In the swamplands, I came eye to beady eye with prehistoric pellingtons who sat ostentatiously on the airboat angling for fish.
Florida was not meant for humans. Nothing in the mangroves makes any sense – there’s no other place where you could be the same distance from a panther and a manatee, never knowing about either. In a large lake near Everglades City, a bunch of children fishing with ten-dollar rods hauled in what turned out to be a small shark. Hurricane season brought with it violent, short-lived thunderstorms which failed entirely to dissipate the humidity, visibly rolling in off the Gulf of Mexico and then rolling straight back out again. I went swimming in a couple of them, listening to the raindrops hitting the surface from underneath.
Principally, though, this was a trip about touching wildlife. At the aquarium, I touched a sea cucumber, a hermit crab, and a bunch of happy stingrays. In the jungle gardens, I touched a brown skunk and an alligator; flamingos, with whom I discovered a certain spiritual kinship, ate out of my hand. At the big cat reserve, I touched a goat (nobody ever really explained that one). Then there was the dinosaur park, passed by thousands of Disney-bound motorists a day, neglected by the side of the highway. We strolled among plastic terrors, many of them apparently having dance parties. Dinosaurs never lived in Florida, presumably because they’d feel too boring, too normal.
I encountered an energetic manatee called Hugh, watched a parrot riding a unicycle across a highwire, got gazed at by an enormous liger, ate and drank a preposterous quantity of peanut butter products, lost a set of stamps, witnessed the largest imported cheese, saw frigate birds circling overhead, and stared in perplexity at the flamboyant cuttlefish, which has to be googled to be believed. Oh, and I got a T-Shirt which is black and white until you take it into the sunshine, and then it turns colour! Or should that be ‘color’?! No.
It was hard being away from the guitar for a few weeks, but I’m back and ready to do something approximating to kicking ass. Actually, I’m not ready yet. Give me a few more days.