Rob Valle used to fly fighter jets for the U.S. Navy. Now he flies charter flights for his company Air Key West. Since late March that has included a weekly scheduled flight from Key West International Airport to Havana. He fits nine passengers, including one in the co-pilot seat next to him. They pay $525 for the round-trip flight.
Key West's literary heritage is overwhelmingly associated with one writer: Ernest Hemingway. The Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winner's former home is a popular museum. And every summer there's a look-alike contest where white-bearded men compete to look like Papa.
But recently, the island has turned to celebrating another 20th-century writer who made Key West his home: Tennessee Williams.
The Florida Keys have been under a moratorium on new hotel rooms for decades. But the islands are seeing a flood of new properties open, mostly through renovations and conversions.
In all, about 1,000 new rooms are being added or coming back on line after being closed for renovation and rebuilding. The Keys have a total of 15,000 lodging units, which includes hotel rooms, RV spots and short-term vacation rentals.
While the Florida Keys may provide a fertile setting for crime fiction by the likes of Carl Hiaasen and James W. Hall, in reality the islands are getting safer, according to statistics from local law enforcement agencies.
After months of contentious debate and a 4-3 vote, the Key West city commission made a decision Tuesday night on a site for a new homeless shelter.
The site chosen was the same one recommended months ago by city staff. Last October, the commission deadlocked 3-3 on a decision to move there and told staff to explore opening a shelter at the city's transportation building on Palm Avenue.
The animal shelter run by the Florida Keys SPCA provides outdoor play areas for the dogs and cats in its care, runs spay-neuter clinics and generally tries to keep up with current approaches in humane treatment of animals. But it's a matter of making do in old quarters.
There are play yards so the dogs spend at least four hours a day outside. The cats have colonies with access to covered areas outside. But none of that is much help when the Keys get heavy rain, a common occurrence during subtropical summers.
Key West’s literary community was already gathered over the weekend for the annual Literary Seminar when they learned they had lost one of their own. Novelist Robert Stone died Saturday in Key West. He was 77.
In the '60s, '70s and '80s, waves of Cuban immigrants crossed the Florida Straits, seeking political freedom and economic opportunity. Soon they were starting their own businesses and winning political office, infusing Cuban culture into the DNA of a South Florida city.
The city was Key West. And this was the 1860s, '70s and '80s.
At 12:18 a.m. Tuesday, the two men who won the first ruling overturning Florida's ban on gay marriage became the first gay couple to get married in Monroe County.
Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones exchanged vows in front of 500 people — including close friends, attorneys, total strangers, TV crews and a few tourists.
The Rev. Steve Torrance, a chaplain with the Key West Police Department and minister with the Metropolitan Community Church declared them legally married, and the couple was greeted with cheers, applause and the sound of a conch shell.
Aaron Huntsman and William Jones, plaintiffs in a case challenging Florida's ban on gay marriage, rode a giant wedding cake down Duval Street as grand marshals of the 2014 Fantasy Fest parade. Next week, they plan to get married for real.
Key West police detectives recently conducted an undercover sting operation they called "Operation Safe Hire" targeting Uber drivers. Two drivers were cited with violating city ordinances that require drivers of vehicle for hire to have a permit from the city and for the vehicles themselves to have a special license.
The maximum penalty for each violation is a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.
Key Westers and their canine companions, more specifically ones of the short-legged variety, took to the streets Wednesday for the island's 10th annual Dachshund Walk. This year an estimated 175 dachshunds took part, along with 75 dogs of other breeds, including a chihuahua flash mob.