Last Night in Key West … was the Best Night!

mallorysquareMallory Square at sunset last night was a tourist trap. Lots of fun acrobats and entertainers, for sure, but not that exciting if you’ve already been there once before. There was even this one guy I remembered from 8 years ago, and he even recycled his jokes. “When I first came here 27 years ago,” he said, “the Sunset Festival was all locals. Now it’s all tourists; and where are the locals? In the parking lot, breaking into your car!”

Then, the sunset happened … which was the most bizarre and anti-climactic things I’ve ever seen. The crowd was fixated on the sun, and everyone was pulling out their cameras. But just as the sun began its descent, this huge cloud rolled in … and the place was engulfed in fog. Just like San Francisco.

Which brings up an important point … ever since I got here two nights ago, the nights have been super foggy. But the locals tell me it’s TOTALLY unusual. They’re quite baffled, and all of them say they’ve never seen anything like it. Just take a look at my next photo, which was of Duvall Street last night …

foggyduvalAnd speaking of Duvall Street, most of it … at least up north by Mallory Square … is a hideous tourist trap with tacky, over-priced souvenir stores. You have to walk a few blocks, where I’m staying at in the “rough” part of town to get a nicer feel.

After dinner, I grabbed drinks at La Te Da — a cabaret bar further south on Duval Street. Everyone’s been telling me to eat some key lime pie while I’m here. Haven’t done so yet (and no urge to because I’ve had it before), but last night at La Te Da, I had a Key Lime Pie Martini!! Wow, it was delicious!

As we listened to Patrick on the piano and Debra on vocals, I chatted up a conversation with a middle-aged couple called Bill and Sarah. They tell me Key West has changed a lot in the past decade, especially once the cruise ships started arriving. There used to never be a single chain restaurant, and a lot more grungy bars. Of course, the place has become uber gentrified with the cruise ship tourism that comes in …

As we talked about gentrification, I mentioned my work back in the Bay Area. Much to my delight, Bill Houlihan is a housing attorney – who was on the Rent Board in Brookline, Massachusetts before the state abolished rent control in the mid-1990’s.

A mural outside Bobby's Monkey Bar

A mural outside Bobby's Monkey Bar

During her singing break, Debra comes up to me and we strike up a conversation. When I tell her how much I love piano bars and singing, she invites me to come up on stage with her. We sing a duet of “Till There Was You,” a wonderful way to end my visit to La Te Da.

I then walked just a few blocks away to Bobby’s Monkey Bar — a grungy gay bar on one of the side streets. Look at the mural outside the bar … this is where the locals go hang out, and Sunday is karaoke night. I go inside, and request “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. The place is really chill … like Nap’s in San Francisco, you don’t have to wait long to get your song called. Unlike Nap’s, the place is clean … and the karaoke machine has a good song selection.

I’ve now checked out of the hotel, but Marie is letting me sit on the front porch and blog on my laptop. I will miss Key West … it’s been good to me, and I will be back again.

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One Response to “Last Night in Key West … was the Best Night!”

  1. Maria Says:

    For someone who advocates for the disadvantaged *and* writes for a news publication you sure jump to judgement quickly without asking questions.

    How can you call the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square a “tourist trap”? Perhaps you should look the term “tourist trap” up in the dictionary. “Tourist traps will typically provide services, entertainment, souvenirs and other products for tourists to purchase, and these will often be at inflated prices (compared to the local economy).”

    The Mallory Square Sunset Celebration is run by artists and performers exclusively. I am talking about the actual Pier area where the performers and artists set up, and not the shops that service the cruise ships. The items for sale on the artists’ displays are all required to be hand-made, and the tables are staffed by the artists themselves. Many of the artists are living hand to mouth. The artists have to be juried in by a committee composed of other artists. The items are not overpriced, on the contrary, many of them are real bargains given the amount of time that artists put into the work. I found all of this out the first time I ever visited Mallory Square simply by asking one of the artists who was set up. You may not like the performers who work there, (the performers indeed do not change what works for them) but no one is required to tip them.

    So again, I ask you to qualify your statement that the Sunset Celebration is a “tourist trap”.

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