Key West, FL II

The Programmer says: "there are two things to do in Key West: you can drink on a boat or you can drink on land." If you ignore the local population, he is largely right. Key West is a splotch of semi-historic buildings full of bars, candy stores, and curio shops selling t-shirts depicting pairs of legs topped by breasts with captions like "the perfect woman." By 11 o'clock in the morning overweight, pink tourists totter along the sidewalks on stumpy legs, plastic beer cups clutched in soft fingers. Fat-faced children squeal, parents burp, and a few retirees get their names scratched into seashells.

Outside of the historic district, the island is a strip mall complete with the usual suburban assortment of decaying auto dealerships and nail salons, all of which seem surreally out of place floating on a tropical sand bar in the Atlantic. There is one hill with a large rainbow painted on the side of it: Mt. Trashmore.

Key West also has housing projects. A large black community lives on the island, older women in fine Sunday clothing and gold jewelry walking to church under the intermittent shadows of palms. This world is immediately next to the tourist district, but remains invisible next to the neon lights and pirate costumes of Duvall Street.

The Instructor is a freelance satellite operator hired out by television networks during the day, but he also trains people in his community to become electricians and plumbers. "How many black people do you see on Duvall?" he asks rhetorically. "How many of those businesses do you think are black-owned? Yeah. None of them." The Instructor is disgusted by the local education system—"how are people supposed to get jobs if they can't get an education? How are the supposed to get loans to start businesses? We're fighting a system of lies." His father was the head of the local NAACP decades before and he is no stranger to activism, though he eschews the label. The Instructor has been trying to arrange ride-alongs with the local power company for his electrical students, but they have repeatedly denied his requests. He suspects their motivation is racial. There are only so many decent jobs on the island: "why would they want to help our kids take jobs from their kids?" As for the future of the island? "Oh, the tourist area will probably drive all the real people out..."