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Hanging out in paradise is fine, but ... PERSPECTIVE CINDY HOEDEL

LEAVING PARADISE IS tough.

But if your spouse, kids, dogs and employer (the one that sent you to paradise) are in Kansas City, you can’t stay in Key West forever.

Or even for another week.

I was in Key West for a shot of R&R at the end of a visit to the Miami Design District. I was staying with friends who have a life straight out of “Rich Man, Poor Man.” After sailing around the Caribbean for a few years in a boat my friend’s husband built himself (!), they bought, renovated and then ran a bed-and-breakfast on Key West.

If you’ve ever watched “Faulty Towers,” you know that running a hotel is a pain, so my friends eventually sold the B&B and bought a big old two-story house with covered porches, five bedrooms and a big pool across the street from the public beach. They lived there while they renovated it.

Now that house is finished, they rent it out, no breakfast included. I stayed with them at another big old house they’ve bought and are rehabbing. It is just off Duval Street a couple of blocks from the marina. It has a pool, an outdoor spa and an amazing master bath with a sunken tub with river-rock tile on the floor and walls and two shower features: a cascading waterfall and a rainfall pan showerhead.

When you’re staying at a place like that, it’s hard to resist when your friends are coaxing you to stay. Especially when they have a brilliant plan to get you out of going back to work: “Just call your boss and say you decided to hang out.”

That is such a Key West solution.

If I lived in Key West, it would probably work. Employers on the island probably field calls every day from workers who have traveled elsewhere and decided to “hang out.”

Hanging out is a respected pursuit in Key West. So is listening to the wind blow and watching the sun go down.

The unwound attitude is enhanced by physical pleasures offered by the soft tropical air, a warm sea to swim in (82 degrees on average in October), flat roads to bicycle on and boats, boats, boats.

Leaving paradise is tough. But if you are lucky, what happens upon returning from paradise is this: You notice things you’d have to give up in paradise.

My fall garden, for example. I’m sure Key West is a fine climate for growing tomatoes and basil, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be growing Swiss chard, bok choy, shelling peas and 10 varieties of lettuce like I am now.

And tulips — I bought 60 Pink Impression bulbs that I’m going to get in the ground any day now. No tulips in paradise.

Perhaps the biggest loss would be college hoops, the only sport I follow, possibly because it is a huge distraction from winter.

Of course, they have television in Key West, but the weather is so nice I’d probably never turn it on.

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