight through to Key West: no pot holes, no damaged bridges, no detours, no police on patrol. It was dark, so we couldn’t see much beyond the road but we did make out piles of debris on the shoulder. That was it.

Irma’s debris–including some boats– piled up on the harbor jetty.

Later we learned there had been quite a bit of damage, but the clean-up, fix-up crews responded quickly, toiled for long hours, and substantially returned the island to normal. We marvel at Key West’s rapid return to business as usual. Tourism is down—one estimate we heard was about 30%–but that’s being compensated somewhat by rerouted cruise ships stopping here in place of St. Maarten and St. Thomas and other islands destroyed by Maria. What a hurricane season this has been—and it’s not over until the end of November.

We’ve been here over a week now. From the blue skies and friendly temperatures, you’d never guess Irma had ever passed this way. What impresses the tourist is the high level of civic pride here. This is a tight-knit community. The residents we’ve met love to boast about the first responders and then the follow-up labors of police, firemen, volunteers, civic leaders and followers alike. They know them personally. These natives are  not about to let a little storm dampen their joie de vivre.

As a rule I don’t like selfies, but when the vote is three-to-one…

The Taylors will be with us for two of our four weeks here, so we’ve tried to follow their lead in planning our touristy outings. There were a few imperatives, of course: at sunset standing along the waterfront at Mallory Square, a rite observed by tourists and natives alike; a visit to Ernest Hemingway’s house and its 40 cats-in-residence; a tour of President Truman’s Little White House, a nostalgic walk down memory lane for this writer, who remembers his unpopularity (his approval rating at the end being even lower than President Trump’s), his upset victory over Thomas Dewey in the 1948 election, his firing of General MacArthur, his fierce defense of his daughter Margaret’s singing—which needed defending, and so much more.

As a farewell dinner, the Taylors treated us to lobster. To lobster!

Mostly we do our own cooking in our various Airbnb homes, but in Key West you simply have to eat out. The place abounds with excellent restaurants. We haven’t had a bad meal yet—including, I hasten to add, the ones we’ve eaten at home.

The Hat taking lessons for his date with Marilyn (see below). This sculpture is copied from the iconic photo taken at the end of WW II.

Joy and I would be enjoying Key West on our own. We like the climate (November and April are the prime months), the people we’ve met, the laid-back atmosphere, and, as I just said, the cuisine. But we’ve enjoyed it even more because Mark and Evelyn are with us. We’ve been friends a long time, starting somewhere in the 1970s. I wrote a monthly column (“From My Bookshelf”) for Christian Standard for nine years; Mark was my editor as well as my friend. He retired from his position and I from my column at the same time. We have not retired from our friendship, though. He and Evelyn are ideal vacation companions. This is our third one together.

Is The Hat sweet talking Marilyn? He protests that this photo moment was staged, but Mrs. Hat isn’t sure.
Mark snapped this photo of lawsonsontheloose’s official photographer.

We’ve seen two movies. Judi Dench’s Victoria and Abdul, about the ancient queen’s unusual-scandalous- relationship with an Indian subject who became chief counselor to “The Empress of India,” much to the disgust of her government and household. I didn’t know the story; I went because I like Judi Dench. An excellent evening at the cinema.

We also saw a unique film, Loving Vincent, advertised as “the world’s first fully oil painted feature film.” We have never seen anything like it. Vincent Van Gogh completed 800 paintings (and sold just one of them) in his lifetime. The film consists of many of these art works re-painted and animated like a highly cultured feature-length cartoon. Unique. It was particularly intriguing since we were in Arles, France, last year, the site of Van Gogh’s final home. On an earlier trip to Amsterdam I’d taken in the Van Gogh museum. In other words, we’re fans. Many of his masterpieces, which his brother Theo couldn’t sell or even give away, now fetch millions of dollars in art auctions. I’m encouraging Joy’s painting.

One last outing to tell you about this week: a romantic sunset cruise in the waters off the Key West coastline. You’d think we’d be tired of so much sailing after the transatlantic crossing, but we’re originally from Oregon. We never tire of being at or in or on the water.

Mark Taylor has supplied several of today’s pictures, including this excellent one taken on our sunset cruise.

And this time we sailed, the wind in the sails silently propelling us along. A setting sun, a constantly morphing reflection, unfurled sails carrying us toward panoramic views of land and sea, and good companions. All this with just a touch of sea-sickness to remind us of the real world. Who could ask for anything more?


Ropes on our sunset cruise schooner.
Joy snapped this picture of a pirate ship from our sunset cruise schooner. They fired on us. We survived the attack.
Sunset through the haze.


4 thoughts on “KEY WEST IS STILL HERE”

  1. Lots of fun in this post: an air boat ride in the Everglades, an alligator show (not quite the Folies Bergere, but still . . .), “talking” with Marilyn, and sailing into the sunset (not metaphorically, we are glad to note) with dear friends, Mark and Evelyn. You make us eager to visit Key West!

  2. I have enjoyed reading your comments about Key West (as well as the other blogs) while at the same time reading the chapter on Key West in the book, Charles Kuralt’s America. Have you read it? After retiring from CBS News he spent a year revisiting favorite places. He stayed in each place a month.

  3. Oh my, this is a wonderful account of your time in the Keys! This is definitely on our bucket list ….. good thing I didn’t know sooner about your plans or I might have tried to intrude!!! 🙂

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