I’ve never been to New Orleans, not because I didn’t want to go, just never got there. From what I have seen on TV, prior to Katrina, and what I have read about the city, it seems to have some things in common with Key West.
Key West has some of the most wonderful and colorful characters you’ll ever meet. The town was even more wonderful before the cruise ships started docking there and flooding the town with tourists. When that happened, a lot of the charm and local flavor was pushed aside for the likes of McDonald’s and such. But the great bars are still there and many of the local people are still there too. See, before the cruise ships came the locals owned the businesses. They made the candles and they made the crafts that were sold to put food on their tables. Many could not compete with the vulture companies that moved in once they got a whiff of international tourism money.
But let’s go back to the bars, shall we? You just never know what you’ll see in Key West. I remember one night we were at an open air bar. The music was shaking the palm trees and the booze was aplenty. I looked across the crowd and there was a woman standing there enjoying the music and all she was wearing was a pair of shorts. Her breasts were dancing along to the music. Sure, you don’t see that everyday, but you might in Key West.
On another trip down to Key West we were walking down Duval street and running toward us was a gentleman wearing a female nurse’s costume, carrying a suitcase and yelling, “Get out of my way, I have been called to an emergency.” He dashed into the next bar and that was that.
On yet another trip, yes, we used to go down there every chance we got, we were sitting in Sloppy Joe’s enjoying the music and adult beverages. This was a long time back, and yes, we did inhale some smoke in the bathroom. Anyway we were just sitting there at a table when a young guy walked up and sat down at our table. He was wearing some sort of crocheted cap that looked a lot like the toilet tissue cover my mother once made. He turned to me and asked me if I knew about the beginning of the world. I told him I wasn’t sure (after a few hits and cocktails, I wasn’t real sure of anything). He proceeded to inform me that that the Virgin Mary came from an Easter Egg. I don’t remember anymore of what he said but that part stuck in my mind, even in my mind’s damaged condition.
Key West is the kind of place where you wear clothes that are fun. You drink there and you play there. It’s the kind of place where you can get drunk, take off your shoes and you can dance on the sidewalk. I can testify to that. Key West is the sort of place where you can be whatever you want to be and no one notices, no one cares. It’s the sort of place that appears in you fantasies. It’s a place where your fantasies can be real. It’s a place for sinners and saints. But trust me, it’s a hell of a lot more fun if you’re a sinner.
Just as we saw characters staying in the bars of New Orleans after Katrina blew through, we saw characters staying in the bars of Key West yesterday after Rita blew through. Seems to me these two cities have a lot in common and I hope to one day be able to know that first hand.
We need these two magical cities, because well, we need places where fantasies may thrive and we surely do need the characters who make it all happen. We still have Key West. We surely do need New Orleans.