Importing Bits of Paradise
The highest temperature on record is 97; the lowest 41. It never freezes. Having planted my citrus trees twice now during the three years I’ve had a house in the Pass, I envy that.
This will get you: It rains only half as much in Key West as in the rest of sunny Florida. Most days are dry, even when it’s raining in nearby Miami.
I walked and walked in a recent two-day trip to Key West, trying to see a lot and get ideas. I parked the rental car when I got there and only cranked it once after that. Streets are pedestrian friendly. Sidewalks, not so much, because bicyclists use them and forget who has the right of way. The island is small, two miles by four.
Across the Bridge
Sidewalks, I wrote. What a good idea. The Pass could use a few.
Santa in a hammock, I jotted. That jolly tableau was in front of a B&B on Truman Avenue. What a great decoration for next Christmas in the Pass.
Uncontrolled profusion, I wrote. I love the way Key West home owners do not landscape so much as let nature the hell alone, the better to hide behind their exotic trees and bushes. None of the shrubs are pruned with flat tops as if someone is on the ready to snap a tablecloth across the hedge and serve tea. There is a wooly and wild look to yards. Porches, as a result, are private.
Writers revered, I wrote. No less than 13 Pulitzer Prize winners have lived in Key West, including, most famously, Ernest Hemingway, whose second wife’s uncle bought the couple a mansion that remains one of the finest houses on the island. Hemingway, however, loved women more than houses and left Pauline for his next wife, a reporter who came to Key West to interview him.
We have famous writers in the Pass, of course, most notably Jesmyn Ward, whose novel won the National Book Award. But I’m not sure she gets the credit she deserves for that amazing accomplishment; nobody’s named a street for her yet.
At the Green Parrot I sat next to another female tourist who was drinking the specialty drink at every bar she visited, letting the bartender punch proof into a card that eventually would buy her a free round. It was like the National Park Service stamps that prove you’ve been everywhere, only with this bar card you might not remember where you’ve been.
Truly casual attire, I scrawled. Women in the Pass talk about “coast casual,” but it’s not casual at all. It’s usually linen attire accented with expensive jewelry. In Key West casual means cut-off blue jeans and flip flops if you bother with shoes at all. Think Jimmy Buffett, who still has a house in Key West but real roots in Mississippi. Think Peter Pan.
Applauding the sunset, much ado, I scribbled. The fuss they make about every sunset is not something I’d care to import; I find it contrived, even silly. I think my friends’ gathering for full moons on the beach a much better idea, a monthly special event instead of a minimum daily requirement.
Expensive! That was my last entry into the little notebook, an observation made after paying the hotel bill and figuring the restaurants’ tally. It costs dearly to live in a paradise without freezes, but with sidewalks, bars, literary icons and live music.