Our three-day Miami and Florida Keys mini break started off on the right foot at the Miami airport Enterprise (they have an excellent corporate structure) car rental spot. As we waited for a standard car, say, a Jetta or a Corolla, to be shuttled over, a white Jeep Patriot came rolling through first.
“How do you feel about taking this Jeep instead?” our agent asked us.
“Uh, fuck yes,” we said in unison–in our heads.
“We’ve always wanted to drive a Jeep,” I said–out loud, “Thank you so much! What’s your name?”
“My name is Love,” said Love, pointing to his name tag that said “Love.”
I can’t think of a better way in which we could’ve started our trip. Speaking of which, here are the highs, the lows, the regrets and the bests of our Florida Adventure.
Day One: Miami
I had booked a loft at a 45-room boutique hotel close to the hoopla of Ocean Drive in South Beach.
It was lovely and all but after we visited the Palms, whose opulent lobby is decorated with photographs of the rich and famous–think Prince! Gloria Estefan! J-Lo dancing with Donald Trump!–to have a drink with our friend Doyle, who happened to be in Miami for a conference, I experienced hotel regret. The Palms, with it’s tikki bar, private beach access and 251 rooms, was the lifestyle we wanted to emulate in Miami. And it was the same price as our boutique hotel. Fuck boutique. Give me the Palms.
Drinks at the Fountainbleu hotelBeing ballers
Flamingo wallpaper in the washroom at Quality MeatsDuh, mirror selfieThe top notch sommelier at Quality Meats, who helped us choose a fantastic Oregon Pinot Noir (Cristom, Willamette Valley, 2012.)The birthday dinner: stone crab, tomato and stracciatella salad, and meat. Too much meat.
Day Two: Key West
The Beast realized that Coral Castle, an unusual piece of outsider art built by one man some 60 years ago, was just off the highway we were driving from Miami to Key West. “Don’t even Google image this place,” he said. “You’re going to love it!”
“Okay, but just promise we won’t take a tour or anything–let’s just see it and then get on the road,” I said, eager to not miss the sun, which was popping out only occasionally. “I don’t want the day to get away from us.” Plus, I hate guided tours.
After an hour-long guided tour, we got back on the road again, me, gritting my teeth and putting the metal to the petal. The drive to Key West was just incredible: 50 shades of blue and green water on both sides of us.
So too was lunch at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen in Key Largo. Their motto is “Eat well, laugh often, live long.” The conch fritters were fantastic. The key lime pie–the first, but not certainly not the last piece we had on our trip was TDF. But the shrimp, deep-fried and perfect, are what we wouldn’t shut up about.
There were no regrets about our hotel choice in Key West: the Gardens Hotel was just what I’d hoped it would be. The sun was out and all I wanted to do was swim. The Beast wanted to go to the Hemingway museum. We managed to do both before 5:00 p.m.
While enjoying a drink on Sunset Pier with about 400 other people and watching many race back to their Carnival Cruise ship, it occurred to me that a cruise ship would be a great premise for a primetime television drama. “Like Love Boat?” asked the Beast.
We had a drink at the oldest bar in Florida, Captain Tony’s Saloon, where Hemingway used to drink during the ’30s. Obviously I wanted to order authentic daiquiris. But this was more of a beer sort of place. They did, however, have something called Pirate’s Punch, which two burly men were enjoying beside us. “Is the Pirate’s Punch delicious?” I asked the bigger of the two. “Define delicious,” he replied. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had delicious. But Kirsty Alley, circa now, is delicious. Martha Stewart, now, is delicious.”
We ordered two Pirate punches.
Afterwards, we walked along touristy Duval Street back to our hotel. It was hopping with people carrying plastic cups filled with rum-spiked cocktails. We passed a tipsy woman having a dart outside a watering hole. “Oh, hey there!” she said to me enthusiastically as I passed by. The Beast was close behind. “What, no man bun?” she said to him.
We ended the evening on our charming veranda, sipping white wine while the wind blew through the palm trees and crickets chirped.
I was just getting ready to seduce the Beast when I started to scratch my eye. I couldn’t stop. It swelled up. I went to the washroom to investigate. I saw something floating around in there. I felt like was I was going to throw up.
“I know this is going to sound strange,” I said to the Beast, who was just getting ready to seduce me because Sam Smith was playing, “but I think there’s a contact lens in my eye.”
“Are you fucking high?”
“No but can you check?’
“There is nothing in your eye,” he said, prying it open.
“It feels like a piece of glass is in there I’m going to barf!”
The Beast put me to bed after making me take an allergy pill. He put a cold wash cloth on my swollen eye and turned on the TV: an ISIS documentary on CNN to be precise. If the romance hadn’t ended when I was dry-heaving on account of a non-existent foreign object in my eye, it definitively had now.
Day three: Islamorada
After breakfast by the pool and a short split-up–he went to the Audobon House to look at etchings of birds, I went for a swim–we were on the road to Islamorada.
Our cozy ocean-front cottage at the Pines and Palms was everything I hoped it would be: calm, lazy, breezy, beautiful, and with a bartender–who also doubled as captain of the charter boat–who looked like Bradley Cooper.
We swam and sun-tanned, then headed to Morada Bay to watch the sunset and eat dinner right on the beach.
The catch of the day was Mahi-mahi and it blew our minds. Our server, who couldn’t have been older than 16, was delightful. She answered all our questions about Kyle Chandler, who was in town with the rest of the cast and crew of Bloodline filming Season 2 and 3.
“I don’t even know what I would do if I saw Coach Taylor,” I said. “Or Sam Shepherd.”
“Sam Shepherd’s character is dead though.”
“I know what I would do if I saw Sam Shepherd,” he said. “I would recite him a poem.”
“He’s a successful playwright you know. Probably a poet, too.”
“But what would the poem be about?”
“It would be an ode to Kyle Chandler.”
K Chan, he’s our man,
If nobody can do it, he probably can,
He wasn’t just a coach to a bunch of kids,
Turned us all into a bunch of whizzes.
Banging his wife, her name is Tammy,
Locker room before the game, his palms are clammy,
But not in the field, heart and vision clear,
With coach calling the plays, there’s nothing to fear.
“And that’s just two stanzas,” he said. “I don’t want to give away the rest without a publishing deal first.”
It was windy as hell that night. I could get used to falling asleep under the sound of those palm trees swaying. But we got up at 6:00 a.m. to watch the sun rise. (People in the Keys are really big on both sunsets and sunrises.) I made terrible coffee. Still, it was a perfect morning. We read and suntanned until our 11:00 a.m. checkout.
We filled up the Jeep–only $20!!!!–before dropping it off at the Miami airport Enterprise. And guess who was there waiting for us?
It was Love.
We waved furiously, then got out of the car and high-fived him. We started our trip with Love, and that’s how we ended it.
Footnote: I found these photo collages on my phone that the Beast created when I wasn’t looking.