In late 2019, before the world fell apart, my personal life fell apart. I had just broken up with my partner, moved to New York, and went broke. Then I took a bus ride to stay with some family members and Greyhound lost the suitcase I was storing everything I owned in. There was nowhere to go but back home, back to Orlando, Florida, and back to Gator Golf Adventure Park, an alligator themed mini-golf course.
I’d worked at Gator Golf two other times in my life- once as a teenager while I was saving money to move to New York, and a second time after I moved back from New York when my apartment caught on fire for the second time in four months. This third time was a little similar to the second, but somehow even sadder.
Gator Golf has a very high turnaround on employees. This is due to poor ownership, poor working conditions, and the average person not enjoying working in close proximity with alligators. This meant on my return I was familiar with everyone in charge and had more experience than anyone on the current team. I was put into a psuedo-management position that gave me ample free time to do whatever I wanted to all day (my ideal kind of job).
I worked with our lead gator handler to plan out a stage for the front of the park to “encourage” employees to stand outside with a snake or small alligator. I knew this would be quite an undertaking, so I took my time
to make a great final result to work as little as possible.
While I was given nothing to work with, the owner of Gator Golf also owned a series of gift shops nearby, one of which had a massive backroom with years of discarded junk that I was free to rifle through. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to build a stage with minimal experience and no budget or tools.
Step 1: Drag out a prop boat built by the cheapest handyman money can buy from an island full of alligators.
Step 2: Peel off a layer of plexiglass covered in mold, mud, and other unknown sludges. Screw in four broken shopping cart wheels to roll it into the back parking lot and break two on the way.
Step 3: Find an incredibly convenient wooden base and attach sturdier wheels found buried in a home depot bucket.
Step 4: Paint the disgusting wood a flat brown to hide imperfections and nail in the wheeled base.
Step 5: Paint the base a watery blue and tag it with your initials.
Step 6: Realize your boat has no way to protect from children or drunk adults getting close and touching employees and animals. Use a drill stolen from a contractor’s toolbag to attach broken bamboo poles to the front. Tie and trim a worn netting you pulled from a box in the pump room.
Step 6.5: While trying to cut some plywood for the inside of the boat in heavy wind, miss your mark with a saw and bleed profusely onto the boat. Use the first-aid kit to clean and bandage the wound. This step is optional, but will ensure literal blood, sweat, and tears are all included in the final design.
Step 7: Help the contractor find his missing drill so he can escape the state before he gets arrested.
Step 8: Find glowing bottles to tie to the sides of the bamboo. Tear off some tacky nautical themed decorations from the bathroom walls and afix them to the boat as well.
Step 9: Put together a backing track for the boat with pirate music and sound effects from YouTube.
Step 10: Make a grand entrance looking so dandy and so fine on your new rolling stage, the Arrligator.
That’s how it’s done!
Previous to this, the only set design I’d done was for my high school production of Hairspray, where I engineered rolling buildings to preserve stage space and create mock interiors. This was the first set I’d built myself, and I consistently got lucky finding useful pieces and MacGyvering them together.
To my knowledge, the Arrligator now sits unused off the to side. That’s fine, it did what I wanted it to- keep me from dealing with customers and give me a creative outlet to pour myself into while nothing else in my life made sense. I left Gator Golf shortly after it’s completion and moved to New York for the third time in March 2020… and left again two weeks after the plague started.
How To Assemble A Boat With No Carpentry Knowledge, Budget, Or Supplies.
Gator Golf has way more stories to tell than this- read about how it inspired my biggest fear in this piece.