Monday, November 22, 2010
Key West: Bohemia in the Tropics
I found these photos on the Internet the other day. They bothered the hell out of me. They are of a warning sign in the DuPont Circle area of Washington, D.C. I haven't been there for several years. In fact I haven't been to very many places outside of Key West for several years. When I leave this little island I get very anxious and bothered. Everything elsewhere seems so foreign and much of it seems threatening.
My life in Key West is so normal and predictable (and maybe boring). Most of Old Town looks today like it looked a hundred years ago, only now there are lots of trees and white picket fences. It is as if I live in a place where time didn't necessarily stand still, but it didn't spin out of control either. It's not just the old buildings that stayed normal. The people here are normal-in a slightly off-center way. The Conchs who have lived here for generations are the primary reason for the stability. They keep things grounded. They treat others (especially elders) with respect. I was looking for some old Key West photos the other day and ran across a discussion of locals where the author mentioned a host of locals this way: "Mr. Johnny Hernandez, Dr. Julio DePoo, Mr. Earl R. Adams, Judge Raymond Lord, Judge Jack Saunders, Mr. Arthur Lujan, Mr. Glynn R.Archer Jr. Mr. T.R. Roberts, Mr. Charles Pritchard, Mr. Joe Balbontin and Mr. Woodsy Niles". In talking with C0nchs they invariably refer to others as Mr. or Miss or Mrs. as a matter of respect. The receptionist at my doctor's office calls me "Mr. Gary".
It's not the way we address or refer to each other, it is the way we treat each other. I have only been cheated by one Conch and that is a local appliance repair company. One time in seventeen years of living here. It had to happen. Some people, on the other hand, go out of their way to be helpful. And after 9-11 this town was filled with people being nicer than ever. Even the people that move here that work in the shops on Duval Street were nice. They often have the worst attitudes of anybody, but they were nice, too.
There's a lot of momentary chatter on TV and on the Internet about the T.S.A. and the new passenger screening. There is always something to get people stirred up about. Those damned bastards that brought down the World Trade Center really messed up our lives. We were messed up before 9-11, but they made it worse. Under the Bush Administration we had color coded threat alerts. Now we have total body scans and intrusive pat-downs. Who in their right mind would pat down some old lady or little kid? But now everybody is suspect.
Now there are solar powered signs urging us to report suspicious activity. We don't have any signs like those in Key West. We don't need them. Life up north in America may be turning into the society George Orwell envisioned in 1984. Here, in Key West, life continues to be Bohemia in the Tropics.
Speaking of which, if you are in the reach of Miami and Fort Lauderdale television, you can watch a program tonight on WLRN (public television) entitled Key West: Bohemia in the Tropics at 8:00 PM. It will be repeated at other times this week.
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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell
- Gary Thomas
- 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.