The World's New Gay State

My Winter Respite: SoBe to Key West, 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by thegaystateblog on March 25, 2010

As I had said yesterday, if there is a Gay Mecca on the southern mainland of the U.S., it is the South Beach district of Miami  Beach.  It has been this way for at least the last 25 years.  There are plenty of new luxe hotels and resorts to choose from.    What I like most about South Beach (SoBe) is its similarities with New Yorks Manhattan.  Everyone co-mingles, cheek by jowl, every nationality can be found here — a stunningly beautiful mixture of diversity.

My most pleasurable activities in SoBe tend to be free, surprisingly enough, or economically priced and widely available to all.  I try to avoid the grooves of ritual and routine, but my favorite start to a day in South Beach goes something like this: let’s start with being awake and dressed to leave the condo, safe enough.  We take a short stroll to the News Care for breakfast alfresco.  The scenery is beautiful, the eye candy delicious and breakfast a real pleasure.  Orange juice, caffe au lait, two fried egg whites, and some melon while reading a number of publications the old-fashioned way — in print form and it’s a perfect combination to ease into the day.  I invariably bump into someone I know at the News Cafe as it’s a popular gathering spot for our people.  I like to follow-up breakfast with a walk through SoBe’s oceanfront park/promenade.  More eye candy and the wonderful feeling of the soothing warmth of the morning sun, sans the blazing south Florida heat one experiences later in the day.

By the time I’m back in the condo, it’s almost 10am; 4 hours gone — poof! — since first opening my eyes.  During the day, I may go online a couple of times, trying desperately to relax and avoid thoughts of ongoing projects which is nearly impossible.  From time to time, I’ll stroll out the patio doors and cool off in the pool, swim a few laps and make a few calls, talk to family, friends and a few colleagues, although I try to avoid work and usually fail at this.

A couple of times a week I’ll place a call to the marina manager and have the boat prepped.  It usually takes just a few minutes and Rafael has it all gassed up, wiped down and ready to go.  We’ll normally cruise along one of my favorites routes: up the Intracoastal, cross out into the open ocean, south passed SoBe (and the News Cafe) perhaps stopping for lunch or cocktails on Key Biscayne or Fisher Island, before returning.  I love to do a full day trip or an overnighter to Palm Beach or south into the Keys.  I don’t do this often enough because of the time involved, but from my perspective, it’s an enjoyable pursuit.  It satisfies my craving of an “adventure” and leaves me happy and fulfilled.  I often find myself reminiscing about my first long distance kayaking trip.  In preparation for the Seattle to Alaska trip I yakked from Miami to Key West.  I battled ferocious tidal currents on that trip as I chose to ignore the tidal charts.  I also tangled with mangrove swamps, to many sharks (for me, one is too many!) and I leaned a lot on that trip.  I often will throw myself into a situation, confident I’ll figure a way out.  Sometimes it backfires, but I personally prefer the spontaneity over regimentation.

Life in Miami Beach revolves around the celebration of food to some extent.  Dinner goes on for hours, which is nothing new to some of my European or Latin friends, but many North American merely eat for the sake of consuming; which is why I believe so many chain restaurant exist in America.  Beyond the argument of quantity-vs-quality, many prefer the huge portions of something merely acceptable, over a smaller taste of cuisine that is truly exquisite

My nightclubbing days are mostly behind me.  On occasion we’ll be out socializing, celebrating or tearing up the dance floor at one of the clubs, but not very often.  Those days are mostly behind me.  Many clubgoers are just drifting off to slumber when I’m waking up.  It is the old saying, “You can have anything you want in this world, you just can’t have everything.”  I now choose to awake refreshed, without the sense  that a freight train is chugging through my skull.

One of my favorite road trips in the U.S. is the trip from SoBe to Key West.  If one hurries or does it too frequently, or in the height of tourist season, the traffic and congestion is irritating and sucks all of the pleasure out of the experience.

But the first time I take this drive every winter is glorious.  To my thinking, the scenery, the nature and the modernity of travel convenience makes it a total pleasure.  With every passing, spectacular mile we are closer to an American Gay Mecca and the world’s first provisional Gay capital of the modern era.

Of course, nothing stays the same.  All of us become “old timers” if we live long enough.  And to my way of thinking, Key West isn’t what it use to be.  Presently, there are too many non-Gays on the scene who have forever altered the texture of our Homo-haven.  Straight, beer bellied, T-Shirt wearing Midwesterners and their similarly clad husbands driving motor homes have invaded.  They examine the Gay in their natural habitat as one might examine the four-legged creatures in a petting zoo or animal preserve.  They cast their aspersions and judgments without being asked.  Fudge shops and T-Shirt shops litter the main shopping district.  With more popularity there is more commerce and expansion.  A multi-million dollar cruise terminal brings in yet even more gawking and confused Straights.  So they come by land and they come by sea.  They invade even during the traditionally slow seasons.  Add to the mix the rowdy collegians — the worst being Spring Break.

Invariably, a certain percentage of the drunken “Straight” males  feel the need to defend their manly status by verbally confronting of physically beating up one of the Key West Gays, before spewing their beer-laden vomit all over Duval St.  It’s a ritual that seems to happen almost on a daily basis.

Oh, how I wish the Straights would stick with their Daytona Beach, Myrtle Beach and the dozens of other beach destinations that, like locusts, they destroy before moving on.  So you may ask yourself, why does Garrett even bother to continue to visit to Key West?

It’s a good question and you might be surprised at the answer.  Tomorrow.

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