The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys- January ‘15
Master and Mrs. Po embark on new adventure to Florida Keys this winter.  As usual, we discover many new sites and happenings. This our first-ever trip to paradise and also our first-ever winter get-away.

“Off the Florida Keys,… there’s a place called (click) > Kokomo…..” – sings Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.

After full week searching on pamphlets, guides, maps, and google;  Master Po sad to learn that there’s no such place in keys as Kokomo. Apparently Brian Wilson spend too many days partying with Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson in (click) > Margaritaville  

Or maybe he party too much with Bill Cosby and was drugged into writing fictitious lyrics.  Anyway this is minor part of story – mostly this was excellent vacation and Master Po recommend it to all.

So, we fly to Miami, rent car and like Bogie and Bacall, we get hotel in (click) > Key Largo.

Above: Small canal next to our hotel - peace and quiet in paradise

Rememba, Master Po not see color well, can’t read words close up without glasses, and hearing is failing fast. He also have very bad knees and heart valves are totally worthless.

Senses really getting bad

Master Po think maid say something to him about Waynesboro or Waynesburg, both towns in PA.  Master Po wonder how maid know we from PA.  So I talk to her for 5 minutes about where we are from, and home location in relation to those towns. Later Mrs. Po inform me that maid not say anything about towns or PA. She was talking about some kind of Wahoo cakes. Wahoo start with same “W” sound as PA towns, and Master Po was off and running about the geography of PA. Maid look puzzled at Master Po. Come to think of it,  maid look at Master Po oddly for remainder of vacation.  

While in bathroom, getting ready to head out for day, Master Po hear Mrs. Po yell question at him. Keep in mind, fan on in bathroom. TV on in other room and my hearing no good to start with. I hear this: “Hey sweetie… [Warning - that term (sweetie) not necessarily mean Mrs. Po in good mood, or that she like Master Po]…is this inaudible some thing new or is this inaudible some thing an old one?”  Sooo, Master Po, (always aware of wife’s concerns), and also aware she keep close track of number of times I wear certain clothes, I reply with, “The gray tee shirt on the chair was used out on the beach all day, but the blue one was only worn for an hour at breakfast, so it doesn't have to go into the wash yet.” She reply back, “That’s nice but I was asking about the newspaper sitting here on the table.”  Whole scene easily avoided if Mrs. Po look at DATE OF PAPER on top of  page. Mrs. Po look at me oddly rest of week too.

Can’t count times Master Po nearly step on iguanas in parking lot and hotel beach area. It not matter if iguana green (young) or very colorful (older). He not see color well anyway. EVERY TIME, it nearly send pacemaker and defibrillator into shock mode.  Also not matter that iguana is not small creature. These were all between 18” and 4 feet in length, some with flags on their necks as large as flag flying in front of hotel – but I still have trouble spotting them. Iguanas look at Master Po oddly all week too. Afraid I will step on them and crush them to death no doubt.

Guests see manatee on occasion right in canal by hotel. Poor Mrs. Po never see it. I see it once floating right by but I too slow to get photo. I stare at huge creature for a while thinking it was my reflection in water, and waited too long to go to lawn chair to get camera. Huge manatee is gray in color (I think) and I have old gray beach shirt on (the same one on chair in hotel room) adding to confusion.  No doubt manatee stare at Master Po oddly rest of week too, but I not see him again.

Master Po, reclining, looking like huge manatee in gray tee shirt- just so you know - I'm wearing a life vest under my tee shirt. 

Mrs. Po always willing and eager to help out Master Po with hearing, vision and heart problems. If I forget reading glasses, she gladly help me with menu when we go out to eat. She forget however that large print or anything further than 3 feet away does not present problem for Master Po to read. While at aquarium, Mrs. Po start to read everything on plaques to me.  Because she also know I can’t hear well, she read word for word, on each sign in very loud voice.  When others think there’s a guide narrating the information with amplified speaker, she then realize I not need so much assistance. Visitors at aquarium look at Mrs. Po oddly this time.

As we walk by snorkeling area, her sharp eye see sign the size of Empire State Building and she announce loudly, “Hey, there's where you can pick up your snorkeling gear." See sign below to see why Master Po get kick out of Mrs. Po trying to be helpful to me. I could see the sign from neighboring island but Mrs. Po mean well so I try not to laugh too hard.

Mrs. Po get last laugh however. As we approach hotel pool for first time, my sharp eye spot tiny porta potties around pool. I tell Mrs. Po, I sure hope they don’t stink being that close to the pool area. She laugh out loud cause no porta potties exist. They are pillars to hold fence up. See pic below:

Outside by pool is small, quaint, grass roof cabana. Master Po, who watch movie “Blazing Saddles” too many times read sign and yell to Mrs. Po, “Hey look, Mongo’s Hangout.” Mrs. Po laugh again cause sign say, “Mango’s Hangout.”

Wildlife everywhere

(Above) Egrets (unfed) as per wife's request

Keys are great place to observe many types of wildlife too. Being able to see clearly, hearing well, and heeding the wife’s warnings are also helpful in this endeavor.
Egrets were everywhere – like a gull, longer beak, and able to stand on one leg, these birds get very close to visitors. They, like gulls, are obviously waiting for hand outs. The name “egret” actually come from the Latin “Regret” when Latin wives would warn their husbands to NOT FEED THE BIRDS. When husbands would not listen to warnings, wives would show their displeasure with snarls ‘Rrrrr-  egret’ which was later shortened to “-egret” for simplicity sake.

Above: Husband can't resist feeding birds which will no doubt poop close-by

Below: Egrets coming to our patio for more food

With all these birds around, in every nook and corner of area, Mrs. Po still asked as she looked into the sand around our chairs. “I wonder what made these marks in the sand.”  See pic below: My turn to chuckle, but it pale in comparison to her number of chuckles about me.
Egret tracks

While half asleep in lawn chair, I hear man laughing “Ha ha ha” then yelling “hello – hello” – only to look up in tree and see Macaw bird in palm tree above. Learn later that bird is pet of bartender at Mango’s.  Both bird and bartender look at Master Po oddly all week too.

Talking bird in palm above our head

Key deer common too. Drivers must be on watch.  And Mrs. Po refuse to eat at one bar because its doors do not close (EVER)…in fact there are no doors on some of the businesses. She afraid rats will enter and get into food and spread disease. Sure enough she find out there is brown key rats dwelling in area. This allow Mrs. Po only to enter business with doors that close.  Apparently other visitors not afraid to patronize these doorless places. Maybe volume of Margaritas help visitors cope with this fear.

Brown Key Rat

Key West – the last stop
You must see this island for yourself – a true paradise. A wild time, if you so wish, but most tourists just go to look around.  Jimmy Buffet’s first café is here. Hemmingway’s get-away & Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner’s homes too. President Truman live and work here too. (He actually skinny dip in warm waters according to trolley guide.) Lots to see and do. Duval Street loaded with shops, bars, food and crazy people. Also next to Vegas, this place ranks second in hosting the most weddings in North America. This place is hoot for sure. 

Mrs. Po coming out of the original Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville 

Soon as we arrive in Key West we go into mall to use lavs. This is very important cause Master Po take water pills for his heart and restroom stop is top priority. Bladder is beyond capacity – it close to emergency time.

I come out of men’s room and wait for Mrs. Po. I realize I stand in view of lady’s room and don’t want to look like perv watching women’s restroom, so I move down to left a few feet. Staring at a poster, and obviously not paying attention to what I’m looking at – a sales girl comes out and asks if I’m interested in a new cosmetic procedure similar to a face-lift but only using creams - no surgery. Not thinking clearly, and obviously not prepared, I start to listen to her spiel. I hear cost between 500 and 800 dollar at about same time Mrs. Po join me. Sales girl turn to Mrs. Po then to present spiel to her too,…but that was not a good move. Mrs. Po give me eye signal, and gently pull on right arm and we move away from there.  Actually, I stagger and almost stumble cause knees are not good.

Mrs. Po then admonish me. She say, “do you know what your problem is? You don’t get out enough! You don’t know how to avoid sales people and annoying people in general. etc., etc.,”[This come back again later in story.]

Later on, we stand by sponge store and strange man and his wife come up to Mrs. Po. Man put large sponge on her head, put one on his head, drag me into picture with sponge on head too, and his wife takes photo of us all.  I take sponge off head, start to walk away and look at Mrs. Po and say, “do you know what your problem is? You don’t get out enough! You don’t know how to avoid….”  For some reason it was funnier when Mrs. Po was making the comments. When I made them, it didn't go over as well.  Sorry, we didn’t stay long enough to get a copy of the pic.

Master Po fascinated with guide’s knowledge of island. He show our group the “eye brow” building style in Key West. Of course Master Po think he say, “high brow” building style and have to be corrected again by Mrs. Po. - Yes, loud enough for others on trolley to hear.

Later guide talk about the bridle path designed for horse back riding, but because Master Po remember the stats about the many weddings there, I think he mean, “bridal  path” and have to be corrected by Mrs. Po again.  Other visitors on tour stare at Master Po oddly now too.

This island very accommodating to the gay community too. One train is filled with guests and in last train car is the happy couple - two men in white tuxes, with black bow ties, white gloves and white top hats. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I get ready to comment, but get the look from wife, (that men are used to getting from their wives) indicating it’s time to “keep your mouth shut.” But Master Po not have a problem with witnessing this. I’m happy they were all having a good time, whooping it up, drinking wine and celebrating. We ‘open minded’ monks have no problem with this life style. And I wish the newly weds many years of marital bliss. 

In fact, earlier in week, I see many women holding hands in Key Largo. At first Master Po, being quick thinker, determine many ladies are insecure down here and need security and safeness with friends. Then my quick mind realize that they hold hands because they partners, not because they need security. It’s fortunate that Master Po have ability to catch on quickly. And again, not that there’s anything wrong with this.

Tourists vs locals

Keys vacation is great place. Almost everyone is tourist so no one stand out as being an oddball. (Other than those of us who can’t hear or see or walk well that is). Most of the visitors speak English, have no dark tans, are very friendly and frankly are old, like me and Mrs. Po. There is practically no college crowd and even kids with their parents are not common visitors there during the winter.

Above:Typical Keys native

There are many ways the locals give their identity away. Most are very tall, very thin, tanned, missing some teeth, wear gray beards and sport long gray hair in pony tails. The pony tails are common in both guys and gals, but the beards are slightly more common with the men. The dead-give-away however is aroma one notices when getting close to a local native. It like a 50-25-25 % ratio of rum, cigars and fish with just a tad touch of key lime pie.

Not a man-only paradise

Despite that Keys seem it cater to mostly men (Manmanatees, mangos, mangrove trees and restaurants serving manicotti) – I want to reassure you that ladies are welcome to these islands too. If you are a woman, and travel with other women, it’s perfectly okay to hold hands for security or any other reason you choose too. This is not just a man’s paradise. Besides, the men get into trouble frequently, require constant attention and your assistance much appreciated.  

Master Po highly recommend this trip to all.   

More photos: 
Above: At the Hampton, an automatic door designed by my son the mechanical engineer. When told to be careful while living here at home, he always said, "Caution is my middle name."
Above: A cigar and a landshark beer. Florida statistics state that there's never been a fatal land shark attack anywhere in Florida if the person is smoking a cigar and sipping on landshark beer.  Caution is my middle name too.

 Above: Hint if you visit the Keys - Don't try to pretend you're wearing "footsies" or "half socks" by rolling your high whites down around your ankles. Best to just take off your shoes or wear sandals. Master Po learn by experience. 

Finally, Master Po thinking it finally time to stop nonsense story telling.  Master Po thank you. to comment. 

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA