Sunday, August 28, 2005

Fear and Loathing in Key West

The Keynoter reported this yesterday: Ed Swift doesn't want The Real World to film next door to his house on Key Haven. My favorite part of this article states "The Swift family "can no longer enjoy entire sections of their home for fear of ending up on national television," reads the suit. In addition, it charges that the noise and lights, once filming begins, would keep the family "from enjoying normal daily activities including sleeping, relaxing, reading, working, and quiet conversation."
To condense a history of controversy, Mr. Swift has been work spaces on issues such as development and transportation (some of which can be read about
here and in The Key West Citizen ). Ed Swift is a partner in Historic Tours of America, offering tours of different varieties in several cities and towns in the United States. In Key West, HTA operates the Conch Tour Train.
The Key West political landscape is always lively. Astonishingly bold hypocrisy, high profile corruption, and now this very ironic court case.
The irony is in that the privacy of Mr. Swift's family life has been interrupted, and the beauty of the irony is The Conch Tour Train. I quote from the website "See the Best on the tour that's been entertaining visitors to the Island City since 1958. The Conch Tour Train is one of Florida's most popular attractions, and for a good reason. Our expert 'engineers' and friendly staff have delighted over 10 million guests with the legends and lores of this charming tropical paradise."
We live on the conch tour train route through Bahama Village. Every day the train comes down Thomas Street going about 10mph with the driver/tour guide blathering on about the old Bahamian/Haitian neighborhood, which features an old house that looks like a church 3 houses down from ours. To bring this house to the attention of the passengers, the tour operator says "and on your left..." directly in front of our house, at which point 50 - 80 camera pointing tourons rubberneck at us raking the yard, sitting on the porch, rolling out our garbage trolleys, carrying our groceries, playing cards, having conversations, eating dinner - all the things living in Florida allows one to do out of doors on most days.
A good portion of the tourists who ride the Conch Train come from the cruise ships. These folks are generally on the island for several hours, and are immediately exposed to the venue because HTA has contracted with the City of Key West and the Navy to transport the cruise passengers from the port into the city, depositing them directly in front of the HTA ticket counters.
This survey from the Key West Chamber of Commerce gives statistics on cruise ship passengers in Key West. If only half (and anyone living in Key West knows that that is a very modest guess) of these people elect to take the Conch Train, then we have had well over a million people gaping at us in the last few years. Let's do math, shall we? In 2005, January - April figures alone show 471,547 cruise ship passengers have visited Key West. If you take the averages from 2003 and 2004, May - August would put approximately 284,000 more for about 3/4 of a million passengers in 2005. Take a generously modest estimate of half, put them on the conch train at $22.50 and Mr. Swift has dragged about 8.5 million dollars worth of people past my house this year alone while I am relaxing, reading, working, and having quiet conversation.
Mr. Swift is upset that a commercial endeavor is taking place and interrupting his quality of life at home for the next 4 months - but over 10 million people have been crawling past our homes for the past 47 years, taking photographs and videotaping us while we carry on with the business of our every day lives.
Welcome to the real world in Key West, Mr. Swift.


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