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Here & Now

Can We Be Saved from Our Decadence?


Every day—right this very moment, in fact—someone is experiencing the magic of Southwest Florida for the very first time. If you’re one of them, I envy you. I’d say you’re a Gulfshore virgin, but this is a refined place, so let’s just say first-timer.

They say you always remember your first time, and I clearly remember mine. I was lured here by an article in Southern Living magazine, with iconic travel writer Michael Carlton’s sensuous descriptions of the flower-draped cottages in Old Naples and the fruit hanging from century-old citrus trees on the Naples Beach Hotel golf course. His lyrical imagery was tempered by the out-of-time revelation that residents of this tiny seaside city could get fined for leaving their garage doors open. As I said, this is a very refined place.

Keeping your garage private is actually a very sensible law, don’t you think? What goes on behind garage doors should remain behind garage doors. Garages are magnets for all manner of evil, from half-empty paint cans, circa 1992, to (I’m pained to report) 18-foot pink Christmas trees. I have a call in to Mayor John Sorey to make sure the ordinance is still being properly enforced. While we’re on the phone, I plan to offer a few more suggestions. For example, Naples really should ban shocking theatrical productions such as the current play at that Fort Myers den of iniquity, the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre. The show is titled—to put it discreetly—M_ _ opause: The Musical.

You might have thought m_ _ opause itself had been banished from Naples back in the early 1960s, when the first plastic surgeon opened his office on our lovely shores. The only mood swings around here are permissible at benefit auctions, especially if you win, or get outbid on, a collection of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild. And the only acceptable hot fl ashes are the sparkles of sunlight dappling the Gulf of Mexico. Anyway, that racy bit of theater at Broadway Palm—running through May 18 claims to have already corrupted 11 million souls in 11 countries since 2001.

Speaking of racy, we really must put an end to the scandalous horde of heathens and reprobates who show up at Crayton Cove every year about this time dressed in heaven-knows-what (and not enough of it) to race canoes disguised as everything from hamburgers to boudoirs to dinosaur-infested jungles. OK, fine: The mid-May weather is always perfect, you do meet some really cool people, and the event does raise thousands of dollars for worthy causes. This year, it benefits the Special Olympics. But really, people, this is an open garage on steroids. The theme of the 2013 Great Dock Canoe Race is Saturday Night Live, which as we all know is often unkind to our hard-working politicians and that nice Kardashian family.

And really, dear town mothers and fathers, what were you thinking last year when you allowed that demon drink, craft beer, to take hold on our fair shores? I implore all temperance-minded ladies and gentlemen to stay far, far away from the Naples Beach Brewery (GPS it at 4110 Enterprise Ave., Suite 217), which marks its first anniversary this month. Not only are they brewing five craft beers to market themselves, they’re also offering to corrupt innocent folks by showing them how to brew it up at home. It’s a slippery slope, dear readers, so resist at any cost (actually, only $15 for a tasting tour) the temptation to savor such offerings as their full-bodied Cascadian Dark Ale with its tantalizing layers of earth and spice, with a pinch of highly roasted malt and an underlying hint of coffee and chocolate.

Oh dear, I seem to have strayed off topic. Which exactly proves my point about the deteriorating effect of racy theater, chocolate-infused beer and, above all, open garage doors. There simply must be standards. I don’t know how Naples strayed from its original 1870s town plan, in which each home backed up to a narrow alley of crushed shell and sand. Unsightly objects such as mailboxes could be discreetly tucked out of sight, perhaps imbedded in a pretty stone wall, fringed with a jasmine vine. And garbage containers? Imagine the horror if our founding fathers returned to discover green and yellow plastic abominations on wheels in front of their picket-fenced, tin-roofed cottages.

It may be too late for Fort Myers (which was recently reputed to have hosted a production of the Vag _ na Monologues) or Fort Myers Beach (which allows sculptors to create larger-than-life naked bodies amidst fairy tale characters in a worldwide annual sand sculpting festival). And it’s certainly too late for Sanibel Island, in which the official stance is bent over in the middle with one’s posterior in the air. But Naples still may be saved.

If you’re reading this, Mayor Sorey, please dust off that very sensible garage door ordinance. And command that those who cannot move their mailboxes to the back alley, because they don’t have one, at least disguise them as a loggerhead turtles, or cover them in jasmine.


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