Front Cover

Its Finally Here! Chapter 1 of Niles’ New Book-Secrets in the Sun!!!

Editor’s Note: Niles Fettucine, our senior correspondent for Conservatism, Christianity, and Courtesans, is about to publish his new memoir/narrative non-fiction book, Naples’ Secrets in the Sun ~ As Uncovered by an Inquisitive Uber Driver. The book will hit the market later this year. Today, MOL begins the serialization of the work – Chapter 1. Chapters will be presented, in order, beginning next month!! Only at The Meaning of Life ~ World’s Greatest Political Satire!!! 

  1. ENTIRE TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter 1 – NAPLES — THE BACKSTORY

  1. Naples v, Naples
  2. Directional Terminology
  3. North v. South in Naples (Avenue-wise)
  4. A Tale of Two Downtowns
  5. A Word on Weather
  6. A Brief and Candid History of Naples
  7. A Briefer, but Still Candid History of Places Near Naples
    1. Marco Island
    2. Everglades City
    3. Keewaydin Island
    4. Golden Gate Estates
    5. Tin City
    6. The Airport
  8. Crime and Punishment
  9. Naples’ Crème de la Crème
  10. Naples’ Crème de la House 

Chapter 2 –  UBER AND ME — THE BACKSTORY

  1. The History of Human Transportation and Uber Technologies, Inc.
  2. Helpful Hints for Uber Passengers
  3. An Observant Driver’s Tricks of the Trade
    1. The Double Whammy – Avoiding Other Uber Drivers by Using the Uber Passenger App
    2.  Using All That Statistical Stuff Online
    3. Picking Up a Few Pennies Via a Few Quirks in the Uber App
    4. The Pickup Premium Hoedown/Slowdown
    5. A Modest Gratuity Maximization Strategy
    6. Giving Back – A Reverse Gratuity Program
  4. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, So How Much Does an Uber Driver Make 

Chapter 3 – LORE, LEGENDS, AND A FEW FUN FACTS VIS-À-VIS NAPLES

  1. Ye Olde Nudist Colony
  2. On Golden (Gate) Pond (Canal)
  3. Sophisticates at the Gates (And Their Codes)
  4. Elysian Fields
  5. The Meaning of Immokalee
  6. Why So Many Places Have “Hammock” in Their Name
  7.  Explosions at the High School
  8. Parlez-vous Francais?
  9. Mel’s Diner
  10. Lost Naples
    1. Old Roads
    2. Vanished Railroad Tracks
    3. Sugar Sands
  11. What’s With the Dead Trees Along the Highway
  12. The Realm of Restaurants
    1. Godawfully Expensive (but Godawfully Good) Dining
    2. Fine (i.e. Not That Expensive) Dining
    3. Casual Dining
    4. Local Hangouts
  13. Fabulous Foodless Fun and Frolic
  14. Napoletani Staordinario
  15. There’s a Riot Goin’ On
  16. The Mutha of All Sports Facilities
  17. The Whacky World of Naples
    1. Tire Spikes aka Tire Destroyers
    2. Humorous (we hope) Signs
    3. Our Famous Fishing Store 

Chapter 4 – REALITY, TRUTHS, AND A FEW NOT-SO-FUN FACTS VIS-À-VIS NAPLES

  1. The Tide is High, But It’s Also Red
  2. A Few Bumps Along the Way
  3. Florida Drivers – A Study in Depth
  4.  Red Light Green Light 

Chapter 5 – PASSENGERS — THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

  1. All The Evil Under The Sun
  2. There Are a Million Stories in the Naked City – This is the Best!
  3. The Former NFL Quarterback
  4. The Man Who Knew Mr. DiVosta
  5. The Really, Really Old (But Really, Really Spry) Lady
  6. Migration to Naples in Ages Past
  7. The Wine and Beer Girl From Crayton Road
  8. The Long and Winding Road
  9. A Short Hop?
  10. Jack the Scratcher
  11. My Buddy From Birth
  12. Three Chicks From Chicago, Boatus Rideum, and Crime
  13. The Search for Green Energy
  14. The Lord (ret.) of Lordstown
  15. The Imperious Teacher
  16. The NBA Player
  17. East of Eden –The Wild, Wild, East of Eden
  18. Hey, Mr. Spice Man (From Baltimore) 
  19. Rip-Off Raquel
  20. Auld Lang Syne 
  21. The Immokalee Road Engineer
  22. Jasonkidd
  23. The Old Passenger, Mr. Jondahl, and Wayzata, Minnesota
  24. Talkative Ted
  25. The Gun Nut Second Amendment Advocate
  26. Naples’ First Italian, First Pizza, and First Airstrip
  27. The Mooring Line Drive Maven
  28. Sarah From South Africa
  29. All Things Bright and Beautiful
  30. Larry the Engineer and Vomitus Comitatus
  31. The Fifth Third Private Banker and Prohibition
  32. Blue Martini Lounge, The Hoosegow, and Back Again
  33. Round 1 – Gate Guard vs. Lawyer
  34. The Old Man and the Supermarket
  35.  Not all the Rich are Woke, But Some Still Toke
  36. The Super-Sized Service Animal
  37. First You Take the Drink, Then the Drink takes you
  38. Tom Sawyer Goin’ Fishin’
  39. The Russkies, Secret Police, and International Conflict on Livingston Road
  40. The Tiny, Young, Pregnant Hispanic Mom and Redemption

Chapter 6 – A DEATH IN THE FAMILY

Chapter 7 – ALL GOOD THINGS . . . 

Chapter 8 – DÉNOUEMENT 

APPENDIX – MY LETTER TO UBER

THE NAPLES ALMANAC

Dedications

To my mother, Janet A.  Fettucine, who taught me how to drive.

And to Audrie Nubile, Geoff Chaucer, Miss Haertel{1}, Aesop, Dr. Trinklein, William Gaines, Jean Shepherd, Bill Shakespeare, Abbie Hoffman, John of Patmos, Mario Puzo, Jerry Pournelle, Vito Andolini, Sam Clemens, Hunter S. Thompson, Dan Ingram, edward estlin cummings, and the late, great, P.J. O’Rourke, who showed me how to write.

And to the Naples Historical Society, who provided me with a lot of information on historical Naples, most of which I have twisted, bent, and distorted beyond all recognition.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. Thank you, God!

{1} My tenth-grade English teacher who always told us never to begin a book with “Once upon a time” and never to end one with “. . . and I lived happily ever after”. Sorry, Elaine, my bad!

Introduction

Once upon a time, I was a recently retired lawyer{1} and a not-so-recently retired hippie{2}, living in Naples, a rather wealthy yet diverse city in the southwest corner of Florida.

After a few years of retirement, I was beginning to get restless when, out of the blue (more likely out of China), our entire planet was struck by the coronavirus. My restlessness was exacerbated by the requests, then demands, then orders from almost every political leader in America that we all “shelter in place”,{3} mask up, and lock down or the world would come to an end (or something like that).

As my restlessness increased, my long-neglected urge to societally rebel began to flicker anew. I had to do something. But what? I didn’t know how to deal drugs, I was too old to become a gigolo, and I wasn’t going to sit through another Bar exam. What, I wondered, could I master that didn’t involve heavy labor, would be fun, would allow me to escape sheltering in place (the rebellious Bohemian instincts of my youth now began to flame), and would let me enjoy the wonderful Florida sunshine? (After all, my mother always told me to play outside when the weather was nice.)

Rather quickly, I found it. To keep active, stay unsheltered, and “fight the man” one last time, I decided to become an Uber driver.

I took to my new vocation (and consequent passenger interaction) like a snook to a shallow saltwater flat{4} and quickly found myself driving eight hours a day,{5} seven days a week. Almost as quickly, I discovered that Marcie Blane{6} was right; I wasn’t a kid anymore! I was wearing myself out. So, I forced myself to take at least one day off each week, not to begin work until 7 a.m., and to come home at a reasonable hour every night (another of my mother’s frequent requests).

In addition to being a hippie, I also considered myself a cowboy at heart. Consequently, as soon as I began driving, I imagined I was Randolph Scott, riding the trail alone, driving cattle (in my case, people) to the railhead in Abilene, Kansas (in my case, to locations in and around Naples), battling marauders and bandits (in my case, traffic and gasoline prices), collecting and dispensing dogies{7}…er, passengers…along the way. I even gave my mount{8} (an elderly, flame-red Audi) a real western name, Red Flame.

The passengers Red Flame and I drove encountered on our ride were a diverse lot. They came in all races, creeds (a fancy legal word for religions), sexes, colors, ages, accents, body shapes, perfume/aftershave (and other) scents, personality types, political slants, hair amount and color, tat forms (I’m partial to the Blackwork School), fashion styles, et al.{9} These eclectic passengers told me many eclectic tales. The most interesting of these were the ones about Naples, its history, and its people or about life in general, its history, and its people.

 Red Flame and I drove over four thousand passengers. We found each of them to be unique, just like all the others. They (and their yarns) were so humorous, shocking, and compelling, I just couldn’t keep them to myself. I had to share them with someone. So, allow me to share these passengers, their stories (and a few of my driving escapades) with you!

When I first sat down to write this book, I discovered an important truth. I didn’t know a damn thing about creative writing. I didn’t even know how or where to start. I couldn’t figure out what to tell. I was stuck. I didn’t even know what to write about.

Then, I remembered the words of Sherlock Holmes, who advised, “Observe what you see.”

Ahh, what wise words. Reason and sanity began returning. So, I observed what I saw, I listened to what I heard, I read what I could, and then I wrote it all down. Quicker than I thought, I finally got the hang of writing. In fact, writing soon became fun, almost as much fun as driving! I tried to write as hard as I drove (Editor’s Note: He didn’t drive that hard.) and I finally compiled this book.

I wanted to keep things simple, so the book only contains three main sections and three concluding chapters. The first section is a brief description and history of Naples and environs and a briefer description and history of Uber Technologies, Inc. (Chapters 1 and 2). In the second part of the book, I share some fun (Chapter 3) and some not-so-fun (Chapter 4) facts about Naples and surrounding areas. The last section of the book describes my most interesting passengers, their tales, and their antics (Chapter 5). I found them (the passengers, the tales, and the antics) fascinating. You will, too.

The three last chapters wrap everything up.

Well, that’s it! I hope like it! You should. After all, I’ve used every literary trick in the book to hold your interest, including, when necessary, good writing!

If you enjoyed reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it, we both came out ahead!

P.S. As you will read, this book refers to various places both in Naples and Collier County. To improve your situational awareness of the area, an almanac containing maps of City of Naples and of Collier County is appended at the end or the book.

{1} Which explains why I occasionally use a few Latin phrases. Don’t worry, I’ll provide translations in the footnotes.
{2} With a conservative stripe.
{3} Don’t you just love that phrase? It sounds so safe and quaint. Unfortunately, it really meant that no person could go to a hairdresser/barber, worship in a church, grieve at a funeral, celebrate at a wedding, eat at a restaurant, go on a vacation, or travel across the border, unless they were a politician!
{4} A little local Florida angling anology/humor.
{5} My record one-day driving time is eleven hours, forty-five minutes.
{6} Marcie Blane’s 1962 hit song, “Bobby’s Girl,” begins with the words, “You’re not a kid anymore.”
{7} A cowboy phrase that means cattle.
{8} A cowboy phrase that means horse.
{9} Latin for “and others.

Conventions Used in This Book

To illustrate, illuminate, and/or clarify both the stories in this book and life in general, as well as to generate a chuckle or two, I occasionally employ a few literary tricks of the trade known to more serious writers as conventions. They are:

Notes on the Meaning of Life 
Scattered throughout the book are snippets of wisdom I call “Notes on the Meaning of Life.” These snippets supply word definitions, famous quotes, Uber driver information, or general (but necessary) information on marine geology, history, geography, social science, Naples, films, and Earth science. Notes on the Meaning of Life will broaden your knowledge of both life in Naples and life in general. They will also eliminate the need to consult a reference book to understand what the hell I am talking about. Notes on the Meaning of Life are fun to read, personally empowering, and make great conversation starters at parties.

Names 
Fictional Names – All passenger names in this book (except one) are fictional (but begin with the same letter as the individual’s real name). This has been done to protect me from lawsuits, not to protect the innocent. They can fend for themselves. 

Telling the Truth 
Most of this book is true, but some is iffy. Areas of the book that stretch (or completely break) reality are (usually humorously) noted by the editor.

A Note on Profanity 
Since I am an OG, I am always opposed to profanity (unless I am using it). I tried to write this book without any profanity. Unfortunately, I failed. Granted, there is far too much profanity in today’s works of “art,” there is a definite (but limited) need for artists (like me) to employ profanity to express the lofty peak or abysmal nadir of human emotion or to make a definitive and/or humorous point. In a way, I apologize.

Notes on the Meaning of Life – OG is slang for Old Guy.

Skewering
 Throughout the book, I occasionally skewer people or ideas. It is all in good fun and done with good intentions, usually.    

Today’s Table of Contents

 Chapter 1 – Naples—The Backstory

  1. Naples vs. Naples vs. Naples
  2. Directional Terminology
  3. North vs. South in Naples (Avenue-wise)
  4. A Tale of Two Downtowns
  5. A Word on Weather
  6. A Brief and Candid History of Naples
  7. A Briefer, but Still Candid History of Places Near Naples
    a) Marco Island
    b) Everglades City
    c) Keewaydin Island
    d) Golden Gate Estates
    e) Tin City
    f) The Airport

Chapter 1
Naples - The Backstory

1. Naples vs. Naples vs. Naples

Before the secrets of Naples can be revealed, three geographic anomalies of the area must be explained. The first anomaly is that there is not one Naples, but three distinct areas that are commonly called Naples, Florida. The first is the City of Naples, a (very) irregularly shaped entity that hugs the Gulf Coast. It encompasses only 14.4 square miles, six zip codes, and, in 2018, it had a population of 19,539 (See Almanac A – Map of the City of Naples). In this book, this area will be called the City of Naples.

The second area commonly referred to as Naples is the populated area of Collier County (which includes the City of Naples). Most locals and the U.S. Postal Service call this region Naples. The populated area of Naples comprises the Gulf Coast of Collier County from Marco Island north to the Collier County line and a large inland section north of I-75{1}. Although this area encompasses only about 250 square miles, when combined with Marco Island it contains over 90 percent of the population of Collier County. (The populated area of Collier County is shaded gray on the map in Almanac B – Map of Collier County and County Regions.) In this book, I will refer to this area as “the populated area of Naples” or just Naples.

The final area referred to as Naples is the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) of Naples/Marco Island.

{1} The main (and only) Interstate highway in southwest Florida.

Notes on the Meaning of Life – An MSA, formerly a Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA), is a region consisting of a city and surrounding communities linked by social and economic factors as determined by the Office of Management and Budget.

The Naples/Marco Island MSA is all of Collier County. It covers 2,305 square miles, seventeen Zip codes and, in 2019 had a population of 384,902. In this book, I will refer to this area as Collier County.

2. Directional Terminology

The second local anomaly is that there are two unincorporated communities in the populated area of Naples – North Naples and East Naples – that are now paradoxically misnamed. When these communities were founded, they were, respectively, on the northernmost and easternmost edges of the then populated area of Naples. However, thanks to Naples’ never-ending population growth, this is no longer the case. North Naples is now in the west-central part and East Naples in the central part of the populated area of Naples.

Therefore, when I refer to North Naples, I mean the neighborhood of North Naples (which is now west-centrally located), and when I refer to East Naples, I mean the neighborhood of East Naples (now centrally located). When I am talking about other areas in the northern or eastern parts of the populated areas of Naples, I will call them the northern or eastern areas of Naples.

3. North vs. South in Naples (Avenue-wise)

Its streets are Naples’ final geographic anomaly. Like New York City, the streets of Naples are laid out on a grid. Unlike New York City, however, Naples’ streets run north–south and its avenues run east–west. Also, unlike New York City, the numbering of the avenues in downtown Naples doesn’t start in the east and move west; it starts at Central Avenue (which is sort of, kind of, but not really, in the center of it all) and moves both north and south. Avenues north of Central Avenue have “North” appended to their name (i.e., Fourth Avenue North), while the avenues south of Central Avenue have “South” added to their name (i.e., First Avenue South). Newcomers to Naples (except those from New York City) often find the street numbering system confusing.{2}

{2} Even more so because Collier County has several other pockets of streets and avenues whose enumeration also begins with 1. These pockets are designated by different geographical suffixes (e.g., Fifth Avenue SW) but these directional suffixes sometimes make no sense. For instance, Fifth Avenue SW is eleven miles northeast of downtown Naples’ Fifth Avenue S.

4. A Tale of Two Downtowns

Unlike Gaul, downtown Naples is divided into only two parts. The fancier, more expensive downtown is Fifth Avenue South from Tamiami Trail to Third Street, while the slightly less fancy and slightly{3} less expensive downtown is Third Street, south of 11th Avenue South. The Third Street downtown is older than the Fifth Avenue South downtown, but its current population is slightly younger!

{3} Very slightly.

Notes on the Meaning of Life – Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres (Gaul is divided into three parts) is the first line of Julius Caesar’s classic memoir, Commentaries on the Gallic War. In case you’re interested, the parts were Celtica (the middle of modern France and Switzerland), Belgica (Belgium, Holland, and a chunk of northern France), and Aquitania (the southwest corner of modern France).

5. A Word of Weather

Naples has two seasons, summer and not summer. During summer (late May to mid-October), the daytime high temperature{4} is always between 90⁰ and 95⁰{5}, the nighttime low is always between 70⁰ and 76⁰, and it rains heavily for fifteen minutes every day at 3 p.m. During not summer, the daytime high is always between 65⁰ and 80⁰, the nighttime low can drop into the 30s (Brrr.){6}, and rain is scarce.

{4} Temperatures cited in this book are Fahrenheit. If you only understand Celsius, get a conversion table.
{5} It never gets much hotter. The highest temperature ever recorded in Naples was either 99⁰ or 100⁰, depending on the source of the information.
{6} In recent history, snow visited Naples only once, brief flurries in 1973.

6. A Brief and Candid History of Naples

Naples was founded as a Greek colony (first as Parthenope, later as Neapolis) in the second millennium BCE on the west coast of the Italian peninsula. (Editor’s Note: Wrong Naples!)

(Author’s Note: Got it!) Naples, Florida was originally the home of the Calusa (aka Caloosa) Indigiens (aka Indians). Check that, Naples was originally the home to no one, but the Calusas showed up somewhere between three thousand and five thousand years ago and hung around until the Spanish decimated and dispersed them in the 1500s.

Shortly before the Civil War, the areas first, non-native settlers, arrived and began a farming community. These settlers were known as crackers. Why is not clear. One theory is that the name arose because the settlers ate cracked corn. Hmmm, it’s a good thing they didn’t eat local shellfish or the town would have been founded crabs!

During the Civil War, Fort Myers (then a real fort){7} was manned by the Union throughout the war, the first reported instance of unwanted northern migration into southwest Florida.

{7} But now a city about twenty-five miles north of Naples.

Notes on the Meaning of Life – Fort Myers has an interesting history. The original fort was built shortly after Florida became a US territory in 1821. In addition, the southernmost battle of the Civil War was fought in Fort Myers. (Author’s Note: Fort Myers was named after Oscar Mayer, the inventor of the hot dog!) (Editor’s Note: 1. Fort Myers was named after U.S. Colonel Abraham C. Myers; 2. Oscar Mayer did not invent the hot dog!)

Nothing much else happened in as yet unnamed Naples until the early 1880s when Roger Gordon and Joe Wiggins came to “town.” Gordon had a pass (Gordon Pass, which is near where he originally settled), a river (Gordon River), and a few roads named after him, while Wiggins lent his moniker to another pass (Wiggins Pass, which is near where he originally settled), a state park (Delnor Wiggins State Park), and a few different roads.

Notes on the Meaning of Life – If you are not nautically inclined, a pass is an opening or channel through barrier islands that is used to gain access to a bay or river. 

Gordon and Wiggins were followed in 1885 by Confederate General and US Senator from Kentucky John S. Williams and Walter N. Haldeman, publisher of the Louisville Courier-General. They led a group of families to what is now Naples Bay. (More unwanted northern immigration!) Promoters described the local bay as “surpassing the bay in Naples, Italy” and the name stuck.

Williams and Haldeman eventually built a general store, a post office, and a six-hundred-foot T-shaped pier into the Gulf of Mexico that became home to the steamship Fearless. The pier has been destroyed by storms and rebuilt three times.

Notes on the Meaning of Life – Lee County was named for one Confederate general (Robert E. Lee) and Naples was founded by another. What political incorrectness!

In the fall of 1886, the Naples Town Improvement Company was founded to establish a town named Naples and develop it as a winter retreat.{8} Things took a lot longer than expected and Naples wasn’t finally established as a town until December 1923. The nascent town didn’t hold its first Town Council meeting until April 13, 1925, sixteen months after its founding. Small government at its finest!

In 1911, the final major player and “almost a founder” of Naples, Barron Gift Collier (unfortunately, another northern interloper, worse, a New Yorker{9}) arrived. Collier was an advertising entrepreneur who became the largest landowner in Florida, eventually owning over one million acres. (Yeah, his family held onto some of it!) He also owned a chain of hotels, a few bus lines, several banks, a couple of newspapers, a telephone company, and a steamship line.

{8} It took a while, but eventually the Improvement Company succeeded beyond their wildest expectations!
{9} In his defense, he was born in Memphis, Tennessee.

Notes on the Meaning of Life – Lee County was named for one Confederate general (Robert E. Lee) and Naples was founded by another. What political incorrectness!

In the fall of 1886, the Naples Town Improvement Company was founded to establish a town named Naples and develop it as a winter retreat.{10} Things took a lot longer than expected and Naples wasn’t finally established as a town until December 1923. The nascent town didn’t hold its first Town Council meeting until April 13, 1925, sixteen months after its founding. Small government at its finest!

In 1911, the final major player and “almost a founder” of Naples, Barron Gift Collier (unfortunately, another northern interloper, worse, a New Yorker{11}) arrived. Collier was an advertising entrepreneur who became the largest landowner in Florida, eventually owning over one million acres. (Yeah, his family held onto some of it!) He also owned a chain of hotels, a few bus lines, several banks, a couple of newspapers, a telephone company, and a steamship line.

{10} It took a while, but eventually the Improvement Company succeeded beyond their wildest expectations!
{11} In his defense, he was born in Memphis, Tennessee.

Notes on the Meaning of Life – Collier, who was good friends with both J.P. Morgan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, had an interesting financial career. In 1915, he earned the highest income in the United States ($10 million) but went bankrupt in the 1930s.

Collier changed the face of Naples more than anyone else. In 1922, he financed the completion of the Tamiami Trail. (Which runs through the Everglades from Tampa to Miami; hence its name, a contraction of Tampa and Miami!)

Notes on the Meaning of Life – As you can imagine, dredging and roadbuilding through the Everglades in the hot summer engendered many problems. The biggest of these was mosquitos. (The Everglades is, after all, the biggest sub-tropical swamp in America.) Baron Collier’s employees used alcohol to eliminate the mosquito problem. They didn’t apply it, they drank it! The children of several men who worked on the project swear that most of the dredgers and road builders drank copious amounts of alcohol every day to eliminate their mosquito problem, or at least, make it ignorable! They also swear that Baron’s company supplied the spirits!! 

When the trail’s roadbed was laid through the Everglades, it created an impermeable barrier that caused all saltwater plant and animal life north of the trail and all freshwater plant and animal life south of the trail to die ignominious deaths. No one noticed (nor did the world come to an end). Until recently. In 2017, the State of Florida began replacing 10.7 miles of the Tamiami Trail roadbed with water-permeable bridges so the father of swamps can again go unvexed to the sea.

Notes on the Meaning of Life – In July 1963, after General Grant captured Vicksburg, Mississippi, giving the Union control of the entire Mississippi River, Abraham Lincoln remarked, “The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.”

Collier went on to invest millions of dollars in Naples and environs.{12} As a show of appreciation, almost everything in the county was named after him, including the county itself (Collier and Hendry counties were created from parts of Lee County in 1923{13}). The Collier family is still active in Naples. In fact, Barron’s grandson, Miles, founded the Revs Institute for Automotive Research in 2008. Revs is one of the finest automobile collections in the world. It’s a great museum to visit, even for visitors who don’t like cars. {14}

Slowly, Naples began to grow. Electric service arrived in 1926, and the first railroad train, the Orange Blossom Special, steamed into Naples Depot{15} in 1927.

{12} Among other things, Barron Collier pioneered the use of yellow and white dividing lines on roads.
{13} Partially because Lee County couldn’t pay its bill for the Tamiami Trail.
{14} Its open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
{15} Now the site of the charming (and free) Naples Depot Museum.

Notes on the Meaning of Life – Speaking of electric service, there is an electrifying and moving museum in Fort Myers called the Edison Ford Winter Estates. As the name implies, the museum consists of the former winter homes and laboratories of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, who electrified and moved the country (and also fortuitously lived next to each other). 

While Naples includes many celebrities in its citizenry today (See Chapter 3-17 Napoletani Straordinario), the first celebrities to “land” here were Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who bought a home in Sanibel Island. They often traveled to Naples, by air. One time in 1932, when Lindbergh needed supplies, he flew to Naples and landed his plane on a golf course that was at Third Street and Fifth Avenue South.

During World War II, Naples did its part. Numerous airfields were built in the surrounding area by the Army Air Corps. At least three of them still operate today: Naples Airport, Punta Gorda Airport, and Immokalee Regional Airport.

Naples was finally incorporated as a city on May 25, 1949, the same day communist forces captured Shanghai, China.{16}

But just as the population and popularity of Naples began to grow, disaster struck! At noon on September 10, 1960,{17} after crossing the Florida Keys, Hurricane Donna made landfall right on top of Naples. Donna did deep damage; over 360 lives were lost and property damage approached $1 billion (in 1960 dollars!).

Although Naples was ravaged by Donna, the hurricane completely destroyed Everglades City, which is thirty-six miles southeast of Naples. Everglades City was the seat of Collier County, but due to the destruction wrought by Donna, Collier County moved the county seat from Everglades City to Naples (to be precise, to East Naples) in 1962.

{16} This must mean something, but I don’t know what. In any case, both commie swine and nationalist Chinese are welcome in Naples.
{17} The same day Mickey Mantle hit a 643-foot home run over the right field roof at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.

Notes on the Meaning of Life –  Donna was a brutal storm. At its peak, the tidal surge at Fifth Avenue South and Tamiami (about a mile inland) exceeded three feet!

Despite Hurricane Donna, Naples continued to grow. As can be seen on the following U.S. census chart, Collier County has grown rapidly since its inception in 1923. Since most of the area’s growth occurred after 1960, Naples is a very young city (in city age, not resident age). In fact, the average house in Naples was built in 1990.

Despite Hurricane Donna, Naples continued to grow. As can be seen on the  U.S. census chart at the right, Collier County has grown rapidly since its inception in 1923. Since most of the area’s growth occurred after 1960, Naples is a very young city (in city age, not resident age). In fact, the average house in Naples was built in 1990.

CollierPopulationJPG

7. A Briefer, But Still Candid History of Places Near Naples

a)  Marco Island

Marco Island is a barrier island south of the City of Naples. (See Almanac B – Map.) The City of Marco Island occupies the entire island. Marco, as the natives call it, was originally incorporated as Collier City in 1927. Then, mainly because no one lived there, it was unincorporated in 1957{18}. Finally, it was re-incorporated as the City of Marco Island on August 28, 1997. Today, Marco houses almost as many residents (17,692 ) as the City of Naples (19,539 ).

Marco Island was so named because it was discovered by Marco Polo in 1291. Marco (Polo, not Island) was trapped in China because the Silk Road had become flooded with refugees and was impassable. He decided to return to Venice by boat but ran into Central America (which wasn’t on his charts because it hadn’t been discovered yet!). He made his way through the Panama Canal (which was unmanned in those days) and continued sailing across the Caribbean Sea until he ran aground on Marco (the island, not Polo), just north of today’s Tigertail Beach. Proof of Polo’s discovery was recently confirmed when three packages of fossilized Ramen Chinese noodles (Lime Chili Shrimp Flavor) were discovered at an ancient Calusa Indian camp being excavated near the beach. The noodles were radiocarbon dated to August 23, 1291, and three sets of Polo’s fingerprints were lifted from the plastic wrapper. (Editor’s Note: This paragraph is not accepted by most any historians, who believe Marco Island got its name from Spanish explorers who called it La Isla de San Marcos after Gospel writer St. Mark.)

In 1871, W.T. Collier and his family (who were not related to the Barron Collier) arrived on the Island and started a small fishing and clamming business. In 1883, W.T.’s son, W.D. “Captain Bill” Collier, became the town’s first postmaster{19}. Captain Bill’s relatives still live on Marco Island today!

Except for the arrival of W.T. and family, Marco remained relatively quiet until the 1960s, when the Mackle brothers – Elliott, Robert, and Frank Jr. – began developing the island after purchasing it from Barron Collier. They drained the island’s eastern and southeastern swamps and built roads, bridges, one hundred miles of canals, and their own private hotel.{20}.  Later, they sold building lots for $2,550 to $16,000 and completed homes for $14,900 to $41,500.

There are a few reminders of the Mackle brothers left on Marco. The most obvious, yet most secret, is that several roads on Marco bear the name Elkcam. The secret? Elkcam is Mackle spelled backwards.

There are three bridges of note on Marco. The main bridge entering the island{21} is named the Jolly Bridge because everyone feels jolly when they arrive on Marco. A second bridge, located halfway down Collier Avenue, the island’s main street, is the Savage Bridge because everyone has a savage good time on Marco. Finally, the main bridge leaving Marco is called the Bridge of Sighs because everyone sadly sighs when they leave Marco. (Editor’s Notes: 1. The bridge entering Marco is the S.S. Jolley Bridge. It was named for former Collier County Judge Seward Stokley Jolley. 2. The Savage Bridge was named in honor of Herbert R. Savage, Esq., who was the Mackles’ lawyer. 3. The bridge leaving Marco Island is merely the second span of the S.S. Jolley Bridge. 4. The Bridge of Sighs is in Venice, Italy.)

After the Mackles had developed about half the island, the newly minted Environmental Protection Agency halted further development, ostensibly to prevent environmental damage.

Today, Marco Island is (just like Gaul) divided into three parts. The eastern and southeastern parts of the island that were developed by the Mackles are now heavily populated, successful, and thriving (although environmentally damaged). The middle of the island, thanks to the EPA, is still the alligator-infested, marshy, mosquitoed{22}, yet environmental undamaged swamp it always was. But there is light at the end of the island. On the eastern shore of Marco is a village called Goodland that was founded by Johnny Roberts{23} in the late 1800s. He named it Goodland because it contained a forty-acre shell mound left by the Calusa Indians that was ideal for growing fruit and vegetables and because Goodland sounded like a better name for a village than Goodshellpile. The name stuck and today Goodland is a honky-tonk hamlet of four bars, three marinas, a post office, and a Baptist church. Everyone has fun in Goodland.

{18} During its entire existence, Collier City had only one mayor, James Harvey Doxsee Sr.
{19} In 1896, “Captain Bill” opened a hotel on the island that is known today as the Olde Marco Inn.
{20} Originally called the Marco Beach Hotel and Villas. Now it is the JW Marriot Hotel.
{21} There is also a second bridge entering the island at Goodland.
{22} I had to invent this word to explain the outstanding results of the EPA’s work. It is the adjective form of the noun mosquito.
{23} No relation to the current chief justice of the United States.

b)  Everglades City

Everglades City is semi-aptly named. It is located smack-dab in the Everglades, but it is not really a city, at least not anymore. Most of Everglades City was destroyed by Hurricane Donna in 1960. The damaged buildings were removed, but weren’t replaced, leaving the strange sight of numerous large buildings, many of brick or stone, surrounded by acres of empty land. Today, Everglades City has a population of only 353.

City Hall

City Hall in Everglades City is an impressive, two-story, white stone building. It has a portico in the front and the roof is supported by classic Greek columns. Yet it sits all by itself, in the middle of nowhere! Likewise, the Everglades Bank Building sits where it always sat, but now it sits there alone. Everglades City looks like a giant had sprinkled several large buildings in the middle of a large open field. Walking/hiking through the area just to view the surviving buildings is worth the trip.

Everglades City Bank

Except for a few restaurants,{24} the only commercial industries remaining in Everglades City are airboat trips and drug smuggling. Airboat trips are open to the public and take tourists and Floridians alike on dazzling trips through the Mangrove swamps of the Everglades. The flora and fauna that can be seen on these trips are stunning{25}!

Drug smuggling is the other major industry in Everglades City, which, for the most part, is not open to the public. A small group of professionals (and a larger group of amateurs) smuggle just about anything (but mostly drugs) into Everglades City. Drug busts are common and it is not unusual for the quantity of drugs seized during these busts to be staggering (I said it was a major industry). In October 2019, 28,000 pounds of cocaine and 11,000 pounds of marijuana were seized by the Coast Guard and on December 26, 2020, $411 million of seized marijuana and cocaine were offloaded by the Coast Guard at Port Everglades. Unloading illicit drugs is known in Everglades City as “fishing for square grouper{26}”.

Early in my Uber career, I drove a Coast Guard investigator and asked him if these drug seizures were for real. He told me not only were they real, but they were only a small fraction of all the drugs seized. Most drug seizures, he said, were not publicized.

Other passengers told me most residents of Everglades City are aware of the area’s drug activity and many know a participant who was arrested and subsequently, in local lingo, “went to college” (i.e., jail).

{24} If you enjoy classic architecture, visit the Everglades City Rod and Gun club. The food is average at best and the facility is a little run-down, but the solid wood dining rooms and hallways (and bar) are spectacular.
{25} If you take an airboat trip, make sure you get a boat with headphones for the passengers. Airboats’ engines are loud, and if headphones aren’t provided, passengers can’t hear the airboat captain’s commentary{26} Apparently, the name “square grouper” arose because marijuana bales are somewhat square (Actually, they are rectangular. Drug dealers have as little regard for geometry as they have for the law!).

c)  Keewaydin Island

Keewaydin Island is also a barrier island on the Gulf Coast of southwest Florida. It lies between the City of Naples and Marco Island. In the summer, Keewaydin is home to throngs (some wearing thongs) of boaters, who beach their boats and enjoy the sunshine. In the winter, only a small coterie (some wearing coats) of diehard boaters “hit the beach.” When the beaches of Keewaydin are hopping, numerous commercial boats land there and sell their wares (food and ice cream, but not coffee) right off the boat. Liquor is also sporadically available, but you have to know where and through whom to obtain it.

Evidence has recently been uncovered suggesting Marco Polo was also responsible for giving Keewaydin Island its name. When Polo sailed past the island in 1291, a few Calusa Indians started walking into the surf toward his ship. Polo, excited at meeting them, told them to “keep wading.” Unfortunately, because of his Venetian accent and the fact he mumbled a lot, the Indians heard his instruction as Keewaydin. (Editor’s Note: Not even close. The island was originally called Kee Island. After it became part of the Keewaydin Camps Ltd. Corporation, it became known as Keewaydin Island. Marco Polo had nothing to do with it, he was long dead by then.)

d)    Golden Gate Estates

Golden Gate Estates (known locally as The Estates) is a huge (about ninety-one square miles) region to the east (and north and south) of the populated area of Naples. Large parts of The Estates were purchased in the 1960s by Gulf American Corp., an assemblage of businessmen of questionable ethics who tried to sell building lots to the public. They dug canals for drainage, laid roads, pressured a local airline company to fly prospective buyers over the area, and used high-pressure sales tactics to sell five-acre lots to the public. Unfortunately, a lot of the land they sold was swampy, inaccessible, or otherwise encumbered, and Gulf American Corp. went bankrupt in 1974.

Notes on the Meaning of Life – Thanks, in part, to the Gulf American Corp., any bad business deal today is analogized to “buying land in Florida.” 

Nothing much else happened in The Estates until recently, when parts of it began growing by leaps and bounds. High-end communities (and high-end shopping areas), as well as middle-class communities (and middle-class 7-Elevens), are now filling the area. Fortunately for us cowboys at heart, large (very large) parts of the Estates are still rural, still untamed, and still look and feel like the wild, wild West!

e)  Tin City

Tin City is a less expensive and more casual version of the other shopping and dining areas of Naples. It was named for the corrugated tin roofs that topped all its original buildings. Today, this honky-tonk dockside area houses boutiques, waterfront restaurants, interesting shops, and water-based activities. The dockside area is still covered by a red tin roof, one of the seven original tin-roofed buildings that still survive.

f) The Airport

Southwest Florida International Airport is the commercial airport serving Naples and surrounding areas. I spent a lot of time dropping off and picking up passengers there, so I can add some noteworthy information about Naples’ local aerodrome.

Southwest Florida Regional Airport (RSW) opened on May 14, 1983, as an alternative to the older and smaller Page Field (FMY), which still operates thirteen miles to the northwest. As southwest Florida grew, so did the airport’s name. In 1993, it was renamed Southwest Florida International Airport. Its (IATA){26} designation was not changed, it is still RSW.

One day, as I was wandering on the north side of the runway, I encountered a plethora of roads, parking lots, and passenger pickup lanes, all abandon. Strangely, these facilities were in the middle of nowhere; there were no building anywhere near them! The area looked so bizarre that I expected the Twilight Zone theme to begin playing. Where was I? And what was this place?

I had to find out where I had been, so, when I had returned to the real world (i.e., that night), I learned that I had wandered into the airport’s old passenger terminal (and its roads, parking lots, and pickup lanes). When the current terminal, which is located south of the runway, was opened in 2005, the old terminal building was demolished. But, for some reason, the old roads, parking lots, and passenger pickup lanes weren’t demolished; they were just left, well, lying around.{27}

Red Flame at Airport

    RSW has a Jekyll-Hyde personality. In the winter, it is a bustling airport, packed with passen-gers, cars, airplanes, and Uber drivers. In the summer however, everyone at the airport gets to enjoy some quiet time! Fortunately, RSW is a very well-designed. The arrival/departure lanes have ample space to pick up and drop off passengers, there is ample parking, the walk to the gates is short, TSA checks don’t take too long, and the rental car desks are

near the arrivals area. In addition, almost all airport personnel are friendly and courteous. The only exception is the airport police. When they catch an innocent motorist exceeding 15 mph in the arrival or departure lanes, they become downright ungentlemanly. (Believe me, I know!)

On April 3, 2020, RSW was the site of the Great Fire of Naples. That day, 3,991 cars parked on a fifteen-acre grass rental car overflow lot south of the terminal building burned to the ground, along with their gasoline, lead acid batteries, magnesium engine parts, and toxic plastic. The fire caused almost $100 million in damage. Grass didn’t grow on the overflow lot for over a year. Perhaps the burning gasoline, lead acid batteries, magnesium engine parts, and toxic plastic had something to do with that. The fire was ultimately ruled to be accidental, although parking cars with hot catalytic converters in tall grass seems more negligent than accidental to me. The fire can still be viewed on YouTube.{28}  The 3,991 burned out carcasses were not removed for six months.

{26} International Air Transport Association
{27} In 2022, the current RSW terminal will undergo a major renovation.
{28} https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tSnwB_NVXs

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