C H R O N I C L E
26 Dec. 2004
Hurricanes and Tsunamis
Purchased Tennis balls and drove to Holiday Inn where there is a tennis court, and had a knock-up with Mrs Monk
Unfortunate wind storm stifled play. The Palm trees swayed.
Mrs Monk was given advantage of wind, and I faced it. If I hit the ball with all my might the ball just about made it to Mrs Monk. If I tried a defensive lob the ball would hang in the air like a gliding gull.
We soon gave up.
Returned to our hotel where Mrs Monk re-established herself on a sun lounger alongside the pool.
I went to the top of the hotel where there is a viewing deck. The hotel is the tallest building in Key West, which is not saying much, (just seven stories) but it does mean that you get a pretty good view of the island from there and especially the all important legendary sunsets.
It also means that if you are depressed and wish to end it all, then this is the building from which to throw yourself, as someone did the week before we arrived.
I was there to take a snap of Mrs Monk on sun lounger below but I came upon a large man smoking a fat cigar who was the only other person on the roof deck. I think maybe he was there to enjoy his cigar away from the anti-smoking hotel lobby and critical eyes.
I apologised for invading his space, but soon we were talking about Tony Blair, the Kyoto Agreement, Global Warming, Margaret Thatcher, Football, Rugby, and sunshine vacation escapes from Christmas and Iraq.
He was not at all didactic with his a right wing agenda, but went out of his way not to disagree with anything I said. A gentleman.
Waiting for the lift, a hassled man came out of his room. And was a little surprised to see me standing there and was a little embarrassed to hear his wife raising her voice in his room the other side of his door. He was dressed in shorts and a big floppy hat. He was tall and gangly and animated like Kramer in the Sienfield show.
I kept a dignified but embarrassed silence and wished for the lift to get there fast. He mumbled an explanation. I did not ask but he told me they had a room key malfunction. I told him we had the same problem and that Mrs Monk was given to licking the magnetic strip, and that seemed to do the trick.
Without hesitation he licked his key and put it back in the door.
Almost immediately the door opened but only because his incompletely dressed wife had opened it from the inside.
"What's going on?" She said
She saw me standing there with her husband and immediately shut the door.
"I guess that didn't work" he said to me, not attempting to renew the experiment.
The lift arrived, and we made the short journey to the lobby without saying another word.
27 December 2004
Left Key West and drove south to Pompano Beach, Holiday Inn
We wanted quiet after Key West and there we got it.
After some expensive dinners thus far, we decided to go for a pizza. Disappointing.
Walked down to sea after dinner A fierce wind was blowing, but the water was warm.
We head north from Pompano Beach.
Another long haul behind the wheel.
I am instructed to stop at Coffee Shop by Mrs Monk who is always on the look out for espresso.
Coffee shop is run by a Scottish woman with post office red hair and her amiable American partner.
We learn that we were in fact in Charlotte Beach, which was where Hurricane Charlie made contact with West Florida from the Gulf of Mexico in August 2004.
We learn that the roof of their house was removed by Charlie, and that 20,000 houses in Charlotte were in a similar state. We learn that their house is under 3 ft of water, and that they are living in a temporary caravan, and still waiting for the loss adjusters.
We continued on our journey making our way through the remains of Charlotte. Nothing stood in one piece.
Fort Myers which was very hard to find due to navigational malfunction. All hotels were full or expensive or both.
Mrs Monk had a temper fit.
Forced to spend the night in shopping mall Holiday Inn Express, which was overrun by travelling infant hockey team.
Free breakfast, so free that Mrs Monk reports that a bum appeared at the buffet and helped himself.
Left early and drove north on another long haul to St Pete's Beach.
Find an Efficiency complete with kitchen.
Mrs Monk decided to cook.
Buy groceries including 3 bottles of wine and a case of Guinness. We are here for three nights.
We might just relax here. Had a long barefoot walk along the waters edge in glorious sunshine.
Meanwhile the horror of the Tsunami is relayed on the TV.
30 December 2004
Another glorious day
Tennis with Mrs Monk in the morning and after Mrs Monk's home cooked brunch, another stroll on the beach where I finished, Bob Dylan's Chronicles, while getting gently toasted.
Dinner at Crabby Bill's was not so hot. I had Tuna which was OK but Mrs Monk had stuffed flounder: not much flounder, and the huge helping of stuffing remained on the plate uneaten. Waiter claimed it was crab meat; Mrs Monk knew better; Mrs Monk is from Maryland, where crabs as so plentiful that they take part time jobs at Safeway.
31 December 2004
Decided to try out the "Hurricane", a restaurant which is alongside our hotel.
We drank a bottle of wine in our hotel room before we walked next door and entered the "Hurricane" as if we owned the place.
All tables were taken by celebrating dinners in a New Year festive mood. We wandered about the place and checked our the buffet where seafood and rare beef medallions looked most satisfactory. But in due course we were informed that this was in fact a private function, and that every one there was wondering who we were.
We made our way to another part of the building where we were able to secure the best "peal and eat" shrimp I have ever tasted.
1st December 2005
Horrible journey home. The plane was full.
2nd December 2005
Arrived home, jet lagged and knackered, but in the window chair formally occupied by Seamus, was Charlie a stray cat who is making himself at home.
Dinner at "A and B", Key West, our favourite seafood restaurant on the planet.
Conch Chowder, and Tuna for me. Lobster for the heiress.
Walked out on to jetty to have breakfast with Mrs Monk. Double Espresso and chocolate croissants. A man followed us out onto jetty and engaged us in conversation.
First thing he told us was that he was a cocaine smuggler.
"That's great" said Mrs Monk "Good for you."
Told us how he made a fortune but was grassed-up and went to gaol for just four years due to plea bargaining,
Told us about how, when he came out of gaol, he could not find the cash he buried in barn floor due to change of ownership, and about how he dodged the port authorities, and how they paid off others to ensure a safe passage into Key West from Columbia and other places.
He then showed us his current home, which was parked alongside our rented Pontiac. His home was a red van with a solar panel on the roof and a satellite dish hooked up to a flat screen TV, which sat on top of a fridge which was alongside the drivers seat. There was no passenger seat, but just a single bed which ran the length of the Van
He alarmed Mrs Monk by telling her that all her prescribed drugs would kill her and that all the medical profession were corrupt. He told her that he advocates the Atkins diet. He carried a crumpled Australian medical journal, Nexus, which is full of scare stories, and paranoia, and he pointed at it and quoted from it like a bible. He told me, more discreetly, about his "butt-hole" problem, and showed me his haemorrhoid cream.
Alongside his van was another traveller, a lady in van complete with Christmas tree.
She was more or less permanently parked in this place, and had cultivated some tomatoes and geraniums at the base of a palm tree.
She and he were friends, but not an item. She was waiting for the return of her boyfriend. She brought this up more than once.
Come the summer they will travel north.
The drug smuggler took off his shirt and told us he was 70 years old.
Lunch in Hard Rock Cafe. What were we thinking.
Met strange man in lift on way to sunset and another weirdo con man who was up and down corridors soliciting for some scam or other
Sunset on top floor bar of Hotel.
Complimentary Drink: Manhattans
Met couple from Washington: Lawyer and Psychologist and two teenage kids
Mrs Monk swam in pool with grandmother.
Dinner at "Turtle Krawl" Choice of restaurant was limited.
Met Couple with little girl, Gracie
Mother Born in George's Hospital London, a hospital that is now a 6 star Hotel in the centre of London, where I once stayed overnight, as a patient after breaking some bones in a car accident. Gracie and parents now live in Frederick, Maryland where Mrs Monk was brought up.