Friday, October 24, 2008

Key West

Three years ago, Maurice and I sat down together to watch a little TV show that he was a big fan of. It had been on in 1993 and had made such a huge impression on him that he tracked down the VHS tapes ten years later. The quality was poor, with occasional flickers of static interfering with the picture.

It began humorously... with half naked exotic dancers and a high end call girl (played by Jennifer Tilly) who has half the town under her spell. Seamus O'Neill (Fisher Stevens), a factory worker from New Jersey, wins the lottery and heads to Key West to be like his idol, Ernest Hemingway.

The show opens as he drives down the Keys straight into the ocean at the end of the world and is met by a Rastafarian named Jo Jo, who measures up the situation pretty quickly, "Well! I guess you're plannin' on stayin' with us a while, hey man? Oh man, now you're such a hard man! Now why you go kill that car that way, anyway? What'd that car do to you? That car steal your woman, man? You come home and find that car in bed with your woman? Maybe you find them clues, uh? Tire tracks. Oil drippin's on ya white sheets. But how do you know it wasn't that Studebaker down the street been stick-shiftin' your woman! Maybe you killed the wrong car, man! Look at him! Dead an' bleedin' in the ocean over there! But now I'm lookin' hard in these flame-throwing eyes and I'm sayin' to myself, 'JoJo', -My name really Abednigo but everybody call me JoJo, don't ask me why – 'JoJo. maybe this man done drove this car all the way down here to the end of the world, then killed his car so that he can never go home again!'"

"I'm free from the tyranny of clocks, the slavery of the second hand. I'm gonna sleep 'til four in the afternoon. Then I'm gonna stay up for three days straight, then I'm gonna get real fat, then I'm gonna get real skinny. I'm gonna eat caviar. I'm gonna howl naked at the moon in the cemetery." Seamus declares as they stroll through town.

"What you gonna do tomorrow?" Jo Jo laughs at him.

They walk past the Hemingway house and Seamus nearly melts in adoration.Jo Jo pulls him away with the promise to take him to the newspaper where he will get his first assignment to, "...put something on paper that don't put me to sleep, or make me glad I done lost my eyesight... Oh, you didn't know I was blind, did you? Didn't know I was blind? Well what is you? Inbred? Crossbred? No – don't answer! Just get out!" his future boss, Cole, orders and sends Seamus on his way, writing kit in tow.

Jo Jo's next stop on the tour of the island is past a political rally where Seamus gets a glimmer of his first story. One politician's speech seem to have been written by "wizards and angels" and the other panders to fear and greed. When the eloquent incumbent commits political suicide the other uses the his "liability" to win. Thus, Seamus's first article for the Key West 'Meteor' in which he begins, "We speak not of truth, but of the beauty of political death at the end of the world...."

then on "to paradise"... Gumbo's End o' the World Cafe. Here he meets Savannah, the sexual embodiment of the island. She sees the new boy in town and saunters over...

"Oh my! Who are you?"

JoJo steps in for the intro: "New newspaper reporter person."

Savannah: "A writer?"

Seamus looks around uncertainly: "Yeah... somedays... sort of... no."

Savannah: "Having a little trouble getting that first novel between the covers?"

Seamus: "How'd you know?"

Savannah: "You've come to the right place, you pretty thing. It's magic here. There are Angels in the Spray, Wizards in the Palm Trees, and Elves in the Sea Shells, and they all look very favorably on struggling young writers."

And thus began what would become a wonderful discovery... a show that contained some of the magic of the island, even of life itself and would take me to the island itself where I found the Place that spoke to my soul.

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