Key West, the veritable end of the road and southernmost point in the continental United States. Cayo Hueso, as the Spanish explorers originally named it--Isle of Bones, because of the Native American remains they found strewn across its tropical desolation. Now, the living far outnumber the dead, as thousands of tourists drag their tired bones down the narrow palm-lined streets, determined to see everything the tiny island has to offer.
The most celebrated daily activity is watching the sunset, when hundreds of people gather on the waterfront dock at Mallory Square, where buskers entertain before and after the sun drops into the ocean, as nature provides a stunning light show.
The orange sun drops
below the horizon-
the crowd applauds
The main event over, the crowd thins as many head back to the famed bars of Duval Street. Sloppy Joe's Bar, one of Hemingway's haunts, is open-sided and brimming with tourists, eager to soak up some of the seedy ambiance (as well as rum) that supposedly inspired Papa. But in Hemingway's day, there were fishermen and sailors at his sides, no ATM in the corner for drinkers in need of cash, and no kiosk selling t-shirts with his visage, which, somewhat fittingly, looks rather sad.
Sloppy Joe's Bar-
packed with Hemingway
At the visit's end I reflect on what Dos Passos wrote in a letter to Hemingway, that his trip over the Keys by train was a "dream-like journey." By 1935, 23 years after it was completed, the railroad was gone, destroyed by a hurricane.
I slide behind the wheel of the car and head north, the only way to go. Aquamarine water stretches as far as the eye can see on both sides of the narrow road, the bright sunlight reflecting off of it to produce a variety of hues. What lies ahead brings to mind Basho's final haiku, which inspires a final haiku of my own about this enchanting place.
Keys journey . . .
over sun-baked bridges
dreams wander on