I’m in the Florida Keys lying next to a palm tree but I’m a little homesick for New Jersey. I’m used to a life that is more fast paced, high-energy, and involves more sweating in nightclubs than laying in lawn chairs. I’ve enjoyed my trip but it blows my mind that on the same coast as my hometown, I can feel like I’m in another world. The scenery looks different, the attitudes have changed, and I especially don’t recognize any of the artistic culture. I started to realize when I passed mailboxes shaped like fish just how much our surroundings affect the way we express ourselves. Living in a community that is focused on beaches, fishing, and rum, means that all of the art galleries we pass - and there are a lot of them - mirror the lifestyle that the inhabitants are living. I come from a place where art is often interactive and abstract, so when I keep running into painted signs that say, “It’s five o’ clock somewhere!”, it’s hard to see the appeal. When I see clocks depicting fish heads with open mouths, I’m disturbed. My friends and I agreed that outside of the ocean, the only place that fish belong is rolled up into a piece of sushi - not on a pendant, a Christmas tree ornament, and certainly not as mailbox décor.
But there is something else that the artwork says around here - that people are happy. I laugh when I see canvasses reading “party like a pirate, drunk and naked” and I assume that when Key West-ers come to New York and see galleries showcasing boxes of pills as artistic expression they wonder how we tri-state folk got to be so uptight and miserable.
“We love it down in the Keys!”, every person I meet says. Strangers wave hello when they pass me. I’ve been offered a ride twice in 2 days. That would never happen in New York and not just because New Yorkers dont drive. All of the pelican drawings and glass-blown dolphins partially tell me shitty taste, but also tell me that people here love the life that they live and would never trade it for a Jersey Beach house.