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Monday, February 17, 2014




The Conch Republic stretches from the Dry Tortugas, through the Marquesas Keys, then the Mule Keys, to Key West and on up through the Keys to The Last Chance Saloon in Florida City. The Last Chance Saloon is at the end of what’s known as “The 18 Mile Stretch”, section of U.S. 1, which runs from Gilbert’s Resort, on Jewfish Creek, up through the Everglades/mainland section of the Conch Republic. As there is nothing but everglades between Gilbert’s Resort and The Last Chance Saloon, we’ll focus here from Gilbert’s Resort on down, for this. The only road in and out of the Keys is U.S. 1, which is measured in “Mile Markers” (MM) for the addresses on it. MM 0 is in Key West on Whitehead Street, which is the start of U.S. 1 and Gilbert’s is MM 107.9, which is on the north side of Jewfish Creek in Key Largo. For those of you outside of the U.S. that’s 174.8 Km.

Now from Gilbert’s to Florida City, the first stop of civilization on the mainland in Miami/Dade County, it’s 18 miles (29km). Here’s the funny thing about the Keys. While there are towns like Key Largo, Tavernier, Islamorada, Marathon and so forth. Now while these towns do have their own local governments, there really is no “Downtown”. It’s not as though you can go for a walk and window shop at the stores, or anything. Basically, if you go someplace here on these islands, you drive on U.S. 1 to get there. But none have a downtown, per say. This is a good thing though, so please don’t take it the wrong way. But here’s the interesting thing about it all and perhaps something unique to the Keys. If someone from say, Gilbert’s Resort in Key Largo, or a person in Islamorada decide to head to Key West, they say “I’m going into town”, as Key West is the one place in the Keys that actually does have a “Town”. Then again, if the same person at Gilberts or Islamorada are going to say Florida City, or Miami they’ll say “I have to go to Miami” or, in the age old Keys tradition “I have to go up to Florida”.

The fact is, from say Gilbert’s to “Florida” is only 18 miles and Key West is 107.9 miles, yet the person in Key Largo considers Key West part of the community and Miami Dade County, something almost foreign, or alien to the Keys even though it’s much closer. Likewise for any other place in Florida, for that matter. I just use Miami/Dade as it’s the closest example.

A couple of fun examples of how Key West is “town” to all throughout the keys and in doing so, puts the Keys as a whole, in that same mindset from one end to the other.

As mentioned, the road in and out of the Keys, U.S. 1, (this is NOT A1A, btw)  runs 107.9 miles (174.8km) through the islands of the Keys, then a further on up the mainland another eighteen miles (29km) to the border of the Conch Republic at the Last Chance Saloon, in Florida City. Also, the Conch Republic extends westerly across the water, through the Mule Keys, the Marquesas Keys, and on to The Dry Tortugas, about 70 miles (113km) west of Key West. Additionally, the keys north of Key Largo, Old Rhodes Key, Elliot Key, Boca Chita Key, Sands Key, and finally Stiltsville in Biscayne Bay, bring the Conch Republic’s boundaries well over 250 miles (405+ km)



Boca Chita Light

Boca Chita Light photo BocaChita_zps5f0e5c45.jpg

Boca Chita Church
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And over this 250+ mile spread the mentality is the same. It’s unlike that of the mainland entirely. I recall back when I lived on the mainland and driving down to the Keys, it was as though a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders when I crossed into the Conch Republic. Everyone says it’s a different country, within the United States. When I was working in an art gallery in Key West, I often would joke with visiting clientele and say “You know you’re in a different country, right?” the answer was inevitably something like “Oh! You got that right!”. This is nothing like the mainland here. In my song “Raise My Glass to the Upper 48” I say:

“Friends and family they call me say why not visit back home?
And although I love ‘em dear I don’t ever want to leave here”

Here’s Dave Bevens, owner of the Cork and Stogie, who sums it up best in this brief interview!

It’s true. No one wants to leave here. Plus, you know what happens when they do? They all come back. As Richard Van Der Mude says about the Keys “This is not the real world” and it’s not. I’ll head up to the mainland and say to myself “What the hell did I just do?” I can’t wait to get back to the archipelago of islands that runs across forty something bridges, island hopping across paradise. Some may land in Key Largo, others Tavernier. Some in the islands of Islamorada, a few in Marathon as well. Most will head to Key West. There’s more jobs there, for one and a population of about 25,000, out of the 75,000 in the Conch Republic.

Some who come here from the mainland, after a while have trouble adjusting to some of the quirks. Their first impression is falling in love with the place. However, after they hear what they call “The F Bomb” dropped nonchalantly so often, they become bewildered and confused, as well as offended. Imagine, someone getting offended by the F word in the Keys! Really? My doctor “Looks like we have to change your fucking prescription” Lawyer “We really fucked them didn’t we?”. Musician on stage at Schooner Wharf “I know about 3000 fucking songs so just let me know what the fuck you want to hear”.

When visitors hear this at a restaurant when someone is playing, they are often taken aback, at first, but then laugh. When some move here they don’t know what to make of it at times. Some get upset. Why? Because they’re thinking from a mainland point of view. Others want to change it! Really? It was one of the reasons they moved here to begin with. It falls into the free thinking aspect of the grand scheme of “Island Living”. These are people who mentally, are still back on the mainland. Here's some news for them: You're not on the mainland, you're on an island. Lighten up and have some fun! Laugh a little!

I may go into a bar and as soon as the bartender sees me says “Hey Key West Chris! Fuck you!” I laugh and say “Hey Fuck you too!” We both laugh, shake hands and I order a beer. Here in the islands, it’s actually a term of endearment, between friends.

Recently I saw a post about it and the comments from people off the islands were along the lines of “Oh! They’re just ignorant”, or “They don’t have a vocabulary and they’re uneducated.” Somehow I have a tough time seeing a doctor and a Lawyer, who spent 9 years each in college being “Ignorant” and ‘Uneducated”. What I do see are people who just don’t get it. “When In Rome”.

Regarding a song written about Key West, this is actually pretty easy. A tourist will write songs about coming to Key West and doing things we all did/do as a tourist, or a visitor (there’s a difference). The local songwriter will write songs about the day to day goings on. Listen to Michael McCloud’s songs “Closin’ The Bars” or “Pool Shootin’ Woman”. The Survivors “En Cayo Hueso”, or for that matter my song “Raise My Glass to the Upper 48”.  It’s all based from a local perspective.


Ding Dong The Witch is Gone! Yes, the manager that was the inspiration for the Key West Open Mic leaving McConnell’s Irish Pub and Grill at 900 Duval, has been fired and sent down the road tarred and feathered, figuratively speaking at least. As a result of this, the Key West Open Mic has returned to McConnell’s, this time on Thursdays, from 9 to at least midnight! The first one on the new schedule was this last Thursday and drew a good crowd! We actually had one of our blog readers, Curtis, show up from Jacksonville and play his first solo open mic! He did a great job too!


Curtis from Jacksonville

Everyone is welcome, be you a spectator or a player. Rules are the same as always. Sign up on the list. No one gets moved ahead of anyone else, whatever number you are on the list is where you play, I don’t care if you’re Sting or Cheryl Crow, wherever you sign up, is where you play. When the list finishes, we start at the top again. It’s fair and easy. Plus no one gets upset. The objective is for everyone to have FUN!!! So swing by and have some fun!


After disembarking from a cruise ship a passenger asks a local vendor:

 "Do you take American money here?"

Yeah, this really IS a different country alright! HA HA HA!


For those in Key West, once a month, be sure to check out the new Key West Artisan Market! This is a fabulous addition to Key West and is getting rave reviews by all that have attended! This month's is this coming Sunday, February 23, 2014!!! The event is held in the parking lot of The Restaurant Store, on Eaton St. Live music, crafts, fresh produce, and.... BEER!!!! The beer is brewed on premises at the Rastaurant Store, by Bone Island Brewing  and this Sunday's event will be the official grand opening of the Brewery! 9 am - 2pm.

Here's their Facebook page, so you can check it out!

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Thanks folks! Keep smiling! See you next blog!

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Search: Key West Chris

Thank you everyone!!


  1. Hi Chris, Curtis from Jacksonville here. I had a great time at your open mic Thursday and really appreciate you letting me borrow your guitar. I was surprised to see my picture in your post today- thanks for the publicity! I'll be back down to play again.

    Anyone out there thinking of playing their first open mic in Key West, go meet Key West Chris at McConnells and step up to the mic! Glad I got my open mic cherry popped there- great crowd! And Chris is a great guy.

    1. You're always welcome here Curtis! Thanks for attending and playing! You sounded great!

  2. Chris, Always love reading your blog. This one reminded me of a Robert Earl Keen song. Best regards, John

    1. Thank you John! I'll check out the link when I get on my computer a little later! (On my phone now)

  3. HA HA! Thanks John! Yeah, that was recorded here in Key West at the Key West Songwriter's Festival! HA HA!

  4. Thank you Chris, Really enjoying your blogs. I'm going to be in Key West in early May, hoping to join some open mics while there. Maybe catch up with you at McConnells.
    -all the best, Brian