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For people not familiar with the Florida Keys, depending on your outlook, they are insanity’s or sanity’s last stand in America, maybe in the world — maybe even in the Universe! Sometimes I call the Keys the Asteroid Belt; other times, the State Mental.
Most people who live down here, but were born some place else, are on the lam from something, if not the law, then something else. It used to be, you didn’t sit down at a bar and start talking to a perfect stranger and ask where he or she was from, if you wanted to keep breathing.
It also used to be that you didn’t mess with a lobster or crab fisherman’s traps, if you wanted to keep breathing.
It’s a little safer down here now. Usually.
You’ll have to come here and hang out for a while, though, to really get a feel for this place, which really ain’t part of Florida, nor of USA, or of anything; and maybe start feeling better about yourself, as there are all sorts of things you can do down here, and nobody would even raise an eyebrow, which mostly likely you can’t do where you now live.
Meanwhile, perhaps this here totally objective unbiased reporting will help get your feet a little wet with my Muses here below.
Might also help to keep ever in mind, that not everything in the Floriida Keys is necessarily what it appears to be. Facsimiles of some of the other residents.
Any one gawking at the pretty nature pictures might still wish to keep ever in mind what I said about nothing in the Keys is entirely what it appears to be.
Our coastal waters often are contaminated with human fecal matter. The only living reef in the continental United States is dying as a result of that and probably other unpleasantries.
It’s really easy to contract a staph infection down here, if you get a cut or nick. Hydrogen peroxide, pronto, is advised for all cuts and nicks. You flat do not want to get a staph infection, commonly known down here as MRSA, which is fatal if not treated, and because it mutates, it’s darn hard to treat medically. It can get to looking a lot worse than this, if it’s not treated.
The cost of living down here is beyond belief, about the same as Maui, which is a whole lot prettier, but a whole lot farther away, if you live in the eastern USA.
Lodging is cheaper down here after April; maybe even cheaper in the summer; maybe even cheaper in the fall. I like November best, and early December. And late March and April.
There are several state parks which permit tent camping and RV camping up to two weeks, but its hard to get a reservation during high season – Christmas to mid-April.
There are several private camp grounds up and down the Keys.
Hotel, motel, lodge, guest house rates are higher in Key West than up the Keys.
Naval Air Station Key Wes, has a motel of sorts, which is reasonable, for US Military personnel and retirees, who are in the area.
There is a youth hostel in Key West, run by the Seashell Motel.
Key West has a homeless shelter, which offers free hot, warm or cold showers, depending on when you arrive, and a free bed, if you get there before the shelter fills up for the evening. An outward bound sort of surreal adventure.
There is no campground in Key West, but there is one on Stock Island – you will pay plenty to stay there.
You cannot drop and tent, or a blanket, on the ground and camp in Key West. The police won’t let you, and they might put you in the pokey on Stock Island, with other hardened criminals – being homeless is a capital crime in Key West, not so bad a crime elsewhere in the Keys.
The “de facto” nude beach is down at the end of Geiger Key, off of Big Coppit Key, turn at the Shell Station and drive to the end of that road, several miles. Not advised women go out there alone and get nekkid; take a your favorite pit bull with you; or a Glock, just in case.
I decided not to say anything about the tourist traps down here; you won’t have any trouble finding them advertised in other articles; or, after you get here, just stop and ask where they are, and anyone who lives down here will be able to give directions.
However, if you don’t take in Coco’s Kitchen on Big Pine Key, in the Winn-Dixie Shopping Center, or Harpoon Harry’s restaurant in Key West, on Caroline Street, you won’t get to meet some of my dearest amigos and amigas down here.
The Keys are a hurricane zone mid-May through early November. Here’s what Hurricane Wilma’s super high tide looked like on North Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West – the 3 1/2 feet of saltwater over all but the slightly elevated parts of the island, it took out about 10,000 cars and trucks, and plenty of mopeds and motorcycles and bicycles, just in Key West.
There are other attractions.
Our county and city governments are candidates for the Saturday morning cartoons.
We have lots of pirate descendants.
We have more booze and narcotic consumption, and maybe more churches, and almost certainly more homeless people per capita, especially in Key West, than any place you are ever likely to find, anywhere.
Despite mucho spraying, we usually have a healthy population of starving mosquitoes during the warmer months, and some of them critters down Key West way have been known to carry dengue fever, which you never hear about either in Tourist Development Council advertisements. The TDC doesn’t tell you about our MRSA pandemic, either. Or human fecal matter in our coastal waters.
Yet we call it Paradise and view it as a nation unto itself.
The original seven mile bridge built by Henry Flagler for his Overseas Railroad a generation before I was born (I’m 70, I think), was one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Or should have been, if it wasn’t so classified. After the quick-striking Category 5 Hurricane of ’35 wrecked some of the bridges again, the railroad was discontinued. Then, the only way into the Keys was by swimming alligator, crocodile and shark-infested waters, boats and airplanes, until new bridges were built, and the Navy built a waterline from the mainland to Key West, and the Florida Keys entered the modern era, so to speak.
In one of my prior lives, I drove a few times over those narrow two-lane bridges, with traffic whizzing 60 m.p.h. both ways — real exciting moment, meeting an 18-wheeler coming the other way at a mile a minute. Today, parts of the remaining, amazing, picturesque old bridges are used for walking, bicycling and fishing. Other parts are closed off and sometimes get used or blown up in movies. And sometimes, it’s said, people get hanged off the old bridges, maybe politicians sometimes.
The remains of old Bahia Honda Bridge, where a road was added on top of the trestle for motorized vehicle traffic. A beautiful state park, Bahia Honda, lies a few miles below Seven Mile Bridge, just above Big Pine Key, where the feral ever dangerous key deer are headquartered.
Even lawyers are tolerated in the Keys – professional courtesy.
ex-lawyer, local runaway and otherwise dubious character
past-life photo (2006)
later incarnation, 2011, due to clean living (no sex, no loving, no boozing)