Jan. 28, 1998
Key West is a big tourist town. It is the farthest south western tip of Florida which can be driven to. It is a two by four mile land mass with 28,000 residents.
There are lots of people, but they seem happy. There is a friendly atmosphere. People say it is expensive to live here because there is so little housing due to little space, and so many people that want to be here. People want to be here for 2 main reasons. First, the weather. The gulf stream makes the weather nice year round with the average temp being 79 degrees. The second reason people like to be here is there is no crime. The newspapers talk about the large number of homeless. We see them but they aren't sitting on the street begging. We hear that many have jobs but just don't have a home to live in. They are mostly young, and seem to be happy enough just that way. It is their choice to give up a home to live in this climate amongst friends.
One of the interesting things here is the sunset celebration. People gather on a huge dock over looking the ocean. There are all sorts of artists including: musicians, palm readers, fire eaters, a trapeze artist, a cookie lady on a bicycle, a sword swallower, a dog trickster, a magician, and several mimes. When the setting sun hits the horizon, all stops and silence reigns. When the sun goes fully under the horizon every one cheers and the action continues. We haven't experienced this because it has been cloudy each night, but that is what is supposed to happen.
My favorite artists are the mimes. We have seen two with completely different acts. Each is all dressed in one color. One is white, the other is silver including painted skin. You will find them standing somewhere like a stature. Then they might wink. When a crown gathers the mime still stands like a statue and moves very slowly but reacts to the audience in cleaver ways. We saw a very large tourist with a cigar put a dollar in the bucket. The 'statue' motioned to him not to leave, but to come back. The statue managed to get the tourist to give him his cigar, and wouldn't give it back until he put another dollar in the bucket. All this is with no words just slow movements and facial expressions. It is funny to watch the statue characters, but also the people. Sometimes they get embarrassed. Once a little girl was offered a lollipop but it was just out of her reach. The mime made it so she had to jump. So did he. She really wanted this lollipop, so she kept jumping many times, so did he. Meanwhile he slowly put another lollipop in is other hand and held it low. She didn't notice and kept jumping for the higher one. Finally someone told her to look down, her eyes widened as she snatched the lower lollipop with great enthusiasm and ran off.
Some of the stores are almost like museums. We learned a lot about sponges and how they are caught in the sponge store, and a lot about seashells in the sea shell store. There are so many different kinds and colors, it is fascinating. There is also a Cuban store with murals on the walls telling about Cuban life on Key West in the early part of the century. At that time, the biggest trade here was cigar making. Cigar makers were not formally educated but sat rolling cigars all day being entertained by a reader. Though they were not formally educated the cigar makers learned all the classics and were regarded as highly educated within their community.
We have enjoyed Key West, but it has rained a lot. It has been too cold to swim in the reefs. We will venture on to the Dry Tortugas. These islands can only be reached by boat. They are 70 miles west of Key West. There is a huge historic Fort Jefferson, which we look foreword to visiting.