Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Someone in Key West Doesn't Like Me 

On Sunday my partner and I had breakfast in the Hilton restaurant, checked out, and drove south down the Interstate and then Route 1, into the Keys and westward from one to the next across the many bridges and through the many towns. (We rented a taxi-cab-yellow Mustang convertible, out of what was available, and curiosity. This new version of the Mustang strikes me as a cartoon version of the original, oversized for its proportions, and as it turned out, underpowered. But then I drive a BMW 330i at home...so I suppose I'm spoiled.) I was pleased to see that the general milieu in the Keys was that of towns built in 1950s stucco and rarely if ever upgraded since; communities like Key Largo and Tavernier seemed if anything rather depressed, empty storefronts alternating with mom-and-pop shops. No fancy condos, not a Starbucks to be seen. We stopped at a "world's best fish sandwich" diner along the way, and ate one of their fish sandwiches with a conch appetizer (pronounced 'conk', it seems).

We arrived eventually in Key West itself, taking a wrong turn and winding through the nether part of town, past the high school and aging mini-malls with dry cleaners and fishing shops, before finding our inn on a quiet one-way street full of vintage cottages and occasional two-storey hotels. We checked in, moved our baggage inside, relaxed a while. I checked email, posted updated 'future history' listings, approved a whole bunch of comments to Cory's latest essay (which he'd obviously posted a link to from Boing Boing), and posted an item on the homepage to alert readers of the new comments.

Then we left our room and strolled a while, first past the restaurant where I'd made a web-based reservation (Antonia's) for dinner, then north up Duval Street, sensing a movement toward what I'd heard was a traditional sunset event on Key West... and so, indeed, we ended up at the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square, where crowds gather to watch the sun set into the ocean from the westmost point in the Keys....

Then we went back to the restaurant for a pleasant dinner. Strolled around a bit more, up and down Duval Street, which was not unlike other touristy streets, in LA or Amsterdam or New Orleans, full of shops of junk souveniers and drug paraphernalia and bars supplying drinks you can walk with down the street. Then back to our hotel.

Where we found to the door to our ground-floor room standing open, the lights inside on, the double-glass panes of the french door smashed, shards of glass scattered over the entrance to the room, inside and out.

My laptop was gone. My partner's laptop was gone--and so was his shoulder bag that he'd carried his computer in, which had contained our digital camera and numerous tax documents he'd been using to file his taxes. My shoulder bag was still there, lying on the bed.

We found the hotel owner, even at this late hour, and soon the police were contacted and arrived. We spent an hour as several police officers came and took photos, dusted for fingerprints, and asked us questions. Our room was in a far corner of the hotel complex (what must have been two or three houses originally, connected together with a pool/jacuzzi situated in between), with a window onto an outside driveway, where an opportunistic thief might have shone a flashlight into our dark room and seen two laptops; he'd have then climbed a slat-wood fence, smashed the door itself, and grabbed his loot. My guess is he grabbed one shoulder bag just to stuff the power cords into, and happened to grab my partner's rather than mine... which had my car and house keys, and cellphone, and checkbook inside.

Anyway, to make this short -- in no mood to spend more time as tourists in Key West, we left early Monday morning in our rental car back for Ft. Lauderdale, where we were unable to get a early flight back to LA. We checked back into the Hilton, where the conference had been, and where they kindly reopened my account there and gave us the conference rate for one more night, and stayed there Monday night. Tuesday, we managed to reschedule an earlier flight home than originally reserved. And so we're back home Tuesday evening, sans laptops, worrying still about potential identify theft.

I've already changed passwords on my most critical accounts, though it I find myself this evening unable to establish a FTP link to the website from my desktop PC--hopefully this is an entirely separate, independent problem. I do routinely maintain backups of all my files, on a daily basis via a flashdrive (which I'd left at home!), but the big exception is my email-- the loss of my laptop means I've lost all email prior to Sunday evening. I'll post a note about this on the website when I'm able. In the meantime, anyone who's sent me email that has not been responded to, or posted on the website already, please resend...
Aw, man, that's awful. Sorry to hear about the losses and the headaches, but at least you've got backups, and at least y'all weren't put in any physical danger yourselves.
Dang! B**stards! Why can't we all just get along?
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Mark R. Kelly

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Mark R. Kelly, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine.
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