There is no doubt about the fact that Key West is a party town. People come here for a good time and for many, a good time means drinkin’. Duval Street, which is home to many a watering hole has become famous for the “Duval Crawl”. Basically an attempt to walk from one end of the street to the other, whilst stopping for a drink at each bar along the way. Many have attempted, few have succeeded. The rest of the island and throughout the Keys is also lined with more than a few places where one can get a cold beer, a rum runner, or the island favorite, a margarita. Booze rules in these islands. If one can somehow obtain an elusive liquor license in Monroe County and not lose it, one can make a small fortune. No matter how bad the economy, nor how good, no matter what the weather, people will always drink.
Personally, I don’t drink anymore. I quit sometime back in 1998, in June, on a Sunday, around 4:15:35 in the afternoon. And I don’t miss it a bit. I was recovering from my second motorcycle wreck in 6 months, where I was hit from behind by a drunk driver, (I had not been drinking that day), and I was preparing to go in for some minor surgery to repair some injuries. As I was sitting there drinking what would prove to be my last beer, I started thinking about stuff. Then my head hurt cause I was thinking so I did have one more last beer.
I was never an alcoholic, just partied a lot. Drinking was the only recreation in the shithole town I grew up in. From the age of 18 until the legal age of 21, the challenge was to score some sort of alcohol in some way. After turning 21, the bars where the only place to go to socialize. That carried over when I moved to Daytona, another town where booze rules. When I got into the motorcycle lifestyle I spent a lot of time at biker bars of course. It wasn’t a problem with the drinking, it was just part of my lifestyle. All my friends hung out at the bars, it was a meeting place to go elsewhere, and while there, it was customary to have a beer in your hands at all times.
But even before my bike wrecks I started looking at what I was doing. For example: On Thursdays everyone went to a little bar outside of Orlando that had free chicken wings from 7:00 til 9:00. The place was wall to wall people, bikers, regulars, and it was a fun time. The wings were good, and I would wash them down with 3 or 4 beers. Then at 9:00, all the bikers went to another bar where a band would be playing and there I would drink another 2 or 3. Then ride home the 25 miles on my motorcycle.
Now I was rarely drunk, all the Scottish, German, and Irish blood in me, but still, not the smartest thing to do. Then I had to go to work the next day, which means I would have a hangover, or at least be pretty tired, and be out $20 or so. Saturday nights was out as well, and Sundays there was a always some biker event that would end up at a bar. So all the drinking was just part of the lifestyle but it was costing me a lot of money and I was gaining nothing from it except weight.
So I quit.
I still went to the bars now and then, but instead of beer or liquor, I would drink club soda with lime. A much more better choice as it costs a lot less and there was no hangover.
And that is the way it has been since. After I moved here to the islands I rarely go to the bars anymore. Usually if somebody is visiting in town we may go out, to appease them, but rarely, other than for the occasional football game do I go to any of the infamous watering holes in Key West. Can’t say that I miss it, cause I don’t, it saves me a ton of money and trouble. But for others coming here, it may not be that easy.
In the last month or two I have watched 2 colleagues, a couple of kids, both men in their late 20’s completely ruin their futures, thanks to booze. Well, you could blame the wimmen but we will go with booze for now, just to keep the peace. Anyways, one who could not get through the day with drinking, managed to wind up in prison after a bender and a fight with his wife. Yes, kids are involved, very young kids. The other had stopped drinking for a while, but an economic issue drove him to going out for more than a few. Drove being the key word here. He wound up with a DUI and lost his job, as did the first example.
What is really sad is both these idiots were on the fast track to making a name for themselves around here. Both could have easily become Captains within a year or two and named their own ticket to doing most anything they wanted, had they just shown a little patience and control. No more. At 30 years of age, they are looking at a bleak future, all because they couldn’t stay sober.
Then there is the financial end of all that partying. Another colleague told me once that his average bar bill, just what he spent at the bar, not counting the booze he kept at home was over $500 a month. A few drinks, he gets happy and stupid, and starts buying rounds for everyone. Very sad.
Folks, I ain’t here to preach nor tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do. But I did come to the realization of the fact that if you are thinking of living down here at the end of the world, and if you think it’s just going to be one continuous long day in day out party, then your stay here will be very short. I wrote about this issue in my not so best selling book. It’s a very simple rule you need to follow.
If you are coming here for a vacation, or short term, and have the means to support yourself while going out and hitting all the bars, have at it. Enjoy yourself. Use a designated driver or the taxi’s, and have fun. When it’s time to leave, leave. Go home, save up for the next trip. But…if you are coming down here to live, it’s going to be a different ball game. You will need to pay rent, feed yourself, pay for stuff, just like back up north. The bars here are more expensive, as is everything else, and when you are only making $10 an hour, those bar tabs add up quick. Do yourself a favor and dry out while you get yourself established first. Find an income, find some housing, get settled into the lifestyle and see what is what. Trust me, the party will be going on no matter what. You can always join it later on. But if you get caught up in the island revelry and it becomes a daily, and nightly habit, your dream of living here will be a short one.