Originally published in Tropic Magazine Sunday, March 17, 1985
I set off, armed only with a photographer named Bruce, to see what adventures awaited me along Interstate 95, that vast, undulating ribbon of concrete that stretches down the East Coast, like some kind of vast undulating ribbon or something, connecting Maine with the Rickenbacker Causeway. What tales of human drama, we wondered, did it have to tell? What magic would we find, what mystery, along its 1,727-mile length? This was what we set out to discover, only we decided that, seeing as how it was already 10 a.m., we would skip the part from Maine to Route 84 in Broward County, and just do the part below that.
What we found, Bruce and I, is a self-contained little world, a world that has spawned life forms and behavior patterns and small businesses that exist nowhere else on Earth, thank God. Yet we also discovered that this unique world is seriously threatened by powerful destructive forces that even now, as you read these words, are encroaching upon the delicate I-95 ecosystem. If you'd stop chewing your Danish for a moment, you could probably hear them.
Oh, I know what you cynical South Florida motorists are saying. You're saying: "What? I-95 is threatened with destruction? What can I do? To help destroy it, I mean."
Go ahead, South Florida motorists. Have your cheap laughs. You'll be sorry, someday. For, as has been said many times, usually by your mother, you never appreciate what you have until it's gone. Take the bison. There was a time when gigantic herds of bison roamed the Great Plains, and nobody really appreciated them. Or if anybody did, he never said anything to me about it.
Then along came the White Man, who has made a regular career out of barging into all these peaceful and harmonious ecosystems and displaying as much sensitivity toward them as Moe and Larry display toward Curly, and practically the first thing he did was slay almost all the bison via carbine so as to make room for Oklahoma, etc.
Bison are absurdly easy to slay. If you've ever examined a picture of one, you've probably noticed that all the weight is in the front. So the bison were always taking one step forward, in an effort to roam, and then pitching right over on their faces. As far as the eye could see, there would be bison butts, aimed toward the skies, which were of course not cloudy all day, and the White Man basically couldn't discharge his carbine without hitting one.
Which is no excuse for what he did. There is never any excuse for anything the White Man does, and I include professional ice hockey in that statement. Because today we have only, what, maybe a couple dozen bison left, behind a giant electrified fence I hope.
My point, obviously, is that the same thing could happen to I-95. Not the exact same thing, of course: You fire a carbine at I-95 in South Florida, and the only noticeable effect would be that maybe two-thirds of the passing motorists would fire back.
But I-95 is indeed threatened. It is threatened on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, which is gradually eating its way through a protective barrier of unattractive hotels that was hastily erected in the 1950s. And it is threatened on the west by the Everglades, which until fairly recently were recognized for what it is, which is to say a swamp, but which of late has come to be viewed as a Vital Resource, as if there is some kind of grave threat to the world muck supply. So you have various lunatic fringe groups such as the Florida Legislature proposing plans to make the Everglades bigger, and there is no place for them to go except toward I-95.