Key West today. Been here done that bought the Conch Republic T-Shirt. Got up for an early breakfast then headed off the ship to see what was open on a Sunday morning. My report is as follows:

A few shops selling T-shirts and snow globes and plastic Key West drinking glasses now marked down to $9.98.

Bars, so many bars

Nothing else.

More or less. A few people went to see where Hemingway was depressed, a few took out jet skis - I wonder if the return rate is 100% year after year, or if they lose a few now and then - and as far as I could tell most people clambered on tour trolleys and listened to a spiel about the history of the place. I like it, I suppose; it’s touristy, but it has the charm of a place where people go for the last act before it’s too late, and behave themselves accordingly. Of course there’s the whole Margaritaville crap, with the original bar serving as a Lourdes for the devotees, but I am not a fan. Some people say that there’s a woman to blame, but I know it’s my own damn fault. Who are those people? How often do they say this? Does anyone ask? Hey, what’s with the drunk at the end of the bar? Oh, he got dumped three years ago. No, five.

It is a great place for a functioning alcoholic, though, because there’s no social sanction for drinking at 9 in the morning. Well, I had to have a Bloody Mary for breakfast! It was Key West! Sure. The people who are having the margaritas in the AM, I observed, at least seem to be happy about things - the middle-aged men and women with T-shirts emblazoned with naughty slogans or ridiculous boasts. They’re loud, somewhat crude, bray their laughter, and I wouldn’t want to sit next to them - but they’re preferable to the slow-moving, sensibly dressed, pinched-face hens who look as if they disapprove of everything, and the tired wisps of men with white socks up to their knees who trail alongside.

“Dear, I’ll bet you’re tired of disapproving everything here in Muncie. Why don’t we get on a ship and disapprove of something else down where it’s warm.”

“No, I don’t like the ships, it’s so cold in the dining room.”

“You can bring a wrap.”

“Well I suppose I could but then I have to take with me when I get off the ship, because it’s so hot outside.”

Here are some early morning pictures.

Perhaps it was this guy: Jose Manual Renedo. He was a doctor, and in 1925 got married in Cuba.

I'm always fascinated by this place. It's a drug store.

Take a gander at its appearance in the 20s.

The decorations have not exactly been well-served by repainting, but it's part of the charn.

Behind one of the touristy malls that sell a lot of crap:

Remember, every touristy shot is better with an old bike; it suggests a simpler, more honest, vintagey life.

Stretching upward in hope, Key West extends the Tulip of Prosperity to all!

As well as the liberty cap and a rather obvious symbol on the crest. There's a museum in this building; I went there last time, and the people who worked there seemed annoyed someone had come to look at the stuff. They were getting ready for an event. I hope it went well for them.

The customs building has some damn-fine tropical Moderne capitols.

Finally: Sunday morning.

I'll spare you the bar facades and flowered streets. It's a nice place. I would see the advantages of living there if large ships didn't regularly dump a thousand people on the street, but there's something to be said for commerce and lively urban settings and the gratifying opportunity to sigh with annoyance over all these people sitting on the tour busses looking out with expressions of genial endurance.

That was earlier. Now I’m in the buffet restaurant, watching this thing . . .


It’s remarkable how much I am not eating. It’s a cruise. I should be chowing. Down. Yet I am not gobbling and gorging; at the evening meals I’ve had the fish, twice, because it seemed the most toothsome option. The pizza looks terrible, which helps. The siren song of the Dive In hamburger bar has not yet sung. I think I’m being sensible because my dress suit pants fit, and I wish that to maintain; the day shorts are drawstring, which permit all sorts of self-denial rationales. And because I breakfast the hell out of breakfast.

There’s nothing I don’t want. The eggs. Bacon. Sausage. Potatoes. FRENCH FARGIN’ TOAST thank you. I used to say to Daughter with a wistful sigh: ship breakfast.

That’s all I had to say; she knew. License to have all of the best parts of the best meal. The only thing I require is that no one speak to me because I am not the sort of guy who wants to talk before I’ve had a few cups of coffee. I am thick of tongue and stony of mien, although I try to soften the latter with a smile that probably comes out like a rictus of malice. I just want to read the New Yorker.

Doesn’t that sound so typically pretentious? Leave me be, I have to catch up with the New Yorker. There’s an article about some restauranteurs I want to scoff at. Sorry, at which I wish to scoff. But it’s true. Could be worse; I could demand to be alone with the BBC Music magazine on my iPad, which is also morning meal material.

Anyway, that’s the end of the first day out. What comes next, I can tell you: a day at sea, meaning a day dozing and reading. Probably not sitting outside too much, as I got a bit red on one side for that “walked by the window just as the nuclear bomb went off 14 miles away” look.













I am so bored

Kidding. But a day at sea requires you to find your own adventures, and that means you either sit in the Crow’s Nest for six hours and read, or go outside and sit and read, or not, or sit in the shade and read, or stare, or bob in the pool, or just move around a lot as I do. Some time here, some time there, a bite to eat, a book -

and there I had a problem, since I was 1/3 of the way through a Bosch novel when I realized it was probably the plot of the upcoming show. Damn. I don’t doubt that they diverge, but I don’t want to the TV show to be spoiled. On the other hand, I was enjoying the book. But on the gripping hand, I have another. What I won’t have is a book from the library.

There aren’t any. No, let’s say many. There are picture books, mostly. The library is gone. Why? Everyone has a Kindle.

This is a pity. I enjoyed the opportunity to read something I hadn’t planned on reading. The Explorations cafe where they sold coffee drinks is gone as well, replaced by an excursions desk. The computers are all gone, because no one needs them anymore. So I was present for that brief interval when ships absolutely had to have a room full of desktop computers. And then they didn’t.

What replaced everything? Big video displays, of course. One of them lets you mark places on the map to answer a daily question about foreign places where you felt at home right away (England, for me, and it felt a bit obvious. Oh aren’t we the adventurous type, feeling at home in a staggeringly foreign place where everything is in your native tongue), where you’d got your first passport stamp, and so on. Everyone’s answers are on display on the big screens.

I could not care any less about that. It’s huge. Ruined the room, if you ask me. There was something about the smell of coffee and the sight of books that made the place feel like a civilized retreat. Two other large monitors show which direction we’re going, how fast, and how deep the sea is below us.


That’s cool. I was also unaware we were dropping phosphorescent death charges, but those whales aren’t going to kill themselves. Well, no, maybe they will.

So now it’s the middle of the afternoon, and I’m contemplating a beer. It’s a bit early for normal life, but not for shipboard life; hell, I’m late as it is. There are people who bought the bucket at noon.

Sounds like a euphemism; probably should be.


Did three miles around the ship; made a Deck Walk playlist before I left, the beat matched to how fast I walk when I’m doing the promenade stride. Felt fantastic. Gorgeous sunset. Feeling of great contentment and adventure. Felt happier and in better shape than the last three cruises. Sometimes you have no idea you are out of the groove until you're back in it.

LATER Tonight at dinner: Utah finance professor; former Disney accountant, among others. Great chat - around dessert, my watch tapes my wriet with messages from home. Birch ate an entire bag of cough drops, pls advise / also, a message from daughter IN FARGIN' BRAZIL re this:

I threw that out from the bounding main, an ancient callback, but she got it, and texted back that the arrow people were relentless. It was something we had commented on . . . when she was ten, I think. That poor family, attacked on all sides by the Arrow Men. She remembered.

Alone out here, but not completely so. There's the memory in your head . . . and the tap on your wrist.

Tomorrow: the big Turkish Carcass.