Revisiting Charles Kuralt's America for Key West in February:
It is a speck of rock in a pastel sea. Palms whisper. Songbirds sing. The place has never known a frost. People spend their days at rest in wicker chairs on gingerbread verandas. Flowers bloom all year and love is free. Without a hint of irony, everybody calls it paradise.
. . . .
Key West seduced me and changed me. I arrived wearing a blue blazer, gray trousers, and polished black shoes. The first day, I shed the jacket. The second day, I changed to canvas boat shoes. The third day, still feeling overdressed, I dug around in my duffle bag and found my shorts and a polo shirt. A day or two later, except for excursions into town, I gave up the shorts for a bathing suit and took off the shirt.
And the shoes.
And stopped shaving. . . .
The place has no dignity, but much style. I came upon this observation in a perceptive history and guide written by a Keys novelist, Joy Williams, and before I left, I saw the truth of it. Key West is the greatest of all the end-of-the-road towns. This assures its lack of decorum. The island is full of dreamers, drifters and dropouts, spongers and idlers and barflies, writers and fishermen, islanders from the Caribbean and gays from the big cities, painters and pensioners, treasure hunters, real estate speculators, smugglers, runaways, old Conchs and young lovers. The residents are all elaborately tolerant of one another, and that is where the style comes in. If you wish to be known by your first name only, everybody understands. It's simple that way and---who knows?---it may offer a little protection against some warrant or grievance from another time and place.