Friday, September 2, 2011

Key West Life

We've seen the rentals promising Heaven on Earth in a Conch Cottage, 'live like a local' they entice the reader, 'sit on your porch and drink to the sunset' they suggest. You've read the brochures and dreamed the dream. I've read the brochures and wondered who is fooling whom.


Living like a local involves a few more compromises than sitting on the porch and toasting the sunset. It's not exactly blood sweat and tears but for most people who start a new life in the Southernmost City there are some realities to face.


The daily chores don't go away but they increase in volume when it takes three jobs to maintain the dreamer's life. On Labor Day, that most North American response to May Day, one might be inclined to give thanks for work, especially if one reads the shadow stats website which puts true current unemployment and under-employment around 23% well above the official numbers.


People ask me what it takes to move to Key West, as though I have particular insight, while I have none in particular my standard answer is one I've not heard given before. I advise the dreamer that it is wise to surrender all ambition. The good jobs are taken, and by 'good' in this context I mean the prestige jobs that confer privilege. If the idea is to move to Key West and upset the order of things the dreamer will be quite surprised. Key West does quite nicely thank you by not upsetting the apple cart.


The thing about Key West is that the cost of living is high and wages aren't which makes it tricky living for dreamers without private funds. Dreamers who come to town and expect to live as though on vacation had better have plenty of funds to so do. Those with a private income can drink and whore at will and dabble and enjoy the freedom conferred by money. Many do. Some come to town to be artists in a congenial environment and many thrive. For a lot of run of the mill dreamers life in Key West is an endless search for enough jobs to make ends meet. Porch sitting doesn't come in to it. Most of us work and go home to sleep and are happy enough that it never snows.


Labor Day is an ironic holiday when even official statistics admit one in ten workers is without a living. We reward bankers for shuffling money and excoriate the victims of their greed who see their unemployment charity (paid from their former wages) running out. We in the Keys are luckier than most. But we in the Keys cling precariously to the bottom rung of labor's ladder. Wen we lose our grip we leave and head north back to the bosom of our formerly unwanted families.


I am working Labor Day weekend and consider myself lucky to have but one job, and a job that I enjoy. I hope some economic miracle comes our way in the next year that things might improve for those that need it. It doesn't look likely as we seem mired in a world of economic unreality that makes Key West a shining jewel of serenity in a world gone broke. That should be good fortune enough for any dreamer.

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sadly that's the way the economy is here in Montana (except by the oil fields near North Dakota), but we have had snow every month of the year excluding July.

In the middle of winter after spending an hour or so shoveling sidewalks in double digit below zero weather, I'm especially thankful for your pictures and blog to remind me of my great times there.

Can't wait to fly down in 59 days and spend a week absorbing the nice weather before enduring another cold winter.

Bob from Livingston Montana

Singing to Jeffrey's Tune said...

The banking field is finally feeling the pinch of layoff though automation and outsourcing. Their masters have decided that a mediocre trader making $400K/yr in New York or London is not worth it when an PhD in China is willing to do it for $12K/yr (or a computer for $4K). God bless globalization and technological advances!