Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Island Life

I heard on the radio (because I don't have TV reception) that some "expert" has decided 46 million Americans will be on the road this week. Well, bugger, I hope they see me coming and get out of my way; I've got a Vespa to pick up in Pennsylvania before turning around to enjoy a leisurely traditional Thanksgiving with friends at Jekyll Island in Georgia. All of which means Cheyenne the wife and I have left the November warmth of the familiar for the frost studded steppes of the wastelands of mainland America. Brr.

I told a friend that Key West is a great place to live if you have to work and he looked at me, puzzled. Most people, he said, say Key West is a great place to on vacation. True enough but when faced with the daily grind I by far prefer it frost free and easy. I like sunshine, it makes me happy.

I get to work where people come on their time off. A visit to Key West is a hard fought privilege for many people and for me a walk among the orchids is a lunch break.

You've got to get yo the very end of the road to find half a town built two hundred years ago, and maintained just so. The other hundred miles of islands are a jumble of free range unplanned neon chaos, but Old Town Key West is this:

I admire people ready to pay hundreds of thousands to spend a few winter weeks in these architect-free structures. Just because they are among the costliest houses in Florida doesn't mean they are nests of modern conveniences. What you see is often a lot more than what you get. Straight floors...right angled corners...central air? Nah, not needed in 1828 so not really useful now. Enjoy! I like my modern conveniences in a modern, weatherproof house on a canal twenty miles out of town, but I'm weird. Long live suburbia.

The best free entertainment in this high cost town is taking your dog for a walk, and she will thank you. But there's so much more. Live music, education, restaurants, theater, parties, movies, fund raisers masquerading as events and gatherings called to raise money for community needs. If being a social butterfly is your thing and you have time and money to spare and a powerful alcohol-proof liver, Key West is your oyster. But Key West is a hard taskmaster for most people. Living among beauty and culture and copious expensive alcohol often requires a punishing work week from two or more part time, benefit -free jobs. I have been feeling the heat lately working too much overtime to fill holes in the schedule desperate for a couple of trainees to get trained to take the heat off. Not much free time left over...
I still get a chance to check out some of the odd corners of this great little town. Left over paint brush strokes anyone? Typical of this lovely little town the devil is in the details, not clean, not spiffy, frequently shy of maintenance, not displaying a city cherished and loved by its residents. There's a big debate ruffling the city at the moment about Fantasy Fest. A coalition of city residents led by native born prominent citizens is pressing for an end to raunchy nudity and displays of middle aged flesh on Duval Street each October. The rules are clear but this event is a money raiser and now we get to see if money talks over the wishes of the bubbas who feel this event has gone too far. I figure that if someone could guarantee all nudity was youthful and sexy all objections would evaporate, a conclusion that bothers me more than tasteless displays of poor costuming. In the end whatever they decide works for me but I shall watch the process with interest. Money versus morality, the ultimate capitalist dilemma, made public.
I miss it when I'm away. I love traveling, but I like coming home to the Keys. I miss my friends at work, we deal with life and death every night but we laugh at each other a lot. It's natural that we we do, because life is contrasts and we see a lot of shit in people's lives every night. Key West is beautiful but it's not easy, it's not cheap, though sometimes it looks it. It's got problems on display for all to see, it never makes a best place to live list, it's population is graying and getting steadily wealthier and less creative. But I'd rather live here than Montpelier, Burlington, or any of those podunk little towns that national magazines profess to love as best places to live. I get to ride my Bonneville year round. Beat that, snowmobilers.

Yet, yet yet. For all that I've lived in interesting places Key West remains the best place to earn a living. I have a great job, dispatching at night and by day I get to enjoy more sunny days a year than I deserve, warm waters all around, fantastic views and a few solid friends. Is that all it takes to make me happy? Guess so. Can't wait to get back.

 

2 comments:

Trobairitz said...

That is a lot of people on the roads this week/weekend.

Maybe it is time to install a Stebel Nautilus on the Ford.

John S said...

Hope you get your Vespa before the forecast snow storm hits the tri-state area up here on Wednesday. You might be spending your Thanksgiving stuck on a Pa. highway. Safe travels..