Meet the Humans of the Keys

Meet the Humans of the Keys

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Gary Jonsen, Dock Master at Gilbert's Resort

"I grew up in Hernando Beach, Fl over on the west coast. I have been bouncing around on sailboats since I got out of the Military and was in Tampa. I served almost 10 years in the Air Force as a mechanic.

I was on a shadow boat for a delivery to Key West and I just never left. I found work, started working and spent 8 years there.

I went through Hurricane Wilma and lost my first boat. I went through Hurricane Ike on a boat. I raised 2 kids on a boat. My son graduated from Key West High and is now a welder in Texas and my daughter lives in Illinois. She likes it in the cold, I don't know why!

Living on a boat is the best decision I ever made. I like to move around a lot and I hate to pack and unpack all the time. On a boat, you just pull the anchor and you go!

In 2015, I am taking off and heading to Guatemala."

Jessie Yerger, Key West

"Things fell apart. I was a steel worker in Pennsylvania and when I turned 25 the plant closed. I was in the union and said if I am not making $25.00 an hour, I am not staying in Pennsylvania. I called my best friend, Andy, and said, 'Listen, I am moving to Key West.' Bam, I just made the decision. 'My girl sucks, my job sucks, time to get out of here'. Andy said 'Ok man, give me 2 weeks'.

Andy and I packed a little Honda Civic full of stuff; you couldn't fit another shoe in it. We drove to Key West, slept on the beach (cliché) the first night. After the first night we just started looking for jobs, and of course partied too much on Duval Street! We started to run out of money and found a trailer on Stock Island for $500.00/month, which now is insanely cheap. I went from being a steel worker to a waiter at Kelly's Caribbean Grill, which is hilarious.

That is how I got there in 2000, and I have been there ever since. At the time, Key West was the most beautiful place I had ever been. And the scene; the bars and stuff, there are boats and different places to live, you have choices. There are a lot of people down there like me.

I worked Teasers, a strip club for 10 years! I have lived on boats, just for the hell of it. Recently I started driving a flatbed truck. I turned 40 and had a mid-life crises, I left the bar scene! I figured I needed to do something else.

I am on a little vaca here in Key Largo, to get away from Key West for a bit!"

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Will Mulkeen and Brenden Ellis

Will Mulkeen and Brenden Ellis
Los Chicos Malos

Will - "We both graduated from Coral Shores in 2010. GO CANES! I went up to West Point and graduated in August 2014. Now I am at Fort Benning, GA doing my Basic Officer Leader Course.
I will be there until August training and then I will head up to Tenth Mountain Division."

Brenden - "I went to the University of South Florida, graduated in December of 2013, and now I am living in Ecuador with the Peace Corps. I am a community health volunteer in a small town. I am working with Dole Banana Company doing community health work. Things are just getting off the ground; we are starting a big nutrition program and a gardening program at a school. We just have to wait for after the rainy season! Right now I am working on developing healthy relationships with the high school students, gaining their trust so they see me as one of their peers."

Will - "The biggest thing I have learned since high school is connections. It isn't always about the grades, but it is about the hands you shake."

Brenden - "We have talked a lot about this. It is important to go the extra mile after high school and have a goal. Learn from your mistakes, you can't change the past."

HOK - "What is the biggest mistake you've made?"

Will - "I have made some pretty good mistakes, but I don't think I hurt myself by making any of them. Life has a weird way of working out. My #1 rule is not to worry about stuff too much; life has a way of working it all out. My mistakes have opened doors that would not have been there if I hadn't made the mistake."

Brenden - "They aren't necessarily mistakes, they are life experiences. Something minor can change your future. Freshman year in college I failed 2 classes in first semester. I knew what I did wrong, I was lazy. The following semester I took a full load and got straight A's. My mistake changed my mind set, I learned from it and I graduated a semester early!"

HOK - "What has been your most memorable life experience since you've graduated?"

Will - "Spring break was a pretty good one!" LOL "I don't know, I just like going out into the world and meeting so many incredible people who come from so many different backgrounds of life. In my life, in the military, people come together for so many different reasons but they are all working towards the same goal. It is great to see organization come together."

Brenden - "The college experience in general was awesome, a lot of fun, and a great learning experience. Internships I had; I had one in Peru. I like the traveling and getting to know the people...... all walks of life."

HOK - "What do you think is the most important thing your parents taught you?"

Will - "Never stop moving forward. Don't get complacent in life; always have something you're working toward. Have a goal. You can always do something to better your position."

Brenden - "Giving back, always. My mom is always giving back, regardless of how much money we have, she is always thinking about someone else. I am doing that now in the Peach Corp. My brothers are doing that too, all in different ways, but we all have the same mindset."

HOK - "Why did you choose to do this story together?"

Will - "Because I don't think I could tell my story without including Brenden in it. Most of our experiences here have been together, we are always intertwined. We have gone through the best and worst of times together, since 8th grade. I just have to send him a message and I have a friend right there, no matter how far away we are. It isn't hard to stay in contact with people you really want to stay in touch with."

Brenden - "The really memorable stuff we have done together!"

Monday, December 29, 2014

Nyan Feder, Islamorada

"I am a Coral Shores 2013 graduate. I leave tomorrow for my second year at FSU. I have decided to go into Jazz studies. It is designed to get you well rounded. I want to do that because Jazz is the gateway to any genre of music, especially more popular music. I want to make music alot of people like.

I was born and raised in the keys! I am a conch! My favorite thing about the keys is it is a small town. Everyone has a hand in helping you grow. Everyone knows you, everyone wants the best for you. Everytime you do something cool, everyone knows about it. You don't get lost here. You never feel like a stranger here.

My most unfavorite part of growing up here is the lack of exposure to
diversity in culture, music. Because it is a small town, it is kind of
streamlined. It is what has been chosen to be brought down here. In a big city, you can experience something different every day.

My favorite memory is a collective collage of memories. When I was little I used to run around and hang out at all the shows. When I was really little, I would run around naked. I slowly started to get on stage with my dad, clothed, and ever since I was 6 or 7 I would start playing all these different festivals with my dad. From when I could play just a few chords to when i could play full songs."

His mom interjects in the background, "He has been on stage with his dad since he was 3!"

"I loved playing everywhere with my dad, and it developed into our own little show. I didn't do any of the 'keys kid' stuff. I think hanging out with my dad so much helped me stay out of trouble. My parents are my parents but they are also my friends.

I am just really glad I got the chance to grow up here. I think this is a really great town to grow up in."

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Kat, The Dockmaster

"In 2001 my husband and the love of my life and I were running a charter boat out of Daytona Beach. I usually went with him but, one day I didn't. The crew realized he was missing his body was found and identified by the tattoo of the hook with my name in it that went down his arm. I guess I will never know what happened, but, I know he died loving what he did.

I could not stay in Daytona Beach without him so I sort of crawled down here. I lucked up and rented a house on this Key and the caretaker of the property lived on a houseboat on the front of the property. I was frozen and when the money ran out I didn't know what to do. My friend in the houseboat, Rick Olson said move on the houseboat. He cleared out a room for me, emptied every other shelf and I moved in as friends in 2002. I still live there today.

The other miracle in my life was I found God. I couldn't have survived without Him. I look back now and realize He carried me all those months. I am a born again Christian and I witness to the men and women on this dock every chance I get. I feel so close to God on the waters of the Keys. It comforts me in a way nothing else can.

I am the dockmaster at Holiday Isle/Postcard. I wish Wild Bill was still around here. That crazy, wonderful Indian is back on the reservation in Oklahoma. Charlie Pritchard was out with a charter one day and a terrible, dark fog rolled in and you couldn't see your face in front of your hands. Charlie just killed his engine and decided to wait for the fog to lift. All at once he heard a boat obviously flying across the water and it seemed to be coming straight at him. He told his charter to hold on it didn't look good. About that time he heard the engines whine down and reverse hard and heard a voice shouting over the fog, "Where in the hell am I?" It was Wild Bill. That was Wild Bill. If you don't know where you are going or where you are, go there fast.

There are so many wonderful stories about my husband and I. One sticks out in my mind today because it always makes me laugh. We were on the boat spending the night. We had argued and I was still ticked off. Men being men, he wanted sex anyway. Well, I had bought these boxers for women at K-Mart that had little cartoon characters on them and the word NO splashed all over them. So, I put those on and snapped the waist band so he would look at them and I pointed to the No's all over them. I went to bed and he followed, mad or not. All of a sudden he started laughing and I asked him what was so damn funny. He said look at your boxers. In the dark they had light up YES all over them lol. We had some of the best sex of our lives.

I miss him but am so lucky to have loved and been loved by him. Now, I work around the fisherman that he always loved. Rick is my buddy. The Captains all watch out for me and I watch out for them.

It could be worse. And, I feel so close to God here in paradise. I am Kat, the dockmaster."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Chef George Patti, Islamorada

"I started cooking in NY when I was 15 at my Dad's restaurants. I then went to culinary school in Johnson & Wales in Providence, RI. After living in D.C. and Charleston, S.C. for 15 years combined, I moved to Ft.Lauderdale to open a restaurant.

I had bad partners and it didn't work out. I moved down here 7 years ago and was a Chef at Snappers. One night I was having some beers at the OV and met Tom. Over beers, a lot of them, we formed the partnership we hold today. We started holding cooking classes and they grew from 5 or so people to 50 people on average. We taught pairing wine with food so by halfway through each class everyone was getting pretty boisterous. We had to add a microphone to our class to be heard.

Eventually we opened Taster's and learned a lot there. From there we opened MEAT. Tom and I were talking in the office and we knew we wanted to do something different since everyone did seafood. We wanted to smoke and create our own meat dishes. Tom looked up at the ceiling and we had a label up there from a vendor with the word meat in all caps: MEAT. Our acronym was born from there.

Now we have Salt Fusion and it is kind of Taster's on steroids. We have a beautiful room upstairs for private parties of up to 100.

We wanted to open a place where people want to dress up and have a sophisticated yet fun and casual dinner in the Keys.

For all of our locals we have specials on Sunday evening for our Service Industry friends, including complimentary hors d' oeuvres from our chef.

Come down and see us, you want be disappointed. Tom and I would like to thank all of you for your continued support as we develop our culinary dreams."