Last night Hugh Morgan came to me in a dream and said we should take a vacation to Maui. I awoke for the last time around 5:30 a.m. hearing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” being sung in my thoughts. After mulling all of that, I finally told heaven I didn’t have a clue what it meant.
Then, random thoughts started coming into my mind. I never saw more rainbows than when I was on Maui in 2000, just before I came to Key West in December of that year. Rainbows on the north side of the island, Kahalui, Paia, and the incredible beach road all the way up to Hana. Rainbows became especially important to me in the fall of 1993, when several truly beautiful rainbow poems fell out of me, which I no longer have. But one small poem I remember:
Black is white,
White is black,
And when they fuse,
Even before a street vendor put the bug in my ear about turning Wisteria Island into a clothes-optional city park, I was reminiscing my time on Maui. Near Paia are several beaches, one of which is understood to be clothes optional. It’s tucked between two other beaches that are not clothes-optional, although topless is permitted for women. In Hana, around the end of a rugged volcanic jetty, is a beautiful red sand secluded beach in a small extinct volcanic cone that takes some hiking to get to. Men, women, children, all use this beach, some in bathing suits, others not. Locals, tourists. On past Hana is a series of beautiful waterfalls coming down the mountain to the coast. These, too, are clothes optional. As is a beach on the south of the island, the name of the town it’s below I don’t now remember. Or maybe it was something like McKenna. I found more secluded nature water holes. I’m sure the high-end Maui resorts had their own versions.
Last night at the City Planning Commission meeting in Old City Hall, many people, including me, spoke against the Southernmost Guesthouse being allowed to add a one-hundred-fifty seat outdoor restaurant. Hugh Morgan, also an attorney, and his wife and daughter spoke. They convinced me that they would have to sell their beloved nearby home, if the restaurant was approved. The noise into the late hours would be unbearable. They would have to sell it commercially and not as a residence, because no one would want to buy a home next to what Halpern was proposing. In the end, the Planning Commission tabled the application.
So, the rainbow started forming in my thoughts. What the heck. We have lost Atlantic Shores, which had a clothes-optional pool and bar area. That was just a block away from the Southernmost Guesthouse. Currently, it’s zoned for thirteen posh rooms, even though it only has acquired two transient rental rights, which sell a pretty steep price, like more than makes running a bed and breakfast or guesthouse economically feasible. Like $200,000 each. The City has let Michael Halpern, local attorney and entepreneur, run the guest house with just two transient rights, so why not just waive the other eleven? Why do that? Maybe because the original plan, renting out the rooms at $500 a night, was maybe a bit too ambitious. Maybe because Halpern did not have the transient rights already in hand. Maybe because the Planning Commission and the City Commission and just about everyone in the know knew it was going to be a far reach to make it work, yet it was approved anyway, with stipulations. Some of the stipulations Halpern could have met, but the transient rights were a bit out of range: $200,000 X 11 is $2,200,000. I imagine any Key West street vendor could have told them the numbers just weren’t there.
My ruminations continued when I “drove” my bicycle to the Southernmost Guesthouse in the dark this morning. I saw the parking lot to which Halpern wants to add several more parking spaces. It was filled up with cars, less than twenty, tightly packed in there, diagonal nose-in, with a very narrow lane for the cars to either pass through or back out and leave the parking area. No way could one more car fit in there. And they want to add a one-hundred-fifty-seat restaurant? And stay open later, and have DJ music playing at high volume until midnight most nights? In an historical landmark? In an architectural one-of-a-kind masterpiece?
Experts last night said a lot more could be made selling the property as a residence, than selling it commercially. Some wealthy person wanting a home in Key West would gobble it up for seven to ten million, if it went on the market. It also would be a terrific clothes-optional high-end retreat. It already has walls and buildings screening the pool area from Duval Street and the properties on the other side. Well-heeled tourists with somewhat liberated points of view might want to spend their time in Key West in the Southernmost Guesthouse, instead of on Maui.
Adventuresome proletariat tourists, those who can only afford to stay, say, in the Youth Hostel, or in the up to $200-a-night hotels and inns and guesthouses and beds and breakfasts, could stand on the sidewalk corners of Duval and South Streets drooling at Southernmost Guesthouse, wishing they were in the compound sun bathing au naturale. Or, they could be down on Mallory Pier with their day packs and beach towels standing in line waiting to pay $20 for a round-trip water taxi ride out to Wisteria Nature Park.
Not that there’s any wisteria out there. I learned yesterday from some members of the Bone Island Buccaneers, a local group of pirate musicians — serious pirates, they said, not the same as the high end Pirate Soul shops near the Buccaneer pub where they sometimes perform – that Wisteria Island is named after an old sailing ship that went aground and sunk near where the island now is. Some of the ship’s wooden ribs are still on the bottom. The Buccaneers said the Wisteria probably was over one-hundred years old. One of them said he used to live on a sailboat anchored on the other side of the island, out of view from Key West. To ease the stress of clothes-lovers, Wisteria sun bathers could be “confined” that side of the island. Out of sight, out of mind.
When I said the Bone Island Buccaneers are serious pirates, I meant it. It’s their religion, their spiritual journey. Their dress, when they are performing, looks like the real deal, except they don’t use real swords and real flint-lock pistols. But they look and sound like real pirates, and they sing real pirate songs, and they seem to think like real pirates, like they are beholding to no king or queen or country, but are free men and women, and what’s around is theirs to for the taking and best not get in their way if you don’t want your timbers seriously shivered.
They play and perform for hire, but sometimes a few of show up in full dress at Mallory Pier around sunset to play for tips, which they view as practicing their trade. Kids love them, and adults seem to as well. I told them they are the city’s ambassadors and advisors for it becoming the pirate headquarters of the world, nay, matey, the entire universe! I encouraged them to show up en masse with their tip bucket at Mallory Pier at least once before Pirates In Paradise begins at the end of November, to demonstrate their pirate wares and spirit and advertise Pirates In Paradise. I told them this could be the kick-off to pirate revolution heard around the seven seas! They can be checked out at boneislandbuccaneers.com, and the festival can be investigated at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For anyone not familiar, Bone Island is Key West. So named, I understand, because when the pirates, or maybe it was their successors, first reached the island, their found lots of human bones lying around. Sometimes when riding my bicycle beside a Conch Train full of tourists, especially when there are children aboard, I tell them the driver really ought to tell them that there still are cannibals on this island, which is why it is called Bone Island, and sometimes tourists who ride the Conch Train end up never being heard of again. Sometimes I then make sounds like a wild chicken and flap my arms like wings. Far as I can tell, the real chickens can’t figure out where the chicken is on my bicycle.
Key West chickens really can fly, and at night they roost in trees. They don’t have real chickens on Maui, either. Yet another reason why Key West is to die for.