I just spent three full days in Key West and (like most people who visit) fell in love with the warm, friendly, picturesque town. The pastel colors reminded me of my Caribbean homeland of Borinquen, and much of the architecture also reminded me of either rural old Puerto Rican houses from the old days, or of oceanfront towns like gay-friendly El Poblado (aka Boquerón–google it if you want to see pictures!), in Cabo Rojo.
The Pleasures of Travel
Leaving the routine, the familiar, one’s comfort zone, initially can be uncomfortable, but in a place like Key West one quickly comes to appreciate why so many people who visited didn’t want to leave.
The Key West art scene is frequently ocean-inspired. The locals take pride in being a tropical island, and in their Caribbean influence.
The true story of the Keys secession from the US is the foundation myth of the micronation known as the Conch Republic. It has also spawned souvenirs, silver coins, a flag, anthem, and many other cultural products.
Birds are considered protected species. This includes chickens, and they are everywhere.
Also, there are no squirrels in the Keys–I suspect that they would not survive the large populations of osprey that we saw in the Keys and the Everglades–but iguanas have taken their niche.
I was hoping to be able to enjoy a few shells of kava in the Keys but this kiosk didn’t open while I was there!
At 90 miles to Cuba, KW has the southernmost point in the continental US, but the Cuban influence is not as strong here as it is in Miami. It still seeps into the history (José Martí, the liberator of Cuba, gave a famous speech from a Key West balcony), the art, and the food (I tried a variety of the Cuban sandwich and the cortadito–a particular way of serving coffee). Even the English name of the island is a bad yet convenient translation of the island’s Spanish name: Cayo Hueso (Bone Isle).
The Pleasure of Food
Every island has its own flavor(s), and key lime is Key West’s flavor. At my neighbor’s insistence, I tried the famous local key lime pie. It was yummy! There was something familiar about it. I’m sure I’ve tried it before in candy or shaved ice or some other tropical delicacy.
I also tried a local delicacy known as conch fritters, as well as oysters, breaded shrimp, etc.
The Pleasures of Friendship & Conversation
My roommate and travel partner for the trip had been my friend and neighbor who is an economist. The trip deepened our friendship and, more than once, we found ourselves expressing our mutual appreciation and how happy we were to be doing this together. We flew to Miami and took a van from there, and later another van back to the Miami Airport.
On the way back, we discussed politics and philosophy. I explained some of the basic principles of Epicurean philosophy. He discussed with me some of the very sound ideas that he has for education reform.
His initial argument is that capitalism requires both carrots and sticks, and that socialist policies (like Bernie’s universal education idea) are often lacking the stick component. He says that students who get tax money toward their education should have, say 80% of their educational debt erased if they graduate with a 3.5 GPA (100% if they graduate with a 4.0 GPA), but only in certain majors/professions where the government is likely to get the money back in future taxes. This would also address the shortage of US professionals in certain fields.
Key West was an unforgettable experience. If you go, don’t forget to try the key lime pie and conch fritters!