The Sunshine Boys hit the road. My writing partner, David and I (only hours away from actually BECOMING the Sunshine Boys) headed for Naples in the sunshine state to do research for our latest ersatz pilot. I then moved on to New York.
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale then headed across Alligators Alley. Didn’t see any gators but apparently at the first light of day they do come out to the highway. The dumb ones try to cross. The smart ones stand along the side selling tickets to the world famous Sarasota Clown museum.
South Florida has two of my favorite things – great weather and GOOFINESS. If you love Americana, Jimmy Buffet, stone crabs, early bird specials, and spectacular beaches this is the place for you.
Were a studio paying for this trip we would have stayed in Naples. But since it was our own dime, Bonita Beach was our Gateway to the Gulf home. In the 20’s there was this cult, the Koreshans, who believed that Bonita Beach was the center of the world. They were a celibate tribe so unfortunately no longer exist. (Darwin works) Just a state park in their honor. And if I’m not mistaken, the Hampton Inn we were staying at is at the center of Bonita Beach, and room 229 just to our left is the absolute DEAD center of the world.”
No wonder the Holiday Inn across the street is proud. Their marquee proclaims “Number one guest rated shower heads.”
Favorite store name (maybe ever): “Master Bait & Tackle Shop” on Bonita Beach Rd. Yes, I purchased t-shirts.
You drive down Whippoorwill Lane and come to an intersection. On the left is a hospice, on the right is a nudist colony.
Everyone here is from somewhere else. A native is someone whose had to renew their Florida driver’s license.
Florida is the home of many fun attractions. Disney World is okay but even better, in Naples, is “Jungle Larry’s Safari”. It’s a seedy zoo with drugged animals. During Hurricane Wilma last year some of the animals escaped. The spider monkeys got into the nearby Athletic club. The club wanted to get rid of them (their membership charter is very specific on qualifications) but you can’t kill monkeys in the city limits. I can almost imagine a rep from the club addressing a city council meeting. “In order to offset the damage of Hurricane Wilma and help our high school majorettes get to this year’s Rose Parade, as a fund raiser we’d like to propose a cookout/monkey shoot.”
Not to be outdone, there is also “Jungle Erv’s Airboat World” – see the everglades mangrove jungle. With gift shop. I’m surprised funeral homes in South Florida don’t have gift shops.
Other local attractions I missed: “Weeki Wachee”, a live mermaid show and the “Dinner Train Theatre” where shows open out of many towns.
Never got to a spring training game. The traffic on US. 41 and I-75 was so bad it would have been faster to drive to Scottsdale, Arizona than Ft. Myers.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma, all the palm trees in the area tilt south. As do some of the people.
A consultant to the local tourism board suggested they never mention the “H” word (hurricane). Instead, just say it’s their “windy” season. Cows blowing across the highway kind of wind.
Forget the cost of homes. Dockmaniums, to store your boat cost $200,000. Used to be free.
South of Naples you get into DELIVERANCE country. Everglade City. In the 80’s it was the hub of a huge marijuana smuggling business. Eventually they were busted and 80% of the men in the town were indicted and sent off to prison. Well, now they’re back and very bitter. It’s a rough town. DEADWOOD with shrimp boats. It’s the only town with a mayor with a mullet. Not the place for David and I to go to for lunch and ask which theatre is showing BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.
Big Collier County museum attraction: an old tank just sitting on the lawn. What makes it such a unique attraction is that it has a parking space.
There’s a guy in Naples who looks like he’s right out of the SOPRANOS named Johnny. Since he has an auto repair shop on the same street as a hospital he calls himself “Doctor Johnny”. His local commercials feature him in scrubs standing over a sick engine barking out orders to a buxom nurse. “Nusre, wrench! Stat!” Johnny’s other job is city councilman.
Naples has a bandshell but no concerts because of noise restrictions.
This is a big Republican area. Billboard spotted: a cute baby with the words “Please don’t abort me.” Excuse me, but HOLY SHIT!!!
And under construction nearby is a whole new town funded by pizza czar Tom Monaghan, to be named Ava Maria. Center of the town will be a Catholic University (are you picking up the theme here?) that will proudly feature the largest crucifix in America. Jungle Jesus’ Church Tour.
I spotted a Confederate flag bumper sticker that read: “Heritage not Hate”. Why not just “Oktoberfest not Holocaust”?
They love their festivals in S/W Florida. Among them is the wine festival, the harvest festival (who will be this year’s Miss Vegetable?), and my favorite -- the Swamp Buggy Festival featuring the “Mile ‘o Mud” race, and the Swamp Buggy Queen. One lovely tradition is that once she’s crowned she’s then thrown in the mud.
Best restaurant in Ft. Myers – Cru.
Did not personally see the dreaded Skunk Ape, but a local resident claims this creature does exist and coincidentally resides on his property. He even has a blurred video. He’s hoping to attract tourism. Jungle Larry in incensed.
There are 103 golf courses in the Naples area. Only 8 are public courses. If your ball goes into the rough just leave it. The Skunk-ape might get ya.
Visited a good friend who lives in Gulf Harbour, near Ft. Myers. Gorgeous gated community. There’s one house that has its own casino. Amazingly it’s not owned by an Indian.
Drove back over Alligator Alley. I knew I was in Miami when I saw my first driverless Cadillac.
Stayed in Ft. Lauderdale next to the “Fishing Hall of Fame”. This actually exists. Who are the inductees? The Old Man from OLD MAN IN THE SEA? Ted Williams? Captain Ahab? The crew from PERFECT STORM?
Thanks to Jungle Maggie, Jungle Randy, Jungle Arnie, Jungle John, and Mayor Bill for making our stay at the center of the earth so enjoyable.
On Thursday David returned home and I flew to New York to continue work on the musical I’m co-writing. The flight was like being trapped in a Haddassah meeting. “Morty, here, I brought some Craisins for the trip.” “I’m not hungry.” “Eat something or you’re gonna have gas!!”
It was 85 degrees in Florida, 40 in New York.
Stayed at the Hotel Wales on the Upper East Side. It was the smallest room I’ve ever had. Too bad I was alone. I could have easily qualified for membership in the Mile High Club.
Around the corner was Woody Allen’s place. I left a note saying the next time he goes to London to film a movie I’d be happy to house sit and baby sit Soon-Yi.
I was the only person in Manhattan with a non-spray tan.
Saw RING OF FIRE, the music of Johnny Cash. It was a hoot (and a nanny). My only criticism: they didn’t include his jingle for the Victoria Station restaurant chain. No study of the Man in Black is complete without it.
Also saw JERSEY BOYS, the story of the Four Seasons. Not your typical Broadway crowd. Every goomba of New Jersey was in the audience. There must’ve been 100 women named Carmella. I thought I saw Dr. Johnny from Naples. The show was SPECTACULAR. It was so good that after twenty minutes I stopped fearing for my life. JERSEY BOYS will win every Tony Award there is…or next year there will be a lot of missing Tony voters.
Whether you prefer to “Walk Like a Man” or “Walk the Line” you can’t go wrong with either of these shows.
Friday was St. Patrick’s Day. 40 degrees is not ideal weather for wearing kilts. I do hope that guy was going to the parade. Because of all the celebrating rowdy drunks needing rides it was impossible to get a taxi…from 10 AM on.
I met Phoebe Cates and she was gorgeous. How nice to see someone I’ve had a crush on for twenty years and not go “GAAAAA!”
All in all, a great trip. I got a lot of work done, saw some terrific shows. My only regret is seeing JERSEY BOYS the night before I met Phoebe Cates. I so wish I didn’t sing “Can’t Make My Eyes Off of You” to her in the middle of Madison Avenue.