The very name conjures up mythic imagery of a decadent American paradise.
Past and present floating in the air, intermixing freely.
Mile Zero. Iconic sunsets on Mallory Square. The colorfully-restored conch houses of ancient Cuban cigar makers. Bubbas rubbing shoulders with flamboyant queens. Locals going out in their boats after a hurricane to salvage from nearby ship wrecks. Hemingway look-alike contests.
Dining at 7 Fish. Epic bar crawling on Duval Street. Massive hangovers. Noticing en passant an open air AA meeting with only roosters in attendance. Expensive weddings. Strip joints and freelance rent boys. T-shirt emporiums. Truman’s little white house. Obligatory confessionals at the Basilica of St. Mary. The endless stream of tourists.
Dropping out. The fabled though deeply-clichéd, laid back, tropical lifestyle — still there, despite the constant buzzing of mopeds that sound like angry insects. Visiting Dr. Mudd’s cell on Dry Tortugas and debating his guilt. Finding oneself gradually untethered from everything square and mainland. Realizing suddenly that the only shoes you need are flips. Escape, finally.
And then there’s that residual aura of the legendary artists who made Key West their home. All those writers! Hem, of course. Tennessee. The late David Kaufelt. McGuane’s 92 famous and not-so-famous artists, such as Gerald Leake, whose classic Key West Machine Shop currently adorns Needlepoint Land’s home page banner.in the Shade. Thomas Sanchez. And of course
This month, I’m presenting a new trunk show of long-time Key West needlepoint artist Julie Pischke. I’ll put up pics very soon.
Meanwhile, here’s a representative sample of Julie’s work.
Photo Bob Krist/Florida Keys News Bureau/Reuters Handout