Hurricane Plan


It’s Saturday and, by sometime later this week, a hurricane will be once again pound Florida. Hurricane Matthew is currently a category 4 storm getting ready to pounce on Jamaica and Haiti. Concerned friends here in Key West are discussing their “hurricane plan.”

Folks who live in hurricane prone areas are encouraged to have a hurricane plan. When you live in the Florida Keys on an archipelago of tiny islands there aren’t too many places to go to avoid wind and flooding. It floods here all the time with a good heavy rain. One has to consider survival tactics, evacuation plans and things such as pet care, clean water, what to eat when the stove doesn’t work. At this time it doesn’t appear we will be hit directly but the effects of the storm will be felt here. We could lose power, suffer property damage, loss of life. It’s quite a sobering idea, except for one thing. We live in Key West.

I asked a local guy what he had in mind if Matthew hits. He laughingly mentioned something about rolling up a fat one and lots of alcohol. Others are talking parties, too. I haven’t lived here long enough to experience a hurricane or a hurricane party. People party here at the drop of a hat (or a large red shoe on New Year’s Eve). Key West, with over 300 liquor licenses, is one of the “drinking-est” towns in the country. It’s also one town that raises lots of money for charity. There is always some kind of fundraiser going on in this town and you can bet the majority are also partying while supporting a cause.

Some discussion, of course, is about which category will make us leave the Keys. It takes a lot for some to consider traveling north. In a mandatory evacuation, which occurs with a cat 3 hurricane, tourists are made to leave first, residents the next day. Depending on the category there are a couple of places to hole up. The evacuation center in Key West is Key West High School for cat 1 or 2. Beyond that the main shelter is Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition all the way up on the mainland. Sounds scary, right? Driving that long thin road all the way up to Florida with thousands of other freaked out people in nasty weather? What would you do?

In just a few days we will have to deal with the reality of some horrible conditions. It is something to take seriously, of course. We probably won’t be as hard hit as other islands in the Caribbean. Whatever happens, Key West will take things in stride and raise a glass.

Cheers and good luck to all in the path of Matthew.

Always moving


This is a loose list of memories from my early childhood.

Once I read a statistic that a large number of people live no farther than two hours from where they were born. For most of my life, until almost three years ago, I was part of that statistic. Now I live quite a few hours south of there.

My parents were from Maryland, had met in high school there. They went to Kenwood High School. After they got married, Dad worked for the Baltimore County Bureau of Highways and did some other jobs including playing in a band with his brothers. Mom was a stay-at-home-mom and worked odd jobs.

I was born in Baltimore, MD. The city. The first place we lived in, after I was born, was Cove Village apartments. Afterwards, my parents bought a house in Middlesex. It was a tiny town home, a row home. I remember the small white stove and my mom making cookies. I recall that my brother was, then, allergic to peanuts. I also remember the stairs to the basement where my brother tumbled down and broke his arm. Mom had a job taking dictation through headphones and situated herself at a small table with a typewriter in the basement. She typed on this thin typing vellum with a line and small numbers down the left side. Seeing I liked to draw, she gave me her typing paper and a pen to draw with. At some point, I think I was five or six, I drew one of our dogs, a Schnauzer, with paw raised. It really looked like a dog and very sophisticated from the hand of a kindergartner. Mom saw I had artistic potential and gave me lots of paper to draw on plus some kind of drawing book that had monkeys in it. I became very proficient and famous in first grade for drawing monkeys. I went to St. Clare’s, a Catholic school that had Irish nuns for teachers.

We had a small backyard when I was that age. Across the alley was train tracks and the train went by several times a day. I recall that there was news that some teenager was killed on those tracks. I had some kind of toy I rode that looked like an inchworm. Unsuccessfully I rode it down the concrete steps to the backyard. I’m sure I had some kind of contusion from it. At least that’s why I remember… Later I had a tricycle and so did my brother, Chris. My brother is one year and 8 months younger than I. Our room was small with my bed, his crib, one dresser, some Disney books on top. We were Catholic and I remember a statue of Mary in bright red regalia plus some other religious paraphernalia in my parents’ bedroom.

My folks had a volatile relationship. We moved a lot. I went to eleven different schools over the years until graduation. My parents were not in the military. I got that question from time to time because of all the moving. The funny thing is we didn’t move far. I frequently joke that my parents couldn’t decide which side of the Mason Dixon line they preferred. We either lived in Maryland or Pennsylvania. That’s it. Nowhere else.

What I remember most about growing up was the constant change and having to make new friends. I got pretty good at handling change. I was, luckily, gregarious as a child. I would introduce myself to complete strangers. Dealing with new situations and being versatile was what got me through the hard times when I was bullied and treated like an object. I’ve always known that nothing lasts. Nothing is permanent. If you don’t hold on to the moment, if you realize that “this doesn’t last,” you can go forward. Everything changes and, because everything changes, what is happening now won’t last. If you are patient enough, you can get through it.

Like anyone, I just want to have a happy life and some stability. But, again, nothing lasts. Impermanence is a fact. So, what you choose is happy moments. As a friend has told me, “I’ve never had a bad day. Only bad moments in a day.” Always moving and dealing with change has shown me how to stay resilient, how to get past difficulty. Nothing lasts.

TropiGal: The Novel?

“Her heart belongs to the open seas.
She wants to soar on the ocean breeze.
Salty air and the sun is all she needs.
She’s TropiGal.”

TropiGal on YouTube

The title cut to my first CD is a song about women who are called to live their lives tropically. Being near the salt water, playing on the beach, taking cruises to island destinations is what makes their lives complete. They would rather sit by the ocean than be anywhere else.

Landlocked in Maryland or Pennsylvania, our family would travel about three hours “down the Shore” to vacation by the mighty Atlantic. A frequent stay was Wildwood, NJ. We also stayed in Cape May and surrounding areas. Wildwood was a funky town with quaint motels, miles of boardwalk and attractions. I loved being there. My mom always said that her summer wasn’t complete unless she smelled salty air.

After moving to Key West I’ve met many who came here on vacation and felt they couldn’t live anywhere else, some of them women. My friend LaReta from Indiana arrived 6 weeks after I did. Another friend, Jean, decided to move here from Colorado with the random throw of a dart. I’m inspired by the stories of how they came here so much I’d like to write a book called “TropiGal: Women in Paradise” or a similar title. It would be based in fact but mostly fictionalized stories of a group of female friends in Key West. I’m not sure whether it will be short stories or a novel. I think I like the novel idea best.  You can let me know what you think in the comments.

Two years and eight months years ago…

Ping pong, graves and dead roosters and a carousel horse

Status LIVE Video on YouTube

My song “Status”

I moved to Key West, Florida.

Well, it will be two years and nine months on September 27th. I used to live in Pennsylvania but, like a certain club of travelers to Key West, I discovered I couldn’t stay away. Drawn like a bee to nectar, I found the idea of living here succulent and sustaining. Living in Key West and the Florida Keys presented both a challenge and an opportunity I couldn’t resist.

My past I’ll delve into more over time. The immediate question: Why Key West?

Why not? It’s beautiful, tropical, as far south as you can go in the contiguous United States. Key West is home to many artists, entrepreneurs, musicians, writers. Its past is full of amazing stories, historical, humorous, ghoulish… Snow? Never. Coldest it’s ever been here is 41 degrees in 1981 and 1886. The houses here are a mixture of New England and the Bahamas with some modern influences thrown in. Less than 2 miles wide and four miles long, Key West is Paradise to many for a variety of reasons.

The downside? Living here is expensive, especially when it comes to housing. Finding a yearly rental and one that is affordable is difficult. Property values are very inflated right now with taxes and related expenses rising. It’s a small island with very little available space. Also, as a tourist town, there are a variety of concerns with the ebb and flow of humanity. Tropical weather is also be something to be concerned about as there is only one road in and out of here. And then there’s the wild chickens, iguanas and mosquitos.

These are all well-known facts about the island. So, why did I personally move here?

As I stated above, moving here presented great opportunities and, at the same time, lots of risk. Key West seemed like the place I could thrive as an artist, something I felt I hadn’t been doing well before coming here. As a songwriter, writer, artist, performer and craftsperson this little island felt like a place where I could explore a new life as a full-time creative. The change was a drastic one, leaving what had been familiar my whole life for an entirely different climate, set of friends, circumstances. It was momentous, mid-life, motivated by that fear of time getting shorter.

Two years and almost nine months later, I’m doing what I came here to do. I no longer have a day job. I make music, perform, write, promote myself, do art, all full time. I’m grateful to be living in a beautiful place living life full out. I’ve made many mistakes but I’m determined to keep going forward, living this life that I love in this beautiful place and sharing the story with you.

If you haven’t done so, check out the video and audio link for my song “Status.” You can download the song and my other music when you visit My website.