Key Largo was gorgeous. In the morning when I packed up I took my sweet time reorganizing the Jeep and then stopped at The Shell Store. This place had shells of every kind and color in enormous buckets as well as any kind of tourist memorabilia you could ask for. I ended up buying a little turtle made out of various tiny sea shells for a dollar. It’s cute.
I continued onward discussing whether or not to take a glass bottomed boat tour. I should probably mention that besides being afraid of large boney fish I have always said I wouldn’t get on a sea-going boat, not even if I were paid… but having continuously dipped my feet in the warm waters I somehow felt more relaxed about the idea… and besides there were wild corals here, I hadn’t gotten to see any of those. I decided to go for it, but first I’d drive to Key West, the farthest of the islands. I passed Duck Key and Cow Key and Ramrod Key and all the darn keys, stopping at two beaches. One was rocky and amazing, covered in fossilized coral rocks (far to big to pick up and drag off unfortunately) and another beach which smelled really bad and consisted of 50% seaweed and 50% trash and debris. This place was almost as bad as the Wristcutter’s [a Love Story] beach! It was really bad… I was quite put off by it and the rest of Key West. The island was so full of people and cramped, such a tourist trap. It advertised it was the birthplace of the Sloppy Joe and had pubs and bars every two buildings, hotels the rest. I only stopped when I came upon a strange site… what appeared to be a brick ruin. It was what I came for… and there, sitting snidely across from a horse-drawn hearse and in front of oodles of fan mail was Robert the Doll himself, three feet worth of plushie terror. He was ADORABLE. I probably should explain… You see Robert is probably the original haunted doll. He was said to be made by an angry servant of the Otto family who practiced voodoo. He was named after the little boy (later renowned artist) he was given to and apparently held such a powerful grip on the growing lad that he never abandoned the doll, claiming that “Robert did it!” whenever anything bad would happen. The doll was said to pace, to glower out the window at children, to make evil giggles, to throw around furniture and to haunt people… You name it this doll does it! I can’t say I know the work of his owner, Robert Eugene Otto, but I have been delighted by his doll since I was ten or so. As per custom I asked the doll if I could take a photo and did so, taking the chance we could be cursed… We bought a magnet at the gift shop and perused the place. They had a whole collection of Edward Gorey stuff including The Hapless Child, perhaps because of the child-terrorizing doll in it. They even had a book on his home, the Elephant House, bizarre considering he was a Massachusetts resident, not Florida… Then again they had a book on Hemmingway’s cats, yet another Massachusetts thing. Who knows! Still, anyone adoring Gorey has got my attention.
Sooo… after that I hit the next glass bottomed boat place I could find. It was 1:35 and I literally missed it by five minutes. I decided not to wait around, to find another. I didn’t find another until I was back in Key Largo, seventy something miles away, and I was fortunate enough to just get in on time to take the last boat tour of the day. I filed onto the boat annnnd… was told there’d be a delay… The woman next to us looked on horrified, as if we’d just struck an ice burg here in the harbor. Our captain came up soon after and said she thought they’d fixed the problem. Then the motors started going and two seconds later we hear screaming from down under, two men yelling, “SHIT! TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF!” Our captain started to stamp violently on the deck, signaling ever-so-delicately to stop shouting, you’re freaking out the tourists. We were told something else was broke and we’d have to be refunded. I left… without seeing to corals and shipwreck promised, without being able to have the chance to glimpse a casual shark or dolphin. Sad, very sad. Could it be Robert?
I left and decided I should at the very least get a good piece of pie out of this trip, Key Lime Pie… I was dubious. Except for one occasion all the lemon meringue pies I ever had were ghastly terrible, I figured lime pie would be the same… I ordered the prettiest piece of pie I’ve ever seen, decorated with swirls of whipped cream and sauce. It was actually really good! And the ice cold water that went with it was a luxury I hadn’t realized I’d missed quite so much. I drank like a camel in an oasis.
The only other memorable part of the drive was when I saw some deer aside the road, four does grazing. I didn’t realize until later they were endangered Key Deer. How cool is that? I saw something endangered alive and running around… like the feral chickens roaming the streets of Key West I couldn’t explain.
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