|A friend from my time at Swarthmore College, Ethan has a taste for strong, almost derisive wit and punsmanship. Immediately preceding his March 2004 wedding, a few of Ethan's male friends celebrated the closing days of his bachelorhood with a trip into Florida swamp country.|
First stop - Waffle House. This chain of breakfast places seems only to exist below the Mason-Dixon line. Is that corporate policy? We couldn't decide.|
We did agree, however, that hashbrowns covered, chopped, diced, smothered and well-done were worth making our other friends wait for. And an Pecan Waffle is an excellent meal-topper.
Ethan called me up as I was de-boarding my plane. "I'm at Walmart - you need anything?" Yes please, I responded - get me a hat that makes me look like an idiot.|
You can see the results here, eating pork chops and eggs at Waffle House. The hat is branded by Team Realtree - a sample of some serious photo-real camouflage, stuck in front of flourescent orange. Where was I going to hide or hunt in this hat?
We were to spend the day together canoeing in a swamp.|
Ethan wonders, are we really doing this?
Ahead of them, the main swamp channel.
|Commandante Wilson grins over an early Budweiser as Lars the theater director for the entire day rigs up his video camera.|
We were in the Okefenokee swamp, in South Georgia and North Florida, near Jacksonville. An alien landscape, lush but infirm, grey but filled with life. Here, one of the few trees growing alone in the ooze stood out.|
We saw a great many herons, egrets; large birds standing or taking flight. River fish jumped in our canoe!
We saw a great many alligators, some quite close to the boat before we noticed. Hours in the swamp, paddling backroutes, can bring on some exciting reptilian encounters - an alligator sits by the side of the channel, watching all the canoes pass, until Wilson and I approach, bringing up the rear. The alligator fixed an eye on us, and launched itself into the water, disappearing beneath the surface, headed fast in our direction. "He's coming for us!" Wilson exclaimed. I held my breath and paddled my ass off. Quietly.
Maybe we didn't have much to fear from our toothsome friends. But we decided to err on the safe side - drinking beer, guffawing about, paddling quite close to the reptiles, and then worrying a bunch.
Ethan styles the fifties dograce watching outfit, except we're in the swamp, and we're lookin' fer gaters.|
Ethan, like all the young men pictured in this series, is wearing a SAME t-shirt, hot off the presses from Wilson. Behind Ethan, Charlie his step-father; lending an air of respectability to the proceedings in spite of his casual nature.
|Canoemate Commandante Wilson extends his arms to take a picture of the Chesser Prarie sign, just before the small bird perched atop the sign shat a comma - making the sign read Chesser Prari,e|
Turns out we had a goal, deep in those waters - Cooter Lake. A place selected from a map, as suitable for a bachelor party.|
I can't now recall precisely where this exchange took place, but this was a typical snatch of conversation from our group (probably best read aloud):
Dude1: I love sea urchin.
Truth be told, these sorts of exchanges were mostly between Wilson and Mac Funk. Mac Funk's real name is Mckenzie Funk. Just to get that straight.
|Any patch of solid matter that rose above the water and appeared to be ground was immediately infirm once you placed a paddle on top of it. Never a foot! We had to stand in our canoes to piss. Here Wilson demonstrates.|
That lead to one unfortunate tipping incident - here Lars hoists up his camera Austin rescued from the consuming swamp bottom, as canoe-mate Alex stands near the shore.|
Not pictured: a serious father alligator hanging a canoe-length away, head lifted, a wary eye on the two gentlemen wading up to their chests in water. Go for the eyes, I kept reminding myself, if they come for us. I didn't get in the water. Austin was the better friend, wading through the swamp, feeling for consumer electronics with his feet.
|We pulled out of that swamp, limbs intact, and retreated to dinner in nearby Folkston, Georgia. The town of approximately 2500 offered two immediate choices: local small restaurant in a house with no liquor license, and a more fancy seafood place with a liquor license. We chose the cheaper, local, alcohol-less option, for a feeling of rural truth. Here, Mac's face demonstrates the intense intestinal reckoning we all had coming due that evening, after eating our plateloads of deep-fried bottom-feeding seafood at the Okefenokee Restaurant. With side orders of bacon.|
Second part of plan - enjoy the town's leading spectacle: "The Folkston Funnel." Folkston sits between enough major rail networks that there are honking long freight trains passing through every fifteen or twenty minutes all the live long day.|
Here I'm using a flash with the low-light delay mode on my camera - stillness and motion, captured!
|I resisted the urge to take a picture of the oncoming trains from on the tracks themselves. But I couldn't stop photographing the hurtling steel beasts.|
|The town has provided a freight watching platform! We sat, drank, played dominoes, and took bets on the timing and length of the passing trains. Alex, Wilson, Lars, Austin, Ethan, Mac, Charlie.|
|After the passing of the trains, we retired to our quarters - rustic cabins with electricity and linen-less bunks. There we carried on, yakking by the light of Cutty Sark. Here, Mac, Austin, Alex, and Ethan.|
|Wilson sits on the top bunk, adorned with clothespins, holding my Treo up with a smile on its way to predatory.|
|After a brief respite inside, we absconded to the forest for hunting games and ritual in the night's darkness - unmentionable male rites.|