The Key to Loving the Keys

I think that the reason I love the Florida Keys so much can be summed in two words: jalousie windows. They’re louvered slats made of hard plastic that can be opened and closed with a hand-turned crank. They’re something you really only see in the Deep South and they fit the Keys perfectly. Because if you want your house to be hermetically sealed, both literally and figuratively, jalousies are not for you. They don’t keep all the unsavory stuff out. Just like the Keys.  Where the trailer park is next to the mansion and the cookie-cutter conformity of coastal developments like Seaside is oceans away.

When I was 10 or so, one of my favorite books was The Pink Motel. In the book, a conservative family inherits a motel on the Florida coast. The exact locale is never mentioned, but it could very well be the Keys. The first thing the parents want to do is repaint the motel in a more “respectable” color like white or brown. They are then somewhat taken aback by all the characters who call the motel home–I think there was a magician…one woman had lots of poodles…–naturally, the children of the family loved everything about the place–the more eccentric, the better. And in due course, the parents came around as well. And learned to celebrate all the differences instead of painting over them.

That’s the Keys in a nutshell. But be forewarned…if you’re planning a Florida vacation, there are a few things that you will not find in the Keys:

  1. Miles of sandy white beaches–the Keys are built on coral reefs and the few small beaches you find are most likely man made.
  2. Golf–there may be two or three golf courses, but that’s all. There’s just not enough room. If you want to play golf by the ocean, go to Pebble Beach. Or Scotland.
  3. Republicans
  4. Chain restaurants–there are a few, of course. But they are the exception, not the rule.
  5. High-speed interstate travel–if you’re going all the way to Key West, you’re riding on, for the most part, two lanes. Relax and enjoy it. The farther south you get, the bluer the water is. Just don’t get in a hurry.

 But if the idea of grabbing a beer from a cooler in a bait shop and drinking it from a dilapidated dock overlooking the blue water sounds good to you, then you might need to plan a trip for points South. Save me a seat.



Filed under Travel

9 responses to “The Key to Loving the Keys

  1. Karen A

    Sitting here in drizzly PA, the Keys are sounding really good. I lived on Key West as a toddler and was the first person on Key West to get a polio vaccine. Long ago and far away……

  2. Niece Lash

    That sounds just about perfect to me. I think I’m going to the library today to check out The Pink Motel.

  3. Pass me a Corona, or a Red Stripe if you’ve got one.
    I always preferred the more “unsavory” Caribbean islands myself. Give me the beauty of the mountains of Jamaica over the sandbar cookie-cutter mansions of Grand Cayman.

  4. Julie Fisher

    They say that there are only four cities in the U.S.–San Francisco, New York City, New Orleans, and everthing else is Cleveland. Sounds like there might be a fifth, Key West. “Wish I was there.”

  5. I’ve never been to the Keys. I would like to go, someday…but sometimes I feel like I was built for evergreens. It does sound fantastic, though.

  6. Your list is the reason that the Keys are one of the only parts of Florida worth spending any time in.

  7. hereinfranklin

    Karen–that makes you famous in my book.
    Lash–You should totally get that book for Vi
    Kira–you know, I really don’t like Red Stripe…but I’m all for Corona.
    Julie–if you squint, New Orleans and Key West look just alike.
    Rass-they have evergreens in the Keys–they just call ’em mangroves
    Free Man–you’re right, of course.

  8. andytn

    As a former Thompson Station native now in KS, I love your blog. We spent many years vacationing and fishing in Islamorada and it just makes my heart calm to think about it. You need to read Charlotte’s Story by Charlotte Niedhauk. I picked it up at a bookstore in Islamorada years ago and it’s a wonderful true story about her life in the keys. A definite must read if you love the life down there.

  9. Pingback: The Today Show and Key West « Here In Franklin

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