By LESLIE LINSLEY Special to The Citizen
So here's the thing. There are lots of complaints in Key West. I recognize them because I hear them all summer, in some form or other, in my town of Nantucket. I am a devout reader of what has become affectionately called "the whiners' column." There's always a complaint about bicycle riders going the wrong way, not stopping at lights or stop signs, and wobbling all over the place with a kid or two in a "drag along" carriage contraption. Then there's the resident who comes home from work only to find the clearly marked resident parking space in front of her house is occupied by a car with a Texas license plate. To make matters worse, it's still there in the morning. Garbage isn't in the proper receptacles, you can't find a parking space downtown and when you do you have to fight the crowds on Duval Street when all you wanted to do was run into Express to return something you bought too hastily, actually believing the giant "sale" sign in the window, which, by the way, is against the HARC law of the land. Who needs two of the same item in order to get one free? And just as an aside, Banana Republic is just as guilty.
The cruise ships are a biggie in the complaint department, and what should be done about those "aliens" who arrive on cruise ships, or the aliens complaining about the inhospitableness and how "they will never visit here again." The corruption perpetrated on the honest taxpaying citizens by the Bubba system is a source of ongoing aggravation. Minor complaints involve bad manners on and off the Little League field, the new school building is too big, Peary Court is "bound to become a den of iniquity," or worse yet an exclusive country club, and the noise from the sirens is enough to send most Key Westers to a sleep-deprived clinic. Then there's the issue of the fence on North Roosevelt Boulevard. One of my favorite complaints a few years ago was from a naked man on a bicycle who, when arrested, told the policeman his clothes had been stolen.
When I return to Nantucket, here's what I'll be reading in my local paper. Fortunately, it's just a weekly, so we're only allowed to vent one day a week, but there's no limit to the length of the letters. Everyone likes to express themselves in print.
There is no place to park in town. We do not have meters, just whopping parking tickets if you stay in one spot for more than a half hour (tires get chalked -- a primitive system at best). We don't have street lights, so bikers go willy-nilly all over the place, and have a propensity for going the wrong way on one-way streets. We have cobblestones, so that slows them down a bit. But then they complain about the effect the cobblestones have on their brains. Day trippers -- the equivalent of cruise ship passengers -- come on a ferry, there are four a day. Our whiners say they come in the morning and leave at the end of the day, and in between buy a T-shirt and walk in the middle of the road like they do in Disney World. Sound familiar?
And this is why when my friend Rose called to ask what I've been doing all winter, I could honestly say "being totally superficial and shallow." That is the truth. I have become a person who can finally admit that I cannot solve most of these problems, in fact not a one.
So I have concentrated on being concerned only with how things look. This I can improve upon. I fill my house with flowers. I buy plants for the deck. I spend a great deal of time picking out the perfect, non-scented candles at Pier 1 Imports and am overjoyed when I need something from the Dollar Tree. I relish my weekly shopping trips with my best island girlfriends and love having lunch with amazing artists and designers. We do not discuss politics or anything more meaningful than the great new Ray-Bans with the black rims that one artist assures us gets even older women into Miami clubs, a fact we all file away "just in case." This has not been a problem any of us was aware we might have. Now we are enlightened. I find this bit of information endlessly fascinating.
And this is how I know it is time for me to go back to where I come from. When you read this, I will be styling my shop for our upcoming season. I will be taking serious stock of my house, my garden, my world. I will be writing my magazine and newspaper articles or maybe a book about pretty things in houses and the people who know how to create a fine nest. I can solve these problems.
What I cannot figure out is where I will park my car this summer and am wondering if I ride my bike will a crazy driver run me off the cobblestones. I will be wishing I were back in Key West, where the same problems will be plaguing the islanders when I arrive next February. Let's face it. We live in a resort town. It comes with the territory.
Leslie Linsley has written more than 50 books on crafts, decorating and home style. She resides on Nantucket with her husband, photographer Jon Aron, and has a store on the island that specializes in her one-of-a-kind creations. Her latest book is "Key West, a Tropical Lifestyle" (Monacelli Press), with photos by Terry Pommett.