June 27, 2016
Home. It conjures meanings and feelings different for everyone. It can be both positive and negative, comfort and longing, and somehow has the ability to create a centering effect on the soul.
Two weeks ago, where I now call home was brought to international spotlight as the deadliest shooting in American history took place at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. I've spent much of the time attempting to process all of the emotions and feelings that have overtaken me. It hasn't been easy and it’s certainly not complete. However, I'd already had a trip planned to my hometown of Islamorada in the Florida Keys and it felt more important than ever to make the pilgrimage home.
Being me, the trip is planned end-to-end, but it started with a concert from my favorite college band, Dashboard Confessional, at Bayfront Park in Miami. The music was amazing and pleasantly disconnected from recent events, as I'd attended three concerts over the previous week all of which became dedicated to those hurt by the events of June 12. I needed it.
Afterward, I continued down to my lodging less than a mile from where I grew up, the Conch On Inn motel. A late arrival, but in true keys fashion left my room unlocked, key inside and “the light on” for my late check in. My drive down was beautiful. The moon was up, my windows were down smelling the sea air, and all my favorite music was on the radio. I was happy.
Morning came and I got ready for breakfast at Lorelie’s restaurant. It was a great start to the day as I read the local Free Press weekly newspaper and instantly getting caught up on all the events of the town. I learned the old seven mile bridge span would close to the public in 10 days for a four year restoration project. It was now on my itinerary for the drive down.
After breakfast I had coffee with an old friend from high school. We don't get to see each other much, but we got about an hour and a half to catch up. It was so great to see her smile and know that life is good.
I'd planned to stop at the Islamorada brewery, but somehow missed it on my way south to Key West. That didn't happen, but a quick run in to Publix for some fruit and cash led to my stop at the old bridge. It felt goodto be there and take a few photos, knowing it will close and change from what I've known my entire life.
There’s a span of the old bridge that runs parallel to the new. Every time I’ve driven across, I’ve taken notice of a tree that over the years, has gotten bigger and bigger. What once started as a small weed of sorts, has towered and now has a baby tree growing next to it. Both have become their own microcosm ecosystems in a terribly inhospitable place to grow, let alone thrive. It instantly made my smile and laugh a bit when I saw it; to think of it as the perfect metaphor for my life at times. To shameless quote a move, “life will find a way.”
The weather for the drive was perfect and I found my way to Key West in due order. After locating my favorite parking spot, which now costs twice as much (shocking) I head to the closest tourist trap, Sloppy Joes. Here I start journaling the adventures of the past few days. I think Hemingway would have approved.
It's hot as hell but there's cold beer around every corner. I've got my camera, and my Orlando City and USA gear for the soccer games later tonight. Life is good.
I made my way down Duval street walking the entire way to the ocean. I only stop to patron a few bars that have “Key West stands with Orlando” signs on their entrances. Both are gay bars and the first is Bourbon Street. There's only a few at the bar, until a drunk bachelorette party comes in for shots. The second was on my way back toward Mallory Square. Still not entirely sure of its name, but Cher was in full on drag, as were a few other queens. The beer was cheap and the customers friendly.
No trip is complete without a stop at Hog’s Breath. I opt for dinner here before making a short jog over to the Sandbar Sports Bar. There's no dice on watching the City game, but the bar has the second to last COPA game with the US versus Colombia. City wins, US takes fourth in the tournament.
Just as I'm cashing out, a guy, Ryan, recognizes my City jersey and asks if I'm from Orlando. We chat that we both live in Orlando and made the trek south just for the weekend.
It's after 10 and with a two hour drive ahead of me, I head back to the car driving home through the evening Keys. On the way, I pass through Big Pine where you must slow down to reduce the possibility of hitting a Key Deer. I oblige and when the southbound traffic clears, I flash on my driving lamps and for the first time ever, see a deer looking straight at me, #keydeerintheheadlights.
Passing through Marathon, I manage to dodge a land crab crossing the road. I've heard of these things puncturing tires, so I make sure to pass over it while it's centered in the lane.
Morning comes and I pack up to head north to Miami. This entire weekend was based on the Marlins playing the Cubs on Sunday afternoon. I stop at my favorite diner restaurant, Craig's, for breakfast. The place is busy, but I'm able to find a table and get some journaling before my breakfast arrives.
Heading out of the Keys, I put on Ingrid Michaelson and listen to “Home” as I leave mine. I had such a great, albeit short, visit and am glad to head back, but wish k could make it work down there.
I get to Marlins stadium and the facility is a giant monstrosity. The inside was pretty nice and the fans are split half and half. I'm rooting for the Cubs even though I buy a Marlins hat. The teams are wearing orange and blue, nicely enough.
The game goes well for the Marlins, and at the middle of the 8tg I head out to make the rest of my trek home after a quick work related stop at one of the service plazas. I make it home around 7:45 and am thankful for the great weekend.
Life has been good and I'm extremely thankful. I can't wait for the Fourth of July weekend coming up and celebrating some fun. There's no shortage of things to do.
Chicago Cubs, Dashboard Confessional, Florida Keys, Home, Islamorada, Key Largo, Key West, Life Is Good, Marathon, Miami, Miami Marlins,