We’ve been residents of Key West for thirty days today, and I’m offering up an update. I posted a little on Facebook last week, but it needed updating and a little more “color” and “flavor” so you’d get the true perspective of the switch from Main Line Mama to Key West Newbie. So here it is: the good, the weird and the hilarious…
Murph reports he is missing “home” and his “friends” terribly. He was in tears last week as he scoured Amazon for Lego sets, even after I even took him to Bahia Honda (pronounced Buy A Honda) where I let him snorkel and kayak for six hours. The child is a fearless fish, and I’m thinking that an underwater camera might be an appropriate birthday gift in September. He swam 50 laps straight in the 50m pool the other day, without getting out of breath or breaking a sweat, so to speak. So he is clearly distraught and suffering.
I’d try to console him, but he’s out running around with a bunch of kids trying to capture Louis the Rooster, on whose head Mr. Dudley has placed a $100 bounty after getting in trouble for trying to shoot him with a pellet gun. Roosters are a big, huge deal here, you know. Apparently, Louis had taken a particular interest in Mr. Dudley and decided to awaken him at 5:15 every morning of every day for months on end. Driven to the edge of despair and sanity, clearly in a fowl state of mind, and after having tried everything else to repel him, one morning Mr. Dudley snapped and grabbed the gun. Unfortunately, he was caught on a security camera, in his boxers, looking unkempt and deranged while shooting the pellet rifle at Louis from his upstairs balcony. He was severely scolded for using the weapon on a residential street. So he put a bounty on Louis, and Louis, not being an entire bird brain, stopped waking him every morning. (This is not fiction). The kids are certain they are about to be rich as they race around the golf course with a small parakeet cage, a couple of coconuts to launch at the bird and bug spray (not sure that has a purpose). My money is on Louis every time, and I’m glad the ER is around the corner.
In their never-ending and extreme determination to rid the golf course of Louis (read: the pursuit of the bounty), they went out last night and instead of finding the ubiquitous rooster, they encountered the Stock Island Crocodile instead. In a scene out of Blair Witch Project (I seem to keep referring to that movie), Murph called me via DUO and I watched and listened in real time as he and his friends ran screaming from said crocodile, who really did not seem the least bit interested in a snack-sized, noisy child. Clearly traumatized by the whole thing, they decided to go back to get photographs and the phone number for Fish and Wildlife, which is tracking the critter. This time when the croc surfaced in the lake, they responded appropriately. One started dancing the shimmy shake at it, one tried to approach it “to see what it felt like,” and Murph called Gwynne via DUO because she is a veterinary expert.
Gwynne, when she can stop laughing, wants to come to Key West for the summer because the island is like one giant sleep-away summer camp for everyone. I was annoyed that he was out running around after dark and continued to read my book and sip my wine. I have gone native, and he has gone crazy.
Someday, these boys will be 45 years old, in a bar, regaling friends with the story of how they escaped the clutches of a crocodile that chased them across a golf course in Key West one summer night, and how they barely survived to tell the story.
Murph has decided that he is now on an only beef and bacon eating regime (having not ever eaten beef before in his life). It’s little restrictive, to be honest. But roosters! So no chicken for us. And crabs! So no crustaceans for us, either. I’ll have to stick with the Key West Margarita Diet™, which so far has been a rousing success and may be why my formerly overprotected child is running around in the dark with crocodiles. I’m going to turn it into an unhealth/unfitness sensation with recipes and a goal-avoidance-tracker, and publish it on Amazon.
I asked him the other day why I had seen none of his underwear in the laundry recently, and he told me he had stopped wearing it when we left Pennsylvania, which is approximately 37 days ago. I didn’t even ask him “what if you end up in an emergency room?” because, well, he’s Murph. I also think he’s stopped brushing his teeth and showering, but he’s always wet, so I’m not fighting that one. Plus, we have a great dental plan. He’s grown 1.5 inches and lost about 10 pounds since we arrived (guess the all-beef diet will do that to a boy). So he’s big, smelly and feral. Did I mention they have drive through liquor stores here? Like open from 8AM – 12AM except when a hurricane is coming. Then they’re open 24 hours a day until they’re evacuated. And this one is a 5 minute bike ride from our front door. The only thing better would be delivery.
Murph had his first sleepover with a boy whose name I didn’t know whose parents I’d never met so whose phone number I didn’t have in the living room with water, popsicles and half a key lime pie because I didn’t go grocery shopping because I didn’t plan it. The boy used to live in Colorado (in the spring), has a cool machete (for chopping coconuts – hunting for them is like a sport here), and said he was visiting his grandparents whose address I don’t have, but who I assume live in the development. Because Key West. In truth, said child does have a name, is visiting his father, who is in the military, and he spent three days in our house before leaving. And again, I didn’t bat an eyelash.
People at work told me that my office was austere and suggested I hang my degrees on the wall or bring a family photo. Since I have no idea where my degrees, or my Bryn Mawr lantern, are right now, and my only family hangs out in the office, I found some questionable artwork which could only be better if it was painted on velvet and a glass head lamp (literally, a glass head on a lamp) on a FB yard sale site. How awesome is this stuff? The former owner suggested I could put hats, glasses and makeup on it to keep things “fresh”. I’m sure this is just what my new boss had in mind.
I have, however, also started to accumulate some real artwork since this is Key West and Marathon and Key Largo and all of the others and OMG the art. This one just makes me oddly happy. It’s called Flamingo In The Rain by Kitty Novakovic-Ebel.
She also has this one, which I love for obvious reasons, and I am contemplating because KRAKEN, right?
And well, this one? I’ll have it this weekend, I hope, framed with wood from real lobster traps. Because, well, hermits. And I asked the internet, and they agreed that I need it. It’s by a local artist, Jaynie Zenisek. And it’s crabs.
I’m not sure if either is going to make it to my office, but maybe. Just maybe. For a visit.
And speaking of the hermit crabs, three of the four are now molting. Fucking Fries started a trend after singing to me in the car for 500 miles on the way down and then digging himself under the sand two days after we got here. The little twit still chirps at me from his buried nest whenever I sit down at the computer so I know he’s alive and watching us, and I am ready to make crab legs out of him. I’ve warned him that when he re-emerges I fully expect him to wear a shell and behave like a normal crab, but I don’t think he cares what I say. He’ll do the whole naked and unafraid act again just like back in the winter. Because he’s Fries. We’re waiting for Fil to dig under any day and join them. The marine science folks are speculating that maybe the rapid change in temperature and humidity started this, but who knows? They weren’t even aware that hermit crabs sing the song of horror movies. 10.75 will still not entertain setting them free.
Someone on a FB yard sale site was giving away a charcoal filtered water purifying system for the cats, so of course we nabbed it. Thankfully, it will also run on batteries in case the water supply here is compromised by a storm, but for now it’s plugged into a wall and sounds like someone is loudly peeing in my kitchen constantly. Sometimes, you figure out why stuff is free really quickly.
Nevertheless, Cheeto and Ned will be okay if there’s a disaster. I was so concerned about this, especially given Ned’s delicate system. It’s not like he’s maniacally eating the skin that peeling off the bottom of my feet from Sunday’s “Babyfoot” treatment or anything gross (yes, he is totally doing that, and it’s disgusting). Obviously, he needs filtered water because he is a delicate freaking flower of a cat who spends his days doing yoga and his nights howling at the top of his lungs out the front window at something only he can see.
The new parrot, tentatively named Rio, but also known as Bird Bird, SHUT UP and STOP IT, is adjusting beautifully. She knows snuggle as a command and only bites most of the time instead of all of the time now. The only “trick” she’s learned is to meow that caterwauling “fuck you” yowl that Ned does so exquisitely. So, they spend their time together saying “Fuck you” to one another in the most annoying Siamese cat version of it that you can imagine, then we get home, and they say it to us. She got a new, huge house, and she seems to like it. I keep threatening to send her to Virginia to Gwynne’s Home for Miscreant Birds, but she just meows at me like I don’t know what she’s really saying.
I took Murphy to Liquid8Pawn this weekend so that he could visit his first pawn shop ever because I want him to have experiences, and that was hilarious because he couldn’t believe the random stuff there. I said no to the underwater personal propulsion device used by Navy Seals in the 1980s but did buy him a Star Wars action figure and a life vest for snorkeling. Down here, pawn shops are not the locked up, shady looking places we imagine. They’re brightly lit, without any buzzers and sell cool jewelry and art and bikes and rocks and guns. Because Florida. And Stand Your Ground. Or something. I don’t know. But if we ever need cash, apparently pawn shops will buy literally anything, including your kitchen sink. This place seriously rivals Pawn Stars for its inventory, owners, and resident parrots African Grey, Spike and Double Yellow-Head Amazon, Spartacus (who makes me miss my own Bijoux), and whom I hope were not pawned.
The child is at Coral Camp at Reef Relief this week, which involves me dropping him off at the dock downtown, them putting him on a boat, and him spending 6 hours a day boating and snorkeling and diving all over the place (out in the sea) and exploring the islands you can only reach by boat (watch what they do HERE). He’ll also learn navigation and be able to drive the boat. 10.75 dropped the name of the (in)famous marine biologist with whom I’m working and chatted up his daughter who is also in the camp, and everyone swooned and went all fan girl because I’m apparently guilty of saving the reef by association even though I don’t even know what reef we’re saving or how we’re doing it.
I didn’t mention shark repellant or cucumber fish because I was afraid they’d stop breathing from the excitement and Murph would try to do CPR or defibrillate them (which he learned at Healthcare Camp which was totally and completely awesome, by the way). He’s dying to try it on something other than a dead iguana laying in the street which is my stated limit for practicing with an AED).
So far he’s been swimming with barracudas, dolphins, sea turtles, eels “bigger than the car” and other creatures, and they saw a shark. I am not even phased by the thought of any of this. I blame the sun. Did I really worry about this kid riding his bike down the street without my supervision a month ago?
In other news, 10.75 has somehow picked up functional Spanish. He switches back and forth from English with the Spanish speaking people here incredibly easily and takes every opportunity to practice, which they all seem happy to entertain. I’m only half-surprised. His “I’m a dunce” routine is fading rapidly as he soaks up rays and new information and new skills faster than I can track. He’s had a developmental leap of epic proportion over the past month. It’s been one of those rare times since he was very young where he’s rapidly matured right in front of my eyes.
Friends are planning visits, which is awesome, but we haven’t really heard much from the family since they left, except my mother telling me that I’m a horrible mother. I guess when my sister threw her epic, hysterical, sorta scary, hissy fit in front of Murph, God and everyone at Zachary Taylor State Park that Sunday, then pulled all of her luggage out of the trunk (while still screaming at the top of her lungs in the throes of the fit), and my mom got out and helped her instead of telling her to get her shit together and get her ass back into the air-conditioned vehicle, she really meant she was done with us, which is pretty okay since I’ve been totally done with her since January 2005.
It was a little confusing for us because, by the next day, the story had morphed into my somehow forcing them out of the car followed by our leaving them to die on the roadside in the heat with no provisions as we callously drove off. But the way Murph and I recall the whole thing, they got out of the car willingly (no one even suggested they exit the vehicle) while shrieking like banshees whose last marbles were floating out to sea in the surf, they took their luggage out of the trunk themselves while we sat in the car stunned and confused, they made a huge scene at a public beach in a small town where I’d just started a new job, and we truly thought they wanted us to go, which we debated in the car at the end of the row where they could still see us waiting. You know…where we stopped to say “What the hell just happened?” and I called Michele to ask, “Do I just leave them? I’m worried about my mom, especially in this heat with my sister so unhinged.” They didn’t wave for us to come back, though. So we left. Because when people take their shit out of your car in 100-degree heat at the beach while screaming and cursing at you, it’s probably not because they want you to drive them somewhere. And it’s not like we weren’t picking up our phones to go back to get them if they’d called.
As both Michele and Gwynne agreed, no one sane gets out of a cold car in that kind of heat after a day at the beach. You demand to be driven to your hotel. In fact, you absolutely refuse to get your ass out of any air-conditioned vehicle willingly and cling to the seat or the door or whatever you can grab if anyone tries to forcibly remove you. Which, for the record, did not happen in case it’s now being reported that way. It’s an okay car, but it does not have an ejector button. But I don’t think we were dealing with sane.
Anyway, that debate aside, they clearly showered, put on makeup and posed for selfies with their luggage at the park and then blamed us for abandoning them on Facebook where my mom talked about me “getting worse” and how worried she was about Murph, who is so clearly suffering here (see above and below on that). Because when you willingly, loudly, angrily, intentionally get out of a cool car in the intense heat for no reason whatsoever, you immediately pose for selfies and then turn yourself into a victim of abandonment. My mother’s friends started texting soon after her post asking “What the actual fuck happened????” and I read through the comments that described things that never actually happened. Dude, it’s hard to gaslight someone when there are witnesses, and even their friends didn’t buy this Key West whale tale.
Murph was the one who noticed that they’d cleaned up a whole helluva lot and that they were wearing makeup, and he was pretty offended that they’d lied so completely about what happened, and that my brother and his godparents were weighing in with pretty nasty stuff.
Also, too, Murph’s new favorite thing to say to people is, “Don’t mess with us. We will leave you on a hot beach with your phone, your stuff and a lot of money.”
I’m guessing we’re not on the invite list for the holidays this year, so think of us if you want company.
Car bitch Carrie and I have settled things, I think, per her attorney, and we can lay that chapter to rest. We’re going to stop suing one another and hopefully, she’ll stop stalking me. Maybe she just gave up. Or maybe she found someone better to stalk. It’s hard to tell, and some questions should simply not be asked, you know? Accept the good outcome. She’s a dissertation for someone who wants to look at the downside of a brilliant mind plagued by obsession, lack of compassion and a weird sense of judgmental righteousness that allows her to act in whatever manner she likes but has no leeway for others. I’m glad to be done, to be honest.
We’ve tried The Rusty Anchor, which was recently reopened here on Stock Island, which is one bridge up from Key West. Great seafood. I liked the decor. And it was indoors, so cool. Outdoor seating is nice on the water, I’ve found. No bugs, nice breezes. But air-conditioning is nice inland this time of year.
Murph enjoyed a burger, shocking given his new penchant for red meat. I had mango crab cakes, which I thought were really good. They had a sauce that was especially yummy, and it convinced me that I need to pay more attention to the mango as a versatile, edible delight.
Partly because mangos are delicious, and partly because they grow all over and so are basically free and it’s crazy expensive to live here. Like insane. Back to the mango. The crabcakes were a delight, and the she-crab soup was pretty tasty, though a bit heavy on the cream and light on the spice.
What can I say? I was spoiled by the soup at Busch’s in Sea Isle, NJ for years, so I don’t know if any other can ever compare, even here in Key West.
We saw some people from work, which I’m finding pretty common. You run into people everywhere. It’s a very small town when you live here. I am currently trying to figure out a really good recipe for mango ice cream. It’s become a quest. And it’s not easy because I’m not looking for an Indian version. More a Caribbean one. No joy so far but there’s an endless supply of mango and a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker, so there’s time.
I’ve become addicted to Kermit’s (Key West Famous). Because it’s frozen key lime pie on a stick dipped in dark chocolate (or key lime steak sauce).
Also, it’s right across the street from a bar that sits on a dock at the water, so my newest fantasy is to go sit there in the afternoon, with my laptop, and 146 key lime chocolate popsicles and whatever frozen concoction the bartender is making and write the next chapters of the book. What? I can dream.
I guess the best news about our first 30 days in Key West is that Murph has only had two migraines. Both, I think, were brought on by stress, and one was exacerbated by a little bit of dehydration. TWO in 30 days, which is down from 4-5/week. And his only trip to the hospital has been as a visitor during Healthcare Camp. Maybe there’s something to moving 1700 miles away to the most laid-back, low-stress, salt air, sunshine and lots of exercise place in the US, after all.
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