To begin with, a very special thanks to my friend Ellen, here in Key West, who is lending me her laptop, as my computer has picked up a virus that apparently will not allow it to log on! Ouch! To complicate matters further, the folks at the computer store here in Key West, have suggested that it is the anti virus companies themselves that are perpetrating the virus themselves in order to force people to purchase their products in order to eliminate them! Truly amazing indeed!
However, we're on word and up word, thanks to my friend Ellen! Lets hear it for Ellen!!!
A funny thing happened this evening. I was over at Blue Heaven at the bar enjoying a Key West Southernmost Wheat Beer, when a guy around the corner of the bar started asking the bartender about eating there. The Blue Heaven is renowned on the island for it's fantastic cuisine at any hour. The subject went specifically to breakfast and the bartender started going on how the Blue Heaven is always rated in the top three restaurants for breakfast on the island. At this point, one of the guys speaking to her asked, in a very pronounced Southern accent "Do they have biscuits and gravy?".
At this point I felt it appropriate to add my two cents and chime in. "Excuse me sir, but you have to understand, The South is north of here". This was right in my backyard, as I had just written a song for my album entitled "The South Is North Of Here". The song was influenced by all of the incredible songwriters from Nashville who come here every Spring and perform in venues all over Key West. Talk about a treat! All of these performers are just incredible writers, performers, and wonderful folks to boot. So many of them said however "It's so great to play in the South!!!". The point is, The Conch Republic is below The South. The poor guy at the bar looked bewildered. The bartender then chimed in "Oh he's right! you won't find that anywhere on the island. And the only place on the island that has sweet tea, is the McDonald's on the other side of the island. Oh no, this ain't The South". At this point I suggested that the South starts up in Florida City, about 130 miles north of Key West, which happens to also be the border (at The Last Chance Saloon) of the Conch Republic. At the same time, you'll find the Cuban dish "Black Beans and Rice" everywhere here.
The Conch Republic is, in addition to being "A Sovereign State of Mind" (Sir Peter Anderson, Secretary General of The Conch Republic) it is also The American Caribbean. Technically, we're above the Caribbean, however so are the Bahamas, but they fall into the distinction of being Caribbean and they're north of us, by and large.
The Keys have major cultural influences from Cuba, as the islands were once Spanish territory and Havana is only 90 miles away. The African American population in the Keys largely came here from the Bahamas years back, not the U.S. New England sea captains built homes here as their southernmost point to work from. The architecture style (and construction!) come directly from New England throughout Old Town. The Conch's were originally American ex pats who settled in the Bahamas as Tories in the American Revolution, but returned a generation or two later to the Keys. Their heritage was both north and south, at a time when there was no north or south. You were either a Revolutionary, or a Tory (a loyal subject to the King of England).
The Keys, of course has a very proud history with the South as well. In the American Civil War, Key West was a quandary. The population was sympathetic to the Confederacy, yet they were occupied though out the conflict, from day one(and well, well before), by the Union Army, based at Fort Zachery Taylor.
Today, we have this stew of Southern, Northern, Bahamian, Cuban and we're all swimming together, harmoniously I may add, in The Gulf Stream. This is the American Caribbean. It's not North, or South, East, or West. What it is, is The Conch Republic. A "Sovereign State Of Mind". A completely different mindset than any of the aforementioned, yet at the same time, a very unique, and quite proud part of the United States of America.
A very happy 4th of July to all, from The Conch Republic!!!