Wha? That’s not the Florida I want. Sunshine and beaches? What’s to defend? I want the weird Florida, the crazy Florida. C’mon Sunshine State, give me something bizarre!
Those headlines come from a Buzzfeed article titled, “24 Crazy Things That Have Already Happened This Year in Florida.” Published Jan. 8, 2014. I… I included less than half of them, and that’s only eight days… EIGHT DAYS!?! Maybe they’re connected, just covered from different angles. Like, the Baptism Brawl happened at Chuck E. Cheese’s. And the combatants used tomahawks and spatulas and… bananas.
I’m clearly in over my head here. But that’s alright, my empathy powers and lawyerly logic haven’t failed me yet. I’ll just have to think like the weirdest Floridian, get inside their head. Maybe…
… nope nope nope. I don’t have the money or disposable limbs necessary to fondle vicious swamp dinosaurs. But feel free to send me cash, I’ll put it in my reptile snuggle fund.
Let’s get away from things that can kill me. I prefer not to die, if you don’t mind. Let’s find some reasons Florida tends to be so very very bizarre.
Steven Rosenfeld of alternet.org compiled a list of possibilities. One of those reasons? The curious mix of people drawn to Florida.
Rosenfeld asserts that Florida has a higher concentration of live-in visitors than any other state. That means, few native Floridians and a ton of rowdy house guests who stay long past their welcome. Everyone’s chasing that subtropical climate, including the elderly, the immigrants, the rich, the poor, the rednecks, the tourists, the circus freaks, and the nudists.
It’d be like having an all-night rave with old carnies and redneck nudists. And… you’ve stopped reading my blog to move to Florida, haven’t you? I lose so much of my audience to redneck nudists…
But if weird-ass raves don’t float your party pontoon, maybe loose laws will. Because Rosenfeld’s second reason concerns the loosest laws this side of Dodge City in the1800’s.
“To say that Florida has a loose regulatory environment barely states it,” he writes. “People move there to buy homes that can’t be siezed in bankruptcy proceedings. There’s loose gun laws, of which the Stand Your Ground law is but one example.”
There’s also no system for monitoring prescription drugs, no state income tax, no enforcement of copyright law, few zoning restrictions… it’s like the Wild West gone even more laissez-faire.
Craig Pittman of Slate.com points to another side-effect of this attitude: bad hookups.
“The combination of warm weather with millions of tourists means we have a lot of people dressed in skimpy clothes who aren’t staying long,” he writes. “Add in that aforementioned no-rules, YOLO atmosphere and you can see why illicit sex is such a constant temptation—and why it can so easily go haywire.”
So Florida might foster an atmosphere where this kind of living is easy. You can get in a lot of hot trouble. But there’s something else, something more worrysome. Rosenfeld’s Number One reason points to it:
“Florida cops don’t keep quiet.”
Rosefeld points to an interview. “NPR’s Brooke Gladstone, the New Yorker who co-hosts On The Media, last year interviewed Florida newspaper reporter Will Greenlee about the state’s off-the-charts crime stories. The police reporter said Florida’s permissive open-records laws give the media inordinate access to detailed police files, where they find the lurid tales.”
Craig Pittman offers the same explanation, saying, “Florida has long enjoyed a tradition of open government records, which means a lot of the weird stuff that the cops see winds up available to reporters looking for something to make their readers’ jaws drop. So when a retired Tarzan actor got arrested because his pet tigers kept escaping, it made the papers. When a woman claiming to be a vampire attacked a man outside a vacant Hooters, it made the papers. When Vanilla Ice’s kangaroo and goat got loose, it made the papers.”
So everything comes together to reveal the truth. But notice the scary thing there. Florida’s weirdness is known only because of loose coverage laws. So in your home state… what is being covered up?
All our weird people may be hiding, their misdeeds never reaching public light. What if we are all living in “Florida”? What if your world is filled with redneck nudists and Baptism Brawls, and you don’t know it? The reporters in Florida have the biggest, easiest catch, but that certainly doesn’t mean Florida is the only weird state. And they have beaches to compensate.
So don’t get too comfortable. “Florida” might be closer than you think.
And if you’re scared your neighbors might be cosplaying congressmen with snake farms, you might want to call some cops or buy some weapons. A whole bushel of them.