Mile Marker Zero: The Moveable Feast of Key West — William McKeen
My Rating – Put It On The List
Level – Short to moderate in length, but reads longer, easy to moderate read
I’m torn on the summary. It can be summed up in a basic sentence, or it would take a whole page to do justice to the craziness of this book. essentially, it is about Key West, way back when. When Key West wasn’t a tourist trap, when it was the wild west of modern America. This is post landbarron, like Flager, and celebrity, like Hemingway, but pre-over commercialization. There were as-yet unknown writers like Corcoran, McGuane, and Buffet. Hunter S. Thompson among others makes an appearance.
All to say, if you grew up with the legends of the Conch Republic, read this book, if you’ve never heard the stories of the way things were, it will either be dull or incredibly fascinating.
So, I did grow up the stories of Key West, especially from my dad, who visited more often in his lost years. In fact, we took a pilgrimage, driving the 800+ plus miles from Atlanta, when I was maybe 12 or so. In a somewhat odd coincidence my dad actually grew up next to where Vaughn Cochran, proprietor of the Black Fly and secondary character in these Key West chronicles, spent his summers. Actually, it was my dad who loaned me this book.
Anyway, this book is a lot of fun. If you’ve spent time in Mallory Square or read the autobiographies of Jimmy Buffett or Hunter S. Thompson, you’ll get a lot out of this. It is all the craziness you’d expect and then some. Plus, some somewhat odd and data funny parts, like the little crew down there getting members only jackets with fake name to wear as the walked around getting drunk and partying.
There is a just an interesting mix of writers, musicians, and artist, you have to wonder why it never really got the popularity of some of the other historical places for such people. Maybe because it was at the bottom of the country, inhabited by nomadic Southerners so forgotten than the US Army once accidentally invaded the island; but probably mostly the commercialization tha followed. Ironically, Buffet’s own Parrot Head/Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise stores are currently part of the problem, a victim of his success.