Of course, we didn't really leave on probation. But if eating too much, drinking too many, laughing too loudly, and lazing around too often were crimes, I'm pretty sure we'd be sentenced to life without parole after this trip.
As it was, we compiled a pretty impressive rap sheet during our ten-day spree.
Count 1: False Advertising
On this visit we were joined by our friends Ellen and Brian, who had just started new jobs in California when we began making our travel plans. And so, by the time the four of us coordinated our schedules and decided on the dates for our visit, most of the rental houses we were interested in were already taken. And it didn't help that we wanted a nightly rental, not a weekly, Saturday to Saturday one, and that the house we originally settled on went to someone else due to a mix-up on the rental agency's part. And so we picked the best of the bunch from what was left, the Bahama House on Amelia Street.
The outdoor space was fantastic.
The pool was plenty big enough for four and heated to just-short-of-hot-tub, and was surrounded by comfy loungers, a covered porch with seating for four, and a small gated garden that was perfect for storing our bikes.
The inside, however, was apparently decorated by vampires. Neither bedroom had a mirror. Neither bedroom had a dresser. All of the hurricane shutters were nailed shut, blocking out all the natural light. And there wasn't a single hook for a bathing suit, wet towel, or black cape in the entire house.
There was nowhere to unpack anything, so we lived out of our suitcases. We hung our panties from the doorknobs and dangled our bras from the light fixtures. Within days, there was so much lingerie hanging around that folks thought a new bar had opened in Key West.
When we ran out of doorknobs, I fashioned this lovely underwear shelf out of a plastic platter.
We had a washer and dryer, but no laundry detergent, and even if we had, the dryer didn't work for the entire duration of our stay.
If the planet runs out of fossil fuels in your lifetime, you can just blame the four of us. No dryer, plus no hooks for drying (and all shade outside), meant that we went through approximately 400 towels in 10 days, each used exactly once before it was left for the maid so we could get a dry one.
Heck, we didn't even have plates.
Okay, I'm kidding about that last one. But we did have only two wine glasses, even though the house sleeps six. Which, if we're counting down crimes, is probably the worst one on this list.
Count 2: Petit Larceny
Tequila and law-breaking go together like Tracey and tacos, which is why we made not one but two trips to Agave 308 on this visit.
Key West is home to dozens of bars, but you could probably count on just a few fingers those that serve drinks that aren't syrupy-sweet or made from bargain-basement booze. Agave 308, underneath the Rootop Cafe, is one of those few. Sure, the décor consists of sugar skulls and a multicolored marijuana-leaf lamp, but when the food and drinks are this good, you can decorate the place with poison ivy for all I care.
My favorite drink at Agave is the Paloma de la Fresa, which combines house-made strawberry-infused tequila and muddled strawberries with fresh lime and tart grapefruit to temper the sweetness.
One Paloma is good, and two Palomas are better. Three Palomas is just asking to be hauled away in handcuffs.
Angel's favorite, the Mexican Mule, is made with Milagro silver tequila, ginger syrup, fresh lime, ginger beer, and candied ginger, for a hot-sweet treat, served in a traditional Moscow Mule copper mug to keep it perfectly chilled.
Best of all, Agave serves the best pork tacos north of the border, made with house-roasted shredded pork, spicy slaw, and pico de gallo.
Okay, so they might be a little greasy.
But they're also so delicious that at two for just eight bucks, it almost feels like we're stealing them.
Count 3: Aiding and Abetting
To get to Key West, our friends Ellen and Brian drove an hour from San Jose to San Francisco, boarded a red-eye for a 6-hour flight to Miami, changed planes there for yet another flight, then finally landed in Key West nearly 12 hours after they'd left the house the day before. (That's what you get for moving to a place where going on a hike, not nursing a hangover, is the preferred Saturday-morning sport.) They arrived at the house dazed and exhausted, plopping down in a travel-weary pile on the sofa for what surely would have been a nice, long nap.
If we hadn't dragged them off to brunch, that is.
I knew Ellen was still upset about missing the all-you-can-eat-and-drink Christmas Day brunch at the Casa Marina on our last trip, and I wasn't going to let her miss it a second time. And so we splashed them with some tonic water, waved some margarita salts under their noses, and dragged them off to the Casa. For their own good, of course.
The Christmas Day brunch at Casa Marina features carving stations, a mile-long dessert table, and unlimited mimosas that start arriving the minute you sit down.
The day was glorious, with vibrant blue skies and reggae-tinged versions of our favorite Christmas songs floating on the warm breeze.
Of course, even on Christmas Day your teenagers will ignore you in favor of their iPhones, but at least they'll look festive while they're doing it.
Count 4: Identity Theft
Key West might be a tropical paradise, but you certainly wouldn't know it at Christmas. Over the holidays, the island disguises itself as a Christmas-y wonderland, complete with Christmas trees, snowmen, Santas, and Abominables.
Of course, the island can't shed its beachy identity completely for the holidays. Then again, maybe those are Jesus fish?
Count 5: Reckless Endangerment
After a week spent shoveling down everything from tacos and meatballs to pot pies and cheesesteaks, even I needed a break. And so we headed off to Banana Café for a much-needed green salad.
But this is Key West, where healthy hearts and functioning livers go to die. And so the salad I so dutifully ordered came topped with . . . mayonnaise.
No, I don't mean a mayo-based dressing. I mean actual mayonnaise.
A few days later I tried again to eat something that wasn't fried in lard, covered in lard, or actually was lard. I remembered that Caroline's Café had a good selection of salads, so off we went again in search of greens.
I forgot, however, that the best salad at Caroline's comes topped with bacon. And fried chicken. And Ranch dressing.
My taste buds gave me a round of applause. My arteries gave me the finger.
Eventually I just gave up on the salads and had some corn. Fresh, healthy corn.
Slathered in mayonnaise and cheese.
Count 6: Arson
Is it a crime to set someone's mouth on fire with a toothpick? If so, then Peppers of Key West would be guilty as charged.
An emporium of all things hot, spicy, saucy, and sweet, Peppers is the perfect place to mosey up to the bar and get your face melted off.
We started with the milder sauces -- like the fantastic coconut mango, a figgy steak sauce, and a sweet-but-spicy teriyaki -- and then Angel moved on to the ones so hot that they are stored in little coffins and carry warnings about death, diarrhea, and death by diarrhea.
You are instructed not to let the toothpick touch your lips, or they will shrivel up and fall off, and to wash your hands before using the restroom, or certain other parts may shrivel up and fall off.
So far Angel is still intact, but I'm keeping an eye on the situation.
Count 7: Harassment
On every visit to Key West, we stop by Eaton Bikes to harass our friend Chris, who with a patient smile attaches accoutrements -- flowers, streamers, and a bell that reads, "Get the %$#@& Out of My Way" -- to my bike, even though he knows that I am a menace on two wheels and that I will spend the next ten days ringing that bell nonstop like a deranged Quasimodo.
But how else am I supposed to get around? Sure, I've crashed my bike into a mailbox (2010), a truck (2011), a curb (2014), and Angel (1999-present), but if that makes me clumsy on two wheels, you should see me on two feet.
Count 8: Bootlegging
In the early 1900s, 105 Simonton Street in Key West housed a Coca-Cola bottling facility. Today, it is home to Key West's first legal rum distillery. Next time your grandpa goes on about how great everything was back in his day, you can refer him to this shining example of progress.
We decided to do the short guided tour of Key West Legal Rum, during which our guide, Mike Ehrmantraut, explained the distilling process and showed us all these cool machines and Angel impatiently tapped his toe waiting for the tasting portion of the program to begin.
Paul Menta, the chef at Amigos Tortilla Bar, is the brains behind this operation, cranking out homemade hootch infused with natural flavors like vanilla brûlée, key lime, and mojito mint.
Best of all, next time you crash your bike into a mailbox or feel like eating a bowl of mayonnaise for lunch, you've got a ready-made excuse.
Count 9: Fraud
About a month before we were scheduled to meet up in Key West, I received a two-word text from Ellen: "Meatball Cruise?" That, of course, is how we refer to the Sunset Sail on the Fury catamaran, which offers crappy margaritas and a decent live band and a great crew and who the hell cares because MEATBALLS! I naturally said yes and then quickly put together one of those "Christmas Countdown" chains, but instead of counting down to Christmas, I was counting down to MEATBALLS!
They didn't have the meatballs.
I don't know. Maybe people complained last time that the meatballs kept rolling off their plates and some skinny blonde girl kept swooping in and scooping them up? I'm sorry, but the five-second rule applies in international waters, too.
The sunset that evening was spectacular, a fiery orange that faded to a wisp of pink as we made our way back to Key West.
Although we were forced to sail along in meatball-less melancholy, they did have fried chicken, which, even when it comes frozen and is reheated in a Soviet-era microwave rusted out from salt spray, still beats not having fried chicken.
It does not, however, beat meatballs.
Count 10: Criminal Impersonation
I am often guilty of judging a restaurant by its nondescript cover, and Deuce's Off-the-Hook is one of them.
Plus, I like booze as much as the next guy, but happy hour at 8 a.m. is a bit much even for me.
Still, when friends Mark and Steven told me that Deuce's was one of their favorite new dining spots, I took a peek at the menu. And then I jumped on my bike and pedaled over there faster than you can scoop a rogue meatball off a boat deck.
That's because Deuce's has lobster pot pie sandwiches. Let's just let that sink in for a moment: Lobster. Pot pie. Sandwiches.
We started off with the smoked fish dip and an order of spanakopita for the table, followed by the fish sammie for Angel, the gyro with sweet potato tots for Steven, and an entire deep-fried sea creature on a bun for Mark.
And the Lobster. Pot pie. Sandwich. for me.
Okay, so it's not even remotely a sandwich. But when your lunch entrée arrives and it looks like this, are you really going to split hairs?
Next up, PART 2! Hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your food.