One of the most wonderful things about vacationing is that you have time to step away from your daily life, pause, reflect, stare at your reflection, obsess over the way sunburn accentuates the imperfections in your face (granted, they are extremely small imperfections; see previous post on planning this vacation) and examine what you’ve learned during this very-rare, very-coveted downtime. I truly believe that there is an unspoken golden rule for those, like your favorite Dandy, that are thinking of starting or continuing a weakly-received account of their lives: Every good blogger should share their rawest, most un-edited truths with their readers. They should also have an enthusiasm for list-making. With that in mind, I bring you this week’s installment of SouthernDandy from Key West, Florida.

Here is a sloppy & informal list created as I listen to Madonna’s Vogue being pumped through the outdoor speakers around the pool. No joke. These old queens are clamoring to pull their dance uniforms out of their bags & Vogue their way around the pool. They’re old enough that someone may slip & break a hip but also old enough to remember when Madonna was edgy, cool & relevant. That’s when it gets real.

Southern Dandy’s Key West Vacation Truths

  1. If you romanticize a Golden Era road trip from Atlanta to Key West (or anywhere more than 30 minutes from home), the best way to travel is to pack your bag, help load the car and wrap up any last minute details. Next, put on your favorite kimono (frankly, any old robe will suffice) and swallow a generous handful of Ambien. When you wake up two days later, you’re in Key West & you haven’t had to listen to Cher sing the entire 1980s pop canon or contemplate how much more awesome the drive would be if the two lane highway between Key West & the rest of the world were modeled after the Autobahn (complete with scruffy, slightly-scary, kinda-hot German drivers). Pee breaks become optional. For answers on this question, I encourage you to Google it. I can’t do everything for you.
  2. Don’t waste your time asking the front desk attendant what you should do while you’re here. He is twenty-two at best & probably a little high. He has nothing good to give you.
  3. Ditto for asking what you should avoid doing. Let’s be honest, his decision quality is at an all time low.
  4. Snorkeling sounds fun. Saying you snorkeled makes you sound cool. Actually doing snorkeling is really hard. Again, a twenty-two year old will give you instruction on how to fit your mask & breathe through the tube. He will warn that if you have facial hair, which this Dandy has a LOT of (stupid German/Irish heritage…), the mask will not make a tight seal around your nose & that your brain doesn’t naturally understand being underwater & breathing through your mouth. What he fails to warn you is that the minute you try to breathe through the tube (which is REALLY hard to do) and have water introduced into your mask around your nose, you will freak out. Bad. You will be embarrassed, demand a refund & beg the Captain to turn the boat around kind of bad. In turn, the Captain will tell you to ignore the instructions given, to just hold your breath & come up for a air at your own pace. This works & makes snorkeling enjoyable. Was this your Dandy’s experience? Yes ma’am. Stupid twenty-two year old.
  5. It is very chic to have backyard chickens right now. Judging from the amount of free roaming chickens in Key West, the trend started here. Blame the old white hippies with Rastafarian hair. They always take life a step too far. There are chickens everywhere in Old Town. At first it’s adorable seeing a Mama Hen & her babies crossing the street or pecking for insects in the flowerbed. But then you find that the rooster that perches directly across from your room only sleeps five hours a day & that he finds all of his self-worth in waking you at 5 a.m.. You will be hard pressed to find this adorable. Y’all will more than likely wonder if you can pay the fine for killing them with the money set aside for snorkeling. It’s natural & doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. It may, however, make you realize that you better off buying free-range eggs at Trader Joe’s at a reasonable mark-up.
  6. Anyone that tells you to just take your shirt off & get some sun is a monster. They know that your Dandy has the skin of a delicate flower & that if he’s in the sun more than three minutes without SPF 100 and a sippy cup of water that he may spontaneously combust (scientifically unproven, but no less an accepted fact). Do they care? No ma’am. Their skin is the leathery-soft brown that you’ve been searching for as you shop for a new Mitchell Gold-Bob Williams sofa. Don’t listen to them. Channel Powder or True Blood as you walk the streets of this city wrapped in gauzy white chiffon, large hats & Jackie O sunglasses. Will people stare/point/laugh/throw bottles? Yes ma’am, it’s all possible. But, the jokes on them when you’re facing forty & still get ID’ed in low-light bars.
  7. Along with this, everyone has a sunburn remedy that has been handed down through the generations of their family. They include, but are not limited to: aloe gel (which makes your stick to everything), tomato juice (ditto), linen shirts to protect your skin (especially popular with the heirs to some esoteric linen fortune), cold showers (no ma’am) & continued exposure to the sun (again, no ma’am). I find what really helps is a little miracle spray called Solar Recover and a painkiller. You’ll sleep all night, never realizing when you turn over on the burnt area & when you awake, most, if not all, of the redness is gone. (Disclaimer: I am by no means a pill popper…it’s a joke, Mama & my boss…)
  8. Everyone in Key West is cruisy. Even straight boys in Key West are cruisy. Most likely, this is because the straight girl to gay guy ratios are at a tipping point & they don’t know where to rest their eyes. If you think one is cruising you, you have two options: give him a look that says don’t even try it, Mister, which leads to more awkwardness OR lean in & smell his cologne. You can always tag straight guys by their bad choices in cologne. So far on this vacation, I have smelled Fahrenheit for the first time since college, Curve, Drakkar Noir, A&F Fierce & enough Axe body spray to turn one sterile. All in all, bad cologne is preferable to those stupid shirts that say things like, “Amateur Gynecologist” or “Orgasm Donor”. Honestly, if you’re a straight guy in Key West looking for love, the odds are stacked in your favor. But, don’t be an asshole. Be cool. Take her to a drag show (trust me, she wants to go). Buy her a drink that she selects (no ma’am, she does not drink Natty Light or PBR). When the drag queen heckles you, go along with it (laugh, don’t get all macho, take your shirt off ; otherwise, you may live to regret it). Generously tip your drag queen in her cleavage (yes ma’am) and not in her panties (no ma’am). If you’re lucky, you have just scored major points with a cute, smart & funny girl that enjoys traveling. Your life will be more than HGTV & Whole Foods on weekends.
  9. Happy Hour by the pool sounds awesome. You think you’re getting open bar with bottom to middle shelf liquor? No ma’am. You’re getting wine, beer, popcorn & peanuts. Maybe sangria. Maybe. That’s it. So, it behooves you to bring snacks. You’ll not only thank yourself later, you’ll also be the most popular person at the pool with the other former-fat-kids that are dying for some Famous Amos cookies & a gin & tonic. Yes ma’am, that’s how I roll during Key West Happy Hour. Deal with it. I’m very popular here.
  10. Don’t be the guy at the resort that talks to everyone. You know that guy; he greets everyone with direct eye contact and a smile, asks them how they slept (because he is genuinely overly-concerned about your sleep cycle) & offers to fetch you coffee. You fear he may rufi you, but, in all honesty he is just a people pleaser. If you’re lucky, you’ll be befriended by an amiable couple from out of the country that just wants another couple to tag along with. If you’re this lucky (and we have been), be gracious & funny. Buy them dinner for their honeymoon. In turn, they’ll buy you dinner later. Don’t sweat it if the dinner they buy costs more. They’re from England & are obviously rich because the sterling pound is rock solid (despite what Huffington Post would have you believe). You’ll end up having a better time than if you had to sit across the hot tub & stare at your other half in the face until one of you blinks. There is no alpha in this group. So, go with flow & enjoy yourself. You are, after all, a Southern Dandy by proxy. Show them why, despite bad politics & religious quarrels, living in the American South is grossly underestimated. They’ll love you for being you & for sharing stories that your other half is already heard a million times. Literally. They’ll talk about their lives, which you will find very interesting & oddly similar. You’ll hope that you can stay in touch after vacation. You may or may not; it’s difficult to tell. It just depends on how charming & eloquent you are. Don’t try too hard (see #8). Definitely wear lip gloss.