When you peer behind the Key West gentrification symbolized by a Starbuck’s or signage harkening a Duval Street luxury condo, you still see the Conch Republic. There’s still the literati legacy, the Victorian skyline, the Mallory Dock performers, the street-wise roosters, the tropical lushness, the azure water, the sunsets, the dining, the music, the nostalgic intimations of Cuba, the what-the-hell ethic.
There’s also this:
*The less-than-year-old Rum Barrel bar at the intersection of Simonton and Front streets. It’s owned by Pat Croce, the former owner of the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s an unabashed outpost of Philly lore and adenoidal accents.
And it was where this Philly native watched the last quarter of the “Iggles”-Dallas Cowboys game amid a raucous din of organized cheers and a sea of Westbrook and McNabb jerseys.
“Invincible” should have been this authentic. Yo.
*A town long enamored of its double entendres, naughty puns and anarchical phrase twists – all in the name of irreverence, crudeness, anti-establishment chutzpah and cheap laughs. They are emblazoned on everything from tee-shirts to tea-towels. A parasailing outfit is called “Chute Happens.” But mostly, it’s “Why can’t we all get a bong?” or “I’m out of estrogen, and I have a gun” or “Lesbian trapped in a man’s body” or “Grandchildren are the reward for letting teenagers live.”
And then there’s the relatively benign, seemingly Gasparilla-targeted banner: “Time flies when you’re having rum.”
We bought it.
*A restrained, hour-long, anti-war demonstration at the intersection of Duval and Eaton streets. All four corners featured placard-carrying individuals with “Out of Iraq”-themed messages. Vicki Weeks, the 50-ish leader, explained the dynamic – and the demographic:
“It had been relatively low key until after the election,” said Weeks. “Now it’s much more vocal. I’d say four out of five people are supportive. Except when there are cruise-liner passengers.”
*A local-color, smile magnet: A couple pushing a baby stroller with adorable, twin Peke-a-poos. OK, that was us.