We have been lucky, cold weather Up North came late this winter and the flocks of people coming south to escape it stayed away, mostly, until now.
It's no easy thing to explain why temporary residents grate the nerves so much but they do and they do a great job of being annoying. I think about how that happens every year at about this time and the answers never materialize very clearly. The relationship between the working residents and the part timers is mostly defined by the fact that there is no relationship.
I have a couple of examples that I cam across yesterday. One was my morning walk with Rusty. I went out into the mangroves before seen o'clock when there is no one around, as I like it, and found a viewing spot that I visit about once a week or so. I try to give Rusty as much variety in his walks as I would like myself if I were in his place. Anyway I came to the end of the trail overlooking the water and I found an old garden chair sitting in front of a couple of burned logs in a pile of ashes. I liked to see that not because I am a rebel but because one of my neighbors is. There always used to be a fire ring here but after a snowbird complained to the county this sign went up banning such outrgaeous practices:
That's the sort of behavior that gets my goat. Why do you have to complain? People enjoy their fires while looking at the stars and drinking beer and some killjoy comes along and decides they wouldn't allow this "at home" so banned it will be here too.
In a similar vein Rusty and I were out walking yesterday afternoon, me looking for opportunity with my camera and him with his nose. I came around a corner and met two snowbirds, she on a bicycle and he on foot carrying a massive stick. I overheard her muttering something about a leash. "I thought he was a wild dog," she said looking at me severely. I wanted to reply, do you suppose they have a wild dog grooming parlor out here you dimwit? but I figure she couldn't recognize the difference between a fearful cowering stray and a confident cheerful dog minding his own business. I did say You're not Up North, relax and enjoy the Keys. Rusty paid them no attention at all and neither did I. I assume they went back to their trailer park and had a big discussion about free spirits and the dangers of the mangroves etc etc. And I keep asking yself why do people want to own a slice of the Keys and then kill what it is they like because it doesn't conform to their corseted view of life?
In Key West it's the same attitude. They come and suddenly the complaints in the paper are all about parking and noise and trash and on and on and on. I've lived here a long time and I am happy to call a couple of Conchs my friends with several more acquaintances. One reason I like living here is because I feel at home. Like any home I'd like to see things improve, recycling, pedestrian zones, bicycle paths and stuff like that and they'd get my vote if anyone asked. But I do not want homogenization or the continuous shoving into exile of the marginalized, the artists and outcasts who are being replaced by these noisome gentrifiers who lack taste good manners or an appreciation of the outré.
I am feeling touchy about this I suppose as a friend has left town for a few years to see what's going on out there as she starts her retirement. She has every intention of returning to her rented home in a few years but it feels as though a connection has been cut. Another friend got back after a six month all expenses paid Grand Tour of Europe with a man who landed in Key West built a home and plucked her rather arrognatly from her circle of friends and reserved her for himself. I went to inner a couple fo times with him and attended a party at his house and found him to be distant and clearly bored by us little people and I wrote him off. As did everyone else I knew. He exemplifies the qualities that I deplore in people who want to live among Bohemians but demand the free spirits grow up and knuckle down.
The snowbirds get upset saying they bring money to Key West which is undoubtedly true but when your contribution to the party is cash everyone knows it doesn't come without strings and the people I like in Key West aren't the people who doff their caps and are felxible enough to assume a subservient attitude. For my part I wouldn't mind at all if we all had to rely on purely tourist income, and could kiss the part time residents good bye. When we got to plays my wife and I joke that we are the token working class in the audience, the ones without a trust fund given seats to prove how generous the one percent are. Generally we are also the youngest member of the audience!
Also yesterday I was in an incident that reminded me not everyone lives by the code of the temporary resident. I got cut off on Flagler Avenue by a car that sped alongside me froma traffic light and cut into my lane before turning right. I held up my hands off the handlebars palms up in a "WTF?" gesture and the driver gave me the middle finger back. Screw it I said this person needs aocnversation. He stopped half way up the first block of 12th Street and I pulled alongside. What was hat for I said. You had plenty of room to pull in behind me to make the turn. He stared at me, a young beared man a mirror image of me in my twenties. You're an ashole I said. He looked anooyed and then said I'm sorry it was tupoid but don't call em an asshole. I said, okay you did an asshole thing, I;ve done them too from time to time. Hey bubba he said, I'm sorry. Nor problem I said and we shook hands and went our separate ways.
I stereotyped him because he was driving his Mom's Lincoln MkZ, an old fogey car and a brand new one too, so I was an asshole and I was already feeling peeved about those people judging me for walking Rusty in the mangroves. Instead he was, as I usually find, a nice young Conch man ready to acknowledge his fault and not make a big deal out of it. Which leaves me hoping that some day soon I can find some sign of tolerance and easy going appreciation for what we have in these islands. And in that spirit I think I have to take my own advice and shut up and enjoy.