Travel Blog - Miami, Vol. 3: Gators Galore

The trip is over and it's back to the Great White North for me, which thankfully is not so white right now. Nature's being charitable to my warm-weathered heart by not kicking me in the mouth with a -35 degree blizzard, at least just yet. Actually I guess we don't get blizzards when it's that cold. Clearly the warmth has gotten to my head.

Though Florida has definitely got its lore like Hawaii for palm trees and pleasure, there are a lot of people living outside of Miami Beach and the condo-filled coastline who love their guns, god, and government. Actually, a lot of them probably believe there could be a lot less government but if they have to have something, they like the colour to be red. After all, Jeb Bush – George's brother – was the state's governor during most of W's reign, and their current governor is a big Trump fan. This is all to say that those whiskey-drinkin', NASCAR-lovin', ethnic-diversity-unlovin' folks are alive and well in the Sunshine State.

And what better way to get in touch with your inner too-much-sun-exposure-on-the-neck-without-sufficiently-high-SPF-sunscreen-and-aloe-vera-following (I hope you enjoy this little flourish of political correctness, I hope to have none more) than taking a trip to the Everglades and hopping on an airboat to go whisking through their swamps and see some gators??

After days in developers' dreamland, it was a welcome change to be with some natural life. I guess you could say that the beach and the ocean are natural, but that illusion pretty quickly dissolves as soon as the sun starts setting at 3 PM behind the 30-storey condos.

Beyond alligators, the Everglades are home to a number of animals including some colourful birds that can walk on lily pads, a problematic tree called the Malaleuca which spreads like a weed and has incredibly-scented leaves, and sawgrass stretching pretty much as far as you can see. The boat skims right through the grass and is powered by an enormous propeller which is driven by a giant V8 engine so if the place weren't already quiet, the silence really starts screaming once the engine shuts off.

I realized that getting excited about seeing alligators is a pretty quick sign that you're not from 'round these parts, like how you know anyone taking pictures of squirrels hasn't been in our neck of the woods too long.

It's frightening to imagine of living in a place where alligators are as common as squirrels, but it seems like when you've grown up in Florida they're pretty ordinary. Suffice to say, if you drop your bag off the boat and into the water when gators are nearby, you don't go jumping in to rescue it. Fellow passengers, well that requires some careful consideration. Beer, well come what may. Our airboat driver's advice was if you find yourself being eaten by an alligator, just hope it's satisfied with your arm.

The final night was back in that wall-art mecca of Wynwood, and a restaurant whose interior was almost entirely wrapped by a Shepard Fairey piece. As I said in the last post, is graffiti still graffiti if the work is commissioned? As I say now, is graffiti still graffiti if it's covering the inside of a swanky restaurant? At some point the madness must end.

Shepard Fairey, the artist in question, is the designer of the OBEY pieces, which look like propaganda from some unheard of dictatorship whose leader was Andre the Giant. At the very bottom of Vol. 2 of this saga is a photo of me in front of a giant OBEY piece. Now I see that Mr. Fairey has not only designed the inside of the Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, but also a new label for a special-edition bottle of Hennessy. It's all nice work to look at, but for something that seems vaguely subversive, he's managing to get it into some pretty moneyed places. Oh well. I guess I'm just griping over the fact that no real estate developers are asking me to write this blog on their restaurant walls. Maybe one day, and then I can only hope Shepard Fairey will give me a hard time about it.