30 March 2006

I can fly, I can fly, I can fly!

But only in Cessna 172s. Still, I can fly! Yaay! All by myself, too! Isn't that cool? I think it's cool. I'm hoping to take a big trip this weekend, too, though I don't know whether the weather will hold.

No other news to report.

29 March 2006

Smitty Happy

Smitty very happy.

Smitty flew today.


It was only a half-hour of flight time, nothing big, but we flew around the area a little, I got used to the traffic pattern again. Only got one landing, so I'm going up again tomorrow with an instructor to beat up the pattern; once I get a few nice landings in we'll call it a day and I'll be signed off to fly Cessna 172s and similar things (things like Cessna 152s, and 182s, and Piper Arrows and Cherokees and such). I may try to get a plane again for Friday, but maybe not.

But still! I flew! It was great! I mean, it was odd--I'm used to a really large airplane. This little Cessna, it climbs so slowly, and it's so easily buffeted by wind gusts. And it turns on a dime, it's amazing. I forgot what this kind of flying felt like.

I can't wait to go back tomorrow!

28 March 2006

Perpetuum Miserere

You know, I really hate those blogs by whining depressed teenage girls that just go on and on about how horrible their lives are. And I don't want this to turn into something like that. But this has been a rather dismal day, and it hasn't been much of a week, either. I'll spare the litany and try to make light of a few things.

So, I went to the physical therapist on Monday. Today I hurt worse than ever. At least I have some muscle relaxers that don't immediately put me to sleep, but I've grown concerned about whether things are really getting any better, as I'm inclined to think they're not.

Despite the increased pain I've been trying desperately to fly this week. I scheduled three flights for the week, for Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, before I pick up the airplane on Saturday to fly north for a bachelor party.
Monday I went to the airport and the instructor didn't show up. Okay, no problem. I figured I could wait until Tuesday. I came home and fell asleep with my face in the crossword book on the living room floor. I don't think it's healthy to spend so much time lying on the living room floor.
I was looking forward to today's flight that much more, because yesterday's didn't go. I met the instructor yesterday, we were going to do a bienniel review--although I got hold of some of my flight records today that will probably eliminate the need for that review--and he was confident we could get the whole matter finished in an hour. Then I could fly again Thursday and be ready to go for the weekend.

And of course today I had to call the airport and cancel the flight. Weird set of circumstances. I could attempt to explain but it would be, oh, five, six pages worth of jargon, so I'll spare you. What happened was, at the very last possible minute (today) I discovered that we were sending out an individual on deployment, to fill a deployment line we don't actually have. It's at another squadron at another base.

I can fix problems like this. It isn't really hard to do. But we're trying to send the guy out tomorrow. I can't necessarily fix things like this in 24 hours. I've done it before (I am, after all, a minor deity of Mobility), but then that time I wasn't trying to leave work at 2'30 to go to the airport. I had to cancel the flight so I could make sure there wouldn't be any unpleasant surprises tomorrow (as there often are).

Get this though. It's my boss's fault. He said so himself and I totally agree. He shook hands with the squadron commander at the other base and agreed that we'd fill the other squadron's line this month if they'd fill one of our lines in August. No problem. The real world can work on handshakes, but the Air Force is in no way the real world. We occasionally bomb the real world, but that's about it. A handshake, you see, is agreement between two people. But in the Air Force it takes at least ten people to get anything done. This means 4/5 of the required people have no idea what's happening. This is actually so common in the military we created the word 'snafu' to describe it.

As I said, this particular snafu is entirely my boss's fault, and he said so. And I had to cancel a flight I was really looking forward to (I managed to get one for tomorrow). And I was in pain the entire time. So I should hate my boss right now, right? But I don't. Normally I would; I don't care for authority and generally dislike most authority figures, if not immediately then eventually. That has not happened with this boss in almost a year, and given that I'd been in a sour mood for quite some time when today's little fiasco cropped up, if this didn't turn me against him then I can't imagine anything will. This is such an unusual situation for me it's creepy. I mean, I'm actually a little scared.

Yes, it's just another day here in Smitty's World. Interesting things also happened in the World Outside (the Hamdan trial, primarily), but I just feel like wallowing in self pity. And, you know, watching American Idol...

25 March 2006

How Krazy is Krazy Kat?

She's stopped talking to her advisers, who are leaving her campaign in droves.

She's stopped talking to Florida media, preferring to make all her announcements on national cable news shows.

She announced plans to put "everything on the line" in her campaign, her entire inheritence from her father... except it turned out later she didn't actually have access to any of her father's money yet.

She's started quoting scripture on television.

She now says that "she's doing God's work" with her campaign (I wonder if the Almighty is pleased).

Now is word that she's finding new campaign staffers, because she wants to find people who are "really committed" to her. (This is the same, and only, critera George Bush uses to pick his staffers.)

Normally I don't make light of other peoples' religious views unless they're Scientologists, so I don't want this comment to seem that way, but... Harris seems to be putting a lot of stock--no, sorry, all her stock--in the notion that while it may seem impossible for us to see Krazy Kat winning this Senate race, she's doing "God's work" in the campaign and God doesn't see it as impossible.

But I wonder: does God want an unstable lunatic in the U.S. Senate? I'm just spitballing here, but maybe part of the reason Krazy Kat's campaign is doing so poorly is because, you know, God's already had a hand in things?

21 March 2006

Just Plain Dull

First of all, why 50's week? Please, for the love of God, how about a week where all of the contestants have to sing songs written during their lifetimes? Or songs that weren't Top 40 material the year their parents graduated from 1st grade? I was just plain bored tonight; this is the problem with American Idol--we still have 11 contestants. Eleven? Isn't that a little overboard? If the producers can't give us some decent themes and the performers can't, you know, perform... it's just not worth it.

So let's just go ahead and get rid of a bunch of people. Ace: sings through his nose, falsetto is consistently out of tune. Kevin: horrifying lack of talent and dreadful personality. Kellie: give me a freaking break, people. Let's lose her already. Chris: obviously one of the best performers, needs to quit and join Fuel or get signed to a record contract already and leave the contest to people who'll benefit from the continued exposure. Lisa: has talent, but isn't interesting. Lose her.

See? That wasn't so hard? Now we're down to six, enough for a one-hour program, and we've eliminated the four worst performers and Chris, who has outgrown the show. Am I right people? Let's move this along.

At Least It's Free

Although, free or not, I'm probably not going to use it.

I went to my doctor today, during sick call, to get a referral to the physical therapy clinic so I can sit down. Hey, guess what? The first appointment available is on April 5.

Ahem. The first appointment is over two weeks from now. Hello? I'm lying on my stomach in the living room? Little help?

That's exactly what you get here, little help. So it looks like, once again, I'll be finding a medical specialist out in the wider Tampa world rather than using the free health care on base. Awesome customer service.

In fairness, this is not at all the therapists' fault--there are simply way too many people in this area trying to use the hospital's services, and not nearly enough doctors, nurses, technicians, or space at our hospital. Tampa has tens of thousands of retired military folks, because it's a nice place to live and there's a great VA hospital network here, and the base with its commissary and all that. But... I don't know, it seems like an active duty person who's capacity to perform his job is hindered by his condition would, you know, move up the priority ladder a little. Maybe I don't understand the system. Maybe the system's broken. Could be either one.

In any event, if anyone, anyone at all, knows a good physical therapy clinic in Tampa, please write a comment, for the love of God.

20 March 2006


You thought I'd got the tree bit out of my system with that post of 100 trees. Ha!

I now have 127 trees on the list, though I did add in the native palms, which aren't much for shade. I also made some notes based on the University of Florida's Horticulture Deptartment's Tree Fact sheets.

I just had the strongest sense of deja vu, while writing that sentence...

Anyway, as UF is the state's main agricultural extension university the horticulture department discusses many facets of arboriculture in great detail, and goes so far as to make recommendations about trees that should be planted more. Among the trees so designated are the American Hornbeam and Redbay, which I recommended in the comments to the earlier post. Golly gee, it's neat when experts agree with you. (They also like the Hophornbeam, one of my all-time favorite trees.)

However, I'll save the list of recommended trees for another day. Today I wanted to suggest trees that should be planted instead of the hideous Stinking Pear Tree, or Bradford Pear as it is sometimes known (technically the Callery Pear). Aside from their floral stench (it's been compared to rotting meat, and more poetically to "dead fish in a dishwasher" (thank you, Port Tampa). But it is rather pretty. To bad it's not a good tree, according to UF: "...as 'Bradford' and some of the other cultivars approach 20 years old, they begin to fall apart in ice and wind storms due to inferior tight branch structure." (UF, surprisingly, does not mention the odor of Bradford Pears, though the Clemson University factsheet on the tree does.) Also, the things are native to China, and the last thing we need right now is more Chinese imports.

Forthwith, a selection of twelve flowering trees native to Florida! These are not my pictures; click the photo for a link to the site where I found it. I'd love to use my own pictures but all these trees could stand to be planted more--if they were, I'd have taken my own photos.

1. Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)

2. Tree Sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum)

3. Flatwoods Plum (Prunus umbellata)

4. Southern Crabapple (Malus angustifolia)

5. Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

6. Southern Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides)

7. Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

8. Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)

9. Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina)

10. American Smoketree (Cotinus obovatus)

11. Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)

12. Rusty Blackhaw (Viburnum rufidulum)

Now I'll admit these trees may not be as showy as the Chinese Stinking Pear, but they are native, and most of them have wonderful fragrances. Many of them have showy fruits that last into the autumn and winter, an added bonus.

Laid Out

I am writing to you today splayed on the floor in the living room on my stomach. I managed to throw my back out this weekend, and what with our unique paperwork-driven health care system in the military I can't get in to physical therapy until I go to my doctor, so I have to go to sick call tomorrow morning at 7'30 and sit in the waiting room. This will be amusing, since sitting for more than about a half hour really hurts.

It's all my parents' fault. It's their genes. My left hipbone is higher than my right hipbone, so my lower back is in a state of constant torsion. When I threw my back out the first time two and a half years ago, the therapist I saw expressed amazement that my back had adjusted to this so well. Apparently, though I sure can't prove it by looking in a mirror, my lower back muscles are much stronger on one side than the other from constantly trying to straighten out my spine. Lovely.

Every now and then I do something that causes my hips to pop and the one side moves about a quarter of an inch above the other side. This is what's happened now. It's wonderful, let me tell you. I can stand, as long as I walk. I can lie on my stomach or side. I can sit for a few minutes, longer if I put my right foot up under the other leg. And I can go to the doctor and ask him to send me to physical therapy so the therapist can reset my hips.

This is the most wonderful thing I've ever done, getting my hips reset. I had to recalibrate my pain scale to account for it. Of course a few minutes later it's all better and I can move around again. Still, that doesn't mean I'm especially looking forward to it.

Because I can't sit down for long I haven't been able to do anything. I was going to go fly yesterday afternoon but knew I'd be in pain the whole time and decided not to. I need to go flying, though, if I'm going to fly to the wedding, and dadgumit I'm going to fly to the wedding. Even if I have to cancel the Virginia students' weekend, I'm flying to the wedding. There's more, too--I was going to go to clay studio, but, uh... yeah, that means sitting down a lot. And I need to repot the carambola and key lime trees on the porch and plant some seeds (although I'd like to see the oak pollen decline a bit before I do that). Instead, I spent much of the day lying on the floor doing crossword puzzles. Hooray! Can't wait for tomorrow!

17 March 2006

A New Angle on Patriotism

I don’t read USA Today, but sometimes an article from that paper shows up in the DOD’s Earlybird news aggregator. This morning there was an article by Rick Hampson about how the Iraq war, entering its third year next month, has affected folks on this side of the pond.

First of all, I don’t know any of these people:
“Jackie Sanders, a 58-year-old widow who works at the Wal-Mart in Prairie du Chien, Wis., notices “a general sense of foreboding. People cry easily. The tears are right there, all the time.”
Half of those interviewed in the latest USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll say the war has made them cry, and almost nine in 10 say it has made them pray.”

However, I know lots of these people:
For most people, however, the war is no more than a yellow ribbon magnet on the back of a car, a killed-in-action bracelet, a photo in the paper or an image on the screen.

And too many of these people:
“We're programmed to be emotional or sympathetic to what we see on TV,” he says. “It's almost a call-and-response kind of thing. It's more talk than anything else. I don't see fistfights over the war. It's more about how I'm going to decorate my truck.”

But I don’t think I know enough of these people:
“We have the luxury of being over here, griping about how the war's going. That's not the reality for the people over there,” says Carol Lee of Thibodaux, La. Ornstil remembers growing up in Brooklyn during World War II seeing ration stamps and service stars in the windows of homes of families like hers, those with men at war.
“Now I think we should be more involved in sacrifice — less gas consumption,” she says. “But I don't see much effect here, except for a lot of strong feelings.”

Not that I think people should feel guilty all the time. But I think we’re missing a huge opportunity here. The environmentalists (like myself) could get together with the pro-patriotism crowd (people like myself), and we can start up a new campaign. Something along the lines of, “your gas-guzzler is unpatriotic! If you support the troops, buy a more efficient vehicle!” And since a lot of communities are powered with natural gas- or oil-fired power plants, we can say, “Support the troops by turning off the lights when you leave the room and setting your thermostat at 80 (or 68 depending on the season).”

I’m no marketing major, but I assume we could find one to craft a really excellent advertising campaign around that theme. This seems like a great idea to me. Let’s face it, gas prices haven’t forced people to abandon their SUVs and use public or alternative transportation yet (though us squishy liberal types had hoped they would). I think gas is going to have to get a lot more dear before it forces that; we’ll constrain other discretionary spending instead, and that’s not something we should do in an economy that’s 70% based on consumption. The only way we’re going to get people to reduce gasoline and energy use is through public shame and humiliation. The patriotism angle might be the best one to produce that sense of shame so lacking in modern society.

16 March 2006

100 Florida Trees You Should Plant Instead of Oaks

I hate oak trees. Hate them with a passion. They dump incredible quantities of pollen in the air at this time of year and I must spend all day every day indoors in filtered air or I am utterly miserable. And yet every bit of new construction in this state includes half a dozen oak trees. Why? Because "people like oak trees." No, people just don't know any better. Most of us don't know anything about how many kinds of trees there are that you could plant instead of oaks. Many of them are beautiful, fragrant, showy, and offer as much shade as any oak tree. So as a public service I have decided to offer up the following list of:

100 Florida Trees You Can Plant Instead of Oaks
Sweet Acacia Acacia farnesiana
Florida Sugar Maple Acer barbatum
American Boxelder Acer negundo
Red Maple Acer rubrum
Silver Maple Acer saccharinum
Red Buckeye Aesculus pavia
Sea Amyris Amyris elemifera
Pond Apple Annona glabra
Black Mangrove Avicennia germinans
River Birch Betula nigra
Gum Bumelia Bumeli lanuginosa
Gumbo Limbo Bursera simaruba
Jamaica Caper Capparis cynophallophora
American Hornbeam Carpinus caroliniana
Pignut Hickory Carya glabra
Pecan Carya illinoensis
Mockernut Hickory Carya tomentosa
Water Hickory Carya aquatica
Bitternut Hickory Carya cordiformis
Southern Catalpa Catalpa bignoniodes
Sugarberry Celtis laevigata
Eastern Redbud Cercis canadensis
Atlantic Whitecedar Chamaeycparis thyoides
Fringetree Chionanthus virginicus
Icaco Cocoplum Chrysobalanus icaco
Pigeon Plum Coccoloba diversifolia
Sea Grape Coccoloba uvifera
Soldierwood Colubrina reclinata
Flowering Dogwood Cornus florida
Swamp Titi Cyrilla racemiflora
Common Persimmon Diospyrus virginiana
Guianaplum Drypetes lateriflora
Inkwood Exothea paniculata
White Ash Fraxinus americana
Pop Ash Fraxinus caroliniana
Pumpkin Ash Fraxinus profunda
Water Locust Gleditsia aquatica
Loblolly Bay Gordonia lasianthus
Witch-Hazel Hamamelis virginiana
Dahoon Holly Ilex cassine
American Holly Ilex opaca
Eastern Redcedar Juniperus virginiana
Southern Redcedar Juniperus silicicola
Leadwood Krugiodendron ferreum
White Mangrove Laguncularia racemosa
Corkwood Leitneria floridana
Sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua
Tulip Tree Liriodendron tulipifera
Wild Tamarind Lysiloma latisiliqua
Bahama Lysiloma Lysiloma bahamensis
Southern Magnolia Magnolia grandiflora
Sweetbay Magnolia virginiana
Southern Crabapple Malus angustifolia
Red Mulberry Morus rubra
Wax Myrtle Myrica cerifera
Water Tupelo Nyssa aquatica
Black Tupelo Nyssa sylvatica
Wild Olive Osmanthus americanus
Hophornbeam Ostrya virginiana
Redbay Persea borbonia
Swampbay Persea palustris
Pinckneya Pinckneya pubens
Longleaf Pine Pinus palustris
Shortleaf Pine Pinus echinata
Loblolly Pine Pinus taeda
Slash Pine Pinus elliottii
Pond Pine Pinus serotina
Spruce Pine Pinus glabra
Ocala Sand Pine Pinus clausa
Jamaica Dogwood Piscidia piscipula
Blolly Pisonia discolor
Planer-Tree Planera aquatica
American Sycamore Platanus occidentalis
Eastern Cottonwood Populus deltoides
Swamp Cottonwood Populus heterophylla
Carolina Laurelcherry Prunus caroliniana
Black Cherry Prunus serotina
Flatwoods Plum Prunus umbellata
Myrtle Laurelcherry Prunus myrtifolia
Common Hoptree Ptelea trifoliata
Red Mangrove Rhizophora mangle
Carolina Willow Salix caroliniana
Black Willow Salix nigra
Sassafras Sassafras albidum
Paradise Tree Simarouba glauca
Mahogany Swietenia mahogoni
Baldcypress Taxodium distichum
Pondcypress Taxodium distichum ascendens
Florida Yew Taxus floridana Endangered!
Carolina Basswood Tilia caroliniana
Florida Basswood Tilia floridana
Florida Torreya Torreya taxifolia Endangered!
Florida Trema Trema micrantha
Winged Elm Ulmus alata
American Elm Ulmus americana
Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum rufidulum
Tree Sparkleberry Viccinium arboreum
Tallowwood Ximenia americana
Hercules Club Zanthoxylum clava-herculis
Lime Prickly-ash Zanthoxylum fagara

So there. All of them are native (no invasive species here, no no), and I didn't even include palm trees or papaya.

15 March 2006

Another Idol Indulgence

I hope I can be forgiven for my attachment to such a puerile show. But...

Tampa native Melissa McGhee was voted off tonight. One of the three people who I've voted for in the past (so now it's down to two), because along with Mandisa she was the only non-Taylor Hicks singer who's CD I could have conceivably spent money on. People called her voice "smoky" at times, which I suppose is okay; I'd use "sultry," but it's the same thing. I'll miss her presence on the show, and I hope she gets a chance to find work in the music biz anyway.

That said, while Melissa never developed a fan base (outside of Tampa, anyway) and was consistently one of the lower-rated performers, there are performers still on the show who are less interesting, less talented, less capable singers. Kevin Covais is the case in point. I liked the kid at first because I'm a dork, too. But lately Kevin's little "I'm a sex symbol" act, and his disdain for Simon Cowell's accurate criticisms have worn out their welcome. There may be eight other contestants left whose albums I wouldn't buy, but Kevin is the only guy there who's voice and performance style would make me change the radio station. His continued appearance on the show is largely the work of a website and underground movement known as VFTW, or Vote For The Worst. I don't support the website or movement but I also don't disagree with what they're trying to do.

In a way it's comforting that they didn't pick Melissa, since it's recognition that she wasn't bad. And after all, one of the 12 (11 now) has to go home every week and I think we all knew (as Melissa herself did) that she wasn't going to be in the top 5, if even the top 10. VFTW works on the theory that the producers are generally massaging the votes to ensure that certain people stay on and certain people go home; Melissa was never a production favorite, like Kinnik Sky. People without large immediate fan bases are quickly eliminated, not just because people don't vote but because if the top idols didn't have large preexisting fan bases the show's ratings would dip. VFTW tries to keep incompetent or unpopular people on the show to wreck the formula, and you can't really fault somebody for sticking it to the man. But Kevin really has become quite tiresome, and the VFTW crowd's fallback, Kellie Pickler, already has a huge following because of her talented snow job (the accent, however, is not fake, as anyone who listened to her sing Stevie Wonder last night can verify; I am very good at a lot of accents, and I still cannot sing convincingly in more than one or two. Kellie's accent is at least 75% real; the rest of her story, not so much). I think the group would be well advised to consider as a backup Ace Young, who really can't sing very well and apparently has support only an inch deep.

Anyway. As long as Taylor Hicks and Mandisa stick around the show will remain interesting. Though if they make Taylor color his hair, why I'll... I'll... complain.

Riverwalk Tampa

I remember, growing up in the Jacksonville suburbs, reading plenty in the papers about Jacksonville's Riverwalk, a boardwalk on the south side of the St. Johns River that, frankly, never attracted much public interest and was a frequent topic of debate. Now that I live in downtown Tampa, a stone's throw from the Hillsborough River, I wish we had a Riverwalk. It would be nice to have a place to walk or ride from my condo down to Channelside without having to dodge traffic and panhandlers.

Well, great glorious huzzah, the city has decided to publicize its plans for our own Hillsborough Riverwalk. I should be thrilled, right? The plans call for picnic terraces at Laurel Street, where I live, and a floating walkway under the Kennedy Bridge. Mayor Iorio wants me to donate to the project (contributions are to make up half the $40 million price tag), but I've got a few questions.

Here's a Tampa Tribune article on the Riverwalk; here's a direct link to the renderings (opens a new window). Let's take a look at these renderings.

The first rendering is a photo of the Kennedy Ave. bridge. Fair enough. The second is a rendering of the same view with the riverwalk in place. Notice that the drawing of the Trump Tower in the background is entirely inaccurate (it's not like the tower's not pictured right on the construction site and in a dozen places on the web). Notice also the magical transformation of the bridge: this bridge is much higher and has a smaller radius than the real bridge, the better to put a floating sidewalk under. I've paddled under that bridge; the drawing is hopeful but I'm afraid it won't work. I'm glad they at least left the crew team artwork there (I once grafittied that very bridge), but I'm not convinced anybody's actually paying attention to reality here.

The fifth rendering shows the convention center, but while rendering two included an inaccurate drawing of the Trump Tower, which won't be complete until 2009 at the earliest, this rendering fails to include the nearly finished Embassy Suites right behind the convention center. And how much less money would it cost to not include the dock for the Jose Gaspar pictured here? Is the berth on Bayshore no good any longer?

Also missing from these renderings are the Platt and Brorein St. bridges. Will there be any shade or cover over the Riverwalk, or is this an October thru March thing exclusively? There are a lot of open questions; I think I'll keep my wallet closed for now.

Dubai Ports World

Beg, borrow, or steal a copy of the March 15th New York Times, and read Thomas Friedman’s op-ed, “Dubai and Dunces,” easily the best piece on the whole Dubai Ports World fiasco. I’ll quote a few lines:

“We need a post-9/11 commission, one that looks at all the big and little things we are doing — from sanctioning torture to warrantless wiretaps to turning our embassies abroad into fortresses — that over time could eat away at the core DNA of America…What is so crazy about the Dubai ports issue is that Dubai is precisely the sort of decent, modernizing model we should be trying to nurture in the Arab-Muslim world.”

“President Bush keeps talking about Iraq and the Arab world as if democracy alone is the cure and all we need to do is get rid of a few bad apples. The problem is much deeper…”

“Dubai is where we should want the Arab world to go. Unfortunately, we just told Dubai to go to hell.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Friedman is one of the most insightful columnists working today; this is one of his best recent columns.

14 March 2006

The Everglades

So I went down to the Everglades. What awesome sunsets.
I wrote this nice little essay about the trip, which is about 15 pages long or so, but has pictures. Please let me know what you think of it.

I have long had a fascination with the remoter outposts of human civilization. Here in the United States, there aren’t too many of these remote outposts—we’ve brought most of our territory firmly within our grasp. There’s Point Barrow, Alaska, of course. Hawai’i is rather remote. A number of towns out west are far removed, but here in the Southeast there aren’t too many places that are terribly far off the beaten path—and in overpopulated Florida you wouldn’t expect to find any. But there is one.

Everglades City is just a few miles from a very well-beaten path, the Tamiami Trail, US 41, running between Naples and Miami in South Florida. The trail—named for Tampa and Miami, the two cities it connects—was constructed over a span of more than a decade, with work beginning in 1915. By 1920 it stretched from Tampa south to Fort Myers and thence out into the wilderness, but construction had ground to a halt in the Big Cypress Swamp, largely because the state ran out of money and the crossing was extremely difficult.

Enter Barron G. Collier, the developer of southwest Florida and the man for whom Collier County, home to Naples and Marco, is named. Collier had made a fortune in advertising in the northeast, having been the first man (it’s almost shocking, really) to sell, beginning in the 1890s, advertising placards on city streetcars and coaches. Following a 1911 trip to Fort Myers, Collier started buying up land in southwest Florida, betting on future development.

In 1923 through his development company, Barron Collier offered to take over construction of the Tamiami Trail. In return the state legislature created out of Collier’s vast landholdings an entirely new county, and named the county after the developer, proof that the “For Sale” sign on the capitol in Tallahassee has been there for quite some time.

Collier got to work on the trail quickly, though despite his millions and his determination, crossing the last 70 miles of the Everglades took five years. The Trail was opened with much fanfare in 1928. The little town of Everglades, Collier’s choice for his new county’s seat, was just a few miles off the main highway and seemed to have a bright future.

In those days the Glades were a natural nuisance to be tamed, subjugated, and developed—an unholy swamp full of fierce creatures and irritable dark-skinned natives, not to mention the gun-toting white Crackers. Starting in 1905, after the election of Jacksonville sheriff and sometime gunrunner Napoleon Bonaparte Broward as governor, the process of draining and taming the Glades began. Broward also has a county named after him. The Everglades have a county, too, though the Everglades themselves are not and never have been in Glades County.

Broward’s 1904 gubernatorial campaign focused on Everglades drainage development, and prominently featured Broward himself holding a weathered map over his head at speeches, pointing to the map and shouting, “Water will run downhill!” This is considered something of a high point in political discourse in the state.

Click to read the rest of "The Everglades"

13 March 2006

Goodnight, Nebraska

Earlier I mentioned that I had picked up a book that completely drew me in after just a few pages. That book was Goodnight, Nebraska, by Tom McNeal.

The first 70-some pages of this book were incredible. I didn't want to put the thing down. McNeal's descriptive powers are outstanding and his characters, particularly his protagonist, was consistently believable and intriguing.

And then the book started to drag a little. The middle part of the narrative, which takes place in the eponymous town in the Nebraska Panhandle (the town seems to approximately replace Hay Springs, if any of you are curious and in posession of a good Nebraska map (and why would you be?)), drags a bit. In large part this is because the story turns into more a series of vignettes, and the focus on the protagonist is lost--he becomes just one of the few hundred people who call Goodnight home.

By the end, though, you realize what that means. The other residents of Goodnight, in fact, the town itself, are just as important as Randall Hunsacker. This is both a benefit and a drawback, since after about 100 pages the plot becomes unmoored and drifts around the sumptuous landscape of western Nebraska. In one sense it's the location itself that gets the best treatment in this novel.

Still, while I bogged down a bit chasing the plot, I enjoyed the story and appreciated it more after it had ended. In a large sense, the episodic nature of the story helps push the real theme, namely the repetitive and seemingly directionless nature of small town life. Most, if not all, of McNeal's characters are leading lives of (sometimes not so) quiet desperation, outwardly cheery while inside wrought with loneliness, boredom, and an unfulfilled yearning to break free and find out what else life has to offer.

Goodnight, Nebraska

Earlier I mentioned that I had picked up a book that completely drew me in after just a few pages. That book was Goodnight, Nebraska, by Tom McNeal.

The first 70-some pages of this book were incredible. I didn't want to put the thing down. McNeal's descriptive powers are outstanding and his characters, particularly his protagonist, was consistently believable and intriguing.

And then the book started to drag a little. The middle part of the narrative, which takes place in the eponymous town in the Nebraska Panhandle (the town seems to approximately replace Hay Springs, if any of you are curious and in posession of a good Nebraska map (and why would you be?)), drags a bit. In large part this is because the story turns into more a series of vignettes, and the focus on the protagonist is lost--he becomes just one of the few hundred people who call Goodnight home.

By the end, though, you realize what that means. The other residents of Goodnight, in fact, the town itself, are just as important as Randall Hunsacker. This is both a benefit and a drawback, since after about 100 pages the plot becomes unmoored and drifts around the sumptuous landscape of western Nebraska. In one sense it's the location itself that gets the best treatment in this novel.

Still, while I bogged down a bit chasing the plot, I enjoyed the story and appreciated it more after it had ended. In a large sense, the episodic nature of the story helps push the real theme, namely the repetitive and seemingly directionless nature of small town life. Most, if not all, of McNeal's characters are leading lives of (sometimes not so) quiet desperation, outwardly cheery while inside wrought with loneliness, boredom, and an unfulfilled yearning to break free and find out what else life has to offer.

Tipping Baggers

It occurs to me that this post won't make much sense to anyone under the age of about twenty-five or not in the military.

How much do you tip a bagger at the grocery store? I would like to tip zero. Here's the deal.
AAFES, the Army/Air Force Exchange Service, runs the BX and Commissary at Air Force bases. AAFES (also sometimes known as the Asian-American Female Employment Service, since most of the employees are servicemen's Korean wives (no exaggeration)) is one of the last grocery chains to employ baggers who actually take your groceries all the way out to your car. Most other chains--every chain I've shopped at in over a decade--eliminated this years ago. There was a time when the baggers in the store, the ones who actually bagged the groceries, still accepted tips, but even most chains now advertise that baggers don't take tips. Of course, this means baggers now earn minimum wage.
I'd like to know whether the baggers are doing better now, with minimum wage, than when they worked for tips and thus got paid less (like the two-bucks-and-change waitstaff at restaurants get).

At AAFES, the baggers work for tips only; therefore tips are expected. The baggers work in groups, three or four to a station at times. When all of the baggers in a cluster are middle-aged Korean women, they engage in noisy conversations in Korean while bagging your groceries. Then through some mysterious calculus one of them is chosen to wheel the funky vertical cart out to your car and put the groceries in your trunk.
After she puts the groceries in the trunk, you give a tip. I try to tip two to five dollars depending on the number of bags (I've read you tip porters at nice hotels a dollar a bag, so I use something like that).

But I'm tired of it. I don't want to tip baggers any more. I can carry my own damn bags to my car. On a normal weekly grocery run, where I spend about $40, tipping two bucks eliminates most of the savings I get by shopping at the commissary in the first place. But I can't just stop tipping.

Can I?

I mean, I get the impression some people don't tip the baggers (I have to resist the temptation to call them bag ladies). And there are some baggers I don't mind tipping, like the retired guys who fought in Korea (as opposed to their Korean wives) who like to tell you a war story while they cart your groceries out to the car. That's entertainment value; I enjoy storytellers and gladly tip those guys. But on the whole I'd give up the good baggers to be rid of all of them.


12 March 2006

The Glades

Well, I'm just returned from the Everglades, and I had a wonderful time. There is a long multi-part post coming, probably in the next couple days, which will include pictures and all that.

The Everglades are funny, though--they don't really photograph all that well. Compared to last spring's National Park trip to Utah, the Everglades are... wanting for monolithic rock formations, or anything else that makes a good subject for photography. Instead, I tried my hand at some sunset shots and we'll see how those turn out. I can tell you, however the photos come out, sunsets were gorgeous every single night.

This is about as late in the year as you'd really want to go to the Everglades. It's already getting pretty hot during the day and by this time next month highs will probably be brushing the 90s most days. There's an everpresent 10 knot breeze, which keeps things a little more pleasant than other parts of the state, but there's just not a lot of shade from that sun. By summertime, of course, you have the afternoon storms to deal with, but that can make life interesting for those who prefer to visit in the off season.

I'll advertise now, however, that there will be one last ranger-led Moonlight Bike Tour at the Shark Valley visitor center, next month on the 14th and again on the 15th. If you never do anything else at the Everglades, you must take this moonlight ride. More to come.

07 March 2006

Swampward Ho!

All good things must come to end, including the vacation I'm about to embark on tomorrow. But the vacation must also start, and I've been looking forward to it for a long time. I'm heading down to the Everglades for a few days of hiking, biking, kayaking, and quite probably lounging by the pool. I may post while I'm down there, but I may not, either. If not, I'll be back on Sunday.

So, okay, I'm watching American Idol, as you would assume. Show's just over half over (that sounded funny), and I have only one comment.
Katherine McPhee thought she could do Aretha Franklin's "Think." And the judges all went gaga.
Give me a freaking break. She didn't do that song any time little amount of justice, not one bit. Let's see Mandisa do the same song, and then you'll see the stage actually come alive. Of all the girls so far tonight (five of eight), this has been the most disappointing performance. Ugh.
And now a few more have performed, including Mandisa, who received I think the greatest compliment I've heard from Simon Cowell, ever: "You made every one of the other women who have performed before you seem ordinary--you are in a whole different league." I couldn't agree more, Mr. Cowell.

Anyway. Banner night over at the clay studio tonight. Pictures will be forthcoming next time I head back there. Even though nothing is glazed--and most stuff is just dry, not even bisqued--there are some items there you need to see before I glaze them (just in case I wreck them with the glazing). Tonight, I finished a martini shaker. No, really, a martini shaker. The lid fits better than any lid I have ever made. The lid itself is one of the best works of art I've made in the last year. Really. It's beautiful. I want to glaze it a nice shiny black with blue highlights... if I can figure out how to do that. You'll see when I post the pictures. I also finished up a couple of funky vases with amusing necks, and I made a second latte mug to go with the one I made earlier. They could be a matched set, even. If the commissioning agent wants them both, of course...

Yes, it was a grand day. And tomorrow shall be better still.

Crazy Furr'ners

It was only a matter of time.

The BBC reports today on the presidential election in Benin, a small west African country, one of the poorest in the world (a Failed State). After 25 years in power, President Mathieu Kerekou is forced to step aside because of a constitutional provision preventing septuagenarians from running for office.

Kerekou, a former Marxist turned multi-party reformer (one of many such animals in Africa, none of whom have improved matters in their countries in all their years in power) and winner of numerous fraudulent and non-transparent elections in his country, had hoped, he says, that this election would be transparent, and would be free and fair. Sadly, he doesn’t feel this will happen. He said there would probably be attempts to rig the vote, which just might count as a frank admission that he plans to have his own party try to steal the election. But, in the interest of being the bigger man, the father-figure, the George Washington (or at least the James Madison) of his country, he decided to make things look better by comparing his country against… us.

“If necessary,” said Mr. Kerekou, “it will take three or four months to check the results, like in the United States.”

The thing about being America is, the scum are watching us (and Mr. Kerekou is scum, recent changes of heart notwithstanding). They’re using our foibles to justify their own dirty deeds. I wonder how much more of this we should look forward to?

02 March 2006

A list

On another site, completely unrelated to politics in any way, there was an off-topic post asking opinions on the best presidents since 1900. I couldn't resist.

It's been years since I studied presidential history, and I think if I refreshed my memory a little better this list would probably change, but here it is, for discussion purposes:

T Roosevelt
F Roosevelt
L Johnson
GHW Bush

I always think the proper question for ranking presidents is, how badly did he damage the country he was trying to serve? I didn't rank the current [insert slur here] because it's not customary to rank a sitting president. Given current trends he'll be in the bottom third of my list, but he has time to turn that around. I also left out McKinley, who I know little about and who only served one year and eight months in the 1900s.

Nixon, in my view, caused the greatest and most lasting damage to the country with his shenanigans. Yeah, he opened China and gave Henry Kissinger a job, and kudos for that, but the stink of Watergate still infests the political swamp and probably always will. You can trace American distrust of government right back to Nixon if you want.

The five fellows ranked above him are all in a little muddle--I could move them around within that group and still be happy with the outcome. Most of them lose points not for deliberately doing bad things, but for missing opportunities to do good things, perhaps Clinton's biggest failing and certainly Coolidge's. Carter and Hoover found themselves grossly outclassed by the office, despite the fact that they were among the brightest individuals to serve in the office in the last century--and Hoover, in particular, had shown great brilliance in public life before his election. Sheer brainpower isn't enough for the White House (as Reagan proved). Harding probably did the most direct damage to the country, mostly through neglect and befuddlement, but I understand recent scholarship has viewed him a little more favorably. (I'd like to point out, by the way, that I bought a box of Diamond matchbooks, 40 of them, which were supposed to have pictures of all the presidents--and every matchbook, every single one, has a picture of Harding.)

It's almost unfair even to rank Gerald Ford, who didn't serve long enough to do anything and succeeded in that task. He pardoned Nixon which, though unpopular, probably needed to be done. Taft and GHW Bush are basically the same man in different bodies (although Taft was at least good at being Chief Justice, while Bush was primarily good at being Daddy), and at least in my view were benign if unspectacular.

Kennedy ranks ahead of them (by a fairly wide margin, too), because he was an idea man, and neither Taft nor Bush were. Kennedy's ideas inspired the country in a way few other president's have, and frankly that's something a president needs to be able to do. He also showed a real ability to learn from mistakes: the difference in his leadership style and results between the Bay of Pigs and the missile crisis demonstrates that. Had he survived and served a second term I suspect Kennedy might have ranked at the top of any list of presidents, but as it was it fell to his vice president, a self-indulgent, thieving, racist prick named Johnson, to carry on the legacy. That Johnson somehow managed to do that despite his enormous personal faults amazes me; you may not agree with the Great Society or the way he led the country, but he got a lot of what Kennedy wanted done, done. He deserves more credit than he usually gets. That said, he was an absolutely dreadful war president, worse even than the current one, probably in fact the worst one ever. So, I could drop him down a few notches, or more, and still feel comfortable.

I could mix and match the next three, Wilson through Truman. Overall I think Wilson's idealism in foreign affairs has had a lasting influence on our leaders, though not always a positive one; he loses points for doing more to reduce the influence of the vice presidency than probably any other single president (though his VP, Marshall, is more memorable than most, having given us the quip about the country needing a really good five cent cigar). Wilson also deserves some blame for the current state of the Middle East, because he let Kemal Ataturk threaten the victorious allies after WWI and forced them to redraw the map of the Middle East. Look it up if you don't believe me, but the Kurds had a country, the Greeks owned Constantinople, and most of the borders were much more rationally drawn. Reagan delegated well and deserves credit for seeing what many others didn't see, namely that the Soviet Union was not going to be brought down by attrition or by military action, but by making the place wreck itself. I don't think anyone else saw that. I don't think anyone else would have. Granted, Reagan nearly bankrupted us in the process. Truman probably deserves to be at the top of this group, but I've just forgotten too much about his presidency to be sure about my ranking.

Eisenhower, in my recollection from my studies, strikes me as among the closest in history to my personal view of the ideal president--he was a strong leader who presented good ideas and worked to carry them out, collected intelligent and capable people around him, and led the country successfully without attempting to expand the power of the executive branch.

If I was to be irresponsible, I'd put FDR much lower on the list because he so greatly expanded executive power and size of the bureaucracy, and instituted my least favorite social program of all time. I have to give him credit, though, because I don't think very many people--possibly he was the only person--who could have led the U.S. through the 30s and into WWII as well as he did. His economic policies did not bring us out of the Depression, and he gave too much away to Stalin, but given the times in which he served I don't know how FDR did it. I wish his bureaucracies had been allowed to die with him, and I wish he had done more to restrain Stalin. But who could have done much better?

Teddy Roosevelt might have been able to. What a fantasy, huh, TR in his prime winning the election of 1936? I'd like to have seen that. Brash, bold, the most American of American presidents. This is the guy I think GW Bush wants to be, but he lacks that certain something that made Teddy such a fantastic leader. Roosevelt handled an activist and deeply divided Congress, maintained a very active role in world and particularly hemispheric affairs, and managed without pissing off everybody he met. TR had such a terrific force of personality, something GW seems to lack, and his integrity was entirely above reproach--something GW also lacks.

So that's my list of 20th Century presidents. Any thoughts?

Idol Rambling

The horrid "elimination" show is tonight. The first montage included a clip of Ace's hideous attempt at falsetto, and praised it. Ryan Seacrest's voiceover also praised Paris Bennett's attempt at singing like an elderly woman and focused on the negative part of Taylor Hicks' performance and Simon's judgment. I wonder how the producers put this show together. Obviously they can control some aspects of the production, and this is the most tightly controlled (and most wretched) of the shows in a given week.

Now we are treated to Carrie Underwood singing a song that was on top of the country charts (and kept playing on the radio in the mornings when I lay in bed wishing I didn't have to get up yet and cursing the alarm). She can sing, that's great, but you know what? I don't like her songs. I don't like this song. It isn't country. Hank Williams is country. Tom T. Hall is country. This is poptry. I hate poptry. I don't much care for pop at all. I don't much care for any previous winner of American Idol, for essentially that reason. (It's worth pointing out, of course, that the show is based on the British show "Pop Idol," and most of the viewers are little teenie boppers who want a pop star anyway. I'm in the target audience for this show, but I'm hardly their target.)

And that explains why I've been so much more interested in the show this year. They've got the crooner, David Radford. They've got Mandisa, who needs to just go ahead and do a big Aretha Franklin number, because she could win the contest on that alone (I'm gonna go with "Think," which I believe would be ideal). And they've got Taylor Hicks--who's CD arrived in the mail today. I'm going to pop it in the CD player in the car tomorrow and provide a review. There are simply people in the show this year who strike me as, shall we say, not the type of artists I generally run from at top speed.

01 March 2006

Disparate thoughts

Note, that's an 'I' and not an 'E' above.

I really ought not to post about American Idol, but I can't resist. Am I the only person around who thought Ace Young utterly butchered that song? He took a stab at the falsetto, and I mean he really stabbed it. Killed it dead, clean-up-the-bloodstains dead. Horrid. I wanted to scream. I couldn't grab the remote and get to "mute" fast enough. Poor Cinders had to jump up and run out of the room--and he's old, he doesn't jump for much.
Then Paula and Randy just blow smoke up his arse like he's already got the contract. It's frightening, how far being cute will get you. (Side note: I managed to register votes for Taylor (of course, though he was a little off the mark tonight), and for David Radford and Gedeon McKinney. I don't want to see the lounge singer off the contest, and I think he's going to need the votes. McKinney finally proved he could sing tonight, and I'm a sucker for Sam Cooke songs.)

And on another note:

I picked up a book today that I'd purchased on a lark, and before I knew it I was on page 65 and was getting a sunburn out by the pool. I didn't want to stop reading. I want to go start reading again, and I'm about to (but I had to put in some content(s) here). I love that about literature--sometimes, who knows why, a book just reaches out and grabs you and forget you're even reading, and not actually in the book. This book is like that. You'll see a review shortly.

Everglades Part II

I arrived in town on that same Tamiami Trail, now U.S. 41. Naples impressed me for the quantity of traffic choking its six-lane highways and not for much else. A few miles southwest of town the road narrows in short order from six to two lanes, the speed limit goes up, and the development disappears. Welcome to Big Cypress Country.

Those used to driving through the Southeast, where 60+ foot trees hem in the roads on either side, will find the Big Cypress country a misnomer. The biggest trees aren’t much more than twenty feet tall, with frequent breaks for wet prairie grasses and palm hammocks. Twenty-five miles from Naples there’s a gas station. The highway sign says “Carnestown.” Perhaps it’s intended as a joke.

Turning right and leaving the Trail behind, you drive through mangrove swamp and finally cross the Barron River on a low bridge. The river isn’t more than twenty feet across, if that much; it was once called the Allen River, after the area’s first settler, but Barron Collier renamed it with his customary humility.

‘River’ is a bit of a misnomer anyway, as the Barron is mostly tidal. The Tamiami Trail is paralleled for most of its length east of Naples by a dirty brown canal that looks almost exactly like the Barron River. The Barron is even connected by canal to Halfway Creek—and the canal is in places wider than the river itself. One can be forgiven for confusing canals for rivers, as canals crisscross the entire Everglades and Big Cypress, relics of our attempts to drain and control the swamps.

Long before the first canal was cut through the swamp or the first levee was built around Lake Okeechobee, long before Napoleon Broward and his map, the water was running downhill. Lake Okeechobee, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the United States, has for eons acted like a sponge, absorbing rainwater from much of the Florida Peninsula, then releasing that water to drain slowly as a giant sheet through a southerly arc, fifty miles and more across in some places, entering Florida Bay along the southwest coast of the state. At the eastern edge of that arc a low coral ridge built up, and in the late 19th Century Henry Flagler built his Florida East Coast Railway along that coral ridge. The sliver of Florida left east of that ridge is where Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami were developed.

To the west of the ridge was the unreconstructed wilderness, at least for many years. Agriculture and other development started creeping in from the east, but to the far west, on the Gulf Coast, only a handful of mostly former military outposts developed at all. It was this egregious oversight that Barron Collier set out to fix.

Deep in the mangroves along the southern edge of the state lies Chokoloskee Bay (natives pronounce it “Chuck-a-luss-kee”), a body of water so shallow that hurricanes have been known to literally blow all of the water out of the bay. The bay lies between the 10,000 islands and what passes for the mainland, though the “land” part is under water half the time as well. In the middle of this narrow bay is Chokoloskee Island, earlier known as Big Island. Three rivers feed into the bay, the Turner, Barron, and Halfway Creek. The island and all three river mouths supported substantial Calusa Indian settlement, and, after the Calusa disappeared, remained empty until after the Civil War. In the late 1860s south Florida was as much a new frontier as the West, and some of the hardier pioneers and fugitives made their way south to the Chokoloskee Bay.

Hard as it is to believe from modern photographs, five settlements developed around the bay, all of them based on agriculture. Sugar cane, tomatoes, bananas, guavas, cabbage, and numerous other cash crops were raised, though the Big Island and the settlement at the mouth of the Turner River were the most successful. High tides frequently swamped the lower lying areas, leaving the soil inundated with salt and hence worthless. Lack of fresh water meant rainwater for irrigation and personal use was collected in cisterns made of sand and crushed seashells.

Chokoloskee island is unique in the area, for here the land rises as much as 20 feet above sea level. This is positively mountainous in the Everglades, and as such the island was almost never under water. Artesian wells brought fresh water to the settlers, and by the 1880s there was a significant settlement there with a school, church, and post office.

At the mouth of the Barron river a fellow named William Smith Allen built a home and farmed winter vegetables, especially tomatoes, which are moderately salt-tolerant; across the river another family did the same. In the late 1880’s Allen sold his holdings, over 800 acres (much of it under water), to George W. Storter. Storter cleared and graded out some of the land in the holding and gradually encouraged a few more families to settle down. By 1893 Storter applied for a post office; he originally wanted the name Chokoloskee, after the bay, but as the post office on the island already had that name, he settled on Everglade. Storter’s home became the focal point of the community, and visitors from across Florida often came to stay at the Storter home to spend a few days fishing or hunting the area.

The Storter home, like most every significant building that’s ever been built in the Chokoloskee Bay area, burned down. But it burned only in 1969; before then, it had formed the nucleus of the Rod & Gun Club. The Club got its start from those visitors to Storter’s home back in the 1890’s—Storter was forced to add to his home several times to accommodate the guests. Changes in the town’s status and leadership never affected the club’s popularity.

Nowadays the Rod & Gun hosts what passes for a fine dining restaurant in the area, in a 1920’s-era lodge that was the only part of the complex to survive the 1969 fire. The food is excellent, the service casual; the wide screened porch is a perfect place for dinner. Guests come in very casual dress. The Rod & Gun also has rooms to let, 17 of them, one of several hotels in the city. Yet in a town that lives and dies by tourist dollars, the Rod & Gun is one of the larger accommodations; the town has less than 150 rooms available, fewer than a single resort hotel on nearby Marco Island. This only enhances the open and unpopulated feeling of the town—and you get the feeling the locals like it that way. So do plenty of the tourists.

Though it, unlike the settlements at Turner River and Halfway Creek, survived the 1909 and 1910 hurricanes that salted most of the ground in the area, Everglade remained a remote outpost (with a population under 150) until 1922, when Barron Collier bought the entire townsite. He dug a channel in the Barron River, laid the extra fill on the townsite and graded it, laid out a series of streets, and made plans to build the place up. It’s been said he at one time hoped Everglades—he added the ‘s’ in 1923—would become the Miami of the west coast. Maybe he did, maybe not. If he did he was more delusional than his business success would indicate.

In 1923 Everglades became the seat of the new Collier County. Collier built a hotel, laundry, and county courthouse, and the town soon boasted a variety of businesses. In 1924 the Atlantic Coast Line railroad built a spur into the town. Later that same year Collier laid rails down Broadway, the main east-west road, and had a streetcar shipped in. The streetcar ran a total of five blocks, but it put Everglades firmly in the rank of up-and-coming towns. The old Storter house remained at the west end of Broadway overlooking the river, and became the Everglades Rod & Gun Club; Collier, who’d made his money in advertising, built up a legend around the club and before long had guests including leading writers, industrialists, politicians, and world leaders.

Work on the Tamiami trail continued and the town might have had a bright future but for the 1926 hurricane. The hurricane inundated most of the land around Chokoloskee Bay, rising to the second floor of most buildings in Everglades. Some parts of Chokoloskee Island remained dry, but the island wasn’t even connected to the mainland and did not serve as a viable alternative to Everglades. The city was rebuilt, but the shine was off. The streetcar was shipped of to a more accommodating location.

The Trail opened in 1928 to great fanfare, but it in reality did little to boost Everglades’ fortunes. Though the city’s population climbed as high as 630 before the end of the decade, much of the land remained undeveloped. Large-scale agriculture disappeared and the fishing industry—the only one remaining of any significance—was not sufficient to sustain a larger city.

By the end of the 1920s there were calls from some prominent residents of Florida’s east coast to preserve the Everglades, making further development in the Everglades City area unlikely. By 1934 activists had succeeded in persuading Congress to authorize the creation of a new National Park in the area. Developers—and most residents—opposed the idea of a park, and the situation languished until 1947, when Marjorie Stoneman Douglas published River of Grass, her natural history of the Everglades. Thus mobilized, supporters succeeded in setting the original boundaries of the park, which was dedicated later that year. President Truman came down to Everglades City to formally dedicate the park, and stayed at the Rod & Gun. It was the last notable event in the history of the town.

Few visible reminders of that era exist any longer. The Rod & Gun is still around, of course. The old Everglades Bank building still stands in its original location, facing west where ships would dock on the Barron River; nowadays it’s hard to imagine why the bank would face that direction and it took me some time to figure it out. The old county courthouse still stands, though Hurricane Wilma in 2005 put four feet of water in the first floor and the building is now vacant, awaiting rehab. A dormitory that housed workers in the 1920’s now serve as part of the Ivey House Lodge, where I stayed. And the old railroad depot is now a restaurant.

There is also the old town laundry, now the Everglades History Museum. The museum is staffed by volunteers and, though small, provides an interesting look at the history of this incongruous little town (one of the handouts at tourist stops around town is a handbill-sized item entitled “Why is there a city here?” Everglades City may be the only place in the country willing to ask such a question). The museum staffers are nice people and more than willing to carry on a conversation at length if you care to spend the time—topics like the health of the Florida panther population (always a concern), active oil drilling in the Everglades (though not in the confines of the park), and whether we’re planning to invade Iran (consensus among the five people in the museum that afternoon: yes. The reality is: no).

I had read this about Everglades City before I booked my trip down there—it’s a friendly place. Locals are more than willing to have a chat with you and will even offer you a ride someplace if you need it. The small airstrip at the south edge of town is one of the most popular small airports in Florida, and every lodge and restaurant in town will send someone around to pick you up if you fly in there and want a ride into town—just place a phone call. The Rod & Gun owners put up much of the funding for the airstrip and are more than willing to pick you up, give you a room, and cook up your catch for dinner before you fly home.

This is in contrast to a good number of small towns I’ve been through in my travels, even very pleasant towns. A lot of small towns in the South are inhabited by people who are more than willing to say hello and put on a smile, but don’t want to get any further involved with you than that. Everglades City is not like that. At various times, in addition to my hour-long chat at the museum, I inserted myself into conversations in the ice cream shop, the city hall, the Rod & Gun, the airport (not a surprise, really; FBO operators are always ready to talk), the Chokoloskee post office, and flirted shamelessly with the waitress at the Seafood Depot restaurant. At no point did I feel like I was intruding.

But then there was Plantation Key.

I rode out there Friday morning, just looking for something to do. It had been my goal to ride on every street in town, and I managed to do so (it is a small place, after all). One of the roads led over a bridge and through the mangrove to what is listed on my road map as a “trailer park” (DeLorme’s atlases are very forthcoming), in an area called Plantation Key. The trailer park has some canals and backs up on Halfway Creek.

I had previously been impressed with the quality of housing in Everglades City. There are a number of older homes, some in disrepair, but it’s a quaint and studied sort of disrepair, almost as if the owners of the homes come back from time to time to cut the grass and tidy up so the place will look nice as it falls apart.

Plantation Key reminded me that even the nicest towns have poor people working in them. In Naples the poor people can all be shoved off in an out-of-the-way suburban area you’ll never see. Everglades City is so remote that the poor people have to live somewhere, and they live out at Plantation Key.

Not that the place is horrible; by world standards it's very nice. Several of the homes are nicely kept, but the majority are not. Some are quite awful, too awful to live in, frankly. Only a handful are up on stilts, which surprised me; Plantation Key is if anything lower than Everglades City itself. A heavy rain floods the streets.

Perhaps a quarter of the homes were for sale. Some had signs advertising “motivated seller,” proof that the housing boom has gone bust, at least in Everglades City. One of the places had a tube with information sheets rolled up inside. I stopped and took one.

This was one of the more unpleasant homes. It was a single-wide trailer, probably twenty years old, with small windows that weren’t square in their frames. The middle of the roof sagged just slightly. The wheels had been cut off the bottom and the whole trailer was jacked up on six steel beams; the sides of trailer sagged dangerously between the beams. The whole was probably seven feet in the air, with a rickety looking staircase on the backside to get in. The trailer sat on a lot perhaps 60x80 feet. It was occupied.

The going rate for this slice of heaven? $349,000.

I about choked on my breakfast. The property wasn’t worth $349 grand. The home only detracted from the potential value. These sellers were not yet “motivated.” I’d argue they must have been motivated by something, perhaps insanity, to price the place that high.

I would have taken a picture but the owner was about and I didn’t want to photograph his squalor with permission. He didn’t look the type to grant it. Like most of his neighbors, he was of uncertain race, probably a mix of Seminole and Latin American. Most of the lower-wage workers in the restaurants and hotels in town were of this uncertain heritage. Still, at least he owned his home—owned an expensive home, at that. If he manages to sell the thing at the asking price he can move his family to a low cost area and buy a real house and still send his children to a state college. The American dream is definitely alive.

Farther along I ran into another charming fellow, white this time. He was sitting on a wood porch tacked onto his wilted-cabbage colored single-wide. He had a Busch Light in one hand and was polishing a gun. His mangy mixed-breed dog was chained to a gumbo-limbo tree in the front yard. He stared me down as I rode past.

On my way back by him, he called out to me. “Lookin’ for something?”
This was not the same charming tone the residents in town used.
“Nope, just out for a ride.”
“Why’d you come out here?”
“Just looking around.”
“Ain’t nothing to see out here.”
“I don’t know,” I said. Then I stopped. I didn’t actually want to engage this guy in conversation.
“Don’t really got any reason to be here, do you?”
I didn’t have a response to that. I decided to leave the comment and its speaker and rode away without saying anything.
“Fuckin’ pogue,” he said as I rode off.

I don’t know what a ‘pogue’ is. Or if I spelled it right. Presumably not anything charitable.

If you go to Everglades City, stay in the city and don’t go out to Plantation Key.

In past decades, Everglades City was a haven for drug smugglers and fugitives because of its isolation. Though this kind of activity has been much reduced through good county policing and increased NPS law enforcement presence, it’s entirely possible the town still sees more than its share of dirty deeds. For all I know this guy was up to no good and didn’t like the idea of outsiders possibly finding out. Or, he could just have been a mean drunk.

In 1959, the last Atlantic Coast Line train left the Everglades City depot. They started pulling up the tracks the very next day. In 1960 Hurricane Donna swept through the area, inundating the town and flooding the county courthouse. The county seat moved up to Naples in 1962, to be nearer the center of population and on higher ground. Everglades City—and the village on Chokoloskee Island—got down to the business of rotting away in the humid air.

Tourism related to the Everglades National Park kept the town from disappearing into the swamp permanently, but the place hardly thrived. Weeds grew up in the roads. The old depot fell into disrepair before being rescued for gustatory activities. The bank closed down (it’s now a B&B and day spa). Hurricane Donna in had flattened several of the older buildings. Fires over the years have took down most of the remaining landmarks, leaving only the handful I mentioned earlier. The Rod & Gun continued to host dignitaries—Richard Nixon was a frequent visitor—but little else went on.

Still, by the 1980’s the place was making a bit of a comeback. The population has grown consistently since then, though land prices are outrageous and there is still much empty ground. The fishing industry has made a comeback, and numerous boats dock along the Barron River. Along the northern edge of the city are at least six or seven fish processing operations, all quite small. The city’s fleet takes in a sizeable catch of shrimp, grouper, and stone crab—most of the state’s stone crab catch comes from the waters near Everglades City. But the thing that stands out about the town is its openness.

Words cannot adequately describe the town’s emptiness, nor can pictures convey it. There are 20-some blocks and over 800 acres, which house perhaps 500 residents. Some blocks are entirely empty; many more have but two or three homes on them. Where land sits empty, it is a flat featureless field. Someone comes along to mow the grass (I saw two men mowing a half-acre lot with weedwhackers). This emphasizes the sparseness of settlement and makes the place feel at least twice as big as it is.

Everglades City is simply a quiet, isolated town. Its only industries are hospitality and fishing—and most of the fishing catch is consumed locally. There are no large hotels, no resorts or condominiums, no golf courses. At 2400 feet, the local landing strip can handle only the smallest light aircraft.

I stayed at the Ivey House Lodge (Ivey House also maintains a Bed & Breakfast and an “inn” at the same location). The Lodge was built in the 1920s to house the workers who laid the Atlantic Coast Line’s tracks and paved the first few roads, and is now the least expensive place in town. I was attracted by the price and the free hot breakfast—though this isn’t the usual B&B type of fare, but buffet-style instead. The 14 rooms in the Lodge share two bathrooms.

Being accustomed to spending months at a time in a tent where the nearest bathroom or shower was 40 yards away and was shared with several hundred other people, I thought this sounded almost paradisiacal. It is not, however, what most American tourists are looking for in a hotel—so I should not have been surprised to find that almost every other guest in the Lodge with me, all four nights I was there, was foreign. The few other Americans who stayed along the hallway were college students stopping through on Spring Break.

Because of this, it took me a few days to realize that most of the tourists in town were foreign, not just the ones at my hotel. This did surprise me. I’m not saying every tourist was foreign, but easily half of the ones I saw were. Perhaps most of the American tourists were out deep in the glades camping at chickees and eating beef jerky and dried apricots. I did run into a number of people who planned on doing just that for two or three nights; many of these people were in their fifties and up. Still, the contingent of foreign tourists was a surprise—though whether it shows that we don’t appreciate our national parks, or whether it was just a busy week for out-of-towners I can’t say.

I had planned my trip quite specifically to take advantage of four opportunities offered at the National Park, two bike rides and two guided paddling trips. I missed the first bike ride because of equipment malfunctions (actually, it was user error; I left a small but key bike part behind home, no doubt lying on the ground in my parking lot having rolled off the top of the car, where I’m sure I put it for what seemed a good reason at the time) and spent the morning driving to and returning from Naples. This is the first thing about isolated towns: they are isolated. It’s a 15-mile drive from town before you reach the first thing that could reasonably be called civilization, and another ten before you reach that part of Naples that resembles every other part of America, with Wal-Mart and drug stores and strip malls (strip malls with bike shops in them).

Everglades City has a small grocery and two convenience stores, but otherwise has no significant services. I bought a Miller Lite in one of the convenience stores, and found it to be the usual convenience store with the usual convenience store people.

Not to knock the Circle K; the folks in line to buy lottery tickets and beer were plenty real. The same people are buying lottery tickets and beer at Circle Ks and Kangaroos and Kwik Stops all over America every evening at the same time. I decided to buy a lottery ticket, to fit in. I didn’t win anything. While waiting in line several of the customers and the clerk had a conversation about whether the money really went to support education. One of the customers mentioned that he’d feel worse about playing if he knew where the money really went.

Friday afternoon out of curiosity, I dropped by the grocery. They had little that wasn’t already available at the Circle K, a few vegetables and a better selection of boxed and canned food, some breakfast cereals and milk by the gallon instead of the quart. Some frozen chicken, but if you want a steak you either eat at the Rod & Gun or go shopping at Naples.

Naples, I was told, was in fact much more expensive than Miami and it was worth taking the longer drive—a hundred dollars might buy you seven bags of groceries there, vice only four at Naples. Naples is now considered the richest metro area in the state, leading even Palm Beach. Everglades City, technically a part of the Naples metro, gets to deal with the price inflation such wealth brings.

Still, in a growing metro area, in a remote town where peace and quiet are the only sure bets, you’d expect some construction. This is America, after all; we can’t let a paradise go unmolested. And sure enough, there is some construction going on. A collection of three-story condominiums are being built, about 12 of them total. They had two-car garages and apparently all the amenities you expect from new condo construction. I had the feeling they would be marketed to people to commute to Naples, rather than to work in Everglades City.

Given housing prices in the area I assume no one will be able to afford to work locally and buy a new condo. The sticker shock from the horrible trailer in Plantation Key was bad enough, but while riding around Friday night I picked up a flyer for another home, a 2400 square foot beauty on a double lot, on stilts, with a hot tub and screened lanai. This was an inland lot, two blocks from the water. And it was selling for $407 per square foot.

Think about that. That’s more than twice the value of my home, a condo in downtown Tampa. Downtown Tampa. Blocks from the new Trump Tower where places are selling for over $2 million. The home had vinyl siding, for God’s sake; no home with vinyl siding should be selling for a million dollars. And with as much open land as exists in the city, it’s just hard to understand.

There was a second construction project in town, a bit more surreal. This was advertised as a resort, complete with a sand-bottom pool, a marina for your yacht, and other amenities of the high life (no golf course, though). The entrance was by the airport. I noticed the first time I’d driven by that there were weeds growing up around the cinder-block guard shack, and the place looked dead.

It was dead. I don’t know exactly what killed it, but the roofing struts on one of the buildings had collapsed and no effort made to set them right. I suspect they collapsed during Wilma. The whole site had the feeling of having been abandoned for several months. The dock had partially fallen into the river. On one of the buildings, someone had spray-painted “Hard Hat Aera,” then crossed it out and corrected the spelling with “Arae.” This was also crossed out.

But it was a nice place to sit and watch the sunset. If nothing else, the abandoned construction project has given the townspeople that much; I was not the only person there, as an older couple were walking their dog and two kids were riding bikes around the grounds.

Friday night I had planned to go on a moonlight paddle with the park, but there was a 15-20 knot wind blowing in off the bay at 5:00, and the trip was cancelled. With that breeze you wouldn’t get across the bay before you’d have to turn around to make it back by nine. This was somewhat disappointing, as I’d been looking forward to this as the most exciting event of the trip. Since I’d missed Thursday’s bike ride as well, I was batting .000 at this point. Fortunately I’d passed a fairly pleasant day, Plantation Key notwithstanding.

Earlier in the day I’d gone out to Chokoloskee. This is not an incorporated town, but settlement here predates settlement at Everglades City. It was once the larger of the two towns—the first to have a post office, a store, a school, or a church. But it remained isolated, cut off from the mainland.

Hope had arrived in the form of the road link to the Tamiami Trail, but that road stopped at Everglades. Chokoloskee’s residents had pushed for construction to continue to the island, but Collier saw no profit in it and the state couldn’t justify spending the money for the 200 or so residents on the island.

Chokoloskee remained isolated until 1956. That year the road finally crossed the bay, though by that time many residents had left. The school had consolidated with the all-grades school in Everglades, and students were picked up in a county-owned School Boat every day to get to classes. The boat is still around, most recently having been used by the Everglades City mayor in a procession.

I’d ridden the three miles over to Chokoloskee the day before, but had not been impressed. Much of the island is given over to two large RV parks. There are some vaguely Polynesian-looking condos on the north side of the island just as you come in from the mainland. One huge RV park is to the left; the other is farther back on the western side of the island. There is the post office, a store, a church, a restaurant. There’s a museum in the historic Smallwood Store at the southern end of the island, but I didn’t go inside. There are numerous private homes, many of the trailers, several others in serious disrepair. And there are three enormous mansions, one three stories tall and probably with 6000+ square feet under roof. Given the price of the single-wide and the stilt home, I can only imagine what the appraisal on that home is.

There’s also an abandoned hotel, the old kind they used to build along the U.S. highways with a dozen or so rooms stretched out in a single story L-shaped building around a parking lot. The parking lot was gone. In the sloping front lawn were trucks to a full-sized railcar. There were more wheel trucks elsewhere on the hotel property, and another two sets at the Smallwood store site.

There was never a railroad on Chokoloskee. Why were these here? Who went to the trouble of carting them over there? Were the Chokoloskites trying to build a streetcar to compete with Everglades? This is the Chokoloskee equivalent of Stonehenge.

Almost from my first day in town I thought there was potential here for an artists colony of some sort. Of course with land prices what they are there’s no way that could happen. But the town seems to be perfect for such a thing—lots of open land that could become artists’ bungalows, a ready tourist infrastructure, and a clear need for something for people to do. Many artists like to work with some amount of seclusion, and the town has that in spades. The Everglades themselves are gorgeous and certainly could inspire anyone’s muse. The local population is fairly young and mostly bored, and a coffee-house/art gallery/restaurant that stayed open late would probably bring in a local crowd as much as the tourist set. It all seems so perfect.

Everglades City would work for this. Chokoloskee is another matter. The RV parks were inhabited by the RV people, mostly older folks with little interest in seeing an artists’ colony or in late-night poetry readings at coffee shops. The island was actually quite densely settled, in stark contrast to Everglades City. And yet here was the place I’d been envisioning. It’s called JT’s Island Grill and Gallery. On Fridays and Saturdays a man in at least his late 50s parks a Prius a couple blocks down the main road in Everglades City and dances around like all his joints have become disconnected, holding a sign for JT’s.

The building itself, right across the street from the smaller western RV Park on Chokoloskee, is painted in funky south Florida colors and houses a gallery of local art and kitsch, plus books, T-shirts, and other standard tourist paraphernalia. The restaurant serves organic whole foods and vegetarian meals, fresh salads and a variety of meals not found anywhere else in the area (most seafood in Everglades City restaurants is fried, though most places will broil if you ask and the Rod & Gun also does grilled and blackened), and is staffed by an energetic German man and two or three twenty-something leftists.

JT’s is a requisite sort of establishment for any artists’ colony and the food is excellent, perhaps the best in town. I got the feeling they were struggling. A handpainted sign out front indicated that the building and business were for sale, though it was hard to tell how seriously they meant it.

Still, with housing going for $400+ per square foot, this is a dream that will never come to pass. Everglades City is likely to remain half-empty.

Saturday I had two events planned, and surprisingly both worked out. In the morning I met at the ranger station for a guided paddle through the 10,000 islands.

Most of the 10,000 islands are little more than mangroves, often with no dry land whatsoever and frequently surrounded by oyster beds. As one mangrove island tends to look exactly like another, this is not the place to try out your navigation skills. Stories abound of people getting lost in the mangroves and not coming out for days or longer. This is why you go with a guide.

All the other paddlers on the trip were in rented canoes. I own one of the fastest kayaks available commercially at a reasonable price. Consequently it seemed I had only to paddle four strokes to be a quarter mile ahead of the rest of the group. The trip across Chokoloskee Bay to the islands thus went slowly—but it was enjoyable nonetheless. There were dolphins to watch, and airplanes in the pattern for the airstrip.

We took a brief break before paddling around and through the islands, each one more flat and mangrovey than the last. We took a break to watch an osprey catching fish, then struck out for Sand Fly Pass and Sand Fly Island.

Sand Fly Island, despite its inauspicious name, is the only one of the 10,000 islands apart from Chokoloskee to ever support human habitation. The Calusa built shell mounds on this island to control the tidal flow and ease their fishing. The island is perhaps four acres in size and three or four feet above sea level.

Once the Calusa left, American settlers reached the place and set up camp. The island supported one or two families at the most, usually only one, and did so from about 1880 until the 1930s.

You cannot imagine it from the pictures, but this island was once heavily cultivated in tomatoes. The mangroves and buttonwoods were cleared, and only a handful of gumbo-limbo trees dotted the landscape amid rows of tomatoes. The fields are overgrown now—and there aren’t any wild tomatoes on the island (which is disappointing; I’d hoped there would be some survivors)—and the only sign of habitation is an old cistern, some blocks that once supported the house, and an artesian well. The well was dug by either the state or the Collier company in the 1920’s (accounts vary), and although it is quite deep the water it produces is still just a touch salty. This a flowing well and you can taste the water. Once you do, you’ll understand why even after the well was dug the families continued to get their drinking water from the cistern. By the 1940’s the island had been abandoned.

After showering off the salt and taking a quick nap I headed down the Tamiami Trail toward Miami. About halfway between there and Everglades City is the Shark Valley visitor’s center of the national park. This stretch of road has a real “river of grass” feel that the earlier stretch from Naples lacked. Every few miles a green highway sign says “Indian Village,” and there will be a little cluster of homes and thatched-roof buildings on one side of the road or the other, always with several enormous pickup trucks outside and lots of “No Trespassing” signs.

Just before you get to Shark Valley you cross through the Miccosukee Indian Reservation, which looks mostly like a Levittown with a four-story glass building that I think houses a casino. It looks very out of place in the middle of the Everglades, and offers conflicting emotions. Is that level of development appropriate in the middle of the River of Grass? Probably not. But what are we supposed to tell the Miccosukee? Move to Oklahoma? Or resume the pastoral nomadic existence of your ancestors?

Incidentally, don’t speed through the reservation. The Miccosukee are very serious about their 45 mph speed limit and enforce it aggressively.

The Shark Valley Moonlight Bike Hike, offered on the Friday and Saturday nights nearest the full moon every month from October through April, is the must-do event at Everglades National Park. If you see nothing else and do nothing else at this park, do this.

The main attraction of Shark Valley is a 15-mile loop trail from the visitors center to an observation tower in the middle of the swamp. You are free to drive this trail during park hours, or take one of the park service’s trams and hear the ranger’s discussion of the view during the trip. You may also hike or bike the trail, and you can do this any time day or night whether the park is open or not. Park out along the highway and ride to your heart’s content.

Joining the sponsored Moonlight Bike Hike gives you several benefits. You can leave your car parked in the parking lot instead of along the highway. You get a free glow stick. And the program is designed to take you to the observation tower as great flocks of egrets, herons, and other birds are arriving in the area to roost for the night. Going in spring or fall means you see migratory and resident birds both.

The ranger who gave the talk Saturday night said the goal of the program was to provide visitors with an emotional connection to the park. If you ride down the loop road in that golden hour before sunset and arrive at the tower as the birds are flying to roost, thousands of them, then watch the sun set and the moon come up and ride back in the light of a (nearly) full moon, and fail to feel any emotional connection to the park, then you are a hopeless cause.

This trip was a little different from last spring’s National Park trip. And while I hope to take another trip to another park next year (perhaps this time with friends along), I’d like to come back to the Everglades. Being a Floridian I’ve always felt a certain connection to the park, even before the moonlight bike ride. Everglades National Park was the first park created solely to preserve a unique habitat and biodiversity; earlier parks preserved natural and scenic wonders. This makes the Everglades special, but much more than that, the Everglades are themselves special. There is no other habitat like it on Earth, and no other geology like it, either.

The legacy of Everglades drainage continues to put the future of the river and its wildlife in doubt. The diking of Lake Okeechobee and building of canals put an end to flooding and made large-scale agriculture possible in the northern section of the glades, but it also irreparably damaged the ecosystem. Water levels in the glades are now managed by the South Florida Water Management District rather than seasonal variation in rainfall, and where once there was a river 50 miles wide and six inches deep there is now a prairie with dry areas and wet areas, and some channels as much as four to six feet deep that present significant obstacles to deer, panthers, and other megafauna in the park.

The state of Florida and the federal government have produced a plan for Everglades restoration, but the jury is out not just on whether the plan will work, but whether it will even be implemented. It may be too late make much difference, and the reality is that without eliminating the agricultural zones south of Lake Okeechobee and opening the lake up to more natural water flow the glades will never really be restored and will continue to decline. Miami-Dade county keeps pushing its own urban development boundary deeper into the glades, and the needs of the region’s six million citizens (a number expected to double by 2020 and double again by 2050, though that last number seems highly suspect) for drinking water and the like will continue to pressure the Everglades and their champions.

The park ranger who gave the talk at Shark Valley pointed out that we aren’t trying to restore the Everglades solely for the birds and animals, cute as they may be. The truth is that the glades are a vital part of the Floridian and Biscayne aquifer system, and if they are destroyed the water in those aquifers will cease being replenished. Indeed, if Everglades restoration fails entirely, south Florida could well become “the only desert in the world that gets 70 inches of rain a year,” as governor Reuben Askew said during the muck fires of the 1970s. Indeed, without the Everglades to cleanse and replenish the aquifers, future residents of Miami might take a page from Sand Fly Island’s history and construct cisterns to collect rainwater for their needs.

It would be a shame if governor Askew’s vision came true in the name of short-term gain for developers and cane growers. Still, the battle is hardly over. Visit the Everglades while you still can.