Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I Found Paradise

I spent some time in Key West, Fla. recently and I can only describe my experience as "a drunken stupor."

Ha ha. That's just a joke. There were several hours of sobriety during my stay.

But the place really is a tropical paradise. It's almost like visiting a foreign country but leaving your passport at home. There's just something special about it.

Key West has been a major draw to many famous people, not just me. Ernest Hemingway might be one of the most famous former residents of Key West. Hemingway spent the winter months of the 1930s in Key West. He worked on "A Farewell to Arms" and "To Have And To Have Not" while living there.

Today, his house is open for public tours so visitors can see the beautiful, airy, two-story home. There's also a two-story pool house behind the house, where Hemingway kept a writing desk and worked on his novels and other writing.

Hemingway would wake with the morning light, write until about noon, spend the afternoon fishing and, in the evening, drink himself into oblivion at his favorite watering hole in Key West: Sloppy Joe's.

In his honor, I tried to do the same thing, but I found I needed a nap around noon and I don't really like to fish.

Singers Jerry Jeff Walker and Jimmy Buffett also spent some time in Key West.

In 1971, Jimmy and Jerry Jeff packed into the "Flying Lady," Jerry Jeff's 1947 Packard, and headed out for Key West — 120 miles from Florida's mainland but only 90 miles from Cuba. It was Jimmy's first experience in the Florida Keys but the island changed him and inspired him — along with countless others because of his music.

Artists, writers and musicians still find their way to Key West every day.

But the island is not just a place for creative types. Key West draws folks from every walk of life.
It's a paradise.

I spoke to some of the "Conchs" — those who have grown up in Key West, the Conch Republic, to find out their thoughts on growing up in paradise.

My thought was surely there are people who can't wait to get off "The Rock" that is Key West and get back to civilization on the mainland. It's not a cheap place to live and I saw plenty of homeless people and at best, people who lived in ramshackled homes.

But the people I talked to about growing up there only had good things to say.
Everyone spoke about the great weather, the beautiful water, the excellent fishing and the general laid-back lifestyle of Key West.

Since Spring Break was close, I wondered where somebody in Key West goes for Spring Break. Most don't go anywhere. They stay at home and entertain friend's from other landlocked, cold weather locales.

Did I mention Key West is Paradise. It sounds wonderful.

Most don't ever want to leave. Many others are moving there from all over. I wouldn't mind living there myself.

I know a little about paradise. I grew up in Oklahoma and East Texas, so I'm very award of what paradise means.

I grew up surrounded by oil derricks, hay fields, cattle ranches and hog farms. There are people from Cromwell, Okla. who wouldn't think about moving away from there. It's home. It's paradise.

I guess our paradise is what we make it. I can never imagine myself living in a cold climate like Wyoming, Montana, Maine or, lord help me, Canada. To those people, cold weather and snow and big blue skies are beautiful.

I shutter.

Our paradise is created in our minds, though. Everybody's definition of paradise is a little bit different.
But I'm sure there are people who live in exotic locales all across the world and are still chained to a personal hell of the mind. The mind is a powerful thing.

For now, I choose to live in Texas, my little slice of paradise. But I wouldn't mind a trip to Bora Bora if anybody knows of a cheap hotel.

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