An Artist Spends A Month Absorbing Life In The Everglades
It feels like a high-speed chase west on the ironically named Dolphin Expressway, veering south on what follows as a seamless string of highway on the "Palmetto," the Don Shula Expressway and the Ronald Reagan Turnpike, all certifiable assaults on the nervous system.
I pass hurling arcs of overpasses and barrier walls painted in something vaguely resembling sandy or sunset colors. After the Walmart /Home Depot/BJs/ Outlet Center super-section in Homestead, I hook onto U.S.1 southbound and I’m off the highway in Florida City closer, at least, to what will become familiar territory for the next month. This drive is happening in May 2014 when I spent the month living in Everglades National Park as part of the Artist in Residence in the Everglades (AIRIE) program.
On the way down, I travel the familiar traverse on State Rd. 9336, past produce distribution centers, dollar stores, Mexican restaurants and a church with a gigantic cross reclining on a grassy man-made berm.
As I near the park, the vista opens up at Southwest 192nd Avenue with wide agricultural fields. I can smell the fertilizer. I continue south, turning west at the state prison, past the well-kept migrant workers’ housing and a small nondescript house with a large driveway that becomes a lively taqueria on the weekends. The variety continues past Benito Juarez Park, a cluster of orchid growers, agricultural land for sale and a straight shot west across the C-111 (a canal originally built in the 1960s to transport Aerojet moon rocket engines so big they had to be barged). In a few minutes I arrive at the offices at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center to check into the cabin I will call home during the month of May.