Florida Keys

Paradise has been described as many things. There are also numerous quotes about what paradise is, where it is or how to find it. Like it is some kind of big secret, hidden knowledge. What is it? Is it inside, a state of mind? Is it outside of you?

An A-List of quotes I collected include: “Create a paradise anywhere you go.” – Bjork, “Wherever my travels may lead, paradise is where I am”, Voltaire.  “Paradise is here or nowhere: you must take your joy with you or you will never find it.” – Orison Swett Marden. My particular favorite is “Life is a paradise for those who love many things with a passion”. – Leo Buscaglia.

Sitting on my porch one afternoon, staring at the gulf,  I decided all the quotes were B.S.  I am not sure why this thought suddenly slapped me in the face.  After all, I had spent a lot of time collecting and re-reading these quotes. It might have been influenced by the Bud Lite I was sipping from a can through a straw. I’m the only person I know that does this, but hey – I live in The Keys and we all have our quirks. It’s mandatory.

At any rate, I have thrown, recycled, my quote notes away. I decided that Paradise, like Art, can not be accurately defined or described.  It’s too many different things to too many different people.  But, I will tell you this secrete, it is definitely in The Keys, where I live.  If you come to The Keys, settle somewhere in nature, you’ll find it. Inside and outside yourself.

The Beach Boys tried to capture the Florida Keys in song.  When I managed a small Boutique Hotel guests used to ask me “Hey, where is Kokomo Key?” This initially gave me a jolt, they didn’t seem to understand that it didn’t exist! Sometimes they wouldn’t believe me like the locals were hiding it for ourselves or something. I even had a honeymooning couple offer me a bribe for a map.  They wanted to make their honeymoon trip memorable  Perhaps to “Defy a little gravity” there, as the song says.  This was the same couple that asked, “How long does it take to get to The Keys, we’re going to Key West today.” Umm… “You’re in The Keys now?’  I put this as a question trying to be polite. This particular query was put to all staff regularly.  People often do not think they’re in The Keys unless they’re in Key West.  This question was right on up there with guests asking “Can we swim on your private beach?”  Well… “No, no swimming on the beach – but, you can swim in the ocean next to the beach!!” we responded smiling, sometimes giggling, as though they had said something all witty. You get enough weirdly worded and silly questions a day and eventually, it will give you a vague and subtle urge to beat your head against the wall.  I feel that way about Kokomo questions. I am here to tell you there is no Kokomo!  It is about as real as the “Beach Boys” being “Boys”! Geez, I’m guessing they were in their 50 when they released that song. Kokomo is a figment of the Beach Boy, actually grown men, imagination.

I always figured if I won the Lottery, the first thing I would do is buy an available small island here, name it Kokomo, pitch a tent on it, and rent it.  I would ferry people out on a boat and charge “an arm and a leg”.  I might even invite a famous Beach Boy/Man to stay there for free, just for advertising.

The only place I have found where Paradise exists consistently is here. As my friend, Steve always says “Yep, this place is what the tourists pay the big bucks for.”  They do pay big bucks for it. Because they have found it, they return again and again.

I did not decide to return, I decided to stay. I live here.

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