Welcome to Duval Street
By Leigh Pujado
It was an extraordinary Key West winter day. The sun overhead at Fogarty’s on Duval Street shone on the faces of my friends and I as we enjoyed many beers on a recent Monday afternoon. There we sat, just a couple of cynical Old Town bartenders, knocking back beers, complaining about the scooter horns, the t-shirt shops and the woes of waiting on the modern tourist. On a day such as this, it became crystal clear that within our remote little universe, the Key West Service Industry, which stretches from the Ocean Key House to the Duval Beach Club, we were so very far removed from the cold, cruel real world.
Yes, life was good, and the cold beer, as well as the company, compounded with that incredible blue Keys sky reiterated just how much we truly enjoy our days here. But it wasn’t merely the weather that made our afternoon memorable, rather the fantastic geography! We were at the corner of Duval and Caroline Streets, smack dab in the midst of the 27th parallel and Florida’s freak-showiest street.
Welcome to Duval Street, Key West, our bar laden thoroughfare that runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and encompasses an array of eclectic locals, bumbling cruise ship passengers, cats, dogs, chickens, metallic painted Eastern European men, dirty hippie kids, dirty joke tellers, and people like you; people without pet livestock, body paint and dreadlocks who are simply looking for a good time.On your mile long Duval Street tour, there are no shortages of stimuli and if you so desire, you may visit any number of her nearly fifty bars and restaurants.
If this is your first voyage down Duval, I am obliged to envy you a little bit, in the same way I envy children who still believe in the tooth fairy. For, like the tooth fairy to those who believe in her, Key West will give you something in exchange for whatever you may lose within her two by five mile shores.
“Lose?” you ask! Yes, you may very well lose on Duval streeet…..your inhibitions that is….especially if you wander into the Garden of Eden or the Red Garter, or the 801 Bourbon bar! Home of the well honed Key West hangover, we are renown for our abilities to coax one’s hair down. Start at either end. Near the Atlantic side, Randy Roberts is putting on his best Cher and Joan Rivers in the Crystal Room at La Te da, while down on the Gulf side at Bagatelle, Cecil and Nicole are killing people with their espresso martinis.
Find a good street side stool then pick your poison. And if you are lucky….if you are really lucky, native Conch and soul singer Robert Albury just might ride by on his bicycle, belting out some sweet Motown tune.
Key West, January 2004