We weren’t ready to say goodbye to Mark and Evelyn Taylor. Some  company never grows stale. Benjamin Franklin warned that “fish and visitors stink in three days.” Not so if the visitors are the Taylors; we’d have kept them around indefinitely. We couldn’t, though. They left us to join a reunion of college friends in Nashville.

Just a few days later Velcro son Brian Matlock arrived. He’s family, not company. We’ve claimed him as our own since 1979, when he joined Mesa AZ Central Christian Church’s youth group, then the church, then the Lawson tribe. Thanks to the wizardry of the internet, he can work wherever he is. Some of his work here entailed instructing us on the mysteries of that same internet! We were not his best students.

Two derelicts, one an ancient pickup truck plastered in decals, the other an aging but not plastered Uncle Brian.

He arrived in time to take in some offerings of the annual Key West Film Festival. As I heard him tell others, together we saw one outstanding film, one pretty good one, and one disaster. That’s about par for the course for such events, I think.

The highlight of the week—sorry, Brian—was the company of grandchildren Stephi and Tom Arbaugh and great-grandchildren Elias, Estin, and Eden. What fun we had.

Fortunately, they arrived from East Tennessee before Brian returned to Phoenix. He’s a very popular Uncle Brian, even though in a sophisticated game of hide-and-seek, when Eden discovered him in the shower (fully clothed, I should explain) hiding behind a bath towel, Eden pronounced it “the worst hiding place ever.” That was after she’d just acclaimed him the most amazing at something or other. I hated to see him go, even though his leaving meant I got to be the most amazing—not ever but at least for the moment.

They are 10, 7 and 5 years old. Together they’re a formidable team when they gang up on the decrepit great-grandfather. Fortunately their parents rose to my rescue from time to time, although usually somewhat tardily. Meanwhile the great-grandmother hides in the kitchen whipping up yet another delicious meal.

Eden on the balcony of the Key West Lighthouse.

One day we took in the Key West Lighthouse (Tom and the children climbed to the top, surveyed the whole island from up there, and returned safely to the three ground-bound adults who were giving thanks for Tom’s supervision.

Arbaugh offspring meet Hemingway House’s feline descendant.

Just across the street is the Ernest Hemingway House and Museum, where we learned that I earlier underreported the cat population: it’s now up to 54 descendants of Hemingway’s originals. The Nobel Prize winning author brought his fame to this town and Cuba, just 90 miles away. While here he wrote To Have and Have Not, Green Hills of Africa, and two of his most famous short stories, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” He lived in this house from 1931-1939.

One of Ernest Hemingway House’s 54 pampered felines.
Stephi escapes from the sun in one of the hammocks.

On another day we went to Fort Zachary Taylor. It was a return visit for Grandma and me. Our earlier trip was really reconnaissance, checking for an ideal spot to return with the family. We discovered it. Tom found some trees exactly the right distance from each other for hanging his hammocks. He also appropriated an unoccupied table  Then we settled in for several hours of playing in the water, constructing a wide variety of sand sculptures, discovering spots the sun screen missed, and of course indulging in what I do best at the beach: snoozing.

The Hat knows how to enjoy the beach!
Actually, all the adults but our official photographer employed the hammock. This is Tom, guarded by Estin.

While at the beach we observed genuine international cooperation. Children with varying accents and languages worked together to build castles and moats and bridges. No prejudiced adults interfered, so peace was possible. The children worked out any differences that arose. Now–how do we apply what we have learned to national politics and international relations?

Tom took this picture of the Hatless with granddaughter Stephi and the great-grands.

The most special day of all was, of course, Thanksgiving. Grandma conjured up another of her annual terrific turkey specials. It’s pretty amazing to watch (that’s my role) her perform her magic in someone else’s kitchen. Fortunately, our apartment here is better furnished than most of the ones we’ve rented; still, it’s a challenge to cook with unfamiliar tools. When we sat down, though, it was all here: turkey and dressing, sweet potatoes, green beans, two kinds of cranberry salad, fruit salad, banana bread, brownies and ice cream (or sorbet for the dairy deprived). Among us these allergies had to be accommodated: gluten, dairy, onions, garlic, celery, soy sauce, MSG, and nuts.

Great-grandpa loves on great grandkids. This was before they beat up on him playing that vicious game, Catan.

Later in the day Tom and Stephi left us for the romantic sunset cruise that the grandparents had enjoyed as couple of weeks ago. We headed for the nearby swimming pool, where these three energizer bunnies demonstrated their swimming skills. For an example, tap here to see Elias mastering the backflip:  Elias’s beautiful back flip into pool. We learned later that Tom, among the most conscientious of fathers, hadn’t see this trick. The grandfather saw it first! (And of course Grandma, who videoed it.)

Then followed an evening with a terrible board game. Eden, Elias and Estin beat the socks off their hapless great-grandparents at Catan, the point of which seems to be to humiliate the older generation by stealing all their hard-earned resources. It took me back to the Monopoly of my childhood. Both games imitate the greed and heartlessness of unregulated capitalism.  They are not pastimes designed to soothe the pastoral soul.

I walked past this badly damaged house one morning.


I’ve done a little more walking around the island since last week’s report, finding more pockets of Hurricane Irma’s destruction. I already recorded my amazement at how quickly the area has been restored. But while the progress has been pretty astounding, reconstruction is not complete. Much remains to be done. When compared with Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, though, there’s much cause for rejoicing here.



Joy was impressed with this rooster’s strut.
Key West street art.
A Key West treat: live coconut!
Hemingway House bathroom–notice the interesting floor tile.


  1. You’re not supposed to have fun *after* I leave!! Makes me jealous. And I’m confident that in a rematch I could come up with an even *worse* hiding place. Something for Eden to look forward to!

  2. Was glad to see that Uncle Brian was not plastered like swan at his side. Love to you Lawsons and velcros from Chip and Teri— love ❤️ being with you through your wonderful blog and photos! Happy Holidays!!! xoxoxo ?

  3. Enjoyed all your fun adventures and photos!!!!! You two are, indeed, blessed! We are keeping all your ideas for what to see and do for when we get thee ….. thanks!!!

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