Key West. The land of possibilities. A place where the beaches are as beautiful as the weather. People travel from all over the world to visit the U.S.’s southernmost point and to take advantage of the small island’s tranquility to escape from all the worries of the world.

It’s also a place where people go to get black out drunk. And I don’t mean one too many at your local bar. I mean non-stop binging the entirety of the trip trying to make your way through the never ending Duval Crawl. For those of you not familiar with Key West’s legendary Duval Street, picture this: One long block of the most entertaining bars filled with crowds that don’t frown upon reckless drinking, but rather, applaud it. Basically, a tropical version of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street or Austin’s Dirty 6th. If you’ve ever visited any of these locations, then you already know that the staple to any good bar crawl strip, is a strip club.

This is where the trouble lies. After a long night (or day) of drinking, you stumble into one of those strip clubs and mumble the same response you’ve mumbled all day to anyone who asked “one more?”

Flashback a few years ago to my 22nd birthday. A group of us took the pilgrimage to Key West to celebrate the birthday age nobody cares about. As always, we followed the classic formula: Fat Tuesday’s, Dante’s Pool, Sloppy Joe’s, Irish Kevin’s…honestly we hit them all, and the sun hadn’t set yet so why should our good time. So like always, we stumbled into the Red Garter Saloon.

The room wreaks of cigarette smoke. There’s two stages: One in the front and one in the back, and the strippers on each are phenomenal. I’m talking top of the line: beer bellies, buck teeth, and burn scars. I don’t think it’s the alcohol, these were the best looking women I’ve ever seen working there. One of them approaches me. She’s obviously their top seller so I didn’t stand a chance. She says “Hey”, I respond “Yes”. She takes me behind the swinging doors for a private lap dance.

A few songs later she asks “one More?” and I suddenly realize this costs money. In a drunken haze I’ve just been mumbling “yes” this whole time. I ask “how many songs have we done?” She says “8”, and I say “and how much is each song?” She says “10”. I pull out my wallet to find a $10 bill. I look at her and gasp “I’ve been robbed.” I pat down all my pockets and find nothing. I nervously laugh. It’s dark so I can’t tell if she’s laughing with me.

Luckily my friend is also in the private room getting a dance from another dancer. I ask if I can borrow money, but he barely has enough for his. I would have gone to the ATM, but I lost my debit card. My friend says he has money back at the hotel room, so he offers to go get it and come back. The dancer agrees.

I sit at the bar waiting. 20 minutes go by and I start to freak out. He’s not answering his phone. Did he forget about me. Did he just decide to leave me here to face the consequences. I start planning my escape, scoping out all the exits, timing the onstage performance rotation just right. Just as I’m about to escape, my friend makes his return.

He walks up to the stripper and hands her 8 rolls of quarters. That’s right, he just paid a stripper in quarters. We asked if she wanted us to throw them at her while on stage. She kindly refused and we gladly went on our way to the next bar.

Viva Las Key West.


Dusty Cummings