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A Key West toast to 2020 | This time next year

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.

12/22/2020

Oh, heck, why not? Everyone else is doing it. Writing those dreadful, cloying columns and social media posts about how everything’s going to be all right and 2021 will bring (warning: cliches ahead) a new dawn, a new day and a return to normal.

Really? Rolling my eyes at the absurd euphoria. We’re going to be in a deep pile of do on March 17, 2021; just as we were on said-same date in 2020, when Key West’s collective consciousness realized “oh, crikey, this ain’t good.” Between Covid-19 and the “to-the-barricades” political and governmental devolution (hate that word, but it’s apt), the only good thing about being around today is that we made it — and a whole heck of a lot of us didn’t.

(Sidebar: If you’d rather not clutter your day with the reasons 2020 sucked, jump right to the last graph. That’s where I dust myself off and do something constructive.)

I will credit 2020 with one thing: It ripped the rose colored glasses right off our collective noses. Things we’d been able to shoe box away on a back shelf tumbled about with abandon. No one for long could look away. And the stress of watching helplessly as bad things flowed past out of our control killed some of us and bludgeoned us all. Key West did not escape the litany of awfulness that has been 2020.

This time next year, that’s my prediction. Certainly not “after the first of the year.” This time next year, we’ll have seen if the new vaccines can keep our businesses and schools open and protect us enough to see family and friends. We’ll know if the U.S., state and local governments stayed within their Constitutional rails — and we’ll know how well the newly elected are shaping our future, locally as well as nationally.

We’ll know if Key West-owned businesses could weather the economic uncertainty of almost two years of diminished income. We’ll know the real-time effect of the absence of cruise ships — any cruise ships — on the island’s public and private revenue streams. We’ll know if service workers stayed on the island or headed up north for reasonable rent and better tips.

By this time next year, we’ll know if Key West’s live music venues and arts-and-culture galleries and custom shops can make it. We’ll know if the not-for-profits, from galleries and gardens to theaters and social services can survive.

Most everyone has been able to cobble together enough to hold on through the end of this year, hoping the 2021 “season” can shift checkbooks from red to black. If season brings back our best-spending snowbirds and visitors, we’d enter 2022 stronger and steadier. But, if the 2021 season is packed with “found-this-great-deal” for a Key West trip, we can’t expect much in the way of tips and high-end spending.

Seeing the end of 2020 ahead means I am that much closer to not having Covid-19 and political animosity as my daily energy sucks. I welcome dull and boring. To that I shall raise a toast. Maybe two.

But there are two things about 2020 that I cannot un-see no matter how much “normal” returns by Christmas 2021: Hungry people live on this island and there are workers who will not make the rent and others with no roof of their own. We’ve always known this, and, honestly, Key West’s people are generous with their time and money to fill those gaps. Those gaps will widen over the next year and it is up to those of us who can to help close them.

Do this with me today because we can, because it is the right thing to do. Make a donation today to Sister Season Fund to help pay the rent and utilities of service workers who are sick or out of work through no fault of their own. Make a donation to Star of the Sea Foundation to feed the hungry. And, make a third donation to the Key West not-for-profit that matters most to you. Together we can make a difference — and we can toast this year farewell.

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Linda Grist Cunningham

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.

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