It requires little in the way of ambition to lapse into utter lassitude in Key West. Certainly first acquainting oneself broadly with the territory helps. But once having scoped the grid and character of the Island – and perhaps after having elevated oneself by tottering about the botanical gardens (an intellectual expiation of the indolence that follows) – the door opens wide upon tireless evaporation. The mollification of life’s harshness is painlessly accomplished by the emerald sea, yellow sunshine in a cerulean sky, the soothing temperatures and blanket purposelessness. The amplitude of the lethargy is further broadened by the expansive open waters. Everything contrives to extenuate one’s erstwhile collywobbles. There is nothing here which doesn’t reek of sybaritism. Even as I learned today the botanical gardens on Stock Island are the only frost-free subtropical enclave in the whole of Florida! As proof of its singularity it is a paradise for the whimsy of butterflies (36 of the known 55 sub-species have been spotted here).
The nautical theme is ubiquitous in the Florida Keys. Nonetheless it came as a moderate surprise today to discover its extent when we cycled to the 576-acre Stock Island adjacent Key West. Though the Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden and the Golf Club together consume almost all the northern half of the island, it is otherwise one harbour after another, affording marinas, repair and storage depots and attended by all the collateral seafaring suppliers and mechanics any sailor could hope for.
Stock Island exemplifies what was the historical and continuing predominant theme of deep sea fishing. The trawlers which regularly dot the horizon on the south shore of Key West apparently take harbour on Stock Island.
It is universal casualty of many the former fishing wharfs that their redundancy has been replaced by luxury tourist real estate. As so often happens in these circumstances the exotic hotels exist shoulder-to-shoulder with residential trailer parks and abandoned commercial sites. The tolerance of the interlopers is sustained merely by creating the effect of a gated community which effectively snubs its nose at the lingering denizens. Meanwhile the local tradesmen have translated their businesses to cater to sightseeing, chartered fishing excursions and evening cocktail cruises.
The seclusion of these enclaves from the hurly-burly of Key West is attractive to those whose dedication is other than solely gastronomic or wasting away in Margaritaville. Other than the in-house restaurants and a local beanery with the name of Hog-something, it is necessary to venture abroad for diversion. But the cycle to Key West is mere minutes away so it boils down to a question whether one chooses to be occupied or lethargic.
There is always the opportunity for tranquillity and staring into nothingness. While for some this may be considered an unfortunate variety, for others it is perfectly suitable. And if one prefers to cultivate a healthful tan, the occasions are seemingly limitless.