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How Did the Most Southeasterly City Get Tagged Key West?

Every island had a welcoming committee with their pretty blue lights perched atop their cars, just waiting for a chance to properly welcome you.

That’s right Key West has always had this nasty little question mark hanging off the end of it. I know I’m from Georgia, and I might be a little backward, but I never understood the name.

It was about time to find out. I’ve had a wicked sense of direction all my life and am just smart enough to believe that Key West is South. Turns out, I am right; it is the southernmost city in America.

If you want to live any farther south you must make it to the next island – a mere 90 miles to Cuba. This move requires a passport, a good grasp of the Spanish language and a dog-eared copy of the Communist Manifesto.

So with all this, shouldn’t it be called Key South? See it’s a legitimate question. Even the thickest country boy needs basic navigational skills to bass fish on his local lake.

Surely most of us realize that Key West is one of the most easterly cities in America. If you want to move any farther East, you must simply make a little 60-mile hop, and you’ll be on the island of Freeport, in the Bahamas.

Pay attention there may be a test, next question. Why not Key East? I have had a few rough nights in my life, followed by a few rough days called hangovers. I have spent them looking for the exact location of the car, motorcycle or boat I was driving before developing said hangover. I cannot imagine what kind of hangover would cause a person to name the most southeasterly city in America, Key West.

There I did it, I exposed my vast wealth of ignorance to the general public once again. It’s a well known fact that when Columbus discovered America or more aptly South America, he thought he had rediscovered China.  I mean honestly, the Spanish discovered half the known world of the time, named it some of the craziest stuff imaginable and then traded it like baseball cards, and lost most of it.

Turns out a Spaniard named Key West; who’s surprised? The original Spanish name is Keyo Weso, which means Bone Island. It was a communal cemetery for the local Indians and was literally littered with bones. The island was the westernmost Key with fresh water, and so the Americanized translation of its name actually makes some sort of sick sense. There at least I answered one of those stupid questions we all have and want to answer before we die. I’m working on why next.

The trip to Key West started at six a.m.. Well that would be my time, it actually started about six forty five a.m. which would be Mary Carmen’s interpretation of six a.m.. The trip down is about 150 miles and requires crossing tons of islands and bridges. There are many, vast three foot wide beaches interspersed between the hundreds of Lego houses stacked neatly on top of each other. Okay that was extremely sarcastic, while some of it is highly overdeveloped, there are plenty of beautifully well preserved places to enjoy.

Every three foot beach we passed was packed, and cars lined the road for miles, all parked on, near or under a sigh which said, No Parking. There were hundreds of people on a beach that would only hold twenty and only hold five of them comfortably. The other hundreds had to stay in the water while twenty stayed on the sand. To get out someone had to get in. Every time you came off of one of the very scenic bridges you were on another island. One of the most impressive things, every island had its own welcoming committee. They sat there with their pretty blue lights perched atop their cars, just waiting for their opportunity to properly welcome you to their island.

The highway was strewn with their buddies eagerly welcoming as many as possible. I found and took pictures of a three foot Iguana who decided he’d had enough and chased me for a while until I quit. Don’t you hate lizards with attitude? By the time, we returned home, I had driven four hundred miles on about fifty miles worth of cigarettes.

Now for the truth. I loved the Keys, the food was excellent, the atmosphere was superb, and the people were extremely welcoming. I can’t imagine a better place to be a pirate, in the world. If I ever come up with 7.3 million bucks, I’m buying that 400 square foot bungalow just down the block from the house which belongs to Hemingway’s cats. 

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Nick DeMai June 07, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Don't forget Hawaii is now part of America and lies pretty far south!
Kennesaw Taylor June 07, 2012 at 12:55 PM
AAARRRRRGGGGG Honolulu would be the most southwestern city. I been there about eight times and loved it too. I wish they could build a bridge to it. Check out my column Sunday, it'll be about crazy cat people and garbage disposals who hate spinach and those who love them.

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