Key West: What’s What in This Responsibility Free-Zone.
“I can hear the children.” That was Henry Flagler, the man credited with snapping Florida open like an oyster.
He uttered those very words as his train docked on the southernmost tip of the United States. The man had ridden an engineering feat into what many considered was the wild west of the Sunshine State. Sprawling untamed land, fins attached to Jurassic predators on all sides, the natives less European more into scalping, the Keys were for lack of a better analogy the backyard of Immortal Joe’s fortress from Mad Max.
Only stragglers, condemned man, fugitives, and adventure seekers blazed their way past the mainland. Still, there was no denying the majesty of nature, this outstretched group of islands bordered on the divine. As long as you could very well get over all the different obstacles, grab hold of your testicles and remind yourself “they are made of steel,” and be overly cautious of the tanned pistol packing señoritas, the keys were paradise on Earth. They still are, that is nirvana and the Wild West. A man or woman, with loose morals, a high tolerance for rum, a carefree attitude towards a hard day’s work and gung-ho nature at making odd friends, might very well slip past Stock Island, into Duval Street, and find himself nursing a tear. “I’m home…”
Key West out of all the United States, given its almost diminutive dimension—you can practically jog around the island, a full circle run, in an hour-fifteen—is a small time capsule of different historical landmarks of the nation’s memoir. In this small stretch of land, the bloodiest encounters in the Seminole Wars took place. From here, Commodore David Porter watched over the Florida straits with his anti-pirate squadron. Off the coast of the Keys, on the Dry Tortuga jail, confederate conspirator, and John Wilke’s Booth buddy doctor, served his last years in prison for the assassination of Abe Lincoln. On the “Gibraltar of the West,” Teddy Roosevelt set out with his roughriders to free Cuba. In this 6 mile island, this minuscule spot of land, there’s an innocuous house, now called “the little White House,” where Truman plotted against the Nazis and, before that, Thomas Edison perfected a cache of secret weapons. This is Americana’s last stronghold against the communist long beard Caribbean nerdo weels. Where in the sixties you could catch some rays, pass along a dubbie and seek shelter underneath an ICBM that was pointed straight at Cuba.
Key West, the land that beat the US Navy and managed an unconditional surrender from the United State’s armed forces. Key West, the only region to have successfully seceded from the States, even if it was for a mere 2 minutes. Key West, were Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Capote and many more drowned their sorrows in kool-aid shots and penned classics. Key West, where the genius loci of the place strums a six string and has a Spotify connection to all of Jimmy Buffet’s hits. Key West, the unwashed filter that catches all of America’s nutbars.
Time to start “Nibblin’ on sponge cake.” Grab your camera and prepare to flood Instagram as you catch bikini clad señoritas who are “a real beauty. A Mexican cutie,” as they “watchin’ the sun bake; all of those tourists covered with oil.”
In this place, in this magical land that claws into your soul and never lets go, “there’s booze in the blender, and soon it will render, that frozen concoction that helps me hang on.”
Time to waste away in the original Margaritaville, not just the restaurant, but the inspiration.
Welcome to Key West and take heed of one of its honored prodigal son’s advice: “The only thing in life you need to succeed is a strong sex drive. Brains don’t mean s@$t.”
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