POSTED: March 1, 2023
In last months post I referenced the notion of some places being seemingly on the edge of the world, or at least at the extreme edge of a continent and the sense that the idea of isolation creates in people. At various times I have also chattered on about Key West. That stems largely from my buddy Jim and his partner Janice hiding out there each winter. Well today I am going to share some images of that place.
But first, a little background. I have been receiving an image or two a day from my buddy Jim. He has been walking around that little island (its about two miles by four miles in size) for about an hour every day since the beginning of January. While the island is beautiful and visually stimulating his walking is not just because he likes the scenery. Back in September of last year he had a similar diagnosis to the one I received recently for hypertension. So over the months last fall he really worked on his diet, and dialing back the wine. His blood pressure numbers improved but when he came back to Key West at the end of December, he decided to walk for about an hour a day. That really made the blood pressure numbers come into line.
Now just to go off on a bit of tangent here, the little piece I did on January 1st MY DOCTOR DOES NOT KNOW JACK generated the most number of emails of any post I have written. Apparently both hypertension and the other issue referenced in that post are pretty common and the piece really struck a chord with people. By the way, while I don’t have a comments section on the website I am always pleased to get emails from readers. email@example.com
So when he walks he takes his phone and then sends me a couple shots each day. The images below are not intended to be an intro to Key West or a comprehensive travelogue but just some random images that caught his eye.
I will put in a bit of commentary to try to add some context for those who have not been.
The foliage is full on. This place is exactly halfway between Toronto and the equator and has much more in common with the tropics than most of Florida. The issue is not as much what to plant but what to hack back as everything grows, and grows quickly. I saw an image of a small palm tree pup that was in Jim and Janice’s yard when they bought their place, and within a few years it was over three meters (forty feet) high!
Key West is also closer to Cuba than to Miami and before the embargo was created by the U.S. to try to destroy the Cuban economy the flow of goods and people between Havana and Key West was extensive. The image below is the White Street Pier that Flagler built after completing his railroad from Miami to Key West. That railway linked various keys or islands with causeways and bridges. The longest of those bridges is seven miles! The pier shown below was his start to the railway bridge he intended to build to Cuba so is a comment on both the ingenuity of Flagler but the hubris as well. Mother nature took out his railway from Miami to Key West with one significant hurricane.
That intertwined heritage of Americans and Cubans is quite common in many old Key West families. The success of wrecking (taking the cargo of ships wrecked on the shallow unmarked waters at the time) sponging, shrimping and cigar making has been replaced by tourism but in each phase many of the successful entrepreneurs have been from both cultures. All kinds of sponges thrive in these waters but are now protected. The water is clear enough that the shot below was just taken from above the water line in about two meters of water.
Today, because of American foreign policy Cuba of course is being starved and boats arrive each week carrying a few who have put together a very rough vessel (chug) to make the 90 mile crossing. They arrive on the various beaches in the night if not intercepted by the coast guard before making it to shore. Each week Jim sends me pictures of new chugs that have made it to the beach.
Antique cars abound. No salt on the roads, and limited mileage (where are you going to go on an island that’s two miles by four miles in size) makes for a great environment for cars to just keep going whether pampered like collector cars or just used as regular vehicles for driving every day.
And as so small a place and with the highest point on the island being less than three meters bicycles and scooters are much more common than cars.
This island has always been a location for writers, poets, musicians and dreamers and the houses reflect that, with various expressions of creativity. The first image below is a house made of stone and coral, while the second one is more typical. Most of the houses were built in the late 1800’s when Key West was one of the largest communities in Florida. Many of the smaller houses were actually barged over from the Bahamas.
Feral chickens and roosters are everywhere. It is illegal to kill them so they just run around the streets and yards and reproduce and poop and the roosters wake people up in the morning and often throughout the day. While locals hardly notice them if you stop and spend any time observing they really are quite beautiful creatures.
Various times of the year bring out the decorations – some traditional, like Christmas, but much more significant is Halloween, the Day of the Dead, Carnival. And once a nice decoration is up, well you might as well just leave it up as that celebration is sure to come up the following year!
Now by my calculations, while I am guilty of not putting pictures in many of my posts I am hoping this post redeems me.
P.S. As always, no problem using images you have seen here but please acknowledge the source.