Spring Break – Key West

Key West - SunsetBy Judy Berman

Salty ocean spray flew up as our glass-bottom boat sped toward its destination – a coral reef in Key Largo.

Just the island’s name conjures celluloid images of Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and tough guy Edward G. Robinson in the 1948 movie, “Key Largo.” They run thru my mind like reels at an old movie theater as we pull away from Key Largo’s shores.

The opening scenes of the movie were shot here.

A relic from another Bogart film, “The African Queen,” also can be found here. That boat was used in the 1951 film that stars Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. That boat was restored in 2012 to serve as a tourist boat, several years after our visit.

After we had a hearty breakfast nearby, we boarded the boat for a tour of a coral reef. Not recommended. The hearty breakfast and boat ride combo, that is. Top side, I felt much better.

After lunch, we headed to Key West. This is a nine-hour drive from our home, but getting here – well worth the view.

Seven Mile Bridge to Key West

The Seven-Mile Bridge, one of the longest in the world, offers breathtaking views along stretches of turquoise water. Clear, striking shades of blue from the ocean on our left, and the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on our right.

Our hotel, the Almond Tree Inn, was conveniently located near the corner of the renowned and infamous Duval Street in Old Town Key West. We headed down to Mallory Square to see the sunsets.

On our way, a drunk staggered out of a bar exposing his shortcomings for all to see. Yes, this was our first exposure to the “wild life” there – and it was still early in the day.

Key West - Golden Man

A huge crowd gathered at the edge of the southernmost city in the continental U.S. to see the sun set. Street performers – jugglers who tossed flaming torches in the air, acrobats dancing along a high wire, and a dog jumping thru a hoop – were on hand before and after that magic moment.

The Key’s most famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, lived here with his wife Pauline from 1931 until the end of their marriage in 1940. He wrote several of his most celebrated books at his pool house office out back of his historic home at 907 Whitehead St.

Our guide, Joe, told us that, when Pauline remodeled the home, she replaced the ceiling fans with ornate chandeliers.

“During the summer, we think about her EVERY DAY,” he drawled for emphasis. Floor fans cooled the room this March day of our visit several years ago.

Outside, Joe showed us a pool that Pauline had installed for $20,000 during the Great Depression. When Hemingway returned from an overseas venture, he took a penny from his pocket and told Pauline she might as well take his “last red cent.”

Pauline did. She had it set in the cement next to the pool.

Ernest Hemingway House - cat on bed

There were 49 cats living on the property. Many have six toes and are descendants of “Papa” Hemingway’s six-toed cats.

One of “Papa” Hemingway’s favorite hangouts was Blue Heaven at 729   Thomas Street. While we ate lunch there, roosters, chickens, chicks and cats wandered around the open-air restaurant.

Key West - free roaming chicken family

There’s a photo of him there when it had a boxing ring. At various times, the place was “a bordello, a pool hall, a railroad water tower, a cockfighting arena, a boxing ring and ice-cream parlor.” And, now, a popular restaurant.

If you wander over to the Southernmost Point (of the continental U.S., at the corner of Whitehead and South streets), Cuba is about 90 miles away.

On a clear day, you might see it from your back porch. (chuckle)

A man, wearing an orange-and-white “Mile Marker O” offered to take our photo. Recalling the scene from the comedy, “European Vacation,” where the photo taker took off with the tourists’ camera, we waited to see how he handled the family ahead of us.

Like Blanche Dubois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” we often have to depend on the kindness of strangers.

And, many, thankfully, are very accommodating.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Music video – Key West  – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du4gR-_kLEs – 2012 Trop Rock Music Asociation Songwriter of the Year Nominee, Steve Tolliver, sings Key West Is The Best from his CD “Back To The Islands”.

Main Photo – Key West – sunset – taken May 30, 2011, by Serge Melki, Indianapolis. Link to http://www.byways.org/ Copyright http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7f/Key_West_-_Sunset_%285845637488%29.jpg/640px-Key_West_-_Sunset_%285845637488%29.jpg

Photo – Seven Mile Bridge – to Key West – Seeming to converge in the distance, the Seven-mile Bridge on the Florida Keys Scenic Highway west of Marathon, FL, runs parallel to the historic Flagler railroad bridge of the early 1900s with the Atlantic Ocean to the South and the Gulf of Mexico to the North. Taken March 20, 2003 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2d/Looooooong_bridge.jpg/640px-Looooooong_bridge.jpg

Key West – Golden Man – taken Feb. 1, 2008 by CederBendDrive, USA  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/03/Key_West_2008_%282337699559%29.jpg/640px-Key_West_2008_%282337699559%29.jpg

Photo – Ernest Hemingway House – cat on bed – taken March 16, 2013 by Abujoy http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/31/ErnestHemingwayHouse005.JPG/640px-ErnestHemingwayHouse005.JPG

Photo – Key West – free roaming chicken family – Taken Feb. 12, 2007 by Averette at en.wikipedia http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0a/Chickenfamily.jpg/640px-Chickenfamily.jpg

Music video – “Blue Heaven Rendezvous” (1995) by Jimmy Buffet. The Blue Heaven restaurant inspired this song.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrLvg2lykLI

Detours On a Holiday Journey

Steve Martin and John Candy in the odd-couple road trip buddy movie, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

By Judy Berman

Crowds jamming the airports and train stations to get home for the holidays. For a real traveler’s nightmare, throw in some snowstorms, flight delays, sleeping on your luggage at the airport, and stress about catching a connecting flight or train.

One year, on our way to see my folks in Vegas, the snow began flying fast and furious. Our flight from New York had an unscheduled layover in Chicago. It looked like we’d be spending an overnight with our two small children at O’Hare International Airport.

Snow plows trying to clear an airport's runways.

Snow plows trying to clear an airport’s runways

Tantalizing thoughts of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie vanished as I considered we might be dining on airport terminal – note the word “terminal” – food. Tasteless burgers, greasy pizza, stale pretzels and watered-down sodas.

Still, our experience pales next to Steve Martin’s plight (as Neal Page) as he tries desperately to find a way home for Thanksgiving in John Hughes’ 1987 movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Neal’s plans are doomed from the start. Missed cabs, a canceled flight and a stranger he just can’t seem to shake: John Candy (as Del Griffith).

Neal, an uptight ad rep, wants to be left alone. Del, a jocular shower curtain salesman, comes off as an annoying blabbermouth. This odd couple’s road trip begins when a storm forces their plane to be rerouted to Wichita, Kansas. They are forced to hunker down in a fly-by-night hotel and are robbed as they sleep.

A few more hitches and Neal decides they should go their separate ways. He  heads to a car-rental parking lot. But his car is not there and he has a meltdown.

After a 3-mile walk back to the terminal, Neal is seething, and rips into the Marathon Car Rental Agent (played by Edie McClurg). His one-minute, profanity-laced tirade and McClurg’s response are hysterical (and earned the movie its “R” rating).

Who comes to Neal’s rescue as he is about to hail a cab? Del.

On the road again, Del gets into the music while Neal sleeps. At one point, his car spins out of control. They wind up driving the wrong way on a highway and into the path of two semis. Miraculously, they escape unscathed … until they set down on their luggage in the road and realize that their car just burst into flames.

It’s not the end of the mishaps or of the hilarity. When they part, Neal begins to laugh about their adventures. He realizes Del is the “real article,” and recognizes a deeper truth.

When Neal does get home for Thanksgiving, he’s not alone when he walks in the door.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Main Photo – Planes, Trains and Automobiles starring Steve Martin and John Candy

Movie Clip – “You’re Going the Wrong Way” scene in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with Steve Martin and John Candy.   

Photo: Travel – airport – snow removal – Heavy Oshkosh trucks are removing tons of snow from the airfield runways, taxiways and parking ramps after a snow storm dumped 12 to 18 inches of snow in the area. At Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.. Taken Feb. 12, 2010 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/dd/Oshkosh_snow_removal_vehicle.JPG/640px-Oshkosh_snow_removal_vehicle.JPG

Dancing in the Car

By Judy Berman

My red Nissan Sentra lurched and shook as we sped down the highway.

No mechanical problems. Just the usual. Thru the years, my car has been more than a mode of transportation. It’s also been our personal jukebox.

My daughters and I were rocking out to the tunes on the radio – singing loud enough to be heard above the traffic noise on 690. Passing motorists pointed at us good-naturedly and laughed along with us.

We were having a grand time. Summer was just around the corner. We rolled down the window and blared Chaka Khan’s “I Feel for You.”

“I’ll make it more than just a physical dream. I wanna rock you, Chaka, baby. Cuz you make me wanna scream, Let me rock you, Rock you.” (Chaka Khan, “I Feel For You”)

Little did we realize the sexual undertones of some of the songs we were jamming to, such as Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” and “1999.”

“I was dreaming when I wrote this, so sue me if I go too fast. But life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last.” (Prince, “1999”)

That was tame, But I just blush now when I really listen to some of the lyrics.

The music’s appeal was its danceability and, if we could have, we would have been dancing in the car.

The Beatles’ “Rock and Roll Music” was a couple of decades older. When it came on though, my girls never missed a beat.

“That’s why I go for that rock and roll music, any old way you choose it. It’s got a back beat, you can’t blues it, any old time you use it. Gotta be rock and roll music if you want to dance with me.” (The Beatles, “Rock and Roll Music”)

No trip thru Syracuse was complete until we stopped at Columbus Bakery and bought two loaves of Italian bread. The music escorted us home to Liverpool. By that time, Danielle and Jenn demolished one of the loaves. I might have had some myself. I’m sure they recall the outcome differently.

Then, as we neared home, I’d turn the corners a tad sharp in our neighborhood so that they’d tumble against one another – first to one side of the car, then the other. More giggles. They’d squeal with delight and beg me to do it again. I gladly obliged.

Several years later, the musical tradition continued. Turning onto our street, my timing was perfect. Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” came on. It’s about 10 minutes long, but we waited for our favorite part when Meatloaf, in the heat of passion, promised to wed his girlfriend.

“I’ll never break my promise or forget my vow … I’m praying for the end of time. It’s all that I can do. Praying for the end of time, so I can end my time with you.” (Meatloaf, “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights”)

By now, we were parked in the driveway, waiting for the next song, “Y.M.C.A.,” that closed this particular radio show.

If anyone had seen us singing and performing this disco song in our car, they would have thought we were certifiable.

This routine is just a memory chip away. When I hit rewind to replay that rock and roll music in my head, I just smile. It reminds of when Jenn and Danielle rode along with me. My girls completed my days and nights.

    What’s your favorite driving song? Comment below.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

* Photo: The Beatles at Kennedy Airport in 1964 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Beatles,_Kennedy_Airport,_February_1964.jpg

* Photo: Prince in Paris in 2009 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ea/Prince.jpg        Author: Nicolas Genin, Paris, France

* Photo: Chaka Khan in concert in Santa Ynez, Calif.in 2006 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/10/Chaka_Khan.jpg

* Photo: Village People – Y.M.C.A. – 1970s disco group http://www.listal.com/viewimage/52783

* “Rock and Roll Music” – music video with The Beatles (1964 song) http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Rock+and+Roll+Music+Beatles&mid=AE3F5E63286E2C4B39A5AE3F5E63286E2C4B39A5&view=detail&FORM=VIRE5

* “I Feel for You” – music video with Chaka Khan (1984 song) http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=i+feel+for+you+chaka+khan+lyrics&mid=DAC8A78F458AE54A4EFADAC8A78F458AE54A4EFA&view=detail&FORM=VIRE1

* “1999” music video with Prince (1982 song) http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=prince+1999+music+video+official&mid=64B37BACF8AEB2FD7B9B64B37BACF8AEB2FD7B9B&view=detail&FORM=VIRE3

* “YMCA” music video with the Village People (1979 song) http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ymca+music+video&mid=077162ED5F556270EC9D077162ED5F556270EC9D&view=detail&FORM=VIRE3

Vanishing Point

By Judy Berman

The bragging rights of a new car – the enviable stares, the admiring glances, the unabashed ogling. That’s now past tense.

Now the point may be not to be seen at all. Of course, that could be a problem in high-traffic areas when you want to avoid a crash.

Mercedes-Benz’ “Invisible” Mercedes F-Cell was put through its paces on the streets of Stuttgart, Germany, this week. This technology is straight out of the James Bond movie, “Die Another Day.”

Bond (played by Pierce Brosnan) is driving an Aston Martin Vanquish which is being hotly pursued in a rapidly-melting ice palace by his foe (Zao). Zao (Rick Yune) aims his Jaguar XKR straight for Bond’s car, which vanishes moments before the intended impact.

“I’m looking through you. Where did you go? I’m looking through you. You’re not the same.” (The Beatles’ “I’m Looking Thru You”)

The F-Cell, a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, is being manufactured in limited quantities. But the “Invisible” Mercedes F-Cell, an emission-free car, is still a car of the future.

“While the car isn’t completely invisible, you are just seeing a moving outline because the LED screen is projecting what’s behind it. The effect works best when the scenery behind is uniform, for example, while crossing the bridge in the video (link posted below), and at night when there’s more contrast between light and dark,” according to a story posted by Matthew Humphries on Geek.com.

The “invisibility” is the result of a lot of cameras and flexible LED-mats which can weigh nearly 1,100 pounds at a cost of nearly $263,000.

Is this what Taylor Swift is really singing about in “Invisible,” rather than unrequited love?

“And you just see right through me. But if you only knew me we could be a beautiful miracle, unbelievable. Instead of just invisible, yeah.”

Not to worry,Taylor. You could still be a beautiful pair. You could cruise the streets in a car that the paparazzi would not be able to detect. Perfect!

As for the rest of us who wish for a vanishing point from the maddening crowds, we’ll just have to wait for the price to come down.


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

* Photos of the “Invisible” Mercedes (and a video in Motoramic. Article by Justin Hyde)


* Mercedes article by Matthew Humphries on Geek.com. Includes videos:


* The chase scene from James Bond’s “Die Another Day”:


* Pierce Brosnan who played secret agent James Bond in 4 films from 1995-2002