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Key West our fantasy island.

It is a winter evening, sometime after dinner, and you are biking around the back streets of Old Town Key West. Shorts, a T-shirt, and flip-flops are all you need. The air; which was hot and humid a few hours ago, is now balmy and fragrant. The shadowy lane down which you are riding is lined with wooden houses, some tin-roofed and humble, others double-galleried, gingerbread.

Much of the charm of Key West--tiny, flat, set in a spangled sea 150 miles south of Miami--is inextricable from its residential neighborhoods and from the bungalows and villas that line their streets. Of course, the island has its share of big hotels and alarmingly huge cruise ships disgorging sunburned tourists onto the sidewalks around Mallory Square. But head a block off Duval Street and you find a world of porches and vines, roosters and cats, and corner bodegas selling cafe con leche and Cuban sandwiches.

You will also find a world that for most of its history has welcomed creative types as diverse as Robert Frost and Tennessee Williams as well as a large population of gay residents and visitors.

Much of Key West's gay life--where it is not simply integrated into the life of the community overall--takes place behind the walls of its guesthouses. But the whole island embraces the live-and-let-live ethos that makes it appealing to visitors of any sexual orientation--and to the lucky people who call the place home.

Morgan Mead first visited Key West (page 82) in 1986 and returns whenever possible. When not on the road, he lives in another exotic seaside village, Rockport, Mass.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:our towns
Author:Mead, Morgan
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Feb 3, 2004
Words:267
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