Here & Now: Listen Up, Gulfshore Newcomers
Useful tips for first-time visitors to paradise
Illustration by PushArt
Want a really fine piece of theater? There’s plenty of that here on the Gulfshore, but sometimes the funniest lines are delivered far from any stage. Just lurk around an RSW luggage carousel, any hotel lobby or a happy-hour bar, and stay alert for Seinfeld-worthy lines from newcomers about life and nature here. Here are some of my favorites.
“I hear there are pythons dropping from trees, and alligators chase golf balls right down the fairway.”
Sorry, all you Indiana Jones wannabes. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s hugely publicized Python Challenge last year lured 1,500 hunters from all over the U.S and Canada, and they bagged just 68 snakes. Pretty pitiful, considering they had more than a million acres of wilderness to work with. Not a single one was dangling from a tree.
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What you actually can count on dropping from trees for the next few months, besides juicy grapefruits and native smooth-skinned avocados, are the Royal Poinciana and tabebuia blossoms that cover the ground in soft yellow, respectively.
Useful tip for newcomers: Lounging directly beneath a coconut palm is not recommended.
Gators, by the way, find golfers only mildly amusing, though they must get a good bellow from the circus-hued plaid pants and contrasting socks that occasionally show up on courses here. They don’t go out of their way for a golf ball, either, unless it’s attached to a pork chop or something. Still, by USGA regulations, a ball-stealing gator falls under Rule #19-1: A ball in motion deflected or stopped by an outside agency gets you a free drop. A handy little rule, that.
“Where’s the rest of the crab? This is just a pile of claws.”
Wow, you are new around here! They aren’t just claws. They’re our world-famous stone crab claws, and no crustacean had to die in the making of this feast. Crabbers take one claw and then send the creature home to grow a new one. I’m not saying it’s a delightful experience for the crab, but it’s sustainable. Those big, succulent claws must be at least 2.75 inches long to harvest. Some reach more than 5 inches. The offshore waters between Naples and Everglades City are among North America’s richest habitats, making it a delicious place to have your crab and eat it, too, so to speak.
Useful tip for newcomers: Eat them like a local—chilled with a creamy mustard sauce. Since the claws are cooked immediately off the boat and iced for restaurant delivery, a heated claw has been cooked twice.
“Bigfoot lives in the Big Cypress Swamp.”
No, no, no. That big hairy guy—aka Sasquatch—skulks about in the Pacific Northwest. You must mean the legendary Skunk Ape. It’s about the same size, but smells worse—like rotten eggs or methane. That’s due to its fondness for lima beans. Also because it hangs out around alligator holes, which are filled with swamp gas and rotting cadavers. I have this on good authority from Skunk Ape Head Researcher David Shealy. Film crews frequently show up for some tracking and documentary making. They haven’t exactly caught one on tape yet, but Shealy is ever vigilant. At the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters and adjacent campground, you can pick up your Everglades Skunk Ape Research Field Guide, Skunk Ape T-shirt and Skunk Ape bumper sticker. In a generous mood, Shealy may even help you set out some tracking bait, which requires a very specific type and quality of lima bean. Details at skunkape.info.
Useful tip for newcomers: Shealy’s 20-foot pet python, Goldie, makes an awesome photo op to impress your Facebook friends. (See Pythons Dropping from Trees, above).
“There’s no such thing as a Green Flash.”
Oh yes there is, New Person. I’ve seen it three times in 24 years. The phenomenon happens only when certain atmospheric conditions dovetail, involving astronomical refraction, atmospheric dispersion, aerosol particles, mirage simulations and other physics mumbo jumbo. When it occurs, it will be at that split second when the sun disappears beneath the horizon.
Useful tip for newcomers: Two people can stand together watching the horizon when the green flash appears. You may see it; your companion may not. So if you’re prone to embarrassment, sneak a peek at the other faces before you do the happy dance.
“It’s not the heat; it’s the humidity.”
Oh dear, not that again. Proper eavesdropping prohibits responses, but sometimes you just want to say, “Really? Did you forget those 30 consecutive days up North last August, when your shirt stayed stuck to your back? Thought so.”
I find our humidity quite bearable in this land of sidewalk bistros, sunset sails, flowering gardens and waterfront dining, accompanied by refreshing Gulf breezes.
Useful tip for newcomers: Humidity magically plumps up dry skin! I heartily recommend a few hours of Gulfshore humidity, enhanced with a stone crab feast alfresco (see above), a Naples Originals coconut mojito and a slice of locally made Key lime pie. You just can’t get that Up North.
The Naples Original Cocktail
WHAT’S IN IT
Three-quarters of an ounce each of Dancing Pine oak cask rum, coconut-flavored rum, fresh-squeezed lime juice and Coco Lopez coconut cream, plus a splash of club soda and three sprigs of mint.
HOW THEY MAKE IT
• Lightly muddle two of the mint sprigs in the coconut cream.
• Add lime juice and rums.
• Fill with ice to the top and give it a serious shake.
• Pour through strainer into a glass over ice.
• Add a splash of club soda and garnish with remaining mint sprig. For a more festive look, add lime wheel and coquitos (marble-sized coconuts).
WHERE TO GET IT
Naples Originals is an organization of 40 independently owned local restaurants. Visit naplesoriginals.com.