Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Survivor: The Conch Republic

Our rooms at the Pier House Hotel in Key West were fabulous. We have an excellent view of the harbor, where in the afternoon sun, the boats, tugs, yachts, and jet skis were skimming the water and scurrying back in forth in only that lovely way that water does that. The view from the balcony will be my favorite part of the trip.

We pile our stuff in the room, and then head out to Duval Street to see what the locals are doing. What they are doing is a big disappointment to me. They are walking up and down Duval, ducking into bars and hawking cheap t-shirts with pretty “lame” and “insane” messages blazoned across the fronts. I will not repeat any of those slogans -- my blog is rated PG-13.


None of the merchandise appeals to me -- and since the streets are packed, we walk six blocks, comment on how “freakin’ hot it is,” and decide to wall up in the hotel room until dinner.

I like this idea cause there is nothing that cools faster than those window units set on “high cool” in a hotel room. When we get back, I hang my head over the cooling vent, a position that I will take many times in my next three days in the hottest place I’ve ever been. In fact, in Key West, I was never comfortable -- it was hot outside -- and cold inside -- I liked it best when I sat on the balcony with the sliding glass doors open with the air conditioner on high.

Green friendly. No.
Me friendly. Yes. The only way to get me that way is to get my temperature right.

Laura took charge of our trip -- she checked with the concierge about good places to eat -- she told her to give us some suggestions that were near by -- the concierge’s suggestion -- The Conch Republic. Other than sounding like a place for Survivor, we were game [no pun intended] to their fare.

We took a left our of the hotel, walked about two block in front of a long pier with boats of all sizes -- from small fishing vessels to a yacht that David and Joe speculated could have cost as much as 40 million, and turned right into the Conch Republic Restaurant.

We hesitated, but we were hungry. I get grumpy when I'm hungry.

A friend of mine recently drawled in the prettiest Paulding County accent: "Peanut butter crackers can save your life and the life of your grandmaw who likes to shop on vacation and not take time to eat."

Word to that, PC.

The first sign that the Conch Republic was lame: the couple at the front of the place, amplified by mikes on steroids, were strumming a guitar, playing a synthesizer, and belting out Captain and Tennille.

Love, love will keep us together Think of me babe whenever Some sweet talking girl comes along singing her song Don't mess around, You gotta be strong Just Stop [stop], 'cause I really love You Stop [stop], I'll be thinking of you Look in my heart and let love keep us together

And why do I happen to know these lyrics? I have all kinds of song lyrics, not by choice and not on purpose, stored in my brain’s file folder labeled appropriately -- What Hours of Listening to the Radio Will Do to Your Memory.

Also stored there:

There's a port on a western bay And it serves a hundred ships a day Lonely sailors pass the time away And talk about their homes And there's a girl, in this harbor town And she works, laying whiskey down They say "Brandy, fetch another round" She serves them whiskey and wine The sailors say "Brandy, you're a fine girl What a good wife you would be Yeah your eyes could steal a sailor From the sea."

Word from the wise: Song lyrics will come to you twenty or thirty years later, and you will wonder why you know this song? Yeah, that’s why.

What was I blogging about?

The second sign: The waitress wouldn’t give us a table next to the water because “the waitresses were on a rotation.”

David: Excuse me?

Third: The waiter, Michael, pulled up a chair to our table to give us the specials.

Joe: Always a bad sign when the waiter feels like he wants to chummy up next to you -- I was afraid he was gonna give us name tags.

Fourth: It was an open air restaurant. As in -- open to the water... and did I tell you that Key West was hot?

Me: They have no air conditioner? Are you sure? Are we in a Third World Country?

*sweats as I think about sweating*

The place was loud and cheap and hot -- not a good combo unless you are looking for a date.


Were we tourists? Well, the folks in this place and we four had little in common -- other than our chance encounter in a restaurant.

Talk about Survivor. This would be a great show for the reality set. Put them in a place like the Conch Republic Restaurant in Key West with lousy food and wait staff and that two piece band who have been lost at sea for twenty five years and see how long they last. Yeah, and no beer.

I ordered a salad that I picked at as I tried to hear the table conversation over poor renditions of “Superstition,” “ You’re So Vain,” and “Free Bird.”

Okay, maybe they didn’t do “Free Bird,” but they sang some over tired and cliché songs that made tone deaf karaoke appealing.

No one liked their food. We all played with it.

So, for the second time that day, we were disappointed.

We left the Conch Republic, complaining about its tourist kitsch and thinking about tomorrow and the better food that we might get…..and we will get better food. It will get better each day; we just had to learn where to find it. :)


David and Joe at the Pier House.


  1. What I can't figure out is why you didn't take off running as soon as you heard Captain and Tenille!

  2. Pier House, Harriett. Pier House.

  3. LOL, I love you two -- you keep me on my toes.
    I'm changing it now.

  4. I love you Mrs. Gillham!
    Reading your blog never fails to make me smile :D

    -Ashley Coons

  5. If I sweat...I'll die. I got some catching up to do on reading your blog. However, I ran across this video and couldn't help imagining what you're reaction to it would be. I figured you would miss some of those "inspiring" literature projects from your school days. It's not American but it is Shakespeare:


  6. Loud, cheap and hot...sounds like a place for Sam. Maybe we can her a job as a waitress there. She hasn't doesn't that yet has she :P