A catastrophic event has occurred. Smoking no longer permitted in Berlin’s.

New owners. The no smoking rule invoked. Surprising because one of the primary new owners a smoker himself.

Please, do not bury me in e-mails about the evils of smoking. Some remain who enjoy it. A personal choice. I do not criticize those who opt not to smoke.

If second hand smoke is a problem, do not attend a place that permits smoking. Only a few are left in Key West. Many non-smoking restaurants and bars available for the multitude.

Lets me share the Berlin story with you.

Berlin’s full name is Berlin’s Cigar and Cocktail Bar. It has been a place frequented by smokers since 1947 when it was first opened as Alonzo Cothron and Berlin Felton’s Fish House.

Eventually, the name was changed to Alonzo’s and Berlin’s Lobster House. The dining institution of the day. The place for a night out followed by a Cuban cigar. The affluent then hopping a plane for a quick flight to Havana for a night of gambling. Returning in time to bed down while still dark outside.

Those must have been the days!

At some point, the establishment was rebuilt. Always a perfect waterfront site. Class before and class after the rebuilding.

Berlin’s had a cool look to it. The feeling of Rick’s cafe. Some consider the swankiest spot in Key West.

Paul Tripp was owner at the time of rebuilding. He said, “I wanted it to be a men’s club, to have a masculine feel to it.”

It did.

An intimate room. Mahogany walls. Maroon leather bound stools and large comfortable easy chairs. Cigars stored in a humidor. The perfect place to sit back and enjoy a smoke.

The present day Berlin’s has the finest filtration system I have ever experienced. Even if the person next to you was smoking a cigar, you never smelled it. The filtration system sucked up the smoke  immediately. After leaving, your clothes did not smell of smoke.

Smokers generally ate in the intimacy of Berlin’s. A&B Lobster House, the restaurant portion is extremely large with a huge outdoor balcony to accommodate everyone else.

The food at the bar and restaurant the same. Always excellent. Pricey. Worth it, however. Especially when I could enjoy a couple of drinks and cigarettes before dinner and another after dinner while enjoying the last drink of the night.

The change makes no sense. It will not increase business. It might lessen it, if anything.

The Chart Room my only stop last night. John bartending. Ran into Diesel last year. Again, last night. We spoke at length. I enjoyed his company.

Diesel is from Ohio. Retired. He and his wife Lynise bought a home in Key West several years ago. Lynise was not with him. An early to bed person as I am most evenings.

They spend 6 months a year on the island. I told Diesel he was a snowbird. He did not like the title. Preferred to be known as a transient Conch. Don’t think it would fly with the Conchs.

Cori Convertino, how I envy you! Cori was on Ballast Key yesterday!

Cori is technically Dr. Cori Convertino. She is curator at the Custom House. Over the years, she became a close friend of David Wolkowsky. David you will recall died 2 month ago.

David enjoyed 3 homes in the Key West area. One was on Ballast Key. A small island 16 miles west of Key West. A magnificent edifice planned and built by David.

Not sure why Cori was there yesterday. Wish she had invited me. I assume she was there for some reason having to do with the furnishings. David was a huge benefactor to the Custom House.

I met Fritz Adare 12 years ago at a party at Larry and Christine Smith’s home. Nice guy. He was introduced as a personal trainer. Looked it. A magnificent body. Skin like a baby’s back end. A body that sparkled.

It was obvious Fritz was a good health addict.

I rarely saw him. We would run into each other one or two times a year. Always a cordial hello and a few words.

Yesterday’s Facebook listed the day as Fritz’s birthday. I sent him a Happy Birthday!

Last night, Larry and Christine telephoned me. I knew there had to be trouble if both were on the phone together. Fritz had died several months ago. I did not know.

Strange. I never saw his obituary. Looked for it this morning. Not in the Key West Citizen. Found it in a South Bend, Indiana newspaper. Fritz died on May 29. He was residing in an assisted living facility at the time. Age, 71.

May he rest in peace.

When older people who I know pass on, I get a bit nervous. I am 83. Fritz was 71. He unquestionably was a health nut. Always working out. Took all kinds of vitamins and supplement pills. Nutrition was a big thing with him.

I do not dwell on death. Mark Twain said, “Age is not an issue of mind. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

What will be, will be.

An important thing in life. After saturday’s victory, Syracuse is now ranked 14th in the nation. A 7-2 record so far. Go ‘Cuse!

Enjoy your day!



Abraham Lincoln is considered one of our greatest Presidents. Perhaps the greatest.

We know he was born in a log cabin, became a Republican, was elected the sixteenth President of the United States, saved the Union, freed the slaves, delivered the Gettysburg Address, and was assassinated.

There is a personal part of Lincoln not well known. Such is the thrust of this article. To share the less well known with you.

Lincoln at age 22 was a bartender. Purportedly a licensed bartender.

Lncoln returned from the Black Hawk War and ran for the Illinois State Legislature. He lost. He was living in New Salem, Illinois at the time. He and a William Berry decided to open a general store and drinking establishment. The store to sell lard, bacon, firearms, beeswax and honey. The tavern portion alcoholic beverages.

Illinois law provided that if alcohol was sold for consumption on the premises, a license was required. Another requirement was that if even taken off premises for consumption, if less than a quart, a license was required.

William Berry obtained the license. All bartenders had to sign. It appears Berry forged Lincoln’s signature.

The business opened in January 1833. Lincoln had Berry buy him out three months later. The business was not making money. Debts were increasing rapidly. Berry was an alcoholic. He was drinking up the profits. Lincoln contributed to the failure of the business, also. He was lazy. Spent his time reading and chatting with customers rather than working.

Two years later, Berry died. The business debts were even more than when Lincoln had withdrawn. Berry left an estate of $60. The business debts exceeded $1,100. A lot of money at the time.

Lincoln had no legal responsibility for the debts. However, he felt a moral obligation to pay them. He went to each creditor and advised he would see that they were paid. However he could promise no time frame. It took 13 years for all the debts to be paid. Till 1848.

Interestingly, Lincoln was not a drinker. He abstained from alcohol. Whether a drinker was no big deal in the 1820s and 1830s. Illinois was a frontier state. Drinking was part of frontier society life. The backwoodsmen were all heavy boozers. No one thought anything less of those who enjoyed their drinks.

Things changed as time ran on. A temperance league was formed. It gained power and popularity. By the Senate race in 1858 and the Presidential race in 1860, drinking was a major national issue.

Lincoln’s short lived partnership with Berry many years earlier in 1822 became an issue. Lincoln’s purported signature on the license evidenced that he sold the dirty brew. Lincoln refused to acknowledge the license, saying Berry had forged his name. He further stated he worked only the store portion of the business and had nothing to do with the tavern. He also relied on the fact he was known not to be a drinker.

It did not bother Lincoln that others drank. As General Ulysses Grant’s Civil War successes became evident, Lincoln told one of his aides to “…..find out what Grant is drinking and send a case of it to all my generals.” Grant was a known heavy drinker. Considered by some to be an alcoholic.

Earlier, I mentioned Lincoln was a bit lazy. He was of the opinion that at least for himself, physical labor was to be avoided. His step brother once said to Lincoln, “I doubt whether since I saw you, you have done a good whole day’s work in any one day.”

Tobacco was big at all times during Lincoln’s life. He did not partake of tobacco, either smoking or chewing.

Other than his brief time in the Black Hawk War when he was in his very early 20s, Lincoln never carried nor used a gun. Even for hunting.

He advocated the vote for women. Hard to believe that someone that far back was promoting the cause for women.

Lincoln was a sloppy dresser. Even when President. Clothes were of no importance to him. Even his hair. He rarely combed his hair.

Lincoln avoided profanity. At all times. “By Jingo!” was the strongest expletive used by him in the White House.

Ann Rutledge was Lincoln’s first love.

Ann’s father was a founder of New Salem. Ann was engaged to a John Mac Namar. Described as a dubious character. The engagement took place before Ann and Lincoln met. Mac Namar left for New York City after the engagement. He forgot to return.

Ann and Lincoln fell in love during Mac Namar’s absence. Things were different back then. She did not feel she could marry Lincoln until Mac Namar released her from her promise to marry. She wrote him many times. Mac Namar ignored her letters. Ann and Lincoln were anxious for Mac Namar’s return so they could have a sit down and obtain the release.

Mac Namar returned to New Salem after Ann’s death. Typhoid intervened in 1835. Ann died from the typhoid.  She was only 22 years old. Lincoln went into severe depression.

Historians are mixed as to whether Lincoln loved Ann. After his election as President, Lincoln is reported to have told his old friend Issac Cogdal, “I loved the woman dearly and soundly…..I did honestly and truly love the girl and think often-often of her now.”

Ann was buried locally in the New Salem area. A small cheap marker for a stone.

In 1890, an undertaker became financially interested in the cemetery. For other than burial purposes. Ann was exhumed and reburied in Oakland Cemetery in Petersburg, Illinois.

A new stone marked her grave. A large granite one. Part of the inscription on the new stone read as follows: “I am Ann Rutledge who sleeps beneath these weeds, Beloved in life of Abraham Lincoln, wedded to him though not through union, But through separation. Bloom forever, O Republic, from the dust of my bosom.”

Thus are some of the personal parts of Lincoln’s life. As great as his public figure, it is good to be reminded his life prior to the Presidency was that of a common man. He enjoyed and suffered life in the same fashion as the people he ultimately represented.

Such contributed to his being a great President.

Most Presidential candidates today are not of Lincoln’s ilk. The group consists of millionaires, children of millionaires, corporate leaders, and the like. No wonder we are screwed up.

Most do not know or understand America.