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Here & Now

Recession Cure-all?

Not to be cavalier about this recession thing—I’ve lived through three already, the first in 1973, the year gas prices skyrocketed from 38 cents to 55 cents a gallon and the whole country panicked over an alleged toilet paper shortage. Still, there’s something sweetly hopeful about this one, at least here along the Gulfshore.

This time around, we each seem to be trying, in our individual way, to do our small part. Even when we don’t technically have to, it has become very chic to downsize, especially if we get to talk about it. Why just the other day, I overheard a guy on his iPhone/TV/computer/DVD burner/martini shaker saying that he’d just traded his big, conspicuous Hummer for a lightweight little Porsche Carrera GT. OK, I made that up, but it’s true that a business owner known for her impeccable style recently was spotted at Whole Foods gushing about the perfect little Eric Javits bag she picked up for $49 on—gasp!—eBay.

Savvy restaurateurs saw this coming and headed straight for simplicity. Move over, Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO, north Naples), because just last week I had lunch at that trendy new Naples restaurant whose namesake menu item is a plate of salt.


Not Your Mother’s Salt

True, this is not your mother’s shaker of “When It Rains It Pours” Morton Salt. We’re talking hand-harvested artisan crystals from deep in the mountains of Austria and the Viking seacoast of Denmark. We’re talking coarse Celtic grey salts, dark-flavored oak-smoked salts, and millennia-old jewel-pink crystals from a remote Himalayan mountainside. Picture these sparkling pretties served at Sea Salt (Old Naples) on a bistro plate accompanied by designer olive oils and crusty bread for dipping. But still. It’s a plate of salt. Who knew?

The point is, it’s not socially correct right now to spend $1,500 on a tin of the world’s most extravagant caviar. But for a special occasion, and all the attendant bragging rights, just about anybody can squeeze out $15 for a pound of the world’s most extravagant salt. 


The Wolf at the Door

The other good news (or bad news, depending on your perspective) is this new national obsession with accountability. It seems nobody’s immune, even storybook characters, and it has found its way to our sacred shores. First there was Wicked, the Untold Story of the Witches of Oz (Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, Fort Myers), in which we found out that the Good Witch had some serious character flaws and the Wicked Witch—despite the unfortunate greenness of her face—wasn’t an evil person after all. Now comes Naples Players’ courtroom drama, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. This time the wolf gets to tell his side of the story. What actually happened that day? Was the wolf really that big or that bad? Did he huff? Did he, in fact, puff? We get to judge for ourselves in the not-for-kids-only production in the Tobye Studio at Sugden Community Theatre May 22 through June 20.  


It’s a Jungle Out There

As my heroine, alice (of Wonderland), observed, things just get curiouser and curiouser. If you don’t believe it, show up at The Dock at Crayton Cove (Naples City Dock) on Saturday, May 9 for the Great Dock Canoe Race. All normalcy will be suspended and many self-respecting canoes, not to mention some of Naples’ most dignified movers and shakers, will endure extreme indignities in a most unusual day-long series of races.

This iconic event, now in its 33rd year, dates back to prehistoric times. That is, before Interstate 75 found its way to Naples; before our wine festivals and five-star hotels, when anything that might have existed east of Airport-Pulling Road was “out in the country.” Beyond the event’s basic requirement—that one must begin with a normal recreational canoe and traditional paddles—pretty much anything goes. Some canoes whistle and belch colorful smoke; others are disguised as castles and trains and Viking ships. Nobody would blink at a canoe disguised as a pizza, operated by a pepperoni and a mushroom, inspired by last year’s tasty-looking banana split.

With this year’s theme, “It’s a Jungle Out There,” who would be surprised to see a sinking canoe full of hedge fund managers? On a more optimistic note, it’s sure to bring out some three-toed sloths and more than a few Tarzans. Maybe Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn will show up in the African Queen. And Dr. Livingstone, I presume. 

We’re a hardy lot, here on the Gulfshore. When we’re feeling the pinch these days, we can take it with a few grains of gourmet salt. We can return to our childhood innocence with a new view of our favorite storybook characters. We can get silly and paddle our Land Rovers on Naples Bay.

Thanks to creative marketers, a positive outlook and a great sense of humor, we’re going to get through this just fine. The best news is the sunshine, the beach, the Gulf and the bays are free. Let’s celebrate the simple pleasures, and savor every moment.

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