Return to Key West: Part Two, R.I.P. Captain Tony

Outside the Green Parrot. In 1992, I think.

I was in a convenience store on Caroline Street, Sunday after the post-race party, a six pack of Fiji water and a laughably overpriced mini-bottle of Aleve in my hands, watching as the proprietor punched out tickets on the lottery machine and talked to the guy in front of me, a fortyish guy in cargo shorts, cap, and boat logo T-shirt.

“How’d it go, last night?” the proprietor asked.

“Bad,” he said. “Bad again. It was hardly worth going out.”

“It’ll turn around,” the proprietor said, with little enthusiasm. “I keep hearing on the news. The economy has already bottomed out.”

“Screw the economy,” the guy in front of me said. His shirt advertised Key West sunset cruises. “We’re all waiting on Cuba. Once Cuba opens up, we’ll all be sitting pretty.”

“Ah, Cuba.” The proprietor handed a couple of tickets to the boat guy. “There’s always Cuba.”
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Return to Key West: Part One, Requiem for Red’s

At Captain Tony’s. September, 1990.

So here I am, an old man sitting under an umbrella at a streetside table, a frosty glass of MGD Extra Light before me, a plate of fish tacos on the way, my laptop open on a tiny table. It’s late afternoon, I’ve just arrived in town, and later on I’ll walk up to the marina to pick up my Half Marathon bib number and entry packet. There’s some kind of pasta dinner later, which I may or may not attend, depending on how I feel. The 6am flight to Miami and 180-mile drive from there through the Keys have left me feeling pretty fatigued.

Twenty years ago, when I first started coming down to Key West, I used to arrive at wherever I was staying, throw my suitcase on the bed and go out looking for a bar or four and a good time. Even in later years, when I started coming down for the yearly Key West Literary Seminar, there was always at least one day when I would drift away from the polite book signings and moderated discussions on “Opening Prose to the Light of Being” to start the morning (well, okay, 1pm) on a barstool at the Green Parrot. One of those days might take me to the Schooner Wharf Bar for lunch and an earful of Michael McCloud, a return trip through Captain Tony’s, The Bull, Sloppy Joe’s, and the Red Garter Saloon, a nighttime stumble southward into the waters off Smathers Beach, and another stop or three besides on the way back to the Green Parrot for closing at 4am.
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Sleeping With The Angels

KWG2I don’t think anyone sleeps in the Key West Cemetery anymore. Key West cops are much more like cops anywhere else, now that Duval Street is no longer mostly abandoned storefronts from the Wreckers Museum to the Southernmost Point, and $500K won’t buy you a modest conch house.

But this was 1992 and I was six days into a five-day trip to Key West that was already four days too long and getting longer.

I was sitting at the downstairs bar of the Bull and Whistle, perched on a stool behind a Rolling Rock and three Bayer aspirin set out on a cocktail napkin by the bartender, who kept a jug of them beside the cash register. It was a little before 11am.

I’d just checked out of my hotel, left my bags at the front desk, and handed the rental car key to the guy I’d driven down to Key West with five days before. I told him I’d see him in Miami, walked out into the morning sunshine on Duval Street, and down to the Bull.
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