Aug 31, 2007

I love cowboy hats. The Latino World Series, FGCU campus.

Aug 27, 2007

Almost every summer afternoon Eric Miller, 32, drives his old Chevy pickup down to one of the canals along Alligator Alley. By the time he arrives, a small crowd is already there. Kids are running around or jumping off the banks into the water. Some parents are swimming while others sit around on coolers in the shade.

When he gets there, Miller catches up with his friends until it gets too hot. Then he peels off his shirt revealing a lean, muscular build and a deep natural tan. He takes off his dark glasses and black cowboy hat and walks over to the topless palm tree next to the swimming hole. As he climbs to the top, large afternoon clouds pass overhead and cars whizz by just 200 feet south on I-75.

Up top he finds his balance, slowly unbending his knees. In one clean action, he leans forward, jumps, and starts to rotate into a front flip, eventually hitting the water in the swimming hole 25 or 30 feet below.

It's an afternoon routine Miller has done for as long as he can remember.

"To relax some people like a good country drive, some people like a walk in the park. I like swimming out here," he said. Born and raised in the Naples area, Miller said the swimming hole has always been more appealing than the beach.

"I've been to every beach in South Florida and I would rather come here," he said. "It's in my backyard, it's not crowded and you can't do a front flip out of a palm tree on the beach."

Nowadays, the swimming hole is the only one that Miller and others regularly get it. But back in the day, Miller said there were canals and lakes all over Naples where people used to hang out.

"Now those spots are mostly golf courses and condos," he said.

The Hutton family, Chris, Danielle and their four kids, are down at the swimming hole with Miller almost every day.

"It's not crowded and it's a family environment," Danielle Hutton said. "Plus it's free. My family works hard but we live week to week on paychecks. We can't afford to go to the waterparks"

Like Miller, Chris Hutton grew up at the swimming hole, which he and others have dubbed "The Crystal" because of its unusually clear water.

Drivers who pass by on I-75 and see them swimming regularly stop to warn the Huttons and others about alligators. Chris Hutton said he wouldn't let his kids swim if it wasn't safe. He has seen a couple alligators pass by, but it's been at least a couple years since one has ventured into where people swim.

"There are too many of us out splashing around and having a good time out here," Danielle Hutton said. "They know not to bother us."

Miller and the Huttons admit that they constantly worry the The Crystal might eventually disappear like the other swimming spots. With the continued rate of development around Naples, they wonder how long they'll be able to enjoy it.

"They're overdeveloping everything out here, It's gonna be Miami soon enough," Danielle Hutton said.

For now, though, Miller, the Huttons and the others are doing their best to enjoy what they still have. Last week Miller brought a mower down to cut the grass. He and the Huttons regularly pick up any trash along the banks or in the canal.

"It would suck it this place disappeared," Danielle Hutton said as she floated around in an inner-tube last Friday afternoon. "But at least we got it, and I sure hope we can keep it."

Aug 21, 2007

First day of school with my family from the swimming hole. The son goes to a military school and gets picked up each day at 5:45 in the morning while it's still dark. Tina, 7, my favorite, was full of personality even at 5:30 in the morning. She was so nervous for the first day that she got up in the middle of the night, got dressed, and moved to the couch. I had my camera in her face all morning and she didn't flinch once.

Aug 12, 2007

What a day..... I went out to the swimming hole to do some interviews and ended up spending the whole day out hanging. It's 1 a.m. and I'm sitting here scratching the 110 or so bug bites I got while out.....everyone of them worth it.

The pictures tell the story. I had been asking if they could take me out to the spots they always talk about because all of them sounded fun, and truly characteristic of Southern Florida. This was a quick trip they said, not half of what I could eventually see, but still packed. The picture of the tree is an old Cyprus, the biggest one they say they have ever seen in Florida. It's hollow all the way through, you get up in there and can see the sky peaking in through the top. Absolutely amazing.......

The water pictures are from other canals that they used to jump in. The nice light is in a huge canal called the Big T, where the two biggest canals in the area meet and start to head towards the gulf. When we were in there were no gators to be seen, but as soon as we got out there were plenty floating around.

The last picture is from the bridge over I-75. We went out to see a meteor shower but it got too late and we didn't really see anything. A couple shooting stars, but no meteor showers. And the bugs got awful.

I can't wait for the next adventure.

Aug 10, 2007

Good friends and good food. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lexey and Josh for bringing a bit of the world to me. Lexey and her husband Jeff recently returned to San Jose, CA for a friend's wedding, and while there they went by the famous La Victoria Taqueria and picked up some special sauce. Now many of you think that this or that special sauce/hot sauce is where it's at. Let me tell you, you're wrong. La Victoria special sauce is where it's at. I'm sure it's full of stuff that is really bad for you, but I don't care. It is good, on everything.

The rum comes compliments of Josh, who recently returned from Puerto Rico, where he was working. I had a glass last night from another bottle, a little ice, lime and tonic. I'm no rum expert, but I don't need to be. Wow.

Anyway, I want to thank you Lexey, Jeff, and Josh for the gifts. They made, and will continue, to make me happy. Jakobo

The little girl on the left with the pigtails, whose name escapes me, is the girl I was talking about from New Mexico who reminds me of the girl I shot at the canal.

What a world away New Mexico is from here........

Nothing special, just recent work. Peace.

Aug 4, 2007

A magic show and water. They didn't have any takers while I was there, but they refused to be defeated and stayed out there for a couple hours.