The Chart Room was my bar, my place. I spent at least 5 nights a week there for 20 years. Generally from 5 pm to 8 pm.
COVID changed things for me. First, I feared becoming infected and spent the first 342 days inside. Only left home for a doctor visit or hospital test. Thereafter, only left the house a few times. When I did, I discovered my Chart Room had changed. So much so that in the past year, I have only been there two times.
The people were different. The locals I knew for years were no more. They had either left because of COVID or for economic reasons. A new breed of locals replaced them. Persons who bought during COVID or soon thereafter. Different from previous locals. The new group were know it alls. Difficult for me to warm up to. I’m not being snobbish. Merely stating a fact. One confirmed by the few locals remaining from the pre-COVID days.
Then there were the tourists. Horrible says it all. A different breed also. I can’t explain it.
As a result, I stay away from the Chart Room. No fun anymore.
I have visited the Thai Island downstairs bar twice in two weeks. A winner! My new Chart Room! A locals place. People who have lived in Key West for years. The warmth and friendliness that once permeated the Chart Room can be felt. And the food served is terrific.
Last night an example. Met Steve at the bar. We were waiting for Cindy and her friend Ellen to return from boating. They go out on Ellen’s boat almost everyday.
Steve and I sat at the bar chatting for about an hour before the ladies arrived. Looking out the window in front of us on the dock where people watered their boats down. A worthy sight. Yesterday, one boat in particular. Two lovely ladies clad in what I would describe as less than bikinis. Good for a man’s heart and soul!
I will return to them shortly.
Suddenly a shout “Louis!” came from the end of the bar. It was Lori. Lori who I have not seen in at least 15 years.
I played bocce thursday nights for many years with Don’s Team. Lori played on another team on thursday nights. Lori used to wander the courts talking with everyone. Brought joy to each of her meetings. She was a “ball buster” at heart. Would tell you to your face she was one.
She was no different last night. Telling people on occasion what a “ball breaker” she was.
I went over to her and we hugged. She looked terrific! No change in the many years I had not seen her. It happened to be her birthday, also. Fifty years! Did not look it. Youthful in appearance and attitude.
I noticed that most who came in knew her and went over to talk with her.
Now for the two bikini ladies mentioned earlier. God was good! They sat next to me. Two extremely lovely women.
The one closest, Raquel. The other April.
We talked. Especially, Raquel and I.
She had laid her baseball cap on the bar. It was labeled Fish ‘N Chicks & Nauti Buoys. Cool name. Her business. She has a fleet of boats. Takes people and families out for sunning, fishing, diving, etc. Clothing optional. Male and female captains available.
I have had the same cap for 10 years. Don’t ask why I neve bought a new one. Asked her if I could have one of hers. She ended up going to her car and getting me not only a cap, but also a tee shirt labeled with her business also.
I came out a winner. Good company, a new cap and a new tee shirt.
She told me a bit of her background. I may have the relationships screwed up. My recollection is Tim Oosterhout was her uncle. He was a prominent Key Wester when I first arrived 30 years ago. In fact, he went out of his way to introduce me to people. He owned the Casa Antigua, an old hotel on Simonton. She told me her mother now lives there and in addition to the boating business, Raquel takes care of the Casa Antigua.
She mentioned Hemingway. I told her I knew the story. When Hemingway first arrived in Key West in 1928, he and his then wife Pauline stayed at the Casa Antigua. Its name was the Trev-Mor Hotel. One of Key West’s first hotels. Hemingway had ordered a new Ford from the local Ford dealer whose business name was Trev-Mor Motors and was located on the first floor of the hotel. The car was several weeks late and the Hemingways continued to stay in the hotel till it arrived.
I have always thought Hemingway might not have settled in Key West for 10 year had the car been available when he arrived. The time he spent waiting for it was the time he discovered the wonders of Key West.
I ran into an old friend thursday at Roostica. I stopped in for lunch. Their Italian food is great. Especially their meat sauce. I enjoyed sausage buried in sauce, roasted peppers and onions. With a slice of thick Italian bread to dunk in the sauce as I ate.
Anyhow, as I walked in there sat Howard Livingston.
We both arrived in Key West about the same time some 30 years ago. Met at the Mangoes bar. Hit it off! Close friends for years. Then drifted as some relationships do. For no particular reason. He became busy as a singer, I with other things.
It was good to see him. We embraced mumbling I miss you tidbits, etc. When we first met, Howard was working at a plant in Chicago that made parts for diesel engines. He subsequently bought the place. Made it even bigger and more successful. Sold it. When he sold it, I recall him telling me he was going to take a million dollars of the profit he made and put it into becoming a successful professional singer. His dream. Love him, he succeeded!
We have been warned for two days to beware. Heavy rain beginning today and into tomorrow. From a tropical storm which will be moving over or near Key West. There was a day in 1926, in fact today’s date in 1926, when 8.09 inches of rain fell on Key West in 2 hours.
I doubt the deluge we will face will be anything close.
Enjoy your day!