Here & Now
Out With the Bad!
I used to keep a file labeled Really Bad Ideas. I almost closed it last year with the introduction of the worst idea possible in the history of the universe: a 1,500-calorie, chocolate-bacon cheeseburger with a Krispy Kreme doughnut for a bun. But no, here comes the Candwich: a peanut butter and jelly or barbecued chicken sandwich wrapped in cellophane like a Twinkie and stuffed into a pop-top beverage can. Shelf life? About 2 million years. That’s it. I’m done. Today, I started a new file called Really Sensible Ideas. Here’s what I have so far.
Free Checked Luggage
This sounds crazy, but I know of two Southwest Florida International (RSW) airlines that let you check a bag for free. What a concept! I love you, JetBlue. I love Southwest even a teensy bit more, because besides the free bag check, after my recent flight, they e-mailed me a warm fuzzy “Welcome Home, Karen.” Technically, it was a “no-reply” form letter, but still.
Everglades Prep School
The Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples has come up with the coolest-ever way to get kids psyched for the real deal. At the interactive Journey through the Everglades, they’ll see dolphins and manatees, of course, and the nesting, flying and screeching of great herons, ibis and roseate spoonbills. They may see an osprey swoop down and grasp a fish in his great, sharp talons. But trust me, their favorite part will be getting in touch with their inner Swamp Thing as night falls black and heavy, with the grunts, bellows and red eyes of alligators, the whine of frenzied mosquitoes and who knows what other spookiness of the swamp.
This one, frankly, isn’t sensible at all. An intricate wood carving or bronze sculpture can last a millennium, so no artists in their right minds would bother to create equally intricate works that will last a weekend at most, right? Wrong. Once a year, sculptors show up on Fort Myers Beach, wielding dental picks, pastry knives, drinking straws and other tools of the trade. For five days, this honky-tonk beach becomes ever so fleetingly a gallery of bigger-than-life, complex, funny, sophisticated and elegant works of art. Then the masterpieces are reclaimed by the sea, and the party resumes.
The rest of the year these artists travel the world, some of them doing shows and creating sand sculptures for big-bucks corporate events. At the American SandSculpting Championship Festival, Nov. 10–14, we get to see them all in one place for $5.
What kind of psychotic person can happily dangle over the side of a helicopter shooting aerial photos but gets queasy on a bicycle if her feet can’t reach the ground? I have no clue, but that’s me. Which is why the new flat-foot bicycle technology made it into my Really Sensible file.
The Electra Townie bike isn’t just adorable, with jazzy colors and cushy gel seats; it’s oh-so ladylike, with its modesty-preserving step-through design. Plus, you get to sit up straight, as we boomers did back in the olden days. Most important, I can touch terra firma with both feet when I come to a stop. And that’s not all. Nowadays, bike shops have these futuristic laser-and-computer-driven body scan modules. You just step inside (clothes on, I asked) and it spits out the coordinates for the ideal placement of my handlebars, seat and pedals.
And even that’s not all, says Karen over at The Bike Route Naples. Their “performance-fit” trainer, a real person, will watch me ride and psychoanalyze my cycling style (which is basically: try not to fall down) before giving my new wheels the final tweak.
Feasting, Tropical Style
I’m not saying that pumpkin pie isn’t great, but how many people are lucky enough to live in a place where they can pick pie-ready Key limes right off the trees? And papayas, too, as local chef Herve Cuyeu points out. His Thanksgiving brunch menu at the Naples Grande Beach Resort celebrates our good fortune with tropical twists, such as his Key lime-infused green papaya and yellowtail snapper ceviche. Chef Herve says if you plan to be out deep-sea fishing that day, you can impress your guests by making it right on the boat. So simple; no heat required.
Oh, and why serve an ordinary, up North-style dollop of sweet potatoes when you can whip them up with some spices and serve them in hollowed-out Florida orange “baskets?” A strip of rind makes the handle. I got the idea from Jamie, at Jamie and Jacob Catering. If you ask politely, both Jamie and Herve will give you their recipes.
Imagine a long white gown and sparkly new ring—but no shoes—against the backdrop of gentle waves and a tropical November sky. Over the summer I got to attend a best friend’s wedding at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The bride wore golden slippers as she processed through one of the most stunning man-made cathedrals of Europe. This month I will see my daughter, Sarah, and her beloved, Michael, make their vows in bare feet as the officiant (also, perhaps, barefoot) joins the bride and groom in marriage on a Naples beach, one of the most spectacular natural cathedrals on the planet. Romantic. Simple. Sensible.
Why do we get married in bare feet, create fine objets d’ art out of sand and ride our cute bicycles 365 days a year? The same reason we go boating on Thanksgiving Day and why we don’t need a holiday to put twinkly lights in our palm trees. Because this is Paradise, and because we can.
If you’re counting all your blessings, as I am, you’ll savor every moment.