Title blurb

"From one LIGHT come many colors." ~GJ Dürrschmidt

Monday, January 31, 2011

Interesting Places I've Lived in Key West ~ Part 4

1430 Thompson Street...

I rented the upstairs of this house. It also was all Dade pine with exposed beams, and ceiling fans. The sloped ceilings in the apartment were covered by a tin roof. I lived for tropical rain storms! There was nothing more soothing to the soul than to spend a day listening to the rain beating upon the tin panels above, and watching it cascade down over the side windows.

I had a very large living area that doubled as a studio, a single bedroom, full kitchen and bath. What I loved most about the place was the wooden deck on the side at the top of the stairs. When I lived there, there was much more tropical vegetation, mainly a huge cork tree, that offered seclusion and privacy. I spent many a night outside laying back on the sloped tin roof of the downstairs kitchen, gazing up at the stars, while white, fluffy clouds passed low and slow overhead.

I would walk outside buck naked in the morning to get a look at the new day. Why buck naked? Because I could! When it rained, I would strip down, head out on the deck, kick back in a chase lounge, and bathe in the summer rain. There was something spiritually edifying and healing about those moments. During my stay, I was able on occasion to  talk a dinner guest, or three, into "dressing down" with me for dinner on the deck. Those were the days... and nights!

I've more to add, but need to rush off now for a job interview as a "Ghost Host" story teller. I'm not sure if I really want the job, but it struck me as interesting and possibly a lot of fun. So, I felt I owed it to myself to follow through with the interviewing process. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Check back later, or in a day or so.

Back. Passed two of three interviews. Expect the third tomorrow sometime. Sounds like a very interedting and fun position, because it's getting paid to do what I do best ~ tell stories!

Please note that the coconut palm growing in the bucket in front of the house was mine. I started it from a coconut when I lived here back in 2004. I was so pleased to see that it still had a home, and that it was doing well. Now I have some idea what a six year old palm tree looks like. Everyone should know this. Right?

It was at the Thompson Street place that I began dabbling in acrylics. In addition to writing hundres of poems and dozens of short stories from personal experiences steming from living there, I also did a whole series of paintings that resulted in my first and only public showing at a pool bar on Duval Street.

The greatest experience from this home was having gotten to know my downstairs neighblor, Vicki. Vicki is quite an accomplished writer, and an all round wonderful person to call friend. Leaving 1430 Thompson Street wasn't an easy task at all. Seeing it once again has brought back many memorable times.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Interesting Places I've Lived in Key West ~ Part 3

1413 Williams Street...

The newspaper ad simply read:

"Room in artist's home. 1413 Williams. Available now."

In routine Key West fashion, I had procrastinated finding another apartment, and it was getting down to the final week on my lease at 410 Caroline Steet. I suppose it was more a serious case of denial on my part. I wasn't ready to give up Ms. Jesse's room at the Heritage House, but...a room in an artist's home in Key West? Hey, I was there, if it wasn't taken already.

How odd, I thought, the ad listed no phone number. It was late afternoon, but I decided to go check it out. I hastily scavanged for a map to locate Williams Street, almost ran the three blocks to where my bus was parked, then attempted a hurried trip through Old Town. I say attempted, because whether in a hurry or not, Key West streets can be very unforgiving. It's rushed moments like this when one truly realizes how slow and congested traffic is, just how many oblivious tourists on bicycles there are, and can fully appreciate the miriads of unpredictable, wobbly scooters, and, lest I forget: the hundreds of pedestrians wandering aimlessly around like zombies. What was worse is that none of them seemed to have a clue how important it was that I get this apartment!

No one answered the knock on the front door, so I walked around to the gate on the side that appeared to lead to a large, overgrown backyard. Just before the gate, was a single step up wooden deck supporting a large refridgerator/freezer, a dual-basin with countertop and cabinets, and a table with a very much used charcoal grill. It was a fully functional kitchen, only fully exposed outdoors, except for the thick canopy of huge tropical trees that generously shaded the place.

I called out through the gate, but no one answered. A side door to the house was fully open, so I called inside. Still no answer. I took the liberty of walking in and looking around. I loved it! The old conche house was all natural Dade pine with vaulted ceilings, exposed beams, and clues all over the place that an artist did, in fact, reside within.

Walking back out onto to the open air kitchen, I saw a note on the wooden fence by the gate, that I'd swear was not there just moments earlier. It read: "Here about the room? Leave name and number."  So, I ran back to the bus, found a pen, and did just that.
Not at all the history, pomp and ceremony of the Heritage House Museum and Robert Frost Cottage, but it had something special about it that I found welcoming: something mysterious and wonderfully intriguing.

Late that night, I received a call. The male, raspy-voiced caller said that if I was serious about taking the room, it was mine. I could stop by in the morning to get the key and begin moving in, but not until 11:00 AM. He was very emphatic about the time. I agreed, then asked if he would like to meet with me first to discuss all the details. He said that he had already seen me, and that was enough for him, and further added that the details were just details, and could wait. I asked how much it rented for, and about getting him payment. He said it would run $720, which included utilities, and was so much because it was the largest room in the front with a private entry, and exclusive use of the porch and front yard. About the money...he said to pay him just the first month's rent whenever we ran into one another at the house the next time. Deal!

When I got there in the morning, I went to the gate on the side and found an envelope with my name tied to it. Inside of it was a key. I called out to announce my arrival, but again no response. With key in hand, I proceeded through the front gate, onto the porch, and opened the door to my new home.

The room was huge, very pine, and furnished with an old, squeaky iron double bed. A teardrop shaped crystal hung by a string in the window by the bedside. I took my time moving in over the week, spending my days in my progressively populated new apartment, and sleeping each night at my progressively more baron place on Caroline. Each day I looked for my new landlord to appear, but we never managed to cross paths. I kept the rent check at the ready on the mantle.

There were two other renters who accessed the place through the always opened side door. The artist lived in the very rear of the house, which he had sealed off. I didn't even know what he looked like. I kept a vigil over the next week, watching for anyone walking up alongside the house. I met a cable installer, some people visiting the other renters, and eventually the other two renters, but no luck in meeting my new landlord.

As I was leaving for work one afternoon, a tall, lanky man with long, unkempt hair, approached on foot from up the street. He waved and said, "Hi, Greg. I see you've gotten yourself all settled in." I was surprised that guy knew my name, and figured that it must be him, finally.

"Yes, I have," I said shaking his hand, adding,"You must be..."

"I am." he said cutting me off.

"Good timing," I said, "I was just off to work. Oh, let me get you the rent check."

"Check?" he said, "No need to keep you. Put it in an envelope tonight and attach it to the gate."

That being said, he just walked off, quickly disappearing through the gate and into the over grown backyard. I got the key and had been living there almost two weeks, and had yet to pay a thing, and with no hint of a lease. Bewildering, I thought, yet so very Key West.

Sharing more about my mysterious artist landlord is in order, but would make a story of its own. Perhaps, I may write it one day. And perhaps when I do, he might even have a name. I saw little of him while living there. He had, on rare occasion, invited me back to his sanctuary. Once he told me that he was tired of living alone. I suggested that he get out more often and socialize. He confesssed to having little in the way of social skills, and said that he was hoping that the woman of his dreams would just come parachuting into his backyard one day. I never did gt to know his name in the month and a half I stayed there. Month and a half? Yes, sadly so. It turned out that the place was for the birds.

Up and down Williams Street, in the nooks and crannies, and high in most of the tall trees, lived droves of Bahamian chickens ~ the national bird of Key West, the Conch Republic. They were a protected item and were not to be harmed. Over the years, they began to overpopulate. The roosters crowed day and night, without let up. Many a sleepless night, I would get out of bed, go outside, and run around like a mad man, wildly swinging a broom at the trees in my boxer shorts, making obscene threats to the entire Bahamian chicken world! For that brief moment there would be total silence. But, once I got back into bed... 

I moved in 1 November that year, and packed up lock, stock, and barrel, moving out in mid December. After loading everything into my bus, I went back inside for one last look. It was every bit as empty as the day I had first walked in. I was satisfied that I had not left anything behind. I was about to close the front door for the last time, when an impulsive thought stopped me. I walked back in, crawled across the sagging mattress of the old bed, unhooked the hanging crystal and put it in my pocket. Now I had everything.

Before driving off, I walked around to the gate and hung an envelope containing the key, with this message on it:

"Keep looking up!"  ~ greg

Next stop: 1430 Thompson Street!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Interesting Places I've lived in Key West ~ Part 2

410 Caroline Street...

After all, I was a writer moving to Key West for the first time. That in Jim's mind deserved special consideration when it came to finding me an apartment. He went down to the Heritage House Museum in response to an ad for a large efficiency with private bath and deck, and sold them on renting it to me in abstentia. His southern charm and delivery practically made me a legend!

The Heritage House Museum and Robert Frost Cottage is nestled between Kelly McGillis' former home, and one of her bistro bars located behind the original offices of Pan American Airways. Standing in front of the Heritage House, one can see the Truman White House less than a hundred yards to the left, and the Bull and Whistle Bar (with its roof top, clothing optional, Garden of Eden Bar) forty yards to the right. Point being, it was located in a very "touristy" area of Old Downtown.

The residence is owned by the Porter family, descendents of Commodore Porter, who had been creditied with ridding the Keys of pirates. The Porters originally owned a generous portion of Old Key West, and are well represented on the island to this day. A bust of the Commodore may be found in Mallory Square.

The Heritage House boasts the only fresh water spring on the island, the very same watering hole used by pirates to fill their vats.

I was privileged to reside in what had been Miss Jesse's room, on the second floor immediately above the museum. Ms. Jesse was the mother of Ms. Jeane, the matriarch of the Porter family at the time of my stay. Ms Jeane lived alone in the large wooden house on the Porter compound. She was a published writer and well known local artist, and a very strong, take charge kind of woman.

From my second floor deck, I had a magnificent view of the pool, courtyard, and Robert Frost Cottage. On random occasions, Ms. Jeane's Brazilian personal assistant, Augusto, would come up to my door and summon me for poolside cocktails with Ms Jeane. Each time, he would remind me to bring along some sampling of my latest writing for Ms. Jeane's comments and criticisms. And, believe me, she always had plenty of both to offer!

The Porters were long time friends of poet Robert Frost, who frequently vacationed at the compound. Thus the addition of "and Robert Frost Cottage" to the name of the place. Ms. Jeane constantly reminded me that I had big shoes to fill. As she read my pages floating in the pool, Augusto and I downed cocktails. She would mutter and comment...comment and mutter over the wet, dripping papers.

Once Augusto managed to hoist her out of the water, and she toweled dry, Ms. Jeane would join us to render her formal assessment of my work. I assured her on numerous occasions that I was no Robert Frost, but promised that I would try my best not to disappoint her.

After his daily duty hours, and on some days off, it was not uncommon for Augusto to invite me down to the Robert Frost Cottage (where he resided on the compound) to join him for a few Coronas. Those were the times! We never ran out of conversation, and it was always great fun. However, there seemed to never be enough beer, and one or the other of us would inevitably gladly make a beer run.

The Heritage House was an excellent first place to land upon arriving in the Keys. I felt both honored and privileged for having had that opportunity. I had the place from 1 May to 31 October, six wonderful months. The second half of the year, the room was occupied by an old family friend who came down each year from New England.

I began a search for another cool place to live, and came up with a room with shared common areas, in an old conch house, and the home of quite an eccentric artist!

Next: 1413 Williams Street

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Interesting Places I've Lived in Key West

I have a several month lay over here in Key West, the first stop along a cross-country roadtrip in my old, hopefully faithful, 1970 VW hippie love bus. So, as a writing warm up, I thought I might share some curious things about the several places in Key West that I have lived in the somewhat recent past. But, before I go into discussing the first place, I felt that sharing events leading up to that first historic efficiency apartment, might be of interest, and perhaps, even entertaining.

828 Elizabeth Street ~ Jim's Place

In an earlier post, I shared the excitement I felt in coming to Key West for the first time while on vacation back in 2001. The island impacted me so strongly that all I could think about from that first encounter on, was abandoning everything and relocating to Key West.

On that trip, I met Jim, an overtly friendly and stately southern gentleman from Tennessee, who had been bartending at the Magnolia Cafe (now sadly a Quizzno's). He became an instant friend, and avid cyber pen pal once I returned to Maryland. For months, Jim's tales from Key West continued to encourage my decision to move, and were a strong beacon. As he liked to tell it, he was my air traffic controller, guiding me in on my return flight to the island. Not only had he been an encyclopedia of information, he also had managed to find and secure my very first apartment, an efficiency at the prestigious and historic Heritage House Museum.

I arrived at Jim's door at 828 Elizabeth Street at noon on the 25th of April. The efficiency would not be available until the 1st of May, so he graciously allowed me to stay with him until then. There was one condition: that I bring him a case of Merlot. He promised that we would share many Merlot moments over the months to come, as he schooled me in the ways of island living.

Jim's place was your typical Key West rental: an old two-story home with the owner occupying the upper level, and the lower level renting out single rooms to four renters, all sharing one kitchen and bathroom. Jim was tasked by the owners as serving as the lower level landlord, and was responsible for keeping all the rooms rented.

His room was the first on the right upon entering the front door. It was modestly furnished with a single bed and a corner desk that housed his computer. Of the four available rooms, Jim's room offered the use of the front porch with a door access through his room, but which had been sealed from entry from the outside. (The room to the left ofthe front door in the pictures above.)

The porch functioned as a walk-in closet/storage room, and was packed to the brim with racks of dress suits, overcoats, and dozens of fedora hats. In Key West? Come on. I mean, what the hell? There were also shelves of dress shoes, and mountains of loose clothing, making walking into, let alone through, the room impossible. The first order of business, after we downed a celebratory glass each of vodka (with just a blush of cranberry) was to excavate the cot that he was sure was buried in there somewhere.

Score! Under the pile of clothes to the left of the entrance was the cot. As there wasn't enough room for two in the room at the same time, he suggested I wait in his room while he fixed the cot up for me. He placed a blanket down for added padding, then two sheets. For a pillow, he located a throw pillow amid the mounds of clothing. There! Now I would be set for the night. Not the Hilton, but, this was Key West, and having a dry, safe place to crash for free, was nothing to pass up.

Each night while Jim worked, I went out on the town. I met up with him each night at Magnolia's at the end of his shift, and we walked back to his place and picked up on where we left off the night before with our long conversations. Of course,  we couldn't talk without, you guessed it, vodka.

The long talks and vodka had me sleeping like a baby for my first three nights in that cluttered front room. The cot was narrow and hard, even with the extra padding, but I was pretty anestisized in the wee hours of the morning when it was time to hit the rack. But, I would not be able to sleep at all on my fourth night there.

On that night, Jim became much more melancholy than usual, and opened up a lot more into his personal life prior to Key West. I was astonished to discover that he held a doctorate degree. I suppose I shouldn't hae been, considering that Key West is heavily populated by Ph.D.'s, former corporate execs, and professionals who now filled the ranks of waiters, desk clerks, bartenders, and taxi drivers. Key West provided refuge to many who no longer wanted "in" with the system, or reality. To some, it was the end of the line.

Even more astonishing to discover that fateful evening, was that Doctor Jim had a secret. He said he would share it only if I agreed not to disclose it to the local community. Prior to Key West, Jim had been an undertaker. An undertaker?! That out of the mortician's bag, he poured us yet another milk glass of vodka with a hint of pink. He chugged his down like water, and then finished off mine, as I had already had way past my limit, and was practically embalmed.

We called it a night, or an almost a dawn, and I hit the cot. My mind was reeling. The room was moving in circles. Undertaker, I thought?! Well, that certainly explained so damn many suits, coats, shoes, and freakin' fedoras! Suddenly, a macabre thought enterd my drunken mind, and I rolled off the cot onto the heavily littered floor. I struggled up onto my knees and proceeded to tear the linens off of the cot. I was right. It wasn't a cot at all. For the past three nights, I had slept on an undertaker's gurney!!!

Was this why he so adamently pushed vodka after vodka on me? Was it his thing to lure unsuspecting victims into his confidence, and then...and then...I didn't want to think about it, and yet I couldn't stop myself! That, and snoring from the other room that could wake the dead, kept me wide awake for what was left of the night.

At daybreak, I quietly gathered my things, and headed off to my new apartment. Once I got the keys to my piece of the Heritage House, I spread out on the old double-sized bed in what had been Miss Jesse's room, and fell into a deep, deep, sleep.


This true account had first planted the seed for the novel I am writing while on my road trip to the west coast. I hope to have it completed prior to my return to Florida.  Stay tuned!

Coming Up Next: 410 Caroline Street, The Heritage House Museum and Robert Frost Cottege

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hammock Perspective: Getting Into the Swing of Key West

Ever since stringing up the hammock between two trees at my humble Key West campsite, the whole world has taken on a new perspective. Key West has aquired world fame for being a place where time pieces are not at all fashionable, where procrastination is the norm, and where the feeling is very, very laid back.

People come here from the four corners to experience the shear pleasure of leaving it all behind, letting go, and basking in the chillest bliss to be found anywhere on earth. But, sadly, few really ever discover it. The problem? Themselves! They just cannot let go. They have become too deeply rooted in worries and fears concerning family, career, finances, and on and on, ad infinitum.

Until the hammock got strung up, two days ago, I didn't realize just how much I was still strung out. After a month of being back in this tiny island Paradise, I too, was not fully letting go. Worries over a tight trip budget, concerns over how family members were getting along back in the "real world," and "yadda, yadda, yadda," were all raining on my tropical gettaway parade! Why?  Because I was the freakin' rain maker!!!

And so, yesterday, I did precious little more than lay back and swing in my hammock... meditating, reflecting, and ~ okay I'll come clean ~ getting over a bad hang over. But, hey! Sometimes it takes getting wasted away in Margaritaville, to take the time out to get the proper perspective. Right? Well, I'll take the lack of comment as an affirmative!

As I layed there deep in meditation, a strange, almost holy light broke through the overhead canopy. I wondered in awe if it might be some sign from Heaven. But, as my eyes adjusted to the brightness, I saw some creature moving in the tree above. If an angel, it took on the form of a large, bright green iguana. 

He hung around for quite sometime, cocking his head studying me, and surprisingly proved to be an excellent listener. Oddly enough, he seemed to agree with everything I shared. And, if that was not something amazing, through some strange telepathic magic, he let on that I was in the right place, on the right track, and that everything was going to be just fine.

Everything except my back! I found that I can only spend so long swinging in a hammock before my back begins to ache. Not only was my back hurting, but I also began getting an aching,, throbbing head ~ no doubt from all the thinking and telepathy. So, I struggled out of the rope webbing, took a couple of aspirin, and then decided to walk to the shore and catch the sunset.

When I arrived, there "sat" two pelicans on the bench that I like to occupy on such occasions. Not a problem. I simply sat on the bench across the street behind them. They weren't at all friendly toward me, but I wasn't going to let that ruin what had turned out to be an otherwise perfect day. We three sat in silence gazing slightly off to our left, and marveled at yet another beautiful Key West sunset.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Key West's Got It All: Spirit, Magic, Charm

Why begin my journey in Key West?

I dreamed of coming to Key West since boyhood. I fell in love with the whole concept of Florida as a youngster watching Flipper on TV. Even though it was in black and white in those days, I mentally colorized and fantasized how wonderful my life would be,  surrounded by tall, swaying palms, stark white beaches, emerald green waters, and an abundance of topical sea life. I watched the show religiously, which planted a seed that would take forty years to germinate.

Flipper had been a childhood metaphor for the Florida Keys, and the Florida Keys later became a metaphor for escape: escape from the rat race of a feeding frenzied, material-driven world. The Keys represented an antidote to the madness, a peaceful repose, and sweet solace for body, mind, and spirit.

I visited Key West for the first time in 2001. I was invited to go with a friend while living in Annapolis, Maryland, to spend a whole week there. I was ecstatic! In the car on the way down, I was worse than an eight-year old boy on his way to Disney World. Many times along the way, my friend chastised my childish exuberance, telling me to get a grip. He had no idea what the trip meant to me.

Upon arriving, the impact of the tiny island paradise upon me was sudden and strong. It was something words could never adequately express. I felt good here. I felt good all over, and down to the depths of my being. Exactly what it was about being there totally eluded me then. After awhile, I quit analyzing why, and simply embaced it. Since that first encounter, I have had the pleasure of  others sharing their very similar experience, also without adequate explanation, but we were all of one accord, and not crazy at all!

A miraculous added benefit was the instant ability to breathe! I was so amazed at this new ability, that I felt the need to tell everyone. Having lived in the mid-Atlantic states for many years, I suffered endlessly with chronic sinus problems: constant post-nasal drip, and a dry, irritating cough, that had me on daily medications and inhalers. Even on my best days, I was miserable. After awhile, I simply accepted the miserable. 

In Key West, I could freely breathe. In Key West, I slept through the night. In Key West, I felt an unexplainable inner peace and calm. I had to come back!

On an island that can easily be fit into a two by four mile box, there are close to one hundred churches of just about every known denomination, and then some. The island is most commonly known world-wide as an anything goes, laid back, heavy drinking, community with a 24/7 carnival atmosphere: a real modern day Sodom and Gomora. This is very true, but is focused primarily up and down Duval Street, which boasts over 300 bars: gay, straight, and clothing optional. However, over ninety percent of Key West is just a quaint little island town, a very normal community, complete with schools, churches, and shops of every kind.

There is a unique charm to the island, that is strongly conducive to creativity, and consequently beckons to creative souls of every genre from around the globe. The island is abundantly rich in writers, artists, musicians, and actors. The island's spirit is definitely laid back. The island's creative spirit is very vibrant and alive!

This is why. Yes, THIS is why I have begun my journey here!

~GJ Duerrschmidt

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Sundae, SO Good to Me!

Kept it simple and serene today.

We began the day with a kettle of coffee and some pretty scrumptious breakfast burritos that I whipped up on the 'ol Coleman stove. Then we tidied up the campsite and the inside of the VW bus, before heading to the Base Community Center to charge our phones and laptops. 

Afterward, we headed downtown, walked around taking pictures of random things, and finished off the afternoon at the local Dairy Queen.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Embrace Diversity: Dare to Be Different!

We live in a country where others judge us by our looks, the clothes we wear, the car we drive, and the house we live in. It's not who we are inside, but who we outwardly appear to be, that seems to matter most to others.  

The need to "fit in", to be accepted, drives most of us into a life of conformity. Don't believe me? Just look around: the Abercrombie's, Aeropostle's, and Gucci's are everywhere you look!

What if everything in the world was one color? What if the foods we ate were one flavor? What if every man looked the same? Every woman? Total nonsense, I know, because whether or not we've ever taken time to think about it, we all thrive on the very existence of diversity in all aspects of our lives. Don't we? Then, why is it that we tend at times to put others down for being different. Hmmm.

It's taken me a long time, most of my adult life, to come to terms with personal traits that make me different than others. I woke up one day back in 2000 to the realization that I'd lived my whole life being the person others expected me to be. It hit me hard how much I had been missing out on by always holding back, or disguising who I really was. Conformist? Guilty!

On this novel-writing road trip, I decided to be faithful to the cause: to dare to be different! I also made it a point to exercise my mind by catching up on a lot of reading I had neglected while teaching at the university. I grabbed an assortment while packing for the trip. I was severly limited on space and had to limit the number of books in my love bus library. But, I seems I made good choices.

Do you believe that things happen for a reason? I do. Since arriving here in Key West, I have read two books and am deeply into the third. The first book was a total surprise to me. I ran across The Witch of Portobello, by Paulo Coelho by coincidence one night, while washing clothes at the campground laundry. There it lay on a shelf of books, free for the taking. It "spoke" to me, so I took it back to the tent. What's this got to do with anything? Have I gotten off track. Not really. Bear with me.

In The Witch of Portobello, Sherine Khalil, or Athena, as she preferred to call herself, was different than most since childhood. As the grew, she began to discover special gifts she possessed. Like many of the rest of us, she could have chosen to ignore her gifts, or to explore them in secret. But that would not have been the real Athena. She dared to be different and live her life fully as herself, and accepted that doing so might come with a heavy price to pay.

In Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, Mary Ann Singleton struggled, while living in San Fransisco, to remain the "conformist" she was raised to be in Ohio. But, in her new environment, she  began discovering her true self, one new social encounter after another. In time, she shed the inhibitions and guilt she had brought along with her from Cincinatti, and accepted the alternative lifestyles of those around her. She, as well as they, dared to be different.

Now I'm well into John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor, a lengthy literary novel.  This fiction piece chronicles the travels and escapades of thirty-year old Ebeneezer Cooke. The thirty-year old poet and virgin was quite different than most in many ways. Hmmm...seems to be a common theme with the three, don't you agree? Coincidence, or psychic phenomenon?

My dream or a long time has been to travel across the country in an old VW bus. Sure, I know, I should've done it when I was eighteen. But, I missed out by being drafted. Bummer, huh? Many friends strongly discouraged my intended plan (but not family, because they know better by now). But, off I went, and here I am, because it's me!

Twenty years in the military I wore hats and my hair short. I have always hated hats and short hair!

So, when I had that epiphany back in 2000, I began growing my hair, and today sport a ponytail. Many still insist on making negative comments about my hair, and think I should act more my age. Can you imagine? Act more my age?! Age is a state of mind. I have no problem at all when it comes to feeling a little goofy, or clowning around ~ and neither should you!

I had been pressured into a technical course of study in college, and spent a career in the communications-electronics industry, but I hated it. When searching for a graduate school program, I fell in love with the writing program at Johns Hopkins. It wasn't at all logical, but I felt all along that I was a destined to lead a creative life, not one as a structured techno geek . Friends and co-workers asked if I had lost my mind.

Hmmm...let's see. I went to Hopkins, got a grad degree in writing, quit work, grew my hair long, got an old VW bus, took off on a road trip across America, stopping first in Key West for the winter. Have I lost my mind? I think not. No,  I've finally summoned the courage to be myself ~ to dare to be different!

Life's much too short not to live it as your true self. I say, fly your flag high and proudly. Live your life in widescreen and technicolor!

Whew! That was a blog full! Time for a nap.

~GJ Duerrschmidt

Friday, January 21, 2011

Naval Air Station Key West RV Park

Home for the next couple months is the RV Park at the NAS Sigsbee. The park provides excellent accommodations and amenities for both large and small RV's, as well as for tent campers, like myself.

This time of year the place stays packed with RV's of every make and size. The warm climate brings the "snowbirds" flocking down to escape the frigid winter up north. And do they ever come ready to recreate! They tote along small electric cars, motor boats, canoes, kayaks, bikes, and gardens on the go.

The transient community finds many old friends returning year after year, and provides a fertile place to form new friendships. Being located on a military base, the RV Park provides a safe environment, day and night.

Take a right at the palm tree in the picture above, and head into the tall pines, and you'll find the tent people.

After the torrential rain and tornado watch two nights ago, I seized the opportunity to relocate to a much better camp site. We were up most of the stormy night bailing out our tent! The next day, we spent all day drying out. The new spot has excellent drainage, shade, and a place for my hammock (drying out above.)

Key West Sunsets at the RV Park are every bit as enjoyable as those witnessed downtown at Mallory Square, and in some ways better: much more peaceful and intimate!

~GJ Duerrschmidt

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Typical Day in Key West

After a rough night of wind buffeting the tent, strange noises piercing the dark, we set out at the crack of noon for breakfast at Harpoon Harry's. We? Oh yeah, let me introduce you to my current traveling companion, Stephen. He fanagled a trip down here with me over his semester break from college. Not a problem, because he's a great guy and has been excellent company. However, soon after arriving here, he took one look and decided to take the whole spring semester off. Who needs school anyway, mon?

After a late morning of walking about town, we drove to Smather's Beach on the ocean side of the island to hang out and take in a late gourmet lunch...

With the sun setting roughly at 6:00 PM daily, there's not much time in between the conventional start time of Happy Hour and the onset of darkness, so we headed back downtown...

Our goal is to make it to the daily Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square. There's bound to be a whole new crop of tourists to gawk at. On any day, there's at least one cruise ship moored at dockside...

The trek down Duval Street to the Square is wrought with many distractions, like beer, of course, and French girls asking to have their picture taken by an exaggerated sculpture of Matisse's "Dancers"...

And, of course, a quick detour to the top of the La Concha Hotel is always in order. Walking around at the top of Key West's tallest building provides a 360 degree breathtaking view...

But, we were on a quest! So, exercising a little discipline, we hustled down to Mallory Square just in time to catch the sunset along with the hundreds of tourists.

Back at the campsite, we stepped cautiously from the bus through the darkness to our tent. Key West may be chock full of new adventures and experiences, but stepping on an iguana, is NOT one either of us wants to have!

~GJ Duerrschmidt