Let me start by saying I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself every time I’ve gone to Florida. Whether it be at the amusement parks in Orlando (as a kid), the beaches of Miami (as a 23-year-old bro-in-training), the strip clubs in Tampa (as an adult), or even the retirement community–like John’s Pass boardwalk near Madeira Beach (as an aging bro), Florida has something for everybody. It’s even got a string of colleges and universities that pump out educated, literatre people. I know a few.
But there’s also the Dark Side of Florida, which you can see just about everywhere you turn. I’m going to list a few of examples of this below. I’ve probably missed several thousand better examples, but trust me, they’re everywhere:
1. Fat people: “OK,” you’ll moan. “There are fat-assed toads everywhere in ’Murca.” But Florida really has no excuse. There’s no reason why it should be flooded with Diet Deadbeaters (say it fast; sort of sounds like “diabetes,” right?). If you drive down any thoroughfare in the state, you’ll see a gym or four every few feet — not to mention health food stores, clinics, parks, bike-and-watersport rentals, and everything else that could potentially scream “healthy living.” Then you look at the average person on the beach or in a restaurant, and you feel the bile rise in your throat, because these people have had so many opportunities not to be fat. “But these fatties are just the tourists!” Floridians will argue. Come on, bros! If a giant piece of your economy is based on tourism, you should figure out how to make them healthy, whether or not they live there year round.
2. Old people: This is pretty obvious, I realize. But let me get to my point. Scads of old folks retire to Florida for the winter — or just permanently. (My own grandparents did, may they rest in peace.) Many of them are highly active, too — golfing, swimming, gym-going, etc. However, you don’t want to picture them being sexually active, because that’s just fucked up (at least to me). Take The Villages, for instance — an over-55 gated community billed as “Florida’s Friendliest Retirement Hometown.” As far as we’re concerned, it’s the combination Bernie Madoff/Porn Industry of retirement communities. It’s riddled with scandals, including one where STDs run rampant within its gate-locked boundaries. Apparently, their community shop do a swift business of condoms or dental dams — or at least, their members have just decided not to purchase any. Yes, we just made you think of grandma and grandpa bumping uglies to Kings of Leon’s “Sex On Fire.” And no, we’re not proud of it at all.
3. Lack of culture: This might not be so obvious until you actually spend a good amount of time in Florida. At least five days, I’d suggest. (I had an extra day here because of the Polar Vortex Meltdown — so I was here for six.) Florida is pretty much devoid of anything cultural — museums of interest and historical sites; mansions and hotels that were built before the age of mohair suits or bell-bottoms; easy-to-access, experimental restaurant choices and the like. Yes, there are some places like the Dali Museum or Fort De Soto; but once you go to them one time, it’s unlikely you’ll return more than once or twice again in your entire life. How is it possible to survive with such little culture? (If you consider going to bars and clubs “culture,” good luck with that forever-long hangover and remixed Justin Bieber song.)
4. Tchotchkes: Christ almighty, everywhere you turn in Florida, there’s a store that sells keychains, snowglobes, wife-beaters, postcards, calendars, sunglasses, visor hats, Christmas ornaments, pens, pencils, staplers, mirrors — all bearing similar Florida logos and designs. One place I stopped at had t-shirts that changed colors in the sun. Look, everybody needs memories of a great vacation, and I agree that a lot of this stuff is used for this exact purpose; but does there really have to be that many of the same stores everywhere? Why not bulldoze 100 of them and force them to reopen as culturally tantalizing restaurants?
5. Animals that throw poop at you: Yes, this actually happened while I was on vacation in Florida. We went to an animal sanctuary — the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, to be exact. The place is filled to the brim with at least one snake, some gators, lemurs, and rows of monkey cages. It’s a place where retired animals go or get donated instead of euthanized, which is a humane thing to do, I feel. (One animal “starred” in a ’90s show that nobody — including him — watched.) I’ve gotta say, these monkeys were pretty damned smart. You could get “food” to feed them (i.e. Animal Crackers) for an extra dollar up front (it was $10 to get in), and throw it to them at any time. Some of the monkeys made spitting or buzzing sounds in your general direction, while others clapped their hands and tugged on the bars of their jail cells, when they saw that you had food to throw them. One monkey in particular — who apparently played “Cheetah” on Tarzan — decided that mouth sounds and applause weren’t doing the trick, so he picked up a piece of shit and threw it at us. Now, I’m no animal whisperer like Jack Hanna or Steve Irwin, but you’ve got to assume that the act of throwing one’s own feces to get food sent your way is not going to make anyone — including other monkeys — interested. So let this be a lesson to all monkeys that see me on vacation in Florida. If you throw poop at me, you’re going to go hungry.