My 12 Favorite Key West Party Places

Last February I was watching the world stroll by the porch where we were hanging out and sipping beer in the sunshine. I have been thinking about how I wanted to write about the places that the Band Wives (and husbands) visited in Key West last winter, then I crunched the numbers and realized we frequented 22 different restaurants and bars! How to get this down to a manageable number…to make it an even dozen, I’ve decided to leave the Hemingway bars Sloppy Joe’s and Capt Tony’s for a separate read. So here are 12 of the most fun places, all located in sunny Key West!


We started at the Grand Vin Wine Bar, the wives lured in by the chalkboard sign out front that said, “Free Wine Tasting!” The guys and I scrounged a couple of beers from a cooler in the back while the wives lined the bar. We got our drinks and headed out to the porch and the sunshine. A photo op led us to meet Liz and Dave (on the left), there on Key West for a long weekend from Indiana. She heard someone yell, “Troublemaker!” (it could have been meant for any one of us} and then offered to take a pic. They joined us for a drink and we became fast friends, joining in when the partiers on a balcony across the street started a yelling war, in which of course we participated. When it was time to get some dinner, Liz and Dave recommended The Salty Angler. We were charmed by the fish tacos and live music. It didn’t take long for the dancing to start when we heard Warren Zevon’s Lawyers, Guns, and Money, one of Bridgette’s faves.


After dinner we scouted around Duval Street and happened upon Better Than Sex. We were full from dinner but there were a couple of tables available at this dessert bar (without any reservations, which is rare.) While most of my friends got something big and chocolately, I got an apple crisp dessert full of caramel that was amazing! Delicious desserts that we had no business trying to eat so soon after dinner, they could have been a wholemeal in themselves. The decor was also dark, rich, and decadent, with gorgeous drapes and tapestries, private booths and chairs you can sin


The next morning, the guys and I wandered up and down Duval Street to get an early morning cup of coffee. We walked past quite a few closed shops and bars and were about ready to give up when we got to a Starbuck’s. We were not going to jump on the corporate bandwagon, we wanted something local. We found a guy riding his bike and he looked like he belonged, so we asked and he told us about the Cuban Coffee Queen, which became our coffee spot for the rest of our visit. I tried real cuban coffee (but got a Gringo for Tonia)

It was time for brunch. Most of the restaurants had greeters standing outside trying to lure people in with the great drink specials (buy one get one free!!), but we settled on the place we had walked by the night before, The Ocean Grill and Bar. Strawberry margaritas and lobster omelets. With grits. Real ones. We were all so giddy with the sunshine and strawberry margaritas and the amazing food and the company.


One of the beautiful things about where we were staying was that really just about everywhere we wanted to go was within walking distance. We heard about a great bar called The Green Parrot, where the band playing later that night was doing a 5 pm sound check. We met up with two more friends from upstate NY who had arrived earlier that day and we set out to get our groove on. We ran into Liz and Dave again. They had told us about this place the night before and we were supposed to meet up with them, but after our Better Thank Sex, we were just too tired from all our traveling to meet up.

After listening to the jamming for a while, we conferred with our locals Carolyn and Joanie to figure out where we could go and eat, all 11 of us, without any reservations, and somehow we wound up in a parking lot of a bar where a food truck was parked. At Garbo’s Grill they serve Korean BBQ in an Airstream, and there was quite a line. It reminded me of the soup nazi bit from Seinfeld. You stepped up to the window, told them your order, paid, then stepped aside while someone put it together for you, then you got your drink from a cooler and tried to find a place to sit. Here’s a picture of the entire group of us, our friends Kathie and Larry arrived earlier that day, and our tour guides Joanie and Carolyn.

We did end up stealing someone’s table while they were off smoking, but they were good matured about it and let us stay. I secured the table while everyone went and ordered, then I got in line, where I chatted with the people behind me in the line, who had also been there the night before. It was delicious, don’t get me wrong, but with so many amazing places to eat, how could you go there twice? We definitely wanted more, so when we got home Bridgette replicated the recipe.

The next day we ferried out to the Dry Tortugas and we sunned and explored and snorkeled. We arrived back on Key West just in time for the sunset at Mallory Square with music and entertainers, and once again it was dinnertime and we were trying to find somewhere to eat with 9 people and no reservations. Fortunately for us, it was Superbowl Sunday. Even though we had plans at Carolyn’s bar for the game, we wanted to eat first and we found a Cuban restaurant right off Mallory Square that could seat us right away, El Meson de Pepe.  There was an extensive menu but anyone who knows me can tell you I am not adventurous with my food choices, so I just got tacos, but I did try the Cuban beer. I was able to keep up with the game by sneaking into the bar.

Seriously, none of us follow football, so we forgot it was the big game that night. And although The Bottlecap is not usually a sports bar, Carolyn put on a great party and it was so much fun to watch there. I got there during the half time show and  I am not embarrassed to admit that I love Lady Gaga. And not just because her name is Joanne (my middle name), but because she is absolutely amazing! And my 15 year old nephew said it best when he said that he had no idea she had so many hit songs! We missed the first half when Atlanta played their hearts out and amassed a giant lead, so imagine how surprised we were when the Pats caught up and then won in OT! Astounded! But still even more surprising was that we were watching the game outside in the open air in February!

Sunny Monday morning, another brunch choice to make, also known as where we wanted to have our first drink, lol. We ventured over to The Banana Cafe, a cute French Bistro, and headed up a windy narrow staircase. I had my first Bellini (mimosa with peach nectar). Breakfast was delicious and filling and fun and stoked us up for our walk to our tourist destinations for the day, including the Little White House and  The Hemingway House, details of which will be another post entirely.



Our final meal altogether was down at the end of Duval Street, the Southernmost Beach Cafe. Once again there was an extensive menu and great drink options. I celebrated Hemingway by having a rum runner. Afterwards we walked on the beach and then headed out to the Southernmost Point, for more photo ops.


On the last day, I was leaving earlier than all the others because I was heading off to St Augustine to spend a couple of days with my aunt and uncle, so while everyone was packing and talking about lunch I needed an epic breakfast place. Joanie and Chad suggested the perfect place, Blue Heaven. So Chick and I and my coffee buddies John and Bryan headed off to meet Joanie and Chad for an experience. Trademark loose chickens running around, live music, outdoor seating and relaxed atmosphere…it was the perfect sendoff.

We packed so much into our 5 days and there is more to tell, so stay tuned as new chapters are being finalized. We really ARE so much fun!


Glory Days

Driving down Bridge Street with Nick, checking out all the changes that have occurred since I was enrolled at SUNY Oswego, all the dive bars now torn down or repurposed.  I jumped at the chance to take him back to school, wanting quality time with him to see how it was going. He’s living on West Campus, where I spent four years engaging in shenanigans during the 80’s. As I approached, all the feels for the sounds that I love from that time came flooding back. Whether it was Taps played on a snare and trumpet by Michael and Nelson at sunset, or walks to the lake with my roommates where we could not even talk over the roar of the waves on Lake Ontario, or playing the stereo with the speakers out the windows having a music war with the opposite dorm, there are so many memories.  And the music…so many songs…here are 10 of the songs that take me to Cayuga Hall every time I hear them!

Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen

This song does double duty. My roommate Joanie loves Bruce and introduced me to some of his greatest hits when we lived together (Tenth Avenue Freeze Out is my fave). I hear her every time I hear his voice. It’s also the theme song for the student made movie Glory Days that a couple of my quadmates. Anthony and Tony, made while at Oswego. I wish it out there on the internet somewhere because it would be so much fun to see it again. I remember it was a high quality production and that we all attended the movie premiere in Mahar Hall. And this song reminds me of those two guys from Jersey who created it!



I’ll Be There by the Jackson 5

This song could be heard blasting from the suite on the first floor of Cayuga a lot. Ellen would turn the lights out and the four of us (Joanie, Patty, Ellen, and myself) would sway on the state issued couches, singing at the top of our lungs, right along with Michael and his brothers. Back before people had anthems, this was ours.



Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye

Ellen also loved this song and she and Patty would play it incessantly. I think they played it over and over again to watch me squirm, winching at the explicit lyrics. From Queens, I always thought they seemed so worldly and street smart. It didn’t take long for me to realize they were a lot like me, and they found many more things to tease me about  during our time together, including inviting me to a concert with Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix among others (how was I to know they were all dead?)



Corner of the Sky from the musical Pippin

This was Patty’s comfort song. Everyone has that one song that gives them all the feels. She would wander across the hall to Joanie, our resident Broadway lover, and ask her to put this LP on. Whenever we heard it, we knew that someone needed a few hugs, and maybe a beer.



American Pie by Don McLean

Back in the day, there were parties most weekends in the quad (I did live with the rugby team, after all) and some parties in the basement, the CBI (for Cayuga Beach Inn). Every keg party down there, whether it was a toga party or a beach party, had this song as part of its soundtrack.  Nothing says party like a song about the day the music died!





Scenes From an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel

Bryan would make his way down to the piano room a few times a week, which was across the hall. If my door was open, he would try and lure me over by playing the opening stanzas of this song, although as soon as I appeared, he would jump into My Life (or Movin’ Out, I never can remember) and my face would fall. 30 years later we tried to recreate the magic by doing this song at a karaoke party, but it turns out our talents were more suited for “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.”




St Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion) by John Parr

These six friends showed up my senior year and gave me a glimpse into my future (well, except for the drugs and the expensive lifestyles.) Many of my college friends are still in my life 30 years later  and consider myself very lucky and blessed. Friends who love and accept you no matter where you are are priceless. Lucky me, I am part of another group of friends that make me feel the same way! Maybe some day there will be a Band Wives movie, and Valerie Bertinelli can play me! Unless it ends up The Band Wives Lego Movie.



The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby

I had to include a second song for Bryan by showcasing someone who is considered a rock star for keyboardists!! What I love about Bryan is that he can pick out almost any song and play it; he is music savant! He is MY rock star for keyboards. Bruce does a great job with this one (and so does Bryan)!



Walking On The Moon by The Police

Mike Walker was my single most important music influence in college. He introduced/reacquainted me with the music I listen now to the most. We spent hours listening to jazz, rock, and classic 60’s. I also took music classes together and even had a few drum lessons just to spend more time with him! We spent a lot of time listening to early song by The Police and here is one of my faves.



I’m Looking Through You by The Beatles

And I’ve saved the best for last. Mike also introduced me to The Beatles in every stage of their careers. Before Mike I thought they were bugs. My favorite album is Rubber Soul, because it was a gift from him. I love the harmonies of You Won’t See Me and the sweet melancholy of In My Life, but the song I belt out the loudest when listening to it in the car is this one.



So many things about Oswego shape who I am, and what makes me happy. Since this is a rock and roll blog, I wanted to give a glimpse into what influenced my music and my life!



Key West in 200 Words

20 degrees in Syracuse at 6 am. By 3 pm I make it to sunny Key West. Blue water, sandy beaches, and chickens roaming the streets. Warm air hits my face as I get off the plane. Inside, I spot the bar at the same time that I hear ” Yea, Debbie!”  They are all anxiously waiting my arrival so we can head to our island getaway.

After checking in, the more responsible band wives decide that chores must be done. After the beds are made, suitcases unpacked, and clothes changed, we head out grocery shopping. We walk down the street, then the tide of wives turns. Those in the back understand the shift immediately when we see the sign, “Free Wine Tasting.” The wives head for the bar while the guys and I scrounge in the back cooler for beers, and then venture out on the porch.

Liz and Dave notice us when someone yells “Troublemaker!” and they decide this is a crowd they want to be part of! Liz offers to take a pic and then joins us for drinks.

Later, fortified, the band wives venture off to find essentials at CVS while the rest of us enjoy cocktails, sunshine, and vacation.



Bands On The Run

Perfect afternoon, sunny and hot. Music blaring from the speakers on the deck overlooking the rolling hills. Banquet tables overloaded with the most delicious food and delectable desserts, and coolers full of ice and drinks underneath.


And here is a pic of me, who was smiling this hard the whole day!! Bands On The Run, a concept that came to fruition on July 17 of last year, was the icing on a cake we had started to bake months before. One night while we were sitting around lamenting the lack of gigs for our bands, a thought surfaced.  What if we created a gig?  A venue where our favorite bands and then others connected to them could play and be heard and appreciated! We quickly searched for a facility that could contain all of this fabulousness and found Skyline Lodge at Highland Forest. The Band Wives jumped in planning food and fun, two of our favorite things.  The guys practiced and curated their playlists for their respective bands and then songs to be performed as a supergroup, including the iconic Wings tune Bands On The Run. And we promoted the hell out of it! If you build it, they will come. And come they did!  So many friends and family, people I didn’t know and friends I hadn’t met yet, all who showed for the same reason we did, to enjoy music, food, and fun.

13723963_10154372519992888_5305538572074492440_oStarting us off that day were two of the guys from the band Drink The Punch.  Recent college grads Brad Bargelski and Andrew Nicholson had some unique covers and gave us the edge that only the young and hip can bring. One of the great thing about budding musicians today is that there are thousands of songs from over the past 60 years that can be covered and reimagined and mashed up and these two performed them like a boss!

Day Ja Voo took the stage next.  Known for their great harmonies and the many America tunes they cover, they put together a perfect playlist for a sunny afternoon. We all know those yacht rock songs from the 70’s and these guys can evoke nostalgia just by playing the first few notes of each beloved tune. Whether CSN (and sometimes Y), The Eagles, or the Traveling Wilburys, the harmonies are spot on.  Audience members are constantly singing along and they always have an extra tambourine handy.

Mobius Jones Band also worked hard to bring their best to the crowd that afternoon at Highland Forest. From All Right Now by Free to Message In A Bottle by The Police to No Matter What by Badfinger, these guys rock it out. When they played Rock This Town by The Stray Cats, there was a full scale zumba inspired dance by several Band Wives and their zumba friends. led by their instructor Jesus. Several audience members joined in and it was bigger than Michael Jackson’s Thriller!

Then it was time for the Band Wives to shine. Joanne (wife of the drummer and MJB lead vocal singer Eric) and the other Band Wives performed the classic 80’s We’ve Got The Beat, accompanied by her husband’s band).  Getting the guys to back us up took a lot of cajoling, since the guys were leery when any of us are looking to perform with the band, anyone even suggesting it earns the nickname Y0ko. This performance was about as much of the spotlight as of the women could handle, singing back up and doing some basic choreography; we are better suited for sitting in the audience playing percussion instruments and yelling, “You guys rock!”

Open mic was the last act on the bill, with some blending of the three bands (more than just the blending that happens because Bryan is in both MJB and DJV), and then special guests, like yours truly! I made my guitar debut playing Traffic’s Dear Mr. Fantasy, thanks to my guitar teachers Jeff (from DJV) and John (MJB) and Brad, who also played with me on the song. Tonia got up there and sang some Creedence, and Beverly got up there with her ukelele.

As the day came to an end, there were songs not played and food not consumed (the Band Wives are notoriously famous for cooking too much!) We gathered enough money to pay for the venue and donate any extra to the local food bank (along with the food we had collected for that purpose.)

This year Bands On The Run 2 will be at the Onondaga Yacht Club on August 19. Mobius Jones and Day Ja Voo will be back, along with other musicians looking for a fun time. Admission is free, just bring whatever you want to drink and a dish to pass. This year we will be collecting funds as well as new and gently used items that can be used to set up new households for two local charities that help the chronically homeless A Tiny Home For Good  and In My Father’s Kitchen

If I have made this sound irresistible and you would like to join us for BOTR2, message me and I will get you the deets. Rock on!


Clowns To The Left Of Me, Jokers To The Right

We all have those friends…ones that thrive on jokes and pranks and can at times be pretty clever.  My life is filled with people like that which makes for some pretty funny stories. How did Winnie The Pooh end up drunk on my bed? Once upon a time, a  few of the band guys and wives gathered at my house for dinner. It was going to be an outdoor work party, but with the rainy weather it turned into dinner. I had plans to see a play later in the evening, so when it was time for me to go, I told the gang I would clean up later, and that they could stay as long as they wanted and lock up when they were done. I should’ve paid more attention when I heard the first few notes of Old Time Rock and Roll being played on the guitar. As I drove away I hoped there would be no hookers and booze like when Tom Cruise was left alone.

On my way home after the play I texted Tonia and asked her how long they had stayed. She said they had left about a half hour before. As we approached, the curtains were wide open and every light was on. I said to Linda, “Who do they think is playing the light bill, Vanderbilt?” We had a good laugh and as I got out of the car to go in, my housemate arrived home. I went into the house first and as she rushed upstairs to go to the bathroom as I yelled after her, “OMG, come back down! I have no idea what happened here!”

The hallway looked emptier than usual. And why was the coffee table so tiny? It was made out of solid wood, and I knew it didn’t fold, so how was it so low to the ground? There were  books and knickknack on the surface, and when I lifted up the tablecloth underneath them, I finally realized it was actually the bookshelf from the hallway, laying flat on its side. The couches had been switched and the pillows moved back, so they were on the opposite couches. On to the dining room where all chairs were mysteriously missing, and the pictures on the wall had been switched and in some cases turned around backwards.


Everything on a surface of the dining room had switched shelves or furniture, and all the napkins were hanging from the curtains.  As we moved into the kitchen, every cupboard door was open and things were clean, just very out of place. Upstairs in the bathroom, things had changed places and more pictures were askew and backwards. Michelle and I kept laughing and laughing as we moved from space to space noticing everything. We put a few things back into place, then I decided it was time for bed; I had to work very early the next morning.


They left me an empty wineglass and a half empty bottle of wine, next to my Winnie The Pooh. I posed him for a drunken teddy bear picture to text out. I saw that the duvet had been moved and thus found their last trick, short sheeting my bed. It took me a while to get to sleep that night. I would like to say it was because I was busy plotting revenge, but my mind just doesn’t work that way. It’s just not in the cards for me. I still keep one picture in my bedroom purposely turned around just to make me laugh about the people in my life who keep me smiling every single day! And last weekend when I had some friends over working at the house, you can bet it wasn’t one of those hooligans I left in charge!

In the Simplest Terms, or the Life of Brian (Johnson)


It was John Hughes movie night with Nick a couple of months back. I couldn’t believe he was about to graduate high school and had never seen some of the beloved coming of age movies. We picked up National Lampoon’s Vacation with Rusty, Anthony Michael Hall, and then segued into The Breakfast Club where we saw him a bit grown. John Hughes really did tell some great high school stories. Who can forget the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, and the criminal?

I was transported to my own high school experiences, about 5 years before this movie was released.  I didn’t need a Zimbio quiz to find out which character I was, it was very evident. 1978. My friends and I were heading to Burnet Park for Senior Skip Day, but instead of the beer my friends procured at the corner store up near the park, or the pot (I never did know where it came from), I bought my 2 cans of root beer in a paper bag and walked into the woods for a day of goofing off. Nerd? Goody Two-shoes? You betcha.

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There are two vacation places I love to return to year after year. There is a common theme, the word Sagamore. The Sagamore Bridge takes me to Cape Cod, a fave destination from the day my friend Jeanette took me on a much needed day of R & R when we lived at Westfield State College. The other is Great Camp Sagamore in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate NY. My mom has talked about this amazing great camp for years now. Opposites, ocean and mountain, but in each case, a different Route 28 will take me there.

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