The Cedar Keys in Florida are a small group of islands located in the Gulf of Mexico about half way between Tampa and Apalachicola in what is known as, “The Nature Coast.” It is also called “Old Florida,” due to the lack of development and ubiquitous strip malls. Cedar Key is a small island town of less than 1000 residents that support themselves clam farming and with a modest tourist industry. This place is every bit of the old fishing village one can conjure up in imagination; weathered piers and fish shacks, with well worn boats built for a singular purpose. A small group of artists also call the island home, establishing a collective and adding a hard to miss funky charm. The pace is slow, the work is hard or long, and there is little more than nature to provide entertainment. It is frequently compared to what Key West was during the time of Hemingway.
The more Alayne and I travel around this country, the more I realize that there are many different Americas. As I write this we are in the town of Cedar Key, Florida where the local mantra is, “If it can go well, it will.” This is a very optimistic view for a town that most would consider sleepy with limited options. Yet, the residents and visitors alike smile, wave and laugh with regularity. This remote island town, almost an hour away from any “real” civilization, is contented to go its own way. In places like this that resist “Starbucking,” the homogenization of America, where the locals feel little need to keep up with the Jones’s or anyone else for that matter, feel authentic and real. The American spirit of freedom and independence is alive here. Often it seems the further one is away from “civilization,” the more civilized and community oriented the people are.