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Here & Now

Boogie Down: The November Social Season (Judy Stead)You can tell november has arrived by that element of crazy that gets tossed into the sophisticated, the exhilarating and the sublime here along the Gulfshore. The social season is revving up its engines with just enough galas and events so we can do practically all of them if we feel like it. We will feel like it, too, because one thing that’s simply not done in these parts is cookie-cutter fundraisers.

We can put on the Ritz (literally) for an enchanted evening at the black-tie Angel Ball, and the very next day put on our hand-tooled cowboy boots to try our skill on a mechanical bull or play pony pie bingo—yes, real pony "pies"—at the Bootstrap Boogie Barn Dance. The Angel Ball, on the 11th, is among Southwest Florida’s most prestigious events, benefiting The Community School of Naples. Bootstrap Boogie, on the 12th, is relatively new. It benefits Naples Equestrian Challenge, a therapeutic riding program for adults and children with disabilities.

Help the Hookers

For more November boogie-ing, head up to the 12th annual Southwest Florida Blues Festival in Cape Coral, Saturday, Nov. 19. The lineup is a feast of rockin’, sizzlin’, jazzy, soulful blues, with headliners like Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King, alongside rising stars like electric blues guitarist Samantha Fish.

Sponsored by the Matlacha Mariners (that’s MAT-la-SHAY), the festival recently outgrew its home—that certifiably insane, time-warped fishing village of the same name on Pine Island.

I have it on good authority, from Vice-Madam Vicki herself, that the Matlacha Hookers will be out in force.

No, not the fishnet-stocking kind. The actual fish-net kind. You’ll know these angler gals by their oversized fish-hook membership pins. When they’re not fishing, they’re raising money for local charities.

Madam Vicki says that, in its 13 years, more than 1,000 women have become card-carrying Matlacha Hookers. I confess that some of us shelled out the $20 membership just to get that coveted pin. You, too, can sign up—online or at the festival.

Make It a Weekend

Matlacha, three miles west of the festival grounds, is visible from outer space due to the psychedelic sherbet colors of its former fishing cottages, hippie havens and hermit huts. Now they’re art galleries, seafood shacks and kitschy island shops.

For total immersion, book a room at the 1960s-era fishing motel called the Bridgewater Inn. Don’t be fooled by the sissified name. This place is so real that, back when it was called The Hotel, some guy sawed a hole in his floor because he couldn’t be bothered to step onto the dock to cast his line.

Since then, they fancied the place up with shiny vinyl sofas, air conditioning and flat-screen TVs. They also tend to frown on floor sawing. But, trust me, it’s still the 1960s. Fall rates start at $89, and $159 gets the prime corner suite with full kitchen. Oh, and that comes with a bucket of bait shrimp and a half-day kayak rental.

A bit too much ambience, maybe? Bokeelia, at the more gentrified northern tip of Pine Island, offers early 20th century history drenched in 21st century luxury. Check out the 1926 Tarpon Lodge with its four-star restaurant ($130 to $270), or the 1914 mansion, Bokeelia Tarpon Inn ($195 to $255).

On Sunday, Nov. 20, iconic Matlacha artist Leoma Lovegrove will be in residence at the Lovegrove Gallery and Gardens, doing her trademark thing, Painting Out Loud. In honor of the Blues Festival, she’ll be painting a bluefish and serving blue refreshments. In the unlikely event you can’t figure out which one is Leoma, look for the white plastic sunburst shades.

Sex and Sea Slime

Meanwhile, the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center decided to kick off its November with some sex, drugs and sea slime.

World-renowned marine scientist Dr. Ellen Prager admits she gets her thrills peeking into the boudoirs of sea creatures. As it turns out, there’s some pretty scandalous stuff going on down there.

Rookery Bay snagged the slime-talking Dr. Prager for the season’s first Lunch and Learn program on Nov. 2. Best to leave the little ones at home for this lecture, which features prurient details from her book, Sex, Drugs and Sea Slime: The Ocean’s Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter.

Might it affect your next dinner order, for example, to know that a female lobster’s most amorous seduction technique involves an artful projection of urine? Once she attracts the crustacean of her dreams, this femme fatale disrobes—literally—by slipping out of something less comfortable: her shell.

What Dr. Prager knows

Would you rather be an octopus or a squid? It depends, Dr. Prager says, on whether you’re the male. Each creature courteously extends an arm and hands over a packet of sperm to his beloved so she can fertilize her own eggs. (Quite civilized, don’t you think?) But one member of the species, the blanket octopus, is perhaps a tad too generous.

"He actually self-amputates his arm," says Dr. Prager, "and gives her that as well. Then, he dies."

The alternative isn’t that much better, considering the female blanket octopus is 100 times his size. I’m just saying.

Moving right along to the hagfish. Startle this eel-like creature, Dr. Prager says, and he’ll slime you with up to seven buckets of disgusting, gelatinous goo. She has pictures to prove it.

As for the drugs, Dr. Prager reveals weird creatures that are already providing medical miracles, and others that may provide cures for terminal diseases.

If you miss the lecture, you still can get the book. The stunning, close-up photography is well worth the $26 price.

Alas, November will slip away, as the twinkle and glitz of the holidays command our attention. Let’s boogie down while we can.

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