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 Thanksgiving

Key West Thanksgiving | We really are a small town

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.


You knew I couldn’t get past Key West Thanksgiving without the obligatory “thanks” list. Around the holidays, every columnist (and, of course, every politician, business and social media poster) runs out of things about which to opine, to sell or over which to spit a bit of outrage.

I can see you rolling your eyes. Don’t leave quite yet.

Most of the time, Key West wrestles with 21st century big city, travel destination problems. So much so that I often forget we remain a small town.

Some days we’re the ugly stepsister small town, petty, unsophisticated and antagonistic, especially when it comes to outsiders (defined loosely as anyone who wasn’t born here or, if we’re being generous, someone who’s been here less than, say, a couple of decades.)

Most days, though, we’re Cinderella, complete with fairy princess tiaras, yards of tulle and an untarnished joy that Key West is our home. That’s the small town Key West whose center holds despite our overburdened infrastructure, our housing calamities, our staggering cost of living, our strained health and medical systems, our skirmishes and sometime outright wars over the things “they” ought to be doing.

Amazing, isn’t it, when one stops to think about the unsteady balance between our small town heart and our big city challenges. I’m not saying the problems aren’t scary or that solutions are easy to come by. Well, at least in the real world they’re not easy to come by. Heck, that short list above is enough to make most folks want to escape to a tropical island.

Oh. Wait. Yeah, OK.

Somehow, though, Key West manages to hold together its small town lineage. Not because we want something to market to the outside world, but because we genuinely care. That sometimes shop worn slogan, One Human Family, actually is a thing.

Key West Thanksgiving
Ranger Ed and Linda Grist Cunningham (at the 2022 locals parade) wish you Happy Thanksgiving. We are grateful for you.

Key West Thanksgiving | Here’s how I know

Here’s how I know:

  • When one of our own is hurting, we help: Most of Key West knows them simply as Edie Julia. Their commitment over decades to AH Monroe and other LGBTQIA causes make them a ubiquitous couple around the island. I love meeting up with Edie and Julia at the tiki hut for a Fort Zach sunset. Julia had a stroke last week; Edie is her primary caregiver. It’s tough. And our small town is well on the way to raising $15,000 to offset the soon-to-be staggering costs for a couple whose resources are stretched. They didn’t have to ask; they needed only to accept. This isn’t a one-off; it is what Key West does.
  • Strangers don’t hesitate to share: If one follows Key West social media, then one knows the countless examples in which a regular person with no title before or after simply does the right thing. There’s the group helping Winn Dixie Amy get medical care. The folks keeping an eye out for lost pets and almost always finding them. Alex, who has reunited more lost wedding rings with their owners than he can probably count. The Bahama Village street pantry and the countless meals cooked and served in church kitchens. These are regular people doing what needs doing. No one asked them to; certainly no one paid them. They saw a need and filled it.
  • We take a righteous stand: When Mark heard the news about the fatal shootings at Club Q in Colorado Springs, he didn’t stop with an expression of outrage and a solidarity post on social media. Instead, he packed up Section 93 of the mile-long Key West sea-to-sea rainbow flag and sent it to be hung at Colorado Springs City Hall. Section 93 also hung at the Orange County (FL) government center after the Pulse nightclub shootings and was unfurled on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., after the legalization of same-sex marriage.
  • We will put aside partisan politics when we talk about our home: This one is personal so I share just the last sentence of an email from a reader this week. “Had to giggle when I read your column. It was spot on. … Hope to meet you sometime … and chat about the city. I suspect we are opposites on many political issues but we seem to have similar sentiments about our city.”

And, then there was the rainbow Tuesday morning. From every corner of our small town that rainbow was a reminder we have much for which to be thankful. Even in bad times. Godspeed your holidays, my friends.


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