It was innocent enough from my perspective. I left home with plenty of time to get to work for the start of my ten o'clock overtime shift. The night was slightly cool and as I rode up the street to Highway One I was thinking that my mesh armored jacket was just right to keep the cooler October air off my skin. A month ago it felt suffocatingly hot to wear so it's safe to say that even down here nights are cooling off a little even if days aren't. Cool is a relative term you understand when considered from the perspective of one who is seeing snow falls already this Fall.
Pink Bike at La Concha Hotel, Duval Street.
Traffic was moderately heavy as I nudged the Bonneville onto Highway One, took my moment and leaned into the traffic lane, heading left, toward Key West 27 miles away. It was going to be a long twenty seven miles I realized when the headlights behind me suddenly lurched forward and closed on me filling my mirrors with light. I sped up thinking I had misjudged his speed and not wanting to block him. I got up to an indicated 75 miles an hour (in a 45) with the hulking Escalade-type SUV towering over my tail light and quickly pulled into the turn-out lane at Mako Drive on Ramrod Key. The SUV drove by. On the downslope of the Niles Channel Bridge the SUothot stuck behind a dawdler admiring the nighttime view over the waters from the top of the forty-foot bridge. It's a passing zone on the downslope into Summerland Key but the impatient SUV didn't pass, so I passed both and then the SUV pulled out and started tailing me again. I pulled into the gas station on Summerland and let the fiasco pass me by. Shit, I thought to myself, Fantasy Fest is here already.
The irony of this stupid act of road rage was that I was actually in no hurry. I had been into town earlier yesterday to pay a visit to the courthouse to pay my $131 plus ten bucks in fees, a gentle reminder of my recent nine mile an hour transgression and it was a lovely evening and I had no plans to rush. Yes, I was riding a motorcycle but no, I am not a boy racer, ready to challenge a Miami kid driving his father's expensive SUV (Florida registration RMF3T). All I wanted to do was enjoy the night air, the almost empty highway and my pulling out of a side street was mis-construed as a life-or-death challenge. But this is that time of year. People from Up North are flocking to town his year to enjoy taking their clothes off and getting drunk in what used to be a bit of harmless Halloween revelry in an off season empty little town. Now the newspaper says 80,000 people have come to this town of 23,000 and every single one of them has decided its open season on Key West residents and the Conch Republic. Luckily they bring lots of cash, because cash is the real passport to this Republic's "state of mind."
This weekend will be Goombay featuring a sort-of Caribbean festival in Bahama Village with lots of food music and people wandering about on Petronia Street. And already Public Works has started lining Duval Street with the barricades needed for these festivals, not forgetting the Meeting of the Minds after Fantasy Fest. Check the search function on the top page of this blog and "Goombay" will return a couple of essays I've written about it. My first taste of fried alligator (it's all in the batter, so why not stick to chicken?) and an excellent curried goat stew last year every bit as good as that which I've had in the British West Indies over the years.
I grumble about Fantasy Fest perhaps because it is a foretaste of the traffic chaos to come this winter with North Roosevelt all torn up to hell and back. Perhaps I grumble because I can, because I have seen enough Fantasy Fests to last a lifetime, or perhaps I grumble because I feel as though I ought to enjoy this silly exhibitionism and public playfulness. There are just some things that ought to be kept private in my opinion, speaking as one who takes no joy in wearing a costume. The state of my gonads is one and the shape of your folds of flesh is another. But good taste goes out the window these next two weeks, as do manners more than usually so, and apparently also good driving and patience. These buggers had better bring a lot of money with them, is all I have to say about that.