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

Disney Sushi Key West masks

The end of Covid-19: What will I do with all my Key West Sushi masks?

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.


Vaccine chatter is all the rage today.

If you’ve scored a shot, you’re euphoric. There’s something about beating the gawdawful registration systems into submission that empowers even the technologically savvy. If you haven’t, you’re thinking about dumping your friends who have and wondering if you’re too much a Luddite to live in a digital world in which your health depends on a series of 0s and 1s like in The Matrix.

“Are you two-plus-two” or “one-and-done”? Two weeks past the second shot (Pfizer and Moderna); one stick with Johnson&Johnson. These days we’re talking side effects and doing what humans do: One-upping each other either with tales of wracking horrors or ones of like nothing, nada, piece of cake.

Here in Key West, early on, say mid-January, if you’d gotten your shot, you didn’t much tell anyone. Hardly any vaccine was available in Monroe County and, if you’d gotten one, it meant you either had friends in high places or you’d high-tailed it to Miami.

And, in case you’re wondering, which, of course, you are, Ranger Ed and I went to Jackson Health South in the wee hours of two Sunday mornings. We were two-plus-two by the first of March. Our side effects didn’t hold the proverbial candle to the time I cavalierly (and stupidly) got my second shingles shot and my annual flu shot in the same arm on the same day. I do not discuss the results without swear words.

A month later and everyone’s getting their shots. It’s not long before you’ll be able to get your Covid-19 vaccination as easily as you stop by for a flu shot and a quart of milk. Oh, there will be plenty of vaccination deserts and those will need to be fixed. But, I’m betting that most Monroe County residents — and our visitors — are going to be vaccinated before season rolls around again.

That, my friends, is celebration worthy. But, we’re humans steeped these days in a stew of “yeah but” and “what-about.” Sometimes I think we’ve made some collective pact to maintain our Covid-19 misery. Admit it. Deep down, a bunch of us are addicted to that jolt of sanctimony we get when we’re wearing our masks and “they” aren’t.

Aside: I walked from my table to bathroom sans mask last week. When stopped graciously by the Latitudes’ hostess — loaner mask in hand — in the lobby on my return trip, I was all prepped to say “but, I am wearing my mask,” when I realized, hands to face, uh, no. There I was. A classic “non-compliant mask-hole.” No mask surely equals careless, virus-denying tourist hellbent on destroying Key West. That’s what runs through our minds these days. Am I right? I am grateful my lapse didn’t result in the all too customary persecution by a cadre of the righteously masked.

I get it. Covid-19 has scared us to the core and there’s no one-size-fits-all response. Somewhere soon, though, we’re going to need to reset our outrage triggers. We have to find a way to smile again at our visitors who are happy to be here. We have to find our lost powers that allowed us to ignore the ugly ones and not let them ruin our day. And we need to be welcoming to the ones who wish they could live here, too.

We’ve spent a year using masks like a Hogwarts sorting hat. No mask; off with you, your family, your friends and the horse you rode in on. Colorful Sushi and 801Girls mask? You’re a local, for sure; welcome. Surgical mask? Either you forgot your Sushi mask, in which case, OK. Or you were forced and careless; in which case, off with you (see above re: horse.) You wore a tripled up neck gaiter? Good on you. Single ply? Not so much.

We were on guard against touching a mask with one’s hand. A mask slipped below the nose. Heaven forbid hanging off an ear or below a chin. Masks, like sorting hats, can get it wrong. Masks, like any badge, can become frightening symbols of us-versus-the-others.

Here’s my plan. First, I am never going to use the words “compliant” and “non-compliant” as swear word adjectives. I may never use them at all for anything. I’ve come to hate them. Second, I’m going to wear a mask, wash my hands and stay sorta out of crowds for a few more months. Might even keep it up through the next flu season because I’ve liked not spending the winter with the Key West Crud. You did notice that, right? Hardly even a touch of the Crud this year.

And, I’m going to take my couple dozen, beautiful Sushi masks, turn them into an art project and hang them joyfully on the wall.


  1. Anna Wisniewski

    I’ve just discovered your newsletter and I’m enjoying your essays. Your style is breezy but intelligent and informative. Thank-you

    • Linda Grist Cunningham

      Thanks, Anna, and welcome.

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