To say that Key West is not abundant with, encased within inspiration, would be a ridiculous understatement. The local color, by which I mean characters, architecture, history, folklore, make it permanently exotic and evocative, and I’m struggling with how to begin the story of my new, permanent residency. I suppose it makes sense to start with my house and my neighbors. This is urban living (with palm trees instead of oaks, iguanas instead of squirrels), properties are close and neighbors important.
I bought the house from Neighbor 1. The cottage was built in 1928, completely and meticulously renovated in 2009. It is only 700 sq. ft., and coming from a much larger home, it is a challenging but welcome transition (more on that another time). It is quintessential, Bahamian cottage on the outside, but the inside is much more Balinese, sexy by way of an ambiguous gender and tranquil by soft, filtered, natural light (I, personally, find it intriguing when the outsides don’t necessarily match the insides). Its location at the end of a walking lane is a fairy tale come to life, and I am in love, languishing in the honeymoon for as long as I can, for as we all know, honeymoons do come to an end.
Neighbor 1 is a little too short to be called a walrus of a man, but close. His personality is indeed walrusy. Round and white-haired and full of laughter and chatter and a “stay-and-indulge-me” likability that is hard to say no to. In a long and convoluted story, which he is only to happy to share, Neighbor 1 struck a deal with the Jams World clothing label, and has become both manufacturer and distributor for several of their products. He named my cottage Jams Shack, and hung its signage over the side porch door. There are beautiful, custom made, Jams fabric curtains in my living room, Jams fabric lampshades and a few jammin’ accessories throughout (maybe a touch too much?). I thought about changing the name to Pam’s Shack, making it more my own while extending a nod to the original—but to do so may be bad luck (as in boats), so for now the name will remain as is. And I don’t want to offend Neighbor 1. He hung a traffic light (horizontally) over the tall gate in the fence between our properties, a reverse order light that flashes red, amber, green and back to red. It’s quite pretty at night, the colors hanging on palm leaves, a slow and skewed progression that is so typical Key West. How crazy is that? My neighboring hanging a traffic light in his beautiful, tropical yard.
I don’t know Neighbor 2 as well, but I can touch his house from my back deck. I first saw him outside my kitchen window, a curly haired, small man, brandishing a long pole in the lane. He saw me in the window and laughed and motioned me outside. He owns the house on my other side, which is vacant and up for sale, Neighbor 2 living with his girlfriend elsewhere on the island. His weapon was a custom made avocado picker, and he shook my hand and handed me two massive pieces of fruit from his tree. Come to find out, through natural and easy conversation, that No.2 was a teacher at Annapolis High School, right next door to the town I had just left. And, come to find out later that evening, as I was talking to my realtor friends on the street and No. 2 drove by on his bike and called out my name, this neighbor is a body painter—the body painter that my friends employ for Fantasy Fest, Key West’s spin on Mardi Gras. Neighbor 2 will most likely be painting my body this October. There’s almost too much to tell. Stay tuned.
photo credit: xlr8r.com