Still, we needed to make some money. We needed to get onto the “The Mallory Square Sunset Celebration.” But to do that, one must pass the ‘Pier Review’ of judges. We thought about my playing guitar, but the judges said a guitar player was already busking there. I had made some wrapped crystals, but no, someone had already been selling wrapped stones.
What could we do? One could not just sell stuff they bought in another country! One must make something different from what anyone else is selling on the pier, a work of artistic craftsmanship. Yes, to a degree, we were accepted in the KW community, but we had to bring something different and unique if we wanted to sell on Mallory Square. Donna put her mind to it and came up with beaded and macramé glasses holder straps. They were lovely and managed to pass the test with the judges. We were in!
We constructed a small display stand covered with some black velvet material that helped highlight the glasses holders. Each of us wore a pair that dangled from our glasses as a live demonstration. Making new holders as we waited for interested customers did attract attention, and before long, we made our first sale, followed by another. Perhaps this was going to work out after all! Many people moved through the Mallory Square, buying, tipping, and enjoying its spectacle. Shortly, the evening sales were over. Merchants and performers began to pack up. Following their lead, we did the same and were soon back at the porch, which we had started calling the “Veranda,” counting the evening’s earnings.
Over the following days and weeks, we sold quite a few of the glasses holders. Not enough to live on, but it was a good supplement. We also found out about a weekend flea market. Driving out to the market nice and early, we managed to get a spot and set up our booth. We had learned how to park in a space with only inches in front and back. Donna would’ spot’ me slapping on the back corner of the van as I came close to touching another obstacle behind us. As a result, we tucked in tight in just a few maneuvers.
Somewhere along our sales travels, we had purchased a market canopy, and some “A” stands that folded up and plywood to lay on them to make tables. We would cover them with the beautifully colorful material we had purchased in Guatemala and lay a carefully placed presentation of our goods. It was all very professional. We always tossed a couple of coins on the floor of our booth to “attract more money,” as is vender tradition.
I had become quite the market barker drawing in potential customers and hawking our goods. Donna was also hot on the sales as we collected the cash, moving on to the next customer. The shorts did very well, as did the hacky sacks and the little woven bags. Also, we sold quite a few crystals, even as we gave away some of the smaller crystals with each purchase. We did well. We had set up and packed up down to an art. The flea market was a big hit with us.
Someone told me that if we were looking for ways to make money, the art school branch of the local university is always looking for nude models. At first, I was a little embarrassed to even think about it until I realized they don’t know me, I don’t know them, and who cares? So off I went to model for a class. They gave me a bathrobe and sent me behind a folding screen to remove my clothes. I always thought it curious to provide me with privacy before parading out in a bathrobe to get naked before a class of fifteen to twenty people.
At the center stage was a barstool. The instructor told me I could lean on it but not directly sit on it, and I should get comfortable while trying not to move for the next hour. The nudity was not as uncomfortable for me as the having to try and stand in one position for an hour. Incredibly, the position you feel so comfortable in at the beginning of the hour could be painful by the end.
But the end did come as well as the twenty dollars. I then dressed and returned to the studio. Almost all the students had already left, so I didn’t even see their work. While it was an exciting experience, I decided that it was not my calling to become a professional nude model here in Key West.
Living on the porch at Rich’s was living out in an open-air jungle. All the plants hanging around and views of the neighboring palm trees gave a real sense of being outside. Even during a brutal tropical storm bending the palm trees, the porch was calm and dry as the wind was blowing over the house from behind. Donna realized that we were living not on a porch but a “veranda” by definition. Between us, we had begun calling it that. After she mentioned this to Rich, he said, “Ooo! That sounds nice and more expensive.” It was at this moment that our rent increased!
We balanced our time between the flea market, Mallory Square, and making music, but eventually, the season was over. It was time to move on. We promised Rich we would reconnect again, perhaps in Europe as he suggested, going to a Rainbow Gathering there.