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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Red Lace and Spiced Rum

I’ve liked this title and wanted to use it for a few weeks. I just wasn’t sure what it was going to be about. It reminds me of so many things and they are seemingly unrelated but the phrase itself is so sexy and so perfectly personal I just had to start rambling about it and see where it leads me. 

Red lace is of course beautiful and mysterious and a bit seductive also. But of course red lace isn’t only “red lace”. It also is anything that is laced with red. It could be sweet juicy watermelon or bloody sheets or even Kool Aid spilled on a linoleum floor.  It’s that image of a kitten playing with red yarn on your white carpet. It is often delicious like poured syrup from a cherry jar over a grapefruit half. I think red laced grapefruit would be a really lovely and elegant menu item. Red lace curtains certainly evoke a very specific and unique combination of emotions. I’m not sure if I really want to go there. Red lace also reminds me of red leather and that leads me down a completely different trail. That is one I really do want to examine.

Red leather takes me not just into the past, but a to a whole different world that’s tentatively available just a few hours south. That world is Key West. It really is almost impossible to imagine it accurately unless you’ve been there. I promise I’ll do the best I can to make this realistic. But it will only be as accurate as my own memory allows. It’s my truth, which I’ve been told is often full of exaggeration and at times borders on hallucination. 

But Key West and I have much in common and for whatever reason I feel qualified to share my Key West ramblings with you today.

You don’t have to drive the entire long creepy “Twilight Zone”esque bridge that looks like it’s going nowhere to start to get that Key West feeling. That might be what justifies the long narrow road that gets you there. You have to experience Key West in layers. As soon as you hit Key Largo your blood pressure drops, your mind drifts, your muscles relax and a noticeable weight floats right out of the top of your head. By the time you get to Islamorada you start craving fresh seafood and rum runners. Although it doesn’t really have to be rum runners but any tropical alcoholic beverage. It could be Mai Tai or Voodoo Punch or even Pina Colada in any fruit flavor you choose. You can get that frozen or on the rocks and even though I always order on the rocks when I’m inland, once I get as far south as Islamorada I start ordering frozen. I even take the goofy little cocktail umbrellas and place them in my hair.

The long bridge to Key West has some colorful little stops known as the upper keys but the main purpose of each of these points is to help you relax and let go and become that other version of yourself. The board just slides out of your ass. Your guilt and anxiety drift out of reach. You suddenly can’t take yourself seriously and the people around you are fascinating and creative and appear just as relaxed and comfortable as you feel. By the time you get to Key West you will be hypnotized enough and intoxicated enough to accept the lessons Key West has to give you. I mean this in a completely loving and accepting way. Being seduced and indoctrinated is not always a bad thing. I don’t regret for a minute what I have taken from these experiences. It was worth every minute of the drive over the longest bridge of identical scenery imaginable. Or is it unimaginable?  

Then you arrive and it's so much more than you imagined. The Island itself exudes an aesthetic that is vibrant and vital. You can feel it through your entire body while you are there and it doesn’t go away. It’s completely pleasant and comforting. You recognize everyone you see on Duval Street as a unique and creative individual. You feel that everyone sees your own creative uniqueness too. There is no pressure to prove yourself or promote yourself. You are here. You’ve arrived. You are on Key West. Here you are in the most dreamlike tropical setting surrounded by these relaxed and comfortable creative and carefree strangers and it hits you....

Key West wants you to remember that your life is your greatest and most ambitious art form. If your life isn’t beautiful and symmetrical and perfectly balanced there is no reason to beat yourself up. Key West reminds you that your life is beautiful in it’s uniqueness. It is the perfect reflection of who you truly are. If it’s slightly or greatly off kilter it is even more interesting.

Key West will teach you that perfect isn’t pretty and many things are pretty perfect in this very real place that only seems imaginary. Your life is your most simple and complex artistic statement. No matter what that statement is and no matter how you have chosen to present that statement it is yours and it doesn't need an audience.
It is free and at peace. It is at home and comfortable being viewed and experienced in Key West.

Key West lets you know that your life, your artistic statement, can be anything as long as it’s yours. It is color on canvas or graffiti full of angst. It’s the sound of a violin or a majestic marching band. It is truth combined with soul. It isn’t the cold hard facts. It’s the heartfelt vision of the artist. With no criticism in sight, this art form seems invincible. That is the only shortcoming of the school of Key West. Because in truth life is quite fragile. Life is way too short and regrets are inevitable. But the lesson you have learned here is still invaluable because Key West has let you in on a truly liberating secret.... 

You don’t have to decide to create a beautiful life. 

You've already done so.  


  1. a most beautiful piece of writing about Key West (and getting into the frame of mind), I have not /s/ Trotsky

  2. According to my stats this piece gets read a lot. But you are the first to comment. Thanks Trotsky.