“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” Mark Twain
The rooster that alarm-clocked me this morning reminded me; Key West has the highest WHAT THE %@#&! factor of any place I’ve ever been.
Oh, you’ll see/hear/taste/smell/feel some surprising things in New York, Tijuana, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Munich, London and Chapel Hill. But, for sheer volume of WHAT THE %@#&!, you’ve got to come to Key West. It is a wonderful microcosm of 21st Century America.
A friend of mine has been a solid, well-respected businessman in this area for 30+ years and, to him, all this stuff is like the stop sign at the end of your street; you see it and note it, but after you move past, it’s gone. He said, “The tourists love this stuff, but the locals think, ‘Just get rid of it.’” He also realizes, though, the value of the tourists.
Last night I leaned against a lamppost on Duval Street (WHAT THE %@#&! Central) and watched people’s reactions as they walked past one of the drag queen shows. As you can imagine, facial expressions ranged from horror to delight; from surprise to nothing-special. I wanted to be close enough to hear comments and the range was what you’d expect. “Wonderful!” “Godless!” “OMG!” (Literally, “O...M...G!”) and “Oh, My God!” “I loved that dress!” “Why do they do that?” And, the night’s winner, “What would their mother say?!!!”
Obviously, the comments are based on what’s normal for those folks…and, what they think normal should be for the rest of us. (see the Mark Twain quote above)
In Wednesday’s Raleigh News and Observer, writer J. Peder Zane talks about how the media is increasingly seen as an “enemy of the people,” as the president put it. And, while Zane certainly does not agree he does offer that the frequently left-leaning focus of the press is not supporting America’s claim to be the world’s free speech leader.
He says, “I know I’m right, but concede they have reasons for their beliefs. Most of them, however, don’t give my views the same credit.
Zane’s first sentence is how I see Key West, Duval Street and a lot of what is going on on our national stage. Unfortunately, lots of Americans seem to fit in the second sentence.
In all honesty, I like the WHAT THE %@#&! factor of life. So, the message I always get from Key West is, “Fun is the focus and don’t take yourself too seriously.”
What if we looked at what is going on in America now in the same way? I mean…hey…you’re saying/thinking WHAT THE %@#&! every time you turn on the news or read a newspaper, anyway…right?
(and head for Key West the first chance you get!)
If you know someone who might appreciate this, please pass it on.