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Sunday, April 6, 2008

No Pretense Needed

I had a walk-in a couple of weeks ago who was interested in buying a large winter home for his family. He's a self-made man from the mid-west and has accumulated other houses and according to him quite a bit of money. But if you looked at the guy, you'd never guess it. He told me that he's just a "No pretense" guy. I told him "You picked the right place".

When I first started thinking seriously about living in Key West I thought it would be great to live in a gay town. I gotta confess I thought the idea of lots and lots of gay men would be fun, even though I was in a long term committed relationship. But I wanted to live where I could be open about being gay. Or so I thought.

There was a program on PBS last night that was part of a series called "In The Life". The episode included a piece on gays in Poland and how oppressed they are by the government. Polish society stigmatizes gays as needing help for the abomination that socieity deems as intentional but also curable. The government even prevented gays from holding peaceful parades seeking fare treatment by the government. One fellow talked about being so repressed that if he had not left his village and moved to Warsaw he knew he would have committed suicide because of the oppression. It made me re-evaluate my situation in Key West.

Generalizations are usually full of holes and probably unfounded but I'm going to make one: people in Key West don't care who you are or what you do in your private life. They may gossip about what you do, for sure. But most people are happy to let you be whoever you want to be and expect the same from you toward themselves.

There are a bunch of groups that make up the local population. The Conchs are natives that trace their family history by the number of generations they have lived on the island. Conchs can be white and black. There is a big military presence made up of Navy and Coast Guard men and women. Every person I've met that is in the service has been very polite, well groomed, and well spoken. They are in a class of their own for sure. The gay population is another community that is divided between people who moved here to either retire or open a business and people who moved here to experience life in Key West and who probably have at least two jobs to make ends meet. They may be servers in restaurants, bartenders, guest house employees, shop clerks, or maybe mates on a boat. There is an identical group of young straight guys and gals that have the exact same jobs and aspirations. And then there is this very large group of foreign born people who live here--many who have overstayed there 6 month visit to the US. There are many Czechs, Russians, Ukranians, Polish, and Nicaraguans in this community. Women in the groups probably work in hotels and most of the men work in construction.

As I watched the PBS program I wondered about how the local Polish population feel about Key West gays. I've had several Polish people work on my house during the past year. They knew I am gay and never said anything bad to me. But then I was paying them money. Lots of money. But it made me wonder. And then I thought about how everybody here is in the same boat so to speak. We are all on this little island out in the middle of the ocean. We're closer to Cuba than we are to Macy's or a Target store. We share the same weather (good and sometimes not so good). We live in an economy that's not doing so well right now. So everybody makes do. Then I intuitively knew that the Pols are just here living their lives and really don't care.

If you are looking for a place to escape the world where you have to pretend to be someone or something you are not, look no further. No pretense is required to live in Key West. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Of course if you want to pretend you can do that too. We have lots of pretenders in Paradise. They are just organized about it and hold a really big event every year where everybody gets to pretend to be somebody else. It is called Fantasy Fest. CLICK HERE to search the Key West Association of Realtors mls database. If you see something you like please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, or e-mail me at

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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.