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Monday, June 4, 2012


^listen to “Life On My Terms” while you read the blog^



Key West is not for the faint of heart, as far as living here goes anyway. So many people I meet from off the islands often tell me how much they’d love to live here, or are planning to live here. For many, it’s a very transient archipelago of islands however… and they’re the ones who turn out to be in transit. There are several sayings here, such as “This town can chew you up and spit you out”, or “This Ain’t The Mainland”. If we take the first saying, let’s first look at a statistic that goes along with it. According to a study done by Anheuser Bush, Key West has the highest alcohol consumption rate in the country per capita. On an island that measures a mile and a half wide and four miles long, Key West has 300 liquor licenses! On top of that, the vast majority of those liquor licenses are in a one square mile area! Remarkable really when you realize it! If you want to have a drink in this town there are literally hundreds of opportunities left and right.

I used to work with a guy, we’ll call him Tom for the blog. Tom used to sneak out of work and scoot over to “The Smallest Bar” for a shot of rum/whiskey/tequila and by the end of his shift, he was shitfaced. Then, after work he’d hit a few bars. Tom couldn’t handle alcohol, plain and simple. Later he fell behind on his rent and at 35, moved back to the mainland with his parents. This town chewed him up and spat him out for sure. It’s a common tale here. So many come here and just plain party their ass off… until they drop.

Let’s look at the second saying; “This Ain’t The Mainland”. It certainly isn’t, not even close. Take the word “Fuck”, as an example. You go out for a bite to eat and a beer and there’s Mike McCloud playing. In between songs he cracks a joke, but no one is listening, so he says loudly into the microphone “Does anyone here speak fuckin’ English as their first fuckin’ language?”. McCloud uses that line from time to time. I once saw a woman biting into her burger when he said that. She choked on the part she bit off and the rest flew across the table and into her friend’s conch chowder, splattering her. I’d say she should have been listening to the joke, huh? Plus, you’ll hear the word fuck every day at hundreds of bar gigs from the performers. Likewise the staff at any restaurant “I’m sorry! The chef just told me that we’re out of fucking grouper”

I’m at a doctor’s office and he says to me “Well, we have to change your fucking medication”. A cop to a motorist: “What the fuck? You just ran that stop sign!”. City Hall: “Nobody is in favor of this fuckin’ proposal…”
The fact is, Key West has its roots as an old fishing , scavenging, cigar, and navy village. Ever talk to a fisherman… or a sailor? “She swears like a sailor?”. Consequently, the simple fact is, swearing is part of the local vernacular here. Likewise true with sexual humor as well. Sexual humor permeates the island. You won’t go a day here without hearing several sexual comments. Mind you, it’s all in fun. What do locals do? Laugh, of course! We all have a sense of humor. For someone who can’t laugh, they’re going to be in for a really tough time and no doubt, what they’ll consider a “Rude Awakening”.

Those without a sense of humor, frankly don’t last on the island. They really can’t, as it’s such a ridiculous and funny place to begin with. People, who get offended easily, realize that Key West wasn’t really what they thought it was after they moved here. There are those who arrive with a “Mainland Mentality” and discover “This ain’t the Mainland” the hard way.

I have a friend who was thinking of buying a house here. The one they were looking at frankly needed a lot of work. Our conversation went something like this:

Friend: “The house is a wreck. I’ll buy it, knock it down and build a new place”

Me: “You can’t do that”

Friend: “What do you mean I can’t do that? If I buy the house I can do anything I want with it”

Me: “I’m afraid you can’t. Actually, you’d run the risk of going to jail if you tore it down. That house is a historic house in the historic part of town. What you can do is restore it”

They never did buy the house, but what they had was the mainland mentality as far as buying it and restoring it went. They wanted to tear it down and build something new. Restoration was not something they could conceive of. They never did move here either. The bottom line is, maybe Key West is the place for a lot of people to move to and for a lot of others, it might not be. For those, perhaps someplace up in Florida would be more suiting? It was explained to me way back when that this is a different country. Yes, we’re still part of the United States( proud to be so!) and we humor the State of Florida into thinking we’re a county within that state. As a matter of fact, as far back as can be noted, the inhabitants of the Keys would often say ”I have to take a trip up to Florida” when they would be heading that way. It is a different country though, with it's own mentality. To be happy here, you have to adapt to the island’s ways, the island’s not going to adapt to anyone. Leave the mainland at the Last Chance Saloon (the border of the Conch Republic in Florida City) Like the saying says: “This Ain’t the Mainland”.



  1. "Tom couldn't handle Alcohol......." BUT he drank alot!


  2. And remember kids Tommy drinks so you don't have to!(famous saying within my band about our infamous bass-player!)

    Funny that these very same issues tend to be absolutely true in Hawaii as well - though even more complicated and compounded by the fact that Hawaii is REALLY NOT the Mainland and it has actually got its own indigenous native culture who had and have very different values and philosophies than American, European or western cultural societies in general.

    Islands are islands and people love them for the very reasons that are usually ultimately their undoing.

    Respect, knowledge, and an appreciation of the history, culture, and societal protocols of the place one is in becomes particularly important on the very limited and uniquely intimate confines of an island environment.

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