When we moved to Cudjoe Key five years ago I was glad to get out of our street on Ramrod Key, a long narrow single lane where the neighbors at either end disliked each other and we were in the middle of a lot of angry people. I felt like the middle child in a family at war with itself. Change is hard but we fell on our feet moving four miles closer to Key West with a wide street, pleasant neighbors and a canal we can swim in with hardly any boat traffic. But every paradise has its serpent and we were warned in rather uncertain terms about the big downside.
"Those people" at Venture Out we were warned "will ruin your life every winter." The cause of the ruination was never made completely clear except that crowds of snowbirds walk their dogs along Spanish Main and clog the street with traffic. Plus they live in trailers. As you can imagine someone who has lived much of his adult life on boats isn't put off by trailer living or any alternative lifestyle (see: vans!). Dog walking? Nothing wrong with that; God forbid. And after five years of living next door the worst I can say is the occupants of Venture Out have a tendency to run the stop sign at the entrance to the park. Forewarned is forearmed and I look out for their rolling California stops as they leap onto Spanish Main. The dog walkers are careful and I have never seen any dog eggs left behind. They have to be the cleanest dog walkers in the Northern Hemisphere, people whose example I try to live up to with trepidation. I take Rusty on the street as he likes to sniff their trails when we walk in the middle of the night and the ground I find is super clean. There is never a noise complaint from the park and I never see the Deputy Sheriffs over there breaking up relationships gone bad. They are ideal neighbors in my book.
One evening as we drove back from a trip to Miami my wife told me she always looks for the flagpole at Venture Out as she commuted home from work in Marathon, and indeed the slim white pole rises up out of Cudjoe Key, an unmistakeable landmark from across the water on Summerland Key. It is a landmark, a reminder of home all the way down the mile long drive on Spanish Main after you turn off the highway. If the flag is not there you know there's wind in the forecast. If it is halfway down making room for the flag of Death at the top you know they are telegraphing something to the neighborhood. This weekend obviously it's Memorial Day. And a windy rainy weekend we were promised too as you can see, yet the flag is still flying perfectly spread by the east wind.
Today is Memorial Day of course but every day when you drive past the Venture Out flagpole is a day to think about home and loss and good fortune and all those emotions that make up daily life especially in a time of pandemic.