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  • Susan Welsh



The snow is substantial and serene, best appreciated in the comfort of heat and lights. Barring any loss of power, I’m celebrating the beauty of it, but also dreaming of warmer days ahead, sunshine, and our upcoming trip to Key West.

Yes, I’m looking forward to drinking rum cocktails and admiring treasures recovered from sunken shipwrecks off the Florida Keys. My greatest anticipation, however, is reserved for the six-toed cats at the Hemingway House—some 50-60 cats, all descendants of Hemingway’s polydactyl (6-toed) cat, Snow White.

A PIRATE LOOKS AT $550,000,000

Jimmy Buffett’s "Havana Daydreaming" is buzzing in my internal jukebox as the legends of pirates, treasure and island life shouts (no longer whispers) to me. Jimmy has done alright for himself as a barefoot, modern-day pirate. As reported in Forbes magazine, as of 2016 the man whose only Top 10 song, “Margaritaville,” was worth $550 million. It’s good to be a Millionaire Pirate! What could be more fitting for Steph’s 50th birthday than visiting a place discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1521 during his expedition in search of the Fountain of Youth? It would take a few hundred more years, in 1822, for Key West to become part of the US when Matthew C. Perry sailed in on the Shark and planted the US flag on the ground.


Of course, for me, the greatest fascination is with Key West as an artists and writers colony and Hemingway. The man. The literary legend. Though my favorite of his works is A Moveable Feast (naturally--Paris, cafés, afternoon cocktails with Gertrude Stein) his acclaimed To Have and Have Not was based on Key West during the depression and made into the movie starring Lauren Bacall and this sultry delivery.


The only thing better than books is GOLD! The legend of Mel Fisher, the American treasure hunter who spent 16 years diving in search of treasure he read about in a diver’s guide, is incredible. Originally an Indiana chicken farmer, Fisher moved to California, opened a dive shop, eventually sold it, and moved his family to Florida. In 1968 he embarked on his quest to find the sunken treasure of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha a 550-ton flagship vessel carrying 250,000 silver coins, 1,200 silver ingots and 161 pieces of gold bullion. Somewhere 50 or 60 feet deep off the shores of Key West. On July 20, Fisher’s son Kane, radioed a message to shore, “Put away the charts; we’ve hit the main pile,” and so it was the treasure of the and a variety of gems and gems and jewels plundered from the mines of Mexico, Colombia, and Peru, worth $400 million had been found!


After breakfast at Blue Heaven, lunch wherever we feel like grabbing it, shopping, strolling, snorkeling, you'll find me in the Chart Room Bar, "a weird little bar trapped inside a luxury resort" (sounds perfect for me), where Mel Fisher often ended his days after treasure hunting. I'll be rum runner and Hemingway novel in hand, enjoying the hell out of the free popcorn and peanuts and hot dogs, and basking in musical admiration for this spot where Jimmy Buffet began his career, performing for an audience that included Jim Croce and singer Jerry Jeff Walker (Mr. Bojangles). On any given night, you may have also found creative geniuses the likes of Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Bob Marley, and the prolific poet and songwriter, Shel Silverstein who wrote two of my favorite songs of the 70's-- "A Boy Named Sue," and "The Unicorn Song." I'll sip my rum and breathe in the history and hope just a little of their creative respiration still remains in the air.

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