Chapter 1 The Nucleus
Childhood. Surprisingly I can remember quite a few things from my childhood. Key west during the early 80’s to a child who was unaware of the complexity of the world was like living in a story, something you’d expect to see on TV. At that time Key West was our Mayberry and we ruled the streets. Some of early gang Quincy who’s mother worked at the El Rancho (my grandma always called him ‘Wimpy’ I never knew why but thinking back it probably had something to do with him always being sick or snot hanging out of his nose. He had a sister named Felicia and the only thing I can remember about her is that she had been molested by age 6, I don’t remember what happened to them but by Third grade they moved to another part of the island or something and they were gone.
Then there were the Jose’s. Jose C. and Jose R. They lived around the block on Margaret both pretty much a stones throw from El Siboney Restaurant (It was La Lechonera back then). There was Ian who also on Margaret who lived directly in front of Molinas Bakery which is now long gone. It was magical living in that little section of the island especially with that bakery. The smell of freshly baking Cuban bread would hit my nose every morning. We slept with the windows open back then, there was no central air just a big box fan in the doorway pointing towards the bed. I didn’t get a ceiling fan until middle school.
There was also Kit and Gordo (baby fat) Gordo’s mom worked at the little Cuban sandwich shop 5 star cafe. Where Cuban bread buttered and pressed and a Coke would run you about a buck fifty. Then Derek who lived on Catherine and Boo Boo who lived on Royal. Derek lived right by Dowlings Welding and we would see the Dowlings out there working metal day in and day out.
I lived at 806 Virginia St. pretty much right in the shadow of St Mary’s Basilica, but back then it was simply St. Mary’s Star of the Sea church. There was only a few sisters left there at that time and only one that was teaching elementary school that was Sister Melanie who taught us first grade. There was Bobby Joe B. Who’s family owned the Restaurant where Better than Sex is. Joey Burke and some kid with Asthma and Coach Wise was our PE coach.
Across the street to the left on the corner from my house lived Delores she had a son named Scottie who liked big jacked up trucks with big wheels. To the left of our house on the opposite corner of Windsor and Virginia was Mrs. Sikes. She lived as a widowed old lady in a Conch House that was literally falling down around her. It’s all filled in now and fixed but between 800 and 806 Virginia used to be a dirt driveway with a carport my grandpa put in that was 6 metal poles holding up a flat tin roof. Then there was heavy vegetation from there to the side of her house where one section that looked like a room had collapsed on its rotten foundation. She just boarded it off from the rest of the house and that was that.
She was an awesome neighbor I wonder if I was ever a bother knocking on her door wanting to chat. She taught me about cats I remember she / we had this key west stay we took care of and feeded and made sure there was some fresh water out for it. That cat was honey cat. Because I thought she was sweet and when you’re 5 you’re not that creative. I’m pretty sure that my thought process was like nice cat adult said sweet what else is sweet yogi bear likes honey honey is sweet so the cat became honey cat.
Directly behind us lived Manolo and Margarita. Manolo was crazy about birds and Marijuana. There were chickens running around everywhere and he always had fresh eggs. He also had a bunch of finches and cockatoos and a parrot he raised from a baby when the mother died. There was also wild marijuana bushes growing in his back yard and somewhere along the time of my remembering and 5 th grade the city came in and removed it. He died one night just before Dallas or something after eating a bowl of ice cream he had a massive heart attack and died.
On Windsor directly across from the church there was a Huge 2 story house where another widow lived I’ve forgotten her name but I used to visit with her as well usually right after church walking home she’d sometimes be out on her porch enjoying the breeze for a moment because she cleaned that old wooden house top to bottom every Sunday polishing the wood as she went. As she got older she apologized one time for the pee bucket. Evidently there was only one indoor bathroom and that was upstairs in the master and she said that she’d gotten too old to make it up all those stairs everytime that nature called.
There wasn’t an 808 or whatever that ugly box is at the next lot over 810 Virginia? (Need to look this up) there were mango trees (still there) a type of plum tree it had this yellow fruit that was delicious. Then there was a huge empty lot there were piles of wood, cement blocks, there was a huge something overgrown tree thing where there was old windows. My grandpa was a contractor and put up a lot of homes in old, mid, and new town as well as up and down the keys. So these were the leftovers of that time in his life. There were three junked out cars on the lot. My grandpa had a white work van filled with tools and crap he was never gonna use again and he had a red Chrysler from the late 50s or early 60s.
There also was his shed. It was so filled with junk you couldn’t even walk into it. Most of it was reloading equipment for shotguns and rifles. There was a smelter to make ingots and or to make bullets for the black powder rifles. Also upon the shack there were signs posted by my grandpa announcing no trespassing violators would be prosecuted (then added by my grandpa’s sharpie) or shot. And he meant it.