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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country

Oh, Florida!: How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country - Craig Pittman

I'm not sure this is the kind of book that has broad appeal, but as one of the rare true natives of the Sunshine State (as are three previous generations of my dad's side), I had a very vested interest in reading it.  I grew up in a blissful bubble of ignorance regarding Florida's off-the-charts location on the crazy scale, and it wasn't until after I moved away that I started hearing all the jokes.  I own that I was more than a little bit indignant.

 

Now that I've read this book, I get it.  What felt totally normal to me for decades, while living in the midst of it all, when looked at objectively from a distance, is decidedly ... eccentric, to say the least.  I'd like to blame all the carpet-baggers, but if I'm being truthful, Florida was invaded by the nutty centuries ago.

 

However, as Pittman points out, we may be crazy, but we're also history makers and trendsetters.  For better or worse, a lot of what's good and bad in American can be traced to Florida.  NASCAR (admittedly, a matter of perspective as to whether this is a good or bad thing), the space program, USA Today, and authors like Carl Hiaasen, Meg Cabot, Ransom Riggs and Donald J. Sobol.  We also have to own the highest rate of concealed carry permits in the nation and the lowest level of funding for mental health programs, a combination most rational people would say is unwise.  Also, The National Enquirer.  And threaded throughout all the good, bad and ugly are the most hilarious kinds of crazy.

 

"Does it seem strange to you that the beloved figure of Walt Disney would wind up working with a guy tied to the CIA, drugs, Cuban revolutionaries and the Mafia?  Does that odd juxtaposition make you feel uncomfortable?  In Florida, we call that feeling 'Tuesday'. " 

 

Pittman does a great job making just about all Floridians look like the cracked fruitcakes we probably are to some extent, and he does almost as good a job tying all the crazy in to the rest of the country.  Occasionally, his tone veers into derisive and it's clear that while he may be a native too, he's not a kool-aid drinker.  Floridians should be proud of their eccentricities, but they should be appalled by the truly horrific way we allow our state to be run.  I'm not sure we've ever elected a sane politician on a state level; hell, I'm not sure we've ever elected one that was law abiding.

 

Still, I miss my home state.  Florida is a part of my soul; a big reason why I can be both conservative and tolerant, why for me anything less than 50mph winds is a breezy day, and why a 10 foot long reptile won't make me blink an eye, but a 2 inch cockroach will send me running, screaming bloody murder all the way.

 

If you've even wondered why Florida is the way it is, this book won't be able to explain why, but it is going to make you laugh.