I dreamed of coming to Key West since boyhood. I fell in love with the whole concept of Florida as a youngster watching Flipper on TV. Even though it was in black and white in those days, I mentally colorized and fantasized how wonderful my life would be, surrounded by tall, swaying palms, stark white beaches, emerald green waters, and an abundance of topical sea life. I watched the show religiously, which planted a seed that would take forty years to germinate.
Flipper had been a childhood metaphor for the Florida Keys, and the Florida Keys later became a metaphor for escape: escape from the rat race of a feeding frenzied, material-driven world. The Keys represented an antidote to the madness, a peaceful repose, and sweet solace for body, mind, and spirit.
I visited Key West for the first time in 2001. I was invited to go with a friend while living in Annapolis, Maryland, to spend a whole week there. I was ecstatic! In the car on the way down, I was worse than an eight-year old boy on his way to Disney World. Many times along the way, my friend chastised my childish exuberance, telling me to get a grip. He had no idea what the trip meant to me.
Upon arriving, the impact of the tiny island paradise upon me was sudden and strong. It was something words could never adequately express. I felt good here. I felt good all over, and down to the depths of my being. Exactly what it was about being there totally eluded me then. After awhile, I quit analyzing why, and simply embaced it. Since that first encounter, I have had the pleasure of others sharing their very similar experience, also without adequate explanation, but we were all of one accord, and not crazy at all!
A miraculous added benefit was the instant ability to breathe! I was so amazed at this new ability, that I felt the need to tell everyone. Having lived in the mid-Atlantic states for many years, I suffered endlessly with chronic sinus problems: constant post-nasal drip, and a dry, irritating cough, that had me on daily medications and inhalers. Even on my best days, I was miserable. After awhile, I simply accepted the miserable.
In Key West, I could freely breathe. In Key West, I slept through the night. In Key West, I felt an unexplainable inner peace and calm. I had to come back!
On an island that can easily be fit into a two by four mile box, there are close to one hundred churches of just about every known denomination, and then some. The island is most commonly known world-wide as an anything goes, laid back, heavy drinking, community with a 24/7 carnival atmosphere: a real modern day Sodom and Gomora. This is very true, but is focused primarily up and down Duval Street, which boasts over 300 bars: gay, straight, and clothing optional. However, over ninety percent of Key West is just a quaint little island town, a very normal community, complete with schools, churches, and shops of every kind.
There is a unique charm to the island, that is strongly conducive to creativity, and consequently beckons to creative souls of every genre from around the globe. The island is abundantly rich in writers, artists, musicians, and actors. The island's spirit is definitely laid back. The island's creative spirit is very vibrant and alive!
This is why. Yes, THIS is why I have begun my journey here!