FLORIDA RAMBLE by Alex Shoumatoff


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In his Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 Shoumatoff went off looking for Florida: alligator and manatee, blue heron and red-cockaded woodpecker, cyprus and mangrove and ""a clean wild river"" to drift down. He found everything but the clean river. Rambling from Miami to Disneyland, Sarasota to Panama City, Everglades to Gainesville the wilderness was there all right, but losing ground to the condominiums and trailer parks and golden age planned communities. Shoumatoff doesn't bother to be indignant, he just records the incongruities: dog tracks and snake farms, juicer plants, pet cemeteries, health clubs, drive-ins, Howdyburger stands, ""theme parks,"" alligator wrestlers, a Christian Supply Center selling inspirational leaflets (""Get a Higher Interest Rate on Your Heavenly Investment""), shuffleboard courts, a swami convention featuring Yogi Bajan, flophouses for migrants or ""fruit tramps,"" and billboards billboards everywhere. He stops to talk with several state naturalists, some Miccosuki Indians, an 84-year-old fundamentalist who claimed to have discovered the exact site of the original Garden of Eden and any number of soft-drawling crackers. Shoumatoff takes most everything in stride in this ""hot-dog circus world, that was so-exotic in some ways and' so contemptibly familiar in others."" With a nice easy sense of humor and a genuine feeling for Florida swamp life and southern hicks he carries you along as effortlessly as that canoe down the (polluted) river.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1974
Publisher: Harper & Row