Tomorrow we’re headed to Florida. I’m terribly excited, and not just because it’s rainy with a high of 42 in Nashville today. I’m excited because we will be introducing our kids to the most spectacularly goofy state east of the Mississippi.
I often hear people–usually Georgia people–remark that Florida isn’t the “real South.” That’s not true. Florida is the real South. It’s also about fifteen other things at the same time. Or to put it another way, Florida has every bit of the goofiness of a Georgia or an Alabama, with I don’t know how many other layers of goofiness on top of it. Regular Deep South goofiness is just the baseline. Add to that retirees, tourists, Cuban expatriates, drug smugglers, and folks for whom things just weren’t working out elsewhere.

Let me clarify. I’m not implying that Cubans or retirees are goofy per se. What is so wonderful–which is to say, goofy–about Florida is the fact that all these people from so many walks of life are always rubbing up against one another. Consider the following sentence: “A Canadian, an alligator skinner, and a beach bum walk into a bar.” It’s either the first line of a joke, or it’s something that’s happening in Florida right this very minute.

I used to have a alert that fed me stories from Florida, because anything can happen there. There was the guy who robbed somebody not with a gun but with an alligator he held under his arm. There was the guy who just about killed himself diving off a bridge to fetch a twenty-dollar bill that had blown out of his hands (“It was my last twenty,” he said. “A guy’s got to eat, don’t he?”)

Stories happen where worlds overlap, where city meets country, where water meets land, where rich meets poor, black meets white, drug smuggler meets snowbird. No wonder there are so many stories to tell about Florida. You may have heard the old saw, “There are two kinds of stories: a man takes a trip or a stranger comes to town.” That’s the story of Florida’s life.

I’m afraid we’re going to have a rather sanitized, Disneyfied Florida adventure. It will hurt my heart a little to be so close to the Weeki Wachee Mermaid Show and the Big Daddy Don Garlitz Museum of Drag Racing and a dozen low-rent alligator farms and not see any of them. But maybe we’ll be able to get out and get a little Florida under our fingernails. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  • Scott
    7:22 PM, 10 March 2011

    I’m heading to the Keys on Saturday! I’ll wave as we fly over the park.

  • Jess
    11:16 PM, 10 March 2011

    Good luck! Maybe, just maybe, you’ll run into some sort of Florida feechie. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. 😉 If not, though, you’ll have to tell us about Snow White, Cinderella, and if they sing better in real life than in the movies. 😉

  • sally apokedak
    4:42 AM, 11 March 2011

    I loved this post. What a nerd you are to have a CNN alert for Florida stories. I had no idea Florida was anything special at all.

  • Heather Ivester
    11:55 AM, 11 March 2011

    John Grogan’s setting for his dog memoir, Marley and Me, is south Florida. I never realized one of the reasons I liked that book so much was because of the setting. Some unbelievably crazy things happened in his life while living in south Florida, and really, I think it was his dog, Marley, that helped him and his wife keep their sanity. If you haven’t read it, the book is much better than the movie (which is not appropriate for young kids, though it’s certainly marketed for them!)

  • Leanne
    2:36 PM, 13 March 2011

    I just heard on the radio that a woman was arrested in Florida because she got into a brawl with her roommate over …. a box of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies. 🙂
    I’ve got some relations in Pensacola and have fond memories of going there as a child. And also going to Alabama where my grandparents lived in a home on a bayou that I picture every time I read about the feechies and their homes.

  • Andrew
    12:59 AM, 16 March 2011

    I had an uncle (in Georgia) who used to say that if he had one brother in Florida and another in the penitentiary, he’d work on getting the one out of Florida first.

  • Steve NeSmith
    9:39 PM, 16 March 2011

    I’m jealous of your FL trip. I’m dying to get back down to my old stomping grounds.

  • Aaron Roughton
    5:36 PM, 18 March 2011

    I just hope you plan to spend a few minutes in Vernon.

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