KEY WEST, YAHOO, BY GOD, FLORIDA: 4770 MILES OF DRIVING
And I did find the base this morning where I went to Fleet Sonar School though, now, it's a gated community. But back behind and through the gated community, Marines still guard a naval air station base. The sub base is now a state park. I talked to the guards and, despite the nasty looking rifles they now sport in addition to their side arms, they were nice lads. I was nervous parking my car near the gate and walking up to them. We Navy guys used to believe that the Marines wanted nothing better than for us to foul up so they get us in the brig and beat us up. That was a rumor among the sailors. Some of the buildings I lived in as a barracks are now converted into condos. Maybe even mine. Just ate breakfast at Pepe's. A good, dirty old sort of Key West experience. Good food and run down looks.
SIPPIN' IT'S WHERE IT'S AT
I'm logged on here at Sippin', a coffee shop on Eaton Street, just off of the famous Duval Street. 20 centavos a minute or $10 an hour.
A POOR BOY IN RICH MAN'S CLOTHING
Like the whole south along the Gulf Coast, Key West is now completely a play ground for the rich. It's definitely not the Key West I experienced 48 years ago. We sailors used to escape to Miami for fun. In this trip I've been forced to confront just how much America is a divided nation, but I don't mean by political party, I mean by wealth. I know so few people who can afford to live as they live in Key West and along the Gulf Coast.
I'm being treated like a rich man myself. Last night, after taking four hours to drive from Miami to Key West, all of 139 miles, traffic out the or up the ass, I drew into Holiday Inn of Key West and, tired and dusty and headachy, asked for a room. I was told it would be $180 a night. "Okay," I said, ignoring my budget, having decided I'm too extended to try to make it to Nantucket anyway, "sign me up."
I told the young woman, in passing, that, "I'm kinda on a nostalgia trip. I turned 18 on this island while at Fleet Sonar School back in the 50's." A young manager heard me and whispered to the clerk. She then told me, "Your room has been upgraded."
I am now spending two nights in a $565 per night suite (for $180) with three rooms and two TVs and a large balcony that looks out to the western sunsets and straight down to the water. I've never felt so privileged to be a veteran, though I also feel guilty to be where I am, since I'm a peace time veteran and not a vet of combat. Typical for me, I want to explain to the manager the whole circumstance, but, then, it is Memorial Day weekend, he must feel good for what he's done, I "am" a veteran and, so, why look the gift horse in the mouth?
STILL DAZED AND CONFUSED
After a couple minutes of hard thinking, I'm tired and can't think straight so I'm going to go buy my wife a nice set of earrings as a gift to take home to her. Tomorrow morn, I'm off, up along the North Carolina where I've never been and then over to Dayton, Ohio, my born and raised place, to see my old buddy Carl from the hippy daze. I feel OK about not making it up to Nantucket. I am just too tired to add that extra thousand miles or so. I'm still 5000 miles from home. The drive will add up to close to 10,000 miles as it is. Anybody paying attention out there in weblog world, Hi!