And they do like the attention.
It's a money maker is Fantasy Fest, and they raise money for charity too but when the thing was founded three decades ago it was an effort to bring some life to a tourist town in dead season. This year they have succeeded beyond the usual measure, with the daftly named theme of Aquatic Afrolic .
They tell us there isn't a bed to be had in the city. Rates have dropped as have minimum stays so everything has sold out and Duval Street is packed as a result.
Body painting is the big deal this week. The rules are that genitalia must be covered by something more than paint. Women's breasts may be covered in paint only as long as they stay inside the "Fantasy Zone" which is Duval Street and the side streets to Whitehead and Simonton, but no further.
Painting must be carried out behind screens And for some reason men don't have to have their breasts covered as well which is too bad.
By the way sex acts in public are not allowed thank God. Last year a husband and wife went to jail, and very tearful they looked in their mug shots after she knelt before him in the middle of Greene Street in front of a cheering crowd and a police officer. Alcohol has a lot to answer for when it comes to public tastelessness.
I am no fan of costumes or public drunkeness but I accept Fantasy Fest as a necessary nuisance, in the spirit of funding the tourist industry upon which we all depend. Not that anybody asks my opinion or my permission.
Yesterday evening it was the turn of the Red Party, at Fogarty's, and that involves nothing as exciting as a hammer and sickle. I was at work so I was spared.
Red refers to the clothing requirement.
Or sunburn perhaps in the lack thereof.
On the whole Fantasy Fest is a few days of mostly middle aged naughtiness, and a time when peaceful gatherings across the country are getting gassed and shot with rubber bullets, Key West as usual is a model of moderation.
Silliness is on display alongside the nudity and overt sexuality.
Though nudes expect to be photographed. So one obliges.
I rather like the practical combination of grass skirt, tastefully pastied chest, handbag and reading glasses, with an iPhone the ready. She was prepared for all eventualities.
This week pay attention to signage as locals have permission sometimes that visitors don't. And if that seems unfair remember someone has to haul all the stuff in for visitors to consume.
Skateboarding is illegal on Duval but youth and beauty fully dressed and serene somehow seems rather less illegal than some of the legal nudity. And by the way men in women's clothing is nothing to get worried about. Around here it's quite normal, unfortunately.
But a parallel twin from 1967 with 6500 miles on a machine handed down to the owner by his grandfather. That's quite different. The owner's landlord saw me admiring it and he filled me in on the details as clearly he was used to passersby asking about it. "Lovely," I breathed. "Much nicer than breasts," I said before I could stop myself.
"Oh yes," he said smiling.
"Well," I defended myself, "I happen to be straight. Not necessarily by choice no matter what they say."
"Never mind," he laughed, but it's true I did enjoy the Honda far from the madding crowds. And whatever else it is it's something other than a Harley, or a breast, just for a change.
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