Florida! The land of sunshine, beaches, Mickey Mouse, and Disney World; it’s the happiest place on earth, or so it likes to bill itself. Florida is also the land of hanging chads, gator wrestling, 17-foot pythons, uncontrolled urban sprawl, low paying jobs, a history of violent colonization, and real estate con men; land swindles were so common, Hollywood satirized it in the Marx Brothers film, Coconuts. Florida is the land where the Outback Steak House is considered the best place to eat, and Fried Gator Tail is a delicacy.
Florida was weird from its early beginnings. Spain was the first to try and colonize Florida but found the unfriendly hot and humid weather as well as the hostile Native Americans overwhelming. The Spanish government gave way to the Government of the United States which after multiple wars and battles forced most of the Native American population to move west.
Florida does have its good side too; the winters are mild, if non-existent. Many beaches are pristine, that is if you don’t mind seasonal red tide, and you can thank Floridian born John Gorrie for air-conditioning. You can also thank Florida for Faye Dunaway, Tom Petty, Jim Morrison, Wesley Snipes, authors Carl Hiassen, Judy Blume, Lisa Unger, and many others.
While other states can try and claim the number one spot for strangeness (California?), Florida consistently ranks number one. The most recent stories about weird Florida alone since I read this book involves the Mayor of New Port Richey, and his immediate replacement both were arrested within a month of each other, and then there was the woman crossing I-95 naked, dodging cars as she attempted to retrieve her dog,
Author James D. Wright explains the good and the bad in his new book A Florida State of Mind. As Wright points out, Florida likes to bill itself as the happiest state in the country. In truth, depending on the survey you look at it ranks between twelfth and twenty-fourth. Wright lays out an entertaining history of the weirdest state from its earliest days right up until the 21st century. The book is nicely laid out in chapters dealing with its history, growth, politics, tourism, and the environment. An entertaining read on a subject that is never boring.
Note: I received an ARC from St. Martin Publishing.