My last post featured some funky Key West buildings, but it’s not only stationary items that dazzle on this island – there’s also a fleet of elaborately painted cars cruising around.
Time for more pictures, methinks.
And coming up in the next instalment, Key West painted cars! I bet you can’t wait, can you?!
Life on small islands usually bears little reflection of how citizens of the same country experience their daily lives just a few nautical miles away on the mainland. Key West is no exception. With an area of just seven and a half square miles and a population of twenty four and a half thousand, it is very much its own microcosm. The pace of life is slow, its inhabitants are laid back, class backgrounds and socioeconomic disparities pose no barrier to socialising together. Miami, famed city of vice and ginger haired serial killers, is three-and-a-half hours by car and 40 minutes by plane, but it may as well be on a different planet.
It should not come as a surprise that Key West criminals are a very special breed with their own set of priorities and particular ways of doing things. My friends, who I’m staying with here, told me of a recent bank robbery, where the robbers were discovered just a few blocks away from the crime scene, in a local bar, having a drink, the holdall stuffed with cash right beside them. I’d like to think that the round was on them, and that the cops stayed for a couple of cool ones before making their arrests.
Besides hearsay and local anecdotes, there is a much more authoritative source of criminal activity on the island – let me introduce you to the trusty Key West Citizen:
Every day, The Citizen features a Crime Report section. Here is a sample of the headlines and articles that have appeared since I got here on Jan 15th:
This one is my absolute favourite so far:
Yes, a broken window was the crime of January 20th. An antique broken window, if you please.
I’ve highlighted the amusing passage in the last two pieces:
Toledo has its scrawny street cats, and Key West, as I found out this week, is overrun with resplendent roosters. The reason they have taken over the island has something to do with Cubans, who arrived on the island in their droves in the mid-1800s, being partial to cockfights. But after these spectacles were outlawed back in the 1970s, the chooks were duly booted out into the streets – now talk about a fowl unemployment crisis!
There are thousands of them roaming the isle, scratching a living together. Public opinion on the “Key West Gypsy Chickens”, as the breed is officially referred to, is sharply divided – some love these colourful and resilient characters, others are twitching to have them all culled. But the upshot is that they are protected, and people who are not nice to them are prosecuted, as you can see in this news item I spotted in the Key West Citizen on 18 Jan 2013:
It has to be said, the males of the species are handsome little devils. (See below, NOT above!!)
And it’s not only live roosters that are omnipresent – they’ve spawned a whole genre of idiosyncratic Key West art and, of course, merchandising.
And while the boys are strutting about town getting five-figure modelling contracts, the drab clucking females are dutifully raising the next generation.
After a loooong day’s travelling, involving a train, a bus and two flights, I woke up on a boat this morning. Or rather, a floating house. And if I crane my neck just a little bit more, I think I might be able to spot Cuba in the distance…
For the next two weeks, I’ll be posting from Key West, Florida. I’m staying with my dear friends Vicky and Ian, who moved to the sunny little isle from cold and drizzly London a year ago.