Hollywood is famous as much as anything for its two mile long waterfront, a vast spacious sandy beach such as visitors expect yo find in the Keys, but don't. There is a boardwalk and all that but we were looking for dinner out in town, a movie and a dog walk. Also I tend to prefer seeing the less explored parts of old Florida, the cottages and bungalows of the world away from the obvious. Besides my dog of course has her needs...
We went to see, of all things, a French movie at Cinema Paradiso a delightful little storefront theater with two locations, one here of all places and another further north in Fort Lauderdale. It was showing Mariage à Mendoza a 2012 slightly bizarre French movie set in Argentina. Two brothers are on a road trip en route to a cousin' shedding and they have adventures along the way. I have no idea where the genesis of this improbable story came but it was as lively and funny as it was unlike a normal gloomy French drama or over the top French farce. Besides I want to drive across Argentina before too long so I had an interest in what the countryside might look like. We had a good time and a few laughs, while Cheyenne slept in the car in the cool night air.
We left Hollywood bound across the state to the Dali Museum in St Petersburg. In keeping with the weird winter weather we have been having this year it was cloudy cool overcast and rainy. The pre-climate change years are a memory, clearly defined fold front, short bursts of rain followed by by cold winds, cool temperatures and bright crisp sunshine. Now winter seems to be endless gray and drizzle at random. Of course climate change is unlikely as evolution. Deus vult!
Our lunch destination was 70 miles away in the sugar town of Clewiston which is mostly tractor dealers, seed stores and funky little store fronts. The economy around here is driven by sugar, a massively subsidized uneconomic industry that pollutes and charges you five tax cents per candy bar you eat. US Sugar is the decent face of the industry treating it's imported Jamaican workers honestly, while the Fanjul family has made a fortune treating its employees like slaves and sucking up tax dollars like an alcoholic with a vodka bottle. This is the book that exposed them: Big Sugar: Seasons in the Canefields of Florida by Alec Wilkinson. Ask yourself why we agree to import Jamaicans subsidize production here and pollute the Everglades instead of encouraging Caribbean countries to grow sugar, pay their people and trade with them. U.S. sugar subsidies need to be rolled back - The Washington Post.
Be that as it may US Sugar (the subsidized good guys) runs the historic Clewiston Inn and it's a cool place for a meal. It may be a great place to sleep but they don't take dogs so we'll never know. I like the side entrance with its long decorated corridor to the lobby.
The Epiphany or Twelfth Night was closing in on us when we were there but there was no sign. My wife loved a singing Santa which serenaded her while she paid the very modest lunch bill, but I pointed out to her Jewishness that goyim like me are used yo hearing songs called carols. As much as the loud minority want it to be this is not a uniformly Christian country.
I love the huge over decorated slightly gloomy dining hall. The table linen was not crisp and clean and the week day buffet menu was reduced on a Saturday such that my wife got slightly annoyed. Wot? No mac and cheese or fried okra? In truth offering two sides out of three: fries, baked potato or collard greens isn't much of a choice. Most unAmerican!
Many years ago I was sitting on a California beach having ridden a Vespa there from New York by way of Guadalajara when a fellow motorcyclist sat next to me to ask about my trip. He told me he had just read a book I would love and handed me a hardback copy of The Big Red Train Ride by Eric Newby and as he promised I loved every page of that quintessential English travel writer's book. As it happens when I landed in Siberia a month later the Soviet authorities confiscated the book, with its provocative big red star on the cover, as I waited to board the Big Red Train myself. In his first travel book, his best in my opinion, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush Eric Newby mentions staying at the late Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul:
“We grew fond of the Pera Palace; the beds had big brass knobs on and were really comfortable. Our room seemed the setting for some ludicrous comedy that was just about to begin. Probably it had already been played many times. It was easy to imagine some bearded minister of Abdul Hamid pursuing a fat girl in black stockings and garters round it and hurting himself on the sharp bits of furniture. In the bathroom the bath had the unusual facility of filling itself by way of the waste pipe without recourse to the taps. We watched this process enthralled.”
Hacking away at a tennis ball is bad as chasing a golf ball in my opinion but it's how you meet women I guess. Why else would anyone do it?
Damn! Here they are still at it. These youngsters were probably just interested in their racquet skills I'm guessing. Their picture probably won't end up on the corridor walls of the Historic Clewiston Inn.
People who live in Clewiston live in endlessly long clean streets, so impossibly long my dog took one look and gave up. Nothing to smell here, move along.
They are touring for business out front on Highway 27, the best way to cross Florida and take side trips. Bikers Welcome. Huh? Is that the Pera Palace way?
Driving along at 65 miles an hour in the drizzle I saw the orange orchards in the middle of being picked. I took this crappy picture out of the side window, not looking and my phone pulled this off. I edited it by cropping and giving it some vintage effects and from nothing came something. I love pixels. I also love Clyde Butcher's properly taken black and white tripod pictures of South Florida. I am not a complete photography philistine.
Call it organic and my wife is there waving dollar bills. We now have a trunk full of organic Florida tangerines fresh off the tree. Try that in Wisconsin right now. Sorry, that was mean but Florida isn't the stereotype you Northern snot bags say it is either (though some of it is).
Arcadia has been seen on this page previously but I have lived in Florida a long time and I think of the Ray brothers every time I drive through. Arcadia is no worse than any other small fearful town. No one has been crucified there for instance for being gay, but every time someone tells you some social change is going to ruin the world as you know it think about your own history. Two kids with AIDS get their house burned down? Really? Does that seem a bit old fashioned to you now? Gays in the military, remember that? Legalized pot? Colorado carries on as before but with more tax dollars. Gay marriage anyone? Not in Florida until the Feds override fearful local prejudice. And your grandchildren will wonder why you were fussed.
Here's an improvement we could bring to the Keys - alternating passing lanes on a road not wide enough for four lanes and a median. They had these in England when I was a kid but it the middle lane was open all the way, priority to whoever was in it first. Outside Arcadia one direction gets a chance to pass...
...then the other direction. It's sensible and relieves back up, and I can think of several sections of the Overseas Highway where this could work. Fat chance in the land of tailgating and texting.
Hey, cows! I am going to have to come back and explore the side roads off Highway 70. I checked out Highway 72 when I went to Sarasota recently Key West Diary: Gratefully Cow Hunting In South Florida, but Highway 70 seemed to offer more of what I was looking for on that trip.
I hope you have enjoyed this side trip away from the Keys. I love back country mainland Florida, a place ignored by the snowbirds racing up and down the coastal interstates. Tough titty for them. You and I know better.