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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.


Anonymous said...

I recently went through the Key West airport and was pulled out of line (every tenth person)for a random pat down. This was AFTER going through security where they found my small tube of toothpaste and through it away because it was more than the required 3 ounces. The pat down was done by the same sex crew member and was just before boarding. Now this was BEFORE the new TSA procedures. Once I got to my destination, no problems.

To make a long story short - I travel two times a month for business. Sometimes more. And I have been to Key West many times. That said, the Key West airport security personnel are the ABSOLUTE WORST I have encountered in some time. They harrass passengers and cause more harm than good. For goodness sake - its a small airport in paradise! You would think these power happy idiots were at JFK! I WILL NOT be flying into EYW but drive from MIA or FLL where a less intrusive bunch of idiots in TSA work.

You are making it more and more difficult Key West for tourists. Don't bite the hand that feeds your economy or you will come back to bite you. And bite very hard I am afraid.

Gary Thomas said...

TSA are federal employees. I guess it is conceivable that some terrorist would launch an attack on some major target by leaving from a small town like Key West. Yes, it is conceivable, but not likely.

And that is no excuse for treating American Citizens rudely. No matter where in the country they are located.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, guys, two of the 9/11 terrorists boarded their flights in a small airport, Portland, Me. Small airports have to have the same security as the big airport. But it doesnt mean they have to be rude.

Anonymous said...

OK terrorists board planes. We know that. However, there is a 4th ammendment that prevents this TSA bullying tactics. There is a movement for Wed and Thur to say NO to the xray scanner and YES to the pat downs so airports will be clogged with passengers angry at TSA and delays. This ought to be interesting.....and just wait till you have to submit to scans and pat downs at football or baseball games, train stations, bus depots, federal buildings, state courthouses and dare I say schools, colleges, malls and any public place or monument. What are we - a police state? George Orwell was so on the money!

Anonymous said...

If you won't profile, you will have this problem in all airports with all security.

Also, the old truth here is correct - follow the money. Who is making money from this and who stands to make more in the future.

The terrorists have won. They have made the USA more frightened, disrupted their lives, and trounced upon their freedom. Don't think that wasn't the objective. It was all along. Only it has taken this long for the public to say 'enough'. Too bad, it has reached far beyond the point of no return.

Anonymous said...

Yes the lived in the area near Portland (old orchard beach) a tourest area for more than a year and were on first name basses with the locals.

Anonymous said...

To the first Anon complaining about EYW security, I think you might be forgetting that the majority of plans out of EYW head for MIA or FLL.

Miami is the third largest skyline in the country, i.e.- lots of potential targets.

While it might seem horrible to have to give old grandpa a pat down, look at the recent incident where "old grandpa" went into the restroom and came out 60 years younger.

When you fly it's not only your security at risk up there in the air, it's every other persons risk that is down on the ground as well.

Anonymous said...

When was the last time TSA found anything terrorist bomb making related?

Answer - NEVER.

I will take THE US CONSTITUTION and my RIGHTS over your pseudo security TSA anyday.

Say NO to pat down gropping.

Say NO to porno x-ray machines.

OPT OUT THANKSGIVING WED and show TSA where they can stick it!

We have only one way to win and that is to protest our suppression of freedom with opting for PAT DOWN instead of xray.

Reminds me of the 1960's again - and why oh why are YOU complaining? Because you ASSUME everyone is GUILTY who enters the airport?


Plain and simple.

we are becoming a nation of sheeple. Disgusting.

Anonymous said...

I do love the sign Gary from DC. Just where do you report this suspicious activity? And if you do, will they lock you up for a false report or think you are a kook? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gary, I'm sorry this discussion got so far afield of your posting about life in Key West, which I loved (I've been reading your blog for a couple of years as we think about moving to Key West). We just put our house in the U.S. Virgin Islands on the market this month and will be spending Thanksgiving in Key West. We're hoping to have as relaxing a time as you talk about in your posting. Happy Thanksgiving!

Gary Thomas said...

Did anybody watch the show "Key West: Bohemia in the Tropics"? I loved it and learned a lot about Key West.

I sold the James Leo Herlihy on Bakers Lane a couple of years ago. The TV program showed photos of the house and described some of the wild things that happened there. It's stuff like that that makes living here (and selling houses here) so interesting.


Anonymous said...

I saw it and it was quite interesting. I loved the Baker's Lane property too and I wonder if the current owners know of its history. And the Tennessee Williams house too. Loved Gore Vidal comments and you are right - Key West history is soo cool!


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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.