Sunday, December 30, 2018

Conch Life

The title of these photos is a little tongue in cheek, Conchs no longer can afford this life. Everyone loves a Conch Cottage, a wooden home built decades ago filled with character and small spaces while devoid of modern conveniences usually. The story is much of Old Town Key West was built by ship's carpenters using ship's timbers which accounts for rather odd angles and lack of structural integrity. It sounds a bit made up to me, like the fact that the chickens came over from Cuba alongside the human refugees, but that's the urban legend. 

 The awful truth is these homes are monstrous expensive these days, more than half a million dollars for homes barely a thousand square feet with no off street parking or frequently no central air conditioning. They are charming of course but it seems to me the charm would wear off pretty damned quick if your neighbors are renting by the week and partying while in occupation of your residential neighborhood. Or if your neighbors are calling you in to the parking police to complain about your car parking habits and so forth. Most Americans have not been trained in the art of close quarter living, so faced with the prospect of living cheek by jowl with people they may not like very much they fool themselves into thinking that because they paid a king's ransom to buy, they have certain inalienable rights. They discover they don't and things deteriorate from there.
 All this neighborhood angst hits hardest between January and Easter and the rest of the year the Conch cottages get rented (illegally) for short term rentals or slumber unoccupied. Their former occupants, plumbers teachers and office workers live in the outer darkness of the Lower keys and commute. The original inhabitants, those who were trained from birth to live cheek by jowl may have a few family homes still in their possession but most Conchs (pronounced: Konks) chose to sell their dilapidated wooden homes in forgotten downtown Key West to a new breed of entrepreneur in the 70s and 80s, gay guest house owners, and moved out to where the action was in New Town.
New Town offered Conchs the chance to acquire their American Dream, ranchette homes with a little bit of land and conveniences like garages and pools and homes that weren't riddled with termites. It seemed like a deal but then, it may well still be a deal if you like living in Key West out of the tourist trails, close to the modern stores on the Boulevard and with easy access to Highway One.  
I like walking Old Town and over the eleven years of this blog I think I have proved that clearly enough but I do prefer living in the suburbs, on Cudjoe Key with my canal to swim in and living on stilts I get views and breezes from my upstairs porch. 
For me the half hour commute gives me a chance to ride my motorcycle, and will again after I recover completely, and living out of town gives me easy access to the trails and open spaces Rusty and I enjoy so much. It's true we are also further from activities happening in town but I find the amount of time spent working overtime impacts my ability to enjoy my time off more fully. I keep hoping we will get fully staffed soon in dispatch. 
 Meanwhile as I get the use of my legs back I have a ten minute commute and easy access to streets and views downtown as I start to get used to restoring my life to what it was before my accident last August.
And no, most people don't have chimneys in their homes. Perhaps it is a function of climate change but I don't recall weather cold enough for a fire in the last decade at least.
Overhead the planes keep coming bringing more eager tourists ready to enjoy winter paradise on the island that is a peninsula, in the sub-tropics not the tropics, at eye watering first world prices with unfortunately third world service much of the time owing to the lack of continuity in staffing as finding a place to live sucks up all your income and requires more than one job leaving very little free time to enjoy life in paradise as a worker. So after a while you get fed up and leave. What an awkward circle of life. I'm lucky I have the job I have and every day I am grateful it allows me to live in paradise. 

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Respectfully-"lack of structural integrity"? Au contraire.

SonjaM said...

It's a bit of a sad story, and not a standalone. (Almost) any old grown neighbourhood in any part of the world seem to undergo this kind of change.

We both live in places where tourism is both, negative and positive. The "We do like the additional income but please don't stay." mentality.

Greetings from the Black Forest. Happy New Year. May you get back on two wheels soon.

Sewing OCD said...

From my first visit, I felt like I was home. But unfortunately, I realized
to live there will take many years due to the crushing prices and limited opportunities. My husband and I are in public service, but it seems a servant's salary does not pay for paradise.