by Rachel Gertz

The Key West Cock

Day 124

We have seen and conch-ered Key West. We’re another year older, although sans cake, presents, or family & friends, it really doesn’t feel that way. In preparation of getting older, we let the malaise of Key West run our bodies amok with food, drink, and late nights.

Key West is a maze of tourists, rough coral sand, Bourbon Street style pubs and nudie bars. It’s basically another Vegas on the sea (minus the slot machines—although there was a ‘masseuse’ working on a man’s torso in the pub who might have passed for one). By day two, we were still thrilled with this little seaside jamboree (day six was another story). We ate at the Hurricane Hole, scooted Isabella down streets perfectly made for scooters (30 mph limits), and gawked at the strange sites and sounds of this historic town.

But you don’t want to hear the details of our food and drink and gluttony. What you want to hear is the truth about the place. You know, so you can decide whether or not to waste your holiday days here.

The Myths.

Myth 1: People are super laid back in Key West

Alright. Who made this stupid one up? Every where we went everyone kept telling us how laid back people were in Key West. But to be honest, the most laid back people were, in fact, the canines of Key West and the Man O’ Wars dying on the beach. Though it is true that there were very few unnecessary honks and less angry, disgruntled yells, that impatient mother we know as Time still lead the majority of Key West locals & tourists by the hands. Hurry, hurry, hurry! Maybe it’s just that people in Key West are simply LESS intense and hurried as people of greater Florida, and that’s why Floridians will tell you, “Dude, Key West is soooo laid back. You won’t even believe it!”

I don’t.

Myth 2: People are happier in Key West

Busted. We have decided that it really makes no difference where you are, people seem to be generally miserable or maybe just detached. Neutral facial expressions —9 times out of 10— were scowls. The locals (especially the servers) remained aloof and unphased by any attempt at conversation.  There was one exception to this phenomenon in Key Largo where we had excellent service and chatted at length with two different servers.

Otherwise, the experience has been ‘let’s just eat, or shop, or grab a drink at the bar, and get the hell outta here because people are avoiding us’. Or maybe it’s just that we just smell funny. At the Hard Rock, our absolutely negligent server actually circled the spot on the bill where it said ‘it is customary to tip your server 18% to 20%’. This, after avoiding us for an hour. She even drew an arrow to it. We reacted by providing her with information about how tipping actually works.

The other strange thing is that we cannot seem to make eye contact with anyone here. The harder we try, the more awkward people react, and the further the lengths they’ll take to avoid your eyes. It’s like trying to catch a fish with a butter knife (doesn’t work unless the fish is hypnotized, I’ll have you know). Does anyone know anything about this strange phenomenon?

Myth 3: Key West makes the best key lime pie

We tried four pieces of key lime pie while touring the keys. We had meringue topped, whipped cream laced, pomegranate sauced, and key lime wedged pie at four different locations. Verdict? The Cactus Club Cafe with its Red Iron Chef back home in Calgary beats them all hands down! Although each had its own merits, they either tasted too eggy, too sweet, too dense, or too boring. Here’s the break down.

Sundowners: meringue, tart, gelatinous. Too heavy on the sugar and way too much meringue

Hobo’s Cafe: crunchy pie crust, tangy, but plain (no limes, whip cream, or sauce), gelatinous

Hurricane Hole Restaurant: plated well (blackberries, blueberries, whipped cream), tart sauce, dense, a bit too sweet, lacking the tartness in the pie

Willie T’s: my personal almost favourite, tart, crunchy graham cracker crust, rosebuds of whip cream, but not enough zest. And not a Cactus Club key lime pie.

So in a place where the key limes fall off the tree at your feet, and each restaurant boasts that their pie was the BEST pie in the keys, we discovered Liars.

Myth 4: People are working hard to keep the wild chickens around

This is absolutely true! Key West is inundated with wild chickens and roosters who need help! This is the first time we have ever heard of such a thing. When we think of chickens, we think of sloppy white birds, KFC, and smelly coops. But there they are, scratching in the Kmart parking lot dirt with chicks and cocks in tow. Quite a site, actually. The roosters are much smaller than our Canadian version, but like Canada cocks, they shout their Kikeriki at all hours of the day or night or pretty much whenever they hear another rooster crowing. Not sure how that ‘crow at the rosy fingers of dawn’ thing got started. Farmer Joe should get an alarm clock if he wants a wake up call at dawn.

Anyway, these noble creatures are at the centre of some alarming controversy. Seems that the bird poop and alarming squawks are pissing some people off. Rooster Rights terrorists are going to great lengths to preserve the population that has been in existence here for about 175 years. Even as far as destroying traps and threatening the fabled Chicken Catcher. God help us all.

Now, I could go on and pull out your eyeballs with the rest of the myths. But they will take another page at least. We don’t want to bore you or leave your eyeballs a mess, so you’ll just have to wait till tomorrow. Or the next day.

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