But I petted a rhinoceros;
I saw a Cockatoo.
In fact, I spotted a few.
I watched a wild ass,
Munch on the grass;
And was amazed by the scary
Double wattled cassowary.
I was puzzled by an okapi,
That’s like a giraffe, but not as tall…at all!
I fed giraffes leafs from a tree;
And watched a cheetah that didn’t flee;
At White Oak there’s something for most;
Lots of horses, and two golf courses;
There’s even a place for dance;
Where Baryshnikov used to prance.
But though tigers are on display,
I am sad to say, in a light-hearted way,
I didn’t see a Dodger from L.A.
Even though they own them all, or that’s what they say.
Apologies to Dr. Seuss and other folks that write this kind of stuff as this is my first attempt at it, but thought it would be fun to help describe what we saw and heard during our visit with the European American Business Club’s (EABC) to White Oak near Yulee last weekend.
Linda and I have lived here for more than five years and this was our first trip to the White Oak Plantation, another place the SEAL lawyers will obviously avoid like the plague (see last week’s blog, “Frankly, Sir, We Don’t Give A Damn”), but it will not be our last. We can barely wait until we snatch our grandson, Luke, and watch his reactions as he stares up close and bug-eyed at these amazing creatures.
To me, it’s incredible that this breathtaking 12,000 acre conservation facility is located just outside of Yulee, which, until I discovered it, was convinced that Shucker’s Oyster Bar and the Second Amendment Gun Range were the two most fascinating attractions to visit in and near that rural community.
Mark Walter (56), who purchased the plantation from the Howard Gilman Foundation in March 2013, is also the owner of the L.A. Dodgers baseball team, and founder and CEO of Guggenheim Partners, a privately held global financial services firm with more than $240 billion in assets under management with headquarters in Chicago and New York. In other words the youthful Mr. Walter has some deep pockets and conservation is one of his passions, so White Oak should be around for a while. And even though Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw, pictured here, has a residence on Amelia Island’s Omni Plantation we didn’t spot him at White Oak.
The park is teeming with endangered species and the objective is to eventually reintroduce them to their natural habitats in their home countries, but sometimes that isn’t feasible since countries such as Somalia, The Republic of the Congo, Sudan and many others can’t even protect their own citizens, much less animals. Due to warfare and corruption in their home countries, many of these animals will live the remainder of their lives as residents of Yulee, a fate far better than the jungles of Congo, plains of Somalia, etc. where poachers, Islamic psychopaths and rogue armies roam freely slaughtering every living creature in sight.
The tour we took began about 8:30 a.m. Saturday and concluded with lunch around 12:30. Our tickets ran $135 per person and I believe that price included a group discount offered to the EABC. Linda and I decided that instead of puzzling over what to give each other for our July and August birthdays this year that we would gift each other the White Oak trip and we are delighted that we did.
To help fund its admirable operation that includes biologists, zoologists, veterinarians, and many more, the site hosts corporate meetings, weddings, camps for kids, and rents out lodges and rooms in its main facility. The professionals that we encountered were more than knowledgeable and it was easy to detect by their demeanor that the more than 200 animals and 20 species in this amazing place are getting the best of care.
The tour began with a history of the site and a tour of the main building, which includes a dance studio built especially for Russian defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, a two lane bowling alley, a bar from a Chicago speakeasy that was one of gangster Al Capone’s favorites, and a treasure trove of paintings, statuary and other rare collectables.
Linda and I unanimously agreed that our favorite animal was the shy and colorful double wattled cassowary pictured here, a flightless bird found in New Guinea and Indonesia that emits a fearsome deep-throated growl to claim its territory and is as colorful and crazy looking as any creature concocted by Dr. Seuss. Despite the fact they can’t fly, these wild looking birds that can weigh up to 130 pounds, stand more than six feet tall, and can run at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. If you’re in front of one of these irritated foul, you better hope you can out run it as it can jump as high as five-feet and packs a deadly kick. It can rip its prey apart with its hideous feet that include sharp five inch claws and when finished with what was annoying it, goes back to eating its traditional diet of fruit, flowers. fungi and insects. Their feathers look more like fur and the females are brightly colored with blue, black and yellow features. Obviously, what is considered the world’s most dangerous bird, would not make a pleasant house pet and is certainly not good with children.
To learn more about White Oak and book reservations go to their website at www.whiteoakwildlife.org or call them at 904/225-3200.
Speaking Of Local Wildlife: The cocktail bar complex at the corner of South 14th street and Sadler is getting ready to unveil its first offering as Locals Cocktail Lounge prepares to “softly” open its doors this coming Monday, August 22 says Bill Childers, the man behind the curious cocktail bar cluster.
During a tour last week Bill pointed out the highlights of the new lounge, in particular the 600-pound, nine-foot photo-op cast aluminum white rooster; the 40-foot bar that will feature the coldest beer on tap “anywhere” and the unusual outside patio.
The rooster pictured here between me and chum Pajamadave Voorhees, is not the one at Locals, but is an exact replica, so folks will have an idea of one of the unusual attractions to be found in the new lounge.
Childers, who is an expert in the cocktail bar industry, explained that the Locals interior will feature plush dark wooden walls, booth seating that is as high as the bar stool seats, and halved whiskey-cask wooden barrels as tables. It also features five pool tables, but instead of a pool hall flavor, it will convey more of a pleasant English billiard parlor atmosphere that even your Quaker grandmother wouldn’t find objectionable.
The patio will include a covered bar with stools facing the inside bar as well as a large cozy decked seating area surrounding two fire pits.
Bill told me that he is considering bringing either food trucks or BBQ smokers into the parking lot along with live music. I’m convinced if he took a page out of the Texas ice house concept and tossed in country music and BBQ brisket, spicy smoked links and pulled pork, he’d have to have a cop directing traffic on the weekends and he’d empty Yulee of everyone between the ages of 21-75.
Next up for Mr. Childers is the country-western dance segment of the complex, Sadler Ranch, with the doors to that phase expected to open in mid-November this year. Stay tuned as there is much more to come.
Amelia A Zero Zika Zone: If Gil Langley doesn’t win publicist of the year worldwide, then there is no such award, and maybe there isn’t, but if there was one, it’s Gil’s by default. Mr. Langley and his crack Amelia Island Tourist Development Council staff have managed to get a lot of positive “buzz” recently and landed Amelia Island on the Conde Nast list of the “Eight best places to “Babymoon Zika Free” with Amelia Island coming in fourth of eight.
Here’s what Conde Nast’s Judy Koutsky said August 12 about the Zika-free group of eight: “Looking to take one last trip before your family grows? Zika sure has made that a pain—but as of publication date, these seaside towns, desert resorts, and islands are blissfully Zika-free. Bonus: They offer luxury spas catering to mothers-to-be; great restaurants on the water; and pristine beaches for those mid-day naps. Just be sure to keep an eye on the CDC’s website for updates.”
Amelia Island was the only Florida location listed, and was behind the Caribbean’s Mountserat, the Bahamas and San Diego. Here’s what she said about us: “With 13 miles of beaches and a 50-block historic downtown packed with bistros and cafes, Amelia Island is a Northern Florida getaway with active mosquito prevention in place. To relax visit the shops of Fernandina Beach, learn how to make ‘slow food’ at Amelia Island Culinary Academy, or take a sunset cruise.”
Trailing Amelia Island in order were: Charleston, SC; British Virgin Islands; Maui, Hawaii and Scottsdale, Arizona.
Hats off to Mr. Langley and his staff for the positive “buzz.”
Off The Mark: An article by Mark Hinson in the August 17 issue of the daily Tallahassee Democrat recommended visiting Amelia Island and trying a variety of dining establishments including the Ritz-Carlton’s pricey Salt, Gilbert’s, Jack & Diane’s, Salty Pelican, and the Green Turtle. Wait! The Green Turtle for dining? Unless they go on Taco Tuesday they’ll leave very hungry as the Turtle doesn’t serve food except tacos on Tuesdays for a bargain five bucks. Despite the fact that he did mention that Gilbert’s serves smoked mullet, this is an example of a writer penning a piece about a place he’s never been.
Voting Guide: Early voting in Nassau County for Florida’s August 30 primary will be 10 am to 6 pm August 19-27. Registered voters may vote at any of four sites: Callahan County Building, 45401 Mickler St.; Hilliard Community Center, 37177 Pecan St.; James S. Page Governmental Complex, 96135 Nassau Place, Yulee; and MLK/Elm Street Recreation Center, 1200 Elm St., Fernandina Beach. Oh, bring your ID, as this isn’t Chicago.
Here’s how I’m voting in the GOP primary: US Senator: Marco Rubio. Who the heck are those other three guys and why are they wasting their money and time running against Rubio, who just might come out on top in the 2020 Presidential GOP primary. Representative in Congress, District 4: Hans Tanzler. I like this guy’s feisty non-nonsense style; State Attorney 4th Judicial Circuit: Angela Corey. Wes White doesn’t have a chance and Melissa Nelson is prettier, but Ms. Corey’s tough approach appeals to me. Public Defender 4th Judicial Circuit: Charlie Cofer, because I used to go drinking with guys like his opponent, Matt Shirk, and trust me, if their wives can’t trust them, the voters sure can’t. State Representative District 1: Cord Byrd, despite the fact that Sheri Treadwell is a conservative hottie and Jack Daniels and Wayne Bunk have appealing names I’m going with Cord. And who’s Donnie Horner? Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller: John Crawford and Tax Collector: John Drew. They’ve both been doing a good job in my opinion so there’s no need to change. Superintendent of Schools: Kathy Burns, because she’s by far the most qualified and her unqualified opponent has resorted to a nasty campaign that’s apparently run by out-of-town folks and funded by out of county and state contributors who don’t have their fingers on the pulse of Nassau County. County Commissioner, District 1: Danny Leeper. Are you kidding me? Haven’t we had enough of Sarah Pelican who was a failed Fernandina Beach City Commissioner? County Commissioner District 3: Pat Edwards. County Commissioner District 5: Justin Taylor, a genuinely nice and talented guy who is hyped about the position. Ocean Highway and Port Authority District 1: Edward Coop. Lawyer Bob Sturgess is too long winded for me and Pat Gass comes with her own bewildered contingency dancing in her head. Ocean Highway and Port Authority District 2: Danny Fullwood. State Committeemen: John Martin and DeeDee Corbin, both solid citizens and good people; Precinct Committeewoman: DeeDee Corbin, see last item: Circuit Judge 4th Judicial Circuit Group 9: Bruce Anderson; Circuit Judge 4th Judicial Circuit Group 25: Mark Hulsey; School Board Member District 5: Jonathan Petree. Congressional Amendment ref solar devices: Unless you want to pay your neighbors’ utility bills vote “NO” for this nonsense.
Elusive Chowder Ted: Friend Al Waldis, partner in the Front Street Salty Pelican eatery, was paying off the second part of his losing JAX Jaguars bet to me this past Tuesday when he drove us to Chowder Ted’s, on Browns Mill Creek off Heckscher Drive, only to discover that Ted decided to close that afternoon, as he is unexpectedly prone to do at times. We ended up at the Sand Dollar where we enjoyed a view of the St. Johns Ferry chugging back and forth from Mayport and a tasty and reasonably priced lunch. During lunch Al agreed once again this year to bet that his hapless Jaguars would win more games than the mighty Washington Redskins, so next year we’ll make the trek back to Chowder Ted’s hoping this time we find him in his modest cinderblock building serving patrons chowder in those oddball sauce pans. If you’ve never been there go, but not on Sunday or Monday when we know he’s supposed to be closed. If, for some very strange reason the Redskins do lose more games that the pathetic JAX team, I pay for lunch, after I am photographed wearing a Jaguar shirt and my arm around the downtown train station statue of David Yulee. But don’t bet on that ever happening.
A Local Take On Seinfeld: If , like me, you enjoyed the “Seinfeld Show” and still watch the reruns, you’ll love the book “Seinfeldia,” which was reviewed in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal’s Books section by Amelia Island resident Ed Kosner, who was the editor of Newsweek, New York, Esquire and the New York Daily News. If you want to know more about our neighbor Mr. Kosner, who is a frequent contributor to the WSJ Books section, then I strongly recommend his book “It’s News to Me” and if you want insights into the “Seinfeld Show” and its cast, then go get “Seinfeldia.”