The Key West Mystique

Key West Island News


Key West Island News connects Key West residents and friends of the island, fosters our One Human Family culture and advances understanding of shared goals for our island community

Key West Christmas Bikes

Living in Key West: Before Covid-19 and today; you know what? It’s good

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.


Whew. Last week we were hunkering down for Hurricane Isaias, which mercifully, spared us an evacuation. With apologies to my northeast friends, I’ll just say it. We hurt for you, but, let’s be real. The odds are we have more to come. You’re probably done for the season.

Which brings us to the annual questions: Why would you (1) live in a place where for six months of the year you get to stare down hurricanes and spend weeks frantically stocking up on toilet paper and water; and, (2) why in the world would you book a vacation smack dab in the middle of hurricane season?

The second answer is simple: It’s way cheaper. Folks come visit in August and September because accommodation and travel prices tend to be less jaw-droppingly expensive. What they either ignore or don’t know is that, at the drop of a millibar of pressure, they’re going to be turned out and returned home. And, unless they’ve had the foresight to buy travel insurance with hurricane coverage, they’re likely to be out of luck.

The first answer is pretty easy, too: At least with hurricanes we can see them coming, plan accordingly and get the heck out of the way as needed. Ever try that with a tornado? An avalanche? A wildfire? Yeah, I thought so. Give me the predictability and advance warning of a hurricane any day over the surprise of a tornado.

So, here we are in Hurricane Covid Season, where a runaway coronavirus and hurricanes dance with each other in an unpredictable hootenanny, wondering, really, why the heck DO we live here — or visit here for that matter.

We humans are social animals and we will, despite all odds, find creative ways to make new lives, meet new friends, to sustain old ones and to moor ourselves in our families on an island that sings its siren song in the middle of a catastrophe.

It’s been five months (has it really only been five months?), since we made the cataclysmic shift between BC19 and AC19 (That’s before and after Covid-19). We’re learning to manage — and Key West remains a place whose mystique draws others to our island.

Why stay here? Some things don’t change and each of these reminds me that despite the challenges, there’s no place I would rather be than on this tiny island in the middle of the ocean.

We’ve got porches and sidewalks and close-built homes. We share each other’s lives in these cheek-by-jowl neighborhoods so we are never alone. Although we must remind ourselves to use inside voices even outside. We don’t want problems with the neighbors who disagree with our politics. We spend time sitting on the porch because it’s big enough to socially distance four people at least 10 feet. That’s close enough to talk, far enough away not to share germs.

There’s always iguanas and we can entertain ourselves for hours discussing various means of extermination, relocation and dietary restrictions. Expect iguanas in the bathroom occasionally. Along with ants and palmetto bugs.

Christmas is coming. We’ll skip over the cancellations of Fantasy Fest, the powerboat races and pretty much every parade for the next six months. We might not get to do lighted bikes rides and holiday parades, but we can light up the night skies. Perhaps the neighbors who frown on excessive Christmas decorations, except on certain magical streets in New Town, will allow one year of excess for the lighted flamingo with Santa hat.

It remains OK to wear shorts and flip flops everywhere. You cannot do that most places in the United States even in the summer and most definitely not in the winter. Which brings me to the most disconcerting and delightful thing about not being born in the tropics.

Have a calendar handy. Because the seasons don’t change, we have no idea what month it is. What with Covid-19, some of us find figuring out what day it is equally challenging.

We are muddling through. To friends — old and new. To family. May the sunrise bring you joy and the sunset peace. Someday, I can add “Y’all come see us, ya hear?”.


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