Back in Miami for less than a week I already found myself returning to the position of tour guide. One of the unique spots in South Florida is the Everglades. The river of grass that fights extinction from real estate developers and sugar cane farmers.
I sat in the passenger seat of the convertible as we went through Homestead to the Alligator Farm. It had been at least fifteen years since I’d been to this tourist attraction. We paid the exorbitant fee for admission and an airboat ride. Three airboat pilots came out after snorting some whiskey. They warned us to put headphones over our ears, a safety precaution not taken in the twentieth century.
Our airboat was filled with Chinese tourists. As we slowly went out of the canal they showed no fear of the alligators swimming beneath us. I have surfed and swam when sharks treaded ten feet beneath me, but Jaws does not inspire the fear in me the thousand teeth of an alligator does. Something about their smile, I suppose, makes me weary.
The airboat pilot turned the corner and kicked up the speed. White feathered egrets flew away from our trajectory. As far as you could see was water and sawgrass. A beauitful sight and thousands of miles of difference from arid Southern California. The pilot did a couple 360s splashing water throughout the vessel. I could have stayed on there forever, but after a few minutes we were taken back to the Alligator Farm. A couple snapping turtles’ shells were visible above the surface.
We walked around the grounds on this beautiful day and stared at the baby alligators with their sneaky smiles. They seemed happy in the knowledge that the age of the dinosaur might be gone but the age of the alligator was lurking in the future.
We waited around for a couple hours to see the alligator show. I thought there would be alligator wrestling similar to what I saw as a child where a drunk Miccosukee would be awakened to battle one of these ferocious alligators. This exhibition was more sensitive and less gladiatorially sensationalistic than my memories. The highlight of this event was when the woman teaching the audience about alligators asked everyone if they knew the difference between alligators and crocodiles.
Someone yelled, “Their mouths.”
“Yes, their snouts. Alligators have a short, stubby snout while crocodiles have long, pointy ones.”
The seventy year old guy in front of me made the Pablo Chiste honor roll by stage whispering to his wife, “They’re the Jewish ones.”
His wife didn’t find it funny, but I’m still laughing about that one. I might include that joke in future tours of South Florida. Book your spots now.