During my Starting Over process I was cleaning out a box from B.D.D. when I ran across a bumper sticker that read: “Everyone in the world can share the Official Philosophy of Key West, Florida: All People are created equal members of ONE HUMAN FAMILY”.
It occurs to me now that I am not just missing my Dad but am also missing the life I had in Key West for 17 years. By letting go of my professional life, relocating our homes, and suffering a tragic loss – all in a very short time, I fear I have created for myself the perfect storm… but that is not the subject today.
Key West is a tiny island at the end of a chain of islands (Keys) that pushes itself out into the Atlantic Ocean like a plantling stretching for the sun. Only 90 miles from Cuba, Key West is the USA’s only tropical, frost free oasis to which one can drive.
That is exactly what we did in April, 1989. Our 23′ long U-haul, plus towed Mustang, arrived in Key West carrying us, possessions to meet immediate needs and enough musical equipment to stock the little music store that we intended to open.
We are proud of our work there knowing that we filled a need that afforded us a modest income and passage into a truly amazing community of characters. The people in Key West are as diverse as those colored sprinkles that top your ice cream cone from the local DQ.
But no one there seems to notice. It is a very live-and-let-live kind of place. The movie star lives next to the retired or escaping corporate dude, who lives next to the bartender from Sloppy Joe’s, who lives next door to Cuban bakery. The cheese toast and buche are enjoyed by everyone on the island including the conch on his way to a City job who lives next door to a household of hotel workers from Mexico.
My friend P. is a fifth generation conch who lives in a turn-of-the-century gingerbread eyebrow house and is a perfect example of the excepting nature of the island. P’s family included a great, great grandfather from China who married an island girl. Her family has co-existed with the Cuban folks who came in the 60’s (and still come today), with influxes of Irish immigrants, not to mention the eastern block invasion that happened after the cold war passed. Even before P’s time, her family was exposed to travelers from all over the world including the US military that has occupied the island and still does today. P. contends it is the island’s diversity that makes it the special place that it is and I agree.
Not too much “keeping up with the Jones” in Key West. Everyone wears shorts and sandals. Some don’t have to work, and some have 3 jobs. Some fill their days with artistic escape, volunteering, partying, some work 15 hours a day just so they can live the remaining hours in this magical space. At the end of the day, all join together at the edges of the island to praise the Universe for producing yet another dependably stunning sunset over the crystal tipped waves of the Gulf of Mexico.
I miss Key West, but I miss her people more. I am a better person for having lived in Key West because I embraced and took with me the concept of One Human Family. I wish I could put this understanding in a pill that the whole world would take.