There is no hill on the Keys. Still Fats Domino’s song came to mind after having turned in MS to the Yamaha dealer in Key West for an oil change. A call to Chuck told me that about 3 US quarts would do. I just wasn’t certain how the almost antique 1980 XS850 would be looked at here at the southern-most point of the US.
So how subtle I tried to be when mentioning the 3 quarts, the check through the little window when on her center stand. How embarrassingly insulted the reaction was! “Well, sir, we have been a certified Yamaha dealer for 40 years now. Our mechanic has worked on Yamaha’s for 36 years. We go by the CC’s and the book”. My apologies didn’t sound very convincing even to myself – mentioning something about having to ride back to Indiana and not wanting to take any risk.
Later that day. “This motorcycle is in a remarkably good condition for its age”, the mechanic concluded after having checked MS’s basic operating functions. “No need to change anything about how she is running”.
The End of Rainbow does exist. It is at the end of US Highway 1, where the Dixie Highway Keys extension from Miami comes to a halt at the 1890 Monroe County Courthouse. The big sign says so. The southern-most point of the US is the Point of Return for this year’s road adventure. There is only one direction from here: north. Cuba is only 90 miles away. If only MS could ride on water…..
Key West is quiet, off-season. Duval Street, the old district’s commercial lifeline, has 1 or 2 story vintage buildings with laid-back tourist focus. The back streets with their many very small weather-beaten houses reflect its romantic true character of the visitor’s imagination. The only ones not understanding that multi-story buildings don’t belong in coastal towns where laying low is the most effective survival technique for structures, are the far away business development departments of the Hyatts etc of this world. Fortunately they have been banned to the very edge of the Key where the noise of airplanes competes with that of powerful boat engines out at sea.
On the limited south beach areas, men are more on the outlook for each other than Hemingway look-a-likes for admirers. The bars on the old docks feature customers who look ragged and try to see themselves as the Old Man of the sea. Hemingway wrote that book and about 6 other famous ones here in Key West before moving to Cuba and later to remote Idaho where he shot himself when backfiring electric shock treatments of his manic depression made him conclude: ‘Nothing works in the old machine anymore’. One more communality between HST and Hemingway. HST was a motorcycle freak, Hemmingway wasn’t.
”Used to race Norton motorcycles on the Isle of Man”, says the Brit, sixties, across from me sipping coffee trying to escape the oppressive heat. He looks like he just took his motorcycle on a record skid over rough pavement. Without protective clothing, that is. Colorful wounds over arms and legs. Look like they badly need treatment. Sturdy, stocky, short, wrestler-type. About how George W. tries to look when walking. “One race I won silver and she got to kiss me. That is how we met”. His wife smiles yes.
Fish dinner at Mangrove Mama. Local hangout near lower No Name Key. An outfit of wooden shacks, barely standing. Hope the next hurricane doesn’t destroy it. Live entertainment. She does a pretty good Janis Joplin. He is OK on the harmonica. The setting sun is coloring the passing clouds on their way to evaporation over the Caribbean.
Loosens people up. Also her, well-traveled, having dinner outside, the electric fans on the patio serve as air coolers. Her joke of the day. “Older man sits on a bench. Younger man comes to sit next to him, his hair combed straight up rooster-like, dyed in all kinds of bright colors. The older man’s eyes don’t leave the younger man. What are you looking at, the latter says. Well, the older man replies, many years ago I f***ed a parrot and I wonder whether you would be my son”. It had been a very, very hot and humid day on the swampy mangroves.
Sugarloaf Lodge, built in the sixties, never tampered with. My place under the sun and stars here. HST still here. But times are changing at the Tiki Bar overlooking the sunset over the mangrove-lined Gulf lagoon.
“Must be a million Russians now in Florida”, says Jeltsin – undoubtedly his twin brother by the looks of him. “Or maybe 100.000, whatever” says one of his American customers. Jeltsin flies in Russian Natasja’s for rich, older American men. A new harvest has just arrived, barely speaking English. Quite attractive, this one, not yet a blond – will soon be. Fled Thailand because she couldn’t handle the weird sex scene she was thrown in, there. Chain drinking Bloody Marys, now. Next morning, breakfast, sipping tomato juice. “Her first American hangover” proudly and loudly announces the ugly bumped-in faced American who just b(r)ought her from Miami airport and who, the night before, was the first to leave the bar with her. Jeltsin and his seasoned fake-blond Olga partner-in-business need no more than one stool at the bar – and both are big people.
HST would have taken his favorite piece, Magnum. Would have shot their glasses from the bar top one by one. Forced the unwanted invasion to flee into the lagoon’s waters. The locals, keeping to the other side of the bar and eyeing what is going on with great misgivings, would gladly have helped out. So would I.