Friday, May 25, 2007

Land of Panthers and Lesbians

Immokalee (two points if you knew to say im-AH-kuh-lee) is a bit inland of Naples down near the southern tip of Florida. Much of the land there is held in various federal preserves for the rich biodiversity and wetland protection. Much of the land is also being rapidly and extensively developed into retirement communities (average age in Florida: 65). My goal was the Florida Panther National Wildlife Reservation and my friend Eryn, a feisty redhead from my AmeriCorps days. Finding the reservation was a bit tough as it's completely unmarked and you just have to keep an eye out for a break in the fencing that indicates you're at the gate to the houses. The hard part is that you're driving around 70mph because otherwise the people behind you go zipping past, honking all the while. I missed the turn the first time, but the second I was better prepared, and I didn't care about the massive inconvenience I caused the woman behind me, what with the five seconds of her life she lost because I needed to slow down and turn. My bad.

The bunkhouse reminded me a bit of the one that my AmeriCorps team lived in while we were on fire duty in Crown King, Arizona, a little mountain town. This one only had three bedrooms, though, not ten, so it was a bit less crowded. I picked Eryn up, met some of the housemates, and we headed into town. This being a Saturday night and Eryn taking the day off on Sunday, we were planning on hitting the local gay bar. Of course, that would mean chillin' in town until 11 or so when the gays come out to play. So we strolled around, hung out with the hippies and their drum circle in the park for a bit, and got a bite to eat. Chatting with Eryn is always fun, not just because she's usually got some good drama in her life, but because she takes a good attitude about it. And she has a great laugh that trails into a chuckle that's just musical.

So we head to the gay bar, watch the drag performances and meet some of Eryn's friends. The drag performers for the evening include the girl who normally performs and a visiting queen, a big black girl who does the obligatory Tina Turner numbers (Private Dancer, Proud Mary) as well as the non-standard Mo'nique riff about "fat bitches". I love drag queens and I enjoy when they vary their performances from the traditional lip-synch/dance routine and branch out. The black drag queen was also aided by a very unshy lesbian who kept dancing and grinding on her during her songs. She was referred to as "white girl" throughout the course of the night. Between drag shows people danced on the stage, although at first it was only white girl and some older guy who I kind of felt sorry for because he was a) dancing by himself on a near-empty dance floor, b) wasn't overly attractive and c) had a really nice body, which I only saw because he gradually unbuttoned his shirt while dancing by himself. There was something about it all that just said "lonely and a little desperate". Eventually the dancing got really going and Eryn and I cut a rug for a bit before they closed us out and we headed back to the preserve.

Sunday was wonderfully lazy. We slept in, had some breakfast, tooled around, made our way into Naples, checked out the beach/pier, watched the fishermen and their mad attempts to either catch fish or injure pelicans, I saw a dolphin for a second, and we drive around looking at the gaudy and enormous houses in the area. Back at the bunkhouse we had some dinner (personal tortizzas - putting pizza sauce, cheese and whatever toppings you'd like onto a tortilla and either baking or microwaving - very tasty) and grabbed a movie from Eryn's roommate. Now, given that I'm a movie whore, there were only three movies out of maybe 100 that I hadn't seen, so that narrowed it down, and Eryn picked Failure to Launch, which ended up being rather cute. Plus Matthew McConaughey is shirtless a lot, so that was nice. Eryn had to go to bed after to movie because she had to get up in the morning, but I stayed up writing a French composition about globalization and then watch the season finale of Brothers and Sisters with her housemate. Spoiler alert!!! Don't read the rest of the paragraph if you haven't seen it yet!!! I'm so glad that Jason and Kevin finally turned their angry sparks into make-out sparks. That was hot.

The next morning Eryn had already gone, so I packed up and headed off back to Orlando, this time to see Christina at University of Central Florida.

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