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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Crocodile (make that Alligator) James B.

We've lived in South Florida over a year now, so we figured it was about time we went to the Everglades and did some swamp tromping.

So that's where we spent the day today - in the woods.

One of my editors at The Miami Herald is a big outdoorsman, so he recommended a place, Billie Swamp Safari, on a Seminole Tribe of Florida reservation.

Now, I have to back up a few years to when I was just a wee lad. Like a lot of boys I had a thing for "real" Native American stuff, or at least what I thought was real. You name it - clothing, living quarters (tepees, etc.), weapons (bows/arrows, etc.), food (corn, etc.).

I assumed back then that nature itself was maintained in large part due to Native American stewardship. I'm sure some of my childhood feelings were driven by fantasy and lore. But some were probably based in reality.

And when boys grow up, we become...bigger boys.

So you can understand my excitement when we approached Billie's joint this morning and saw alligators sunning themselves along the banks of a swampy waterway that ran parallel to the road, and giant geese and blue cranes walking around the parking area.

Things only got better when we got inside and saw all sorts of cool swamp creatures. The highlight of the day for me was the air boat ride that got us up close and personal with gators, crazy prehistoric-looking fish, and even a pack of wild boars and gators chillin' like old friends, the way your dog and cat might hang out at home. I thought I was Mick Dundee for a minute.





It might have been a perfect day, but then the air boat ride ended and we decided to eat at the Swamp Water Café, an "authentic" restaurant at Billie's.

I was almost giddy, remembering my childhood obsession, and had every intention of eating gator nuggets or crane fries or wild boar fingers or prehistoric fish fillet, or endangered lizard steak (sorry, my vegetarian friends). OK, I made up and am kidding about everything but the gator nuggets. I really was looking forward to them.

But the waitress told me the the nuggets wouldn't fill me up, so I opted for the authentic Indian taco, complete with fried flat bread and all the trimmings.

"Indian" and "taco" in the same sentence should have been a dead giveaway, but I was hungry and figured since it had "Indian" in the name it would satisfy my authenticity requirement.

What I got though was a plate of sliced/diced, bread, covered in chili - tasted suspiciously like canned Hormel, something I became familiar with in college - covered in lettuce, cheese and tomatoes.

That's right. My authentic Indian taco turned out to be a canned chili salad.

I drove 60 miles to eat a chili salad. I could have stayed home and walked to Crack Ronald's for an authentic near-the-beach burger.

But in spite of the food, the National Geographic experience we had today made the Everglades worth the trip.

I have to go now and eat a few more authentic roasted almonds before dinner.

Peace and hair grease till tomorrow.

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14 Comments:

  • Sounds like a fun day, aside from the "Indian taco." What the hell...?

    By Blogger GrizzBabe, at 9:43 PM  

  • I. Am. So. Jealous.

    I want to see gators and cranes and crawl around with the critters! Of course I would like to do all of this from the safety of an air boat equipped with some large artillery.

    Sounds like you and the missus had a great time. Minus the "indian taco." I'm picturing members of the Seminole leadership sitting around a board room, joshin' each other when someone joker piped up with that idea. "You know... we could create a poor man's taco salad, call it 'authentic' and people will pay..."

    By Blogger QofD, at 10:06 PM  

  • Hee hee hee. This just made my day. It's like going to Geneva, Switzerland and having Wendy's. Not that I'd know anything about that.
    Merry Christmas James!

    By Anonymous Kim, at 10:10 PM  

  • I am going to go out on a limb here and say when that taco visits you again in the middle of the night you will lose your desire for authentic really fast. Have a great holiday dude.

    BD

    By Blogger briliantdonkey, at 12:40 AM  

  • I'm glad you finally got around to enjoying Florida experiences while in your own back yard, (before moving to my woods-neck.) We lived in California for ten years with the intent of visiting Napa Valley some day, and guess what? We never got around to it before we moved Back East. Folks, if you live near an attraction, don't wait because it will always be there. For cryin' out loud, go see it.

    By Anonymous The Sarcasticynic, at 9:38 AM  

  • I am so pleased that no one has done the obvious Steve Erwin comments or made any statement beginning with "Crikies!!".

    I envy you James. Florida would be a nice place to be right now, and skating through the Everglades? Too sweet.

    Allow me to wish you a warm and merry Christmas. I am glad to have discovered this blog and will continue to visit and comment here. Here's to a happy holiday and a new year. Peace.

    By Blogger Stewart Sternberg, at 9:49 AM  

  • Grizz, it was fun in spite of the taco. I never realized how graceful gators moved until I got to see one swimming alongside our boat. Very cool.

    Queen, you sound like my mom. She's said that she and my dad will join us in the Everglades if she can carry her gun (it's licensed - snub nose .38). And I agree on the taco. That had to be somebody's idea of a prank.

    Kim, I know exactly what you're talking about. When I moved briefly to London after college the first place I went for food after waking up from my first day jetlag sleep was Burger King.

    Briliant, I won't go into detail out of respect for everyone. But you were correct on the revisiting of the taco. Curse that authentic food!

    Sarc, you're right. I've done that way too much. When I lived in the UK, other than regular weekend trips to Cambridge, I hardly got out of London for anything until my last month or so. When I lived in Wisconsin those seven years before Miami, I swear I hardly ever left the Milwaukee area unless I was leaving the state altogether - weekends in Madison sometimes, being the exception. It's a bad habit I hope to break in Florida. Since we've been here we've gotten out and seen a few different parts of the state. But the 'Glades? That was the big one for us. I loved it and will go back.

    Stewart, thanks for reading. I appreciate your input and am enjoying your blog as well. When we get around to it, let's trade links. I'll try to get you on my roll in the next day or two.

    And to all who dropped by, have a Merry Christmas (or Hanukkah, and/or Kwanzaa, and so on) and a Sweet Festivus.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 10:41 AM  

  • okay that sounds soooo swweeeeett!!! i wanan go!

    the only problem i would have it the freaking Deliverance scenes running through my head.

    "Squeal piggy piggy!!"

    aaahhh!!!!
    okay im done.

    happy holidays to you and the wifey!

    By Blogger Yasamin, at 7:18 PM  

  • Nothing about the Ah-thi-tah-ki museum or the sea of snakes leading up to the restaurant.

    JB, whaddidya expect from folks who used ground up saw palmetto root for major sustenance in ore Colombian times? Gruel tastes better and is heartier. Just a tip--Native Americans in southern Florida ate raccoons, deer, turtles, manatees, oysters, bears, and other grub, but corn wasn't the staple here as it was in Central America. An "Indian taco" from a Seminole would be as disappointing as collard greens from a Iowa corn farmer.

    Merry Christmas and God Save the Everglades

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 9:04 PM  

  • Cool, huh? I drove one of those suckers years ago, and loved it stupid.

    By Anonymous og, at 9:16 PM  

  • ha. The boars and alligators were hangin' out? Those must have been props, as there is no way a gator, in the south, is gonna let them ribs just sit there...

    By Blogger Rune, at 5:00 PM  

  • Yas, my wife said the same thing. She was having images of Deliverance the entire time we were there. I didn't see anyone kissing his cousin, so I was comfortable - as comfortable as you can be in a swamp.

    BD, why are you always rainin' on my parade? Kidding, bro. The reservation was not what my childhood fantasies had led me to expect. But it was still very cool. And I agree - God save the Everglades.

    Og, that had to be a blast. I was thrilled just to sit in the pilot's seat after the ride was over.

    And Rune, I was thinking the same thing, but the air boat pilot/guide said it was pretty common for the two teams to hang out. I don't know why. Maybe the gators fill up on fish, so they're not interested in pork. Or maybe the signed a treaty.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 6:44 PM  

  • I love doing stuff like that too but I have to admit, I don't look as cool as you did doing it. You hep cat you!

    By Blogger Dayngr, at 10:53 PM  

  • I want to do this while I'm here!!

    By Blogger Claudia, at 8:37 AM  

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