It had been a long day and an even longer previous night. The red eye from SFO to Miami was booked full and I was in an aisle seat in the middle of the main cabin, unable to sleep even when the couple next to me weren’t chuckling at an unfunny Eddie Murphy movie.
The short flight from Miami to Key West was more enjoyable. I stared out the window and watched the expanse of suburbs with man-made waterfronts give way to the Everglades. From there, the plane flew out over the Gulf, tracing the highway that connects the Florida Keys. We landed at small pink airport that exhibited a third-world sensibility when it came to building maintenance. When I got off the plane, I felt like my vacation had truly started. If only I were a little less tired.
The room at the hotel wouldn’t be ready for a couple of hours so I decided to hang out at the terrace bar and drink myself crosseyed before I could lie down for an afternoon nap. There was only one problem with that plan. You can’t buy alcohol before noon on Sunday in Key West. I suffered over a Coca Cola for about an hour before switching to a nice and legal bloody Mary.
Later that afternoon, I woke up from my nap and went out to explore. The temperature was well into the eighties and humid. Quaint colonial buildings lined Duval Street. It seemed like every other business was a hotel, gift shop, or bar. At some point, I would go visit the historical museum and the house where Hemingway used to fuck one of his wives. For the moment though, I was happy to immerse myself in tourist tackiness.
I had dinner at a place called Mangoes, a semi-fancy eatery with outdoor seating on Duval Street. There were canvas parasols over each of the tables to protect customers from the rain. Judging from the crackle of thunder in the sky to the northeast, the rain would be coming soon.
I ordered the grouper. “An excellent choice, sir,” said the waiter. I have never gotten used to being called “sir” but appreciated his thumbs up on my choice of grub.
I took a moment to reflect on how I’ve been really fortunate in life so far. I’m not rich but I make enough to go on vacation and enjoy a fine seafood dinner without having to worry about my expenses. A lot of people are not so lucky.
I remembered a story I read recently about a charity organization back in San Francisco that feeds the elderly. They used to provide peanut-butter sandwiches but with the hard economic times, they were unable to offer anything more than dry toast.
That’s the kind of news that really makes one stop and think. I made a mental note to not fill up on bread.