This year for Critter’s Thanksgiving family reunion we made a hellish trip to Naples, FL. It was hellish because we had to stop in Boston first, with a three-hour layover, so we were pretty ragged by the time we finally got off the second flight. We flew on JetBlue, which wasn’t a bad experience at all. Their seats and cushy and they’ve got plenty of TV/music to keep one occupied (not to mention more-or-less unlimited snacks), so that was nice. And, perhaps best of all, they don’t get on the intercom and blather on and on and on and on about the weather at your destination, the current altitude, the status of the Dollar vs. the Yen, or any other trivial bullshit. They didnt’ even spend 10 minutes hawking a high-interest credit card like some other airlines are notorious for *cough*Alaska*cough*. Once you’re in the air, they serve some snacks and leave you the hell alone. My kind of airline!
Anyway I had never been to Florida before and really had no desire to before this point, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The resort was a tad cheesy but nice, the beach (and sunsets!) were beautiful, and the temperature was just right since I’m not one to lay out in the hot sun these days. Or ever, really. Aside from a couple of quite side-trips, we mostly stayed in the “richer-than-thou” area of Naples.
We did get a glimpse of the sharp divide between the rich and poor in the area, though. Our GPS led us only 2.5 miles away from Naples to two closed grocery stores (WTF, Garmin?) and the third one we found was dingy, dirty, and depressing inside, obviously geared towards low-income folks. Back in swanky Naples, we ran across a grocery store whose parking lot was littered with Lexus and Mercedes and other flashy cars, so we just had to go in. It was the polar opposite of the other store — sort of like Whole Foods, but even more fancied-up for the wealthy. Huge piles of fresh, colorful, attractively-arranged produce, generously large bins of bulk items, freshly-cut meat and fish, a vast wine selection, fancy chocolates and gift packages — this place had it all, with the inflated prices to match. We felt it was too upscale for what we were looking for, though we did buy a few things there, including a chocolate bar with smoked bacon inside. On our way back to the resort we discovered something called Publix which, as it turns out, is sort of Florida’s Safeway. Not that we normally shop at Safeway, but this store’s reasonable prices and average wares were more our speed.
Among the other interesting things we noticed about the area was the overwhelming whiteness of the town — it seemed like the only non-whites we saw there were carrying trays and opening doors for people. There was also the stale smell of conservatism, from rich old snobs right down to redneck assholes, Confederate flag plates and all. (I discovered that some grocery stores there actually cover up some magazines for showing too much flesh…and I’m not talking about porn magazines, either, but things like Cosmopolitan. It’s hilarious.) McCain/Palin posters were still standing, faded and pathetic in the sun. Drivers in Florida also LOVE to tailgate, cut people off, and ignore their turn signals. That goes for young and old drivers alike — they’re crazy aggressive, like everyone was rushing to the hospital to deliver a baby. Anyway, I’ve posted some random photos from around there that you might find amusing.
We did manage to get out of town a couple of times, though. One day we drove up to St. Petersburg to visit the Salvador Dalí Museum, which was bizarre and fascinating. I had never really known much about Dalí, so it was a great experience to be able to get close to his paintings — very close — and see all the incredible (and often baffling) detail they contain. Another day, we drove about 20 miles away to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, which contains 2.5 miles of boardwalk through six different “layers” of swampland. It was unbelievably still and quiet there — except, of course, when loudmouthed tourists came barging through. One girl could be heard across the whole damn swamp, I swear. Otherwise we were fascinated by how the water was so still, and most of it had a sort of film on it which made it look solid. I took a bunch of photos of the swamp where you can see this…it’s pretty cool. The “air plants” growing on the trees are interesting too, they were the biggest I’ve ever seen and they populated most of the larger trees.
So that was pretty much our trip to Florida. We’d like to go back and do the “real” Everglades, and maybe a trip to Disney World. (I loathe Disney as a company, but Critter really wants to go so why not? It would be a great anthropology expedition for me…plus, I kinda like the rides.)