#1 - OLD
Just old enough to be fascinating but not past it's prime. Key West has so much accumulated history to be staggering...
Heat, mosquitoes, swaps and mangroves; the Navy; cigars, Cuba; turtles; sponges; wreckers, Captains and widows; wrecks, treasures and divers; nature and architecture; artists and tourists.
#2 - GENUINE
It's beautiful (but so is Palm Beach, St Augustine, Sannibel or much of California). What makes Key West's beauty so great and different is its genuineness - reflecyed both in its nature and buildings but also its people. Are there so many artists here because they are trying to capture the beauty of the place or its people?
#3 - COMMUNITY
Many places have community. What is different about Key West's community is that it's built on diversity. So much of humanity is represented here. When you walk down a street towards Duval count how many times you can say 'hello' to your passing pedestrians.
#4 - "un-AMERICAN"
I mean this in the nicest way.... The sun reduces the energy levels. Even the biggest houses or gardens are small. It's a rebellious liberal town in conservative Florida. Bycicles are decorated by Fantasy Fest beads and boas. There are few cars and many people walk (this makes a big difference). Drop outs and failure are accepted and loved rather then rejected and cast out.
#5 - THE OCEAN
On an island 2 miles by 4 miles you just can't escape it. The ocean has a pervasive influence on Key West's past and present. And that's just great. Just like salt water its influence seeps into and corrupts everything about the island. You just can't fight it so go with the flow.
But is Key West getting less different or more different?
Key West is changing... but for the worse or better based on these criteria?