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PARTYVILLE
Written By: OC Fotoguy
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    Patty Whacker is still here!  The best bartender I know on the planet. The type who takes care of all the customers, never hurries, and nobody waits! She works after HH at the Hog Fish Grill in downtown Stock Island. It’s one of those places that is still the way you liked it when you had so much fun when you were there last. The weather guessers are promising some unsettled weather for the next couple days, but that’ll be 70s with some clouds and maybe some liquid sunshine. Probably not good kayaking weather, but for the end of December, when its highs are in the 40s and God knows what all in O.C., I’ll take it.
    I breezed into Key West Christmas Eve after three fabulous weeks 26 miles deep in the Everglades at Big Cypress, where Mother Nature showed me three panthers, lots of tiny critters, and warm sunshine; when I could wear sandals, shorts and a T shirt every day. Big Cypress is my perennial favorite camping spot where I began these Adventures in 1998. I marvel at their occurrence every day.  How could I be so lucky?!?! The natural world is there waiting for me to immerse myself in it and I have.
    Now, I’m taking a break from it in the Florida Keys. Almost everyplace I go is time tested. I’ve been there before, it worked or I don’t go back. Last year I returned to Key West and found the parking lot at the end of Southard Street near the entrance to the Zachary Taylor State Park had a No OverNight Parking Sign.  That was such a fine location the previous year, but that sign prevented that. I went a a half mile past it, parked for a couple nights, then a City Fuznik had a conniption  fit, and chased me, screaming leave Key West and never come back. It was full moon when the wackos go off and I suppose he was one of them and he had a gun!   That caused me to settle in Stock Island, the island right before you get to Key West.  It was warm there, too, and as I do in any new location I walk or ride my bike up and down all the streets, see what’s there and get a feel for the place. I found the Hog Fish Grill where Patty Whacker tends bar.  It’s a local place with $1.38 16 oz. PBR drafts, a whole card of $5 seafood specials, and lots of characters at the bar. I fit right in! Two days after Christmas Grandma Patty had her ten year old granddaughter visiting her as she worked, and was assisted by fellow bartender, her daughter.
    I wrote that when I arrived, now Christmas and New Years have passed, it’s January 2, 2013, the world didn’t end as the Mayan’s promised, and I still haven’t had to wear shoes to keep my feet warm.  Actually jeans have been necessary only three times. Last year I was here nearly seven weeks and only got to kayak several times. It was considerably chillier, but no snow happens here!  This year I’ve already paddled in the water of Florida Bay to Tank (Wisteria) Island, the uninhabited island on the sunset side of Key West, three times.  There’re no houses on the island, but there’s a flotilla of boat people that makes up a village. The island is only several hundred yards from Key West and less than a square mile, but on the far side it is a far different world away from that cosmopolitan tourist mecca. I walk its beach to see what the tide has brought to its shores, sit & relax, and soak up the sunshine. It’s quiet, peaceful and serene there.
    In Key West the numerous tourists create quite a different atmosphere and the locals really know how to celebrate!  Huge cruise ships, some with thousands of guest rooms, dock at sunset pier, air craft arrive regularly, and US Route One carries so many cars here that I recommend that you don’t drive on it on the weekends.  Bicycles and little golf cart sized cars are the locals mode of transportation and many are decked out in Christmas decorations and I see so many people dressed in Santa and Mrs. Claus outfits.
    My first walk on Christmas Day, my first full day here for this trip, I walked down Duval Street; it was clogged with tourists. I’m slow, but I walk a little quicker pace than the window shoppers. I’ll stick to Simonton and WhiteHead Sts. And other smaller less peopled streets, but I wanted to see how many people were in town. I found out - scads of them!!! There were two cruise ships docked and I could hear planes landing regularly. New Year’s Eve has its own life and nearly is indescribable. Duval Street is blocked off to vehicles, becomes nearly a mile long party and everyone is smiling. Why not - it’s warm enough to wear shorts, T shirt, and sandals and, as always, it’s legal to carry an ACB from and to anywhere you’re going. My scheme for the night is quite more low key than most.  It isn’t amateur hour for me. A good meal is my beginning, then watching the street performers do their circus acts at Mallory Square. Scott Kirby plays at the Smokin’ Tuna; I was there. Then I watched the crazies on Duval Street, went to Schooner Wharf for the dropping of the Wench at midnight, and was sitting on the wall outside Mr. Z’s eating a slice of pizza at 3a.m.  Where did the time go? Oh yeah, I stopped by Willie T’s and watched John LaMere’s antics, entertainment, and listened to him sing. I couldn’t get close to him, but I heard him yell a greeting to me! This is PartyVille!
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