George like me never even knew about Key West until he had an accidental brush with it. He flew over the town and throught the situation looked interesting, a town surrounded by turquoise waters. I rode there on my Vespa looking for a ferry out that wasn't there. Beorge became an accident two European ad spent a productive lifetime in Prague city of monuments and spires and writers and acommunism and bloody cold winters. Five minutes after arriving in Key West and abandoning his rental car for a walk George and his missus decided Key West was a lot better than Belize, the other short listed place with winter sun that looked better than Prague as a place to retire.
So here was my chance over tapas at Santiago's Bodega to find out why Key West. Weather? Of course. Fishing? Nope. Boating? Nope. Family ties? Nope, not at all. The literary scene? A big fat Yes for this literature major who first identified Prague decades ago by its Kadka/Kundera fame and only later discovered he could earn a living there. There was no unbearable lightness of beans in Prague for George who landed a volunteer gig there just as capitalism started to rear it's busy head behind the former Iron Curtain. By the time the chance for foreigners to get established in Prague had passed George was ensconced with local partners playing with money and learning to be happy working eighty hours a week in his adopted land speaking an adopted language with a cellphone glued to his head. Meanwhile back in Gotham City... I was living on a boat in California reporting news and making absolutely no money whatsoever. I met women though and learned the old adage they won't lie down in a cabin they can't stand up in.
Yet here I am living in the Keys, living the dream as it were, unable to explain how I even got here except I showed up on my boat after years of flirting with Key West and finding it wanting, when suddenly the fog of San Francisco Bay was no longer tolerable and enough of the outside world had penetrated Key West to make it at last comfortable for me. I find tolerance to be a precious commodity as I grow older and tolerance in California is draining away under the pressure of too many people and too many golden dreams crowded into a state no longer large enough, or golden enough to give them room. Key West's reputation for tolerance may be somewhat overstated nowadays as traditionally not tolerated issues like homosexuality and unconventional relationships generally are tolerated far more widely across the country. It's tough to be a Bohemian nowadays, an irony that I quite enjoy considering George's many decades of actual residence in Bohemia....our neighbors at Santiago's were from somewhere else recording their visit for posterity. Perhaps they felt the bohemian vibe?
George will make a much better gauge of what happens when one moves one's life to a Key West of which so many dream and not everyone attains. You should ask him how it's done the next time he greets your cheerfully on the street and asks how you are doing. He really means it, he wants to know. It was a privilege to meet a nice guy and he will be very gentle with you. He was with me. Must be those European manners.