Our Key West crime spree continues with loitering, breaking and entering, and one cleverly staged home invasion.
Count 11: Loitering
Key West is the world capital of loitering, and one of the best places to do that is at the Southernmost Beach Café.
Of course, there's a fine line between "loitering" and "I've had so many frozen drinks I can't get out of my chair." You know who you are.
The weather during our visit was hot and mostly sunny, so we also spent a fair amount of time loitering around the pool.
When it wasn't already occupied, that is.
Count 12: Breaking and Entering
On Christmas morning, my friend Mark posted the following message on Facebook: "Look what Santa left this morning: Homemade coconut cream pie. Come over and help me eat it." Didn't he realize that the house we'd rented was less than a block from his own? I threw on a dress and was barreling through his front door less than 3 minutes later, brandishing my weapons: A fork in one hand and an insulated to-go bag in the other.
As Mark and I wolfed down the best coconut cream pie I've ever had, Mark's partner Steve decided it would be the perfect time to whip up some homemade macaroni and cheese. Look, guys: If you want me to move in with you, all you have to do is ask.
On top of all this, the pair had just returned from Brussels, and surprised us with a box of decadent Belgian pralines for Christmas.
They bring me good chocolate; I bring them battering rams.
Later that week, Mark made the mistake of telling me that he'd spent three hours making homemade enchiladas for a dinner he'd planned to host for Steve's father and his partner.
I think you know what happened next.
Count 13: Coercion
A few days into our visit, we noticed a pattern developing: Ellen and Brian would walk down to Southernmost Beach Café, grab lunch, and then spend the day on a couple of loungers at the beach. But when Ellen developed a blister from all the walking and Brian could recite the lunch menu at Southernmost by heart, we knew it was time for a change. And so we convinced them to rent bikes and meet us down at Salute on the Beach for lunch.
It was something of a disaster.
First, it rained. Have you ever ridden a bike in the rain? The back tire kicks up muddy rain water. Raindrops pelt you in the face. The seat gets uncomfortably slippery. And you arrive at your destination looking like a drowned rat. Or, in my case, Bon Jovi circa 1986.
Second, the restaurant was packed. And so we waited, and waited, and waited some more, occupying the time by making mitts out of toilet paper to dry ourselves off.
Finally, parched and starving and covered in stray bits of wet TP, we were seated.
I decided to try the antipasti sandwich, which looked normal to me but, according to Angel, was freakishly huge. And coming from someone who's lived with me for nearly 20 years, that is not a statement to be taken lightly. So let's just go ahead and assume that my sandwich looked like one of those ones in the Guinness Book that's 200 feet long and feeds an entire town.
Even though my hair, and my belly, had both puffed up to twice their normal size, I agreed to pose with the empty plate. Angel, and Bon Jovi, would be proud.
Count 14: Home Invasion
The last time we visited our friends Stephanie and Ari in Key West, I fell in love with their sweet little dog, Babka, and may or may not have attempted to kidnap her by folding her up and stuffing her into my handbag.
That is, until I saw the newest addition to their family. Meet Latke, the most adorably ridiculous-looking animal I have ever seen.
(No, she's not growling; that's just her face. And yes, that's a mohawk.)
As usual, I managed to finagle a dinner invitation by raving about some dish and having someone who actually knows how to cook take pity on me. When Steph and Ari came to NYC last fall, one of the restaurants they chose is an old favorite of mine and Angel's, Osteria Morini. As soon as I found out they would be there for lunch, I implored Steph and Ari to order my favorite dish, the sformato, which is a savory custard made from Parmigiano-Reggiano, butter, and whipping cream, and delivered to Earth on silver platters borne by baby angels.
Osteria Morini didn't have the sformato.
And if I'd known that ahead of time, it would have been one of the most ingenious plans I'd ever hatched, at least since that time I convinced Angel I had Prader-Willi syndrome and had to eat every 30 minutes due to my, er, condition.
Because as it turned out, my obsession with the sformato prompted Stephanie to generously offer to make me one on our last night in Key West. Which explains all those salads on this trip: I was saving up.
Of course, because Stephanie is a Jewish mother (of two canines named for cakes), serving us a ramekin stuffed with 10,000 calories would not do for dinner. So she also made salad . . .
. . . and the sformato, topped with wild mushrooms sautéed in butter . . .
. . . and snapper with pesto, accompanied by grilled vegetables topped with goat cheese . . .
. . . and chocolate soufflés with fresh strawberries . . .
. . .and homemade coffee ice cream.
It was quite a meal, and Stephanie succeeded in making sure that by the end of it, I was way too full to chase her dogs around and stuff them into my purse. I guess I'm not the only one with ingenious plans.
Count 15: Conspiracy
In criminal law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime at some time in the future. If plotting to consume your own body weight in sangria is a crime, then our group dinners fit the bill.
Our first outing was to A&B for Christmas dinner, since there is no better way to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus than with cocktails and chocolate cake.
A few days later, we met up with Mark, Steve, Steph, and Ari for dinner at Santiago's. In advance of our reservation, the six of us spent weeks haggling over what we were going to order and arguing about who was going to go hungry if they had to sit next to me.
After dinner we stopped by the Orchid Bar. I may have a tapeworm, but our Key West friends have hollow legs. And arms.
Speaking of crimes . . . this many pairs of dimples in one place really should be illegal.
We returned to Santiago's the very next night with Ellen and Brian for another go-round.
We probably shouldn't have had the flaming cheese two nights in a row, but you know what they say: A cheese a day keeps the doctor . . . on speed-dial.
Count 16: Disorderly Conduct
I attended college at a party school in the late 80s, before the age of AIDS and campus assaults and frowning upon binge drinking. It was an idyllic time, filled with hookups, hangovers, frat parties, and the occasional bench warrant.
And not a day goes by that I don't thank God that there was no such thing as the Internet back then.
Which is why we never, ever bring a camera to the Green Parrot, and especially not when we're pre-gaming with my infamous rum punch. I'm pretty sure Ellen walked into the pool fully clothed and Brian started licking the walls last time I made a batch, but like I said: That's why we don't allow cameras.
Over the years, I have acted quite the fool at the Green Parrot, egged on by my friend Mount Gay and begged to stop by my friend Angel "My Wife is a Train Wreck" Gonzalez. I've dirty-danced with men old enough to be my great-grandpa. I've invited myself to sample strangers' drinks with a two-foot-long super-straw. I've twirled handlebar moustaches unbidden, and impersonated Mrs. Doubtfire, and belted out my own lyrics to various blues songs at the top of my lungs, none of which rhyme and all of which utilize words that cannot be printed on this blog.
By comparison, I was well-behaved on this visit, sucking (my own) beer out of a flamingo straw and decorating my bottle with ornaments "borrowed" from Green Parrot's Christmas tree, which is why I agreed, just this once, to go ahead and snap a few photos.
As soon as I tried to climb inside the popcorn machine, however, all bets were off.
Count 17: Public Intoxication
Friends who live in Key West often lament that there are only two things to do here: Get drunk, or fry yourself in the sun. (They're missing the obvious third option: Get drunk and fry yourself in the sun.)
Not being ones to defy local custom, we spent most afternoons at Louie's, soaking up the sunset and sucking down the pina coladas.
Evenings were whiled away at Kelly's, keeping company with their fantastic key lime margaritas.
In between it was mojitos at lunch, wine at dinner, and the aforementioned rum punch for breakfast. There's OJ in there, ya know.
Part 3 is now posted! Click here to see if we rang in the New Year by commandeering a big red shoe.