Thursday, July 31, 2008

Always strange Florida

Why is that everytime Florida makes it into the national news it's for something completely strange? You almost never see a story out of Florida make the national news scene for something like a Florida scientist coming up with a cure for some obscure disease or a Florida entreprenuer designing the newest high-tech gadget or a Florida educator producing high performing students. No, we're the state where Anna Nicole Smith overdoses, the shark bite capital of the world, where alligators end up in people's kitchens and we have an unusually high number of stupid criminals.

This week alone we've made national news for shark bites, the University of Florida was named the #1 party school (again!) and we've been a daily story for one of the worst examples of stupid criminals I've ever seen - the mother who can't seem to remember what happened to her 2-year old who's been missing for a month. Oh, and less I forget, "Boy Band Mogul Lou Perlman" who's in a Florida jail for fraud, turns informant and becomes an integral part of the state's case against a suspected cop killer.

There's a reason why the authors Carl Hiassen and Dave Barry have been such a success. They don't even have to make this stuff up. It writes itself. That's why you can buy not just one but three different books on Amazon right now about "weird Florida".

Over the years, Florida has made the news for some of the strangest, hardest to believe stuff you've ever seen. Here's just a sample of some of the strange but true news items out of Florida off the top of my head in recent years.

  • A man is found naked and lifeless in the Shamu tank at Sea World by staff early one morning. It is assumed the man hid in the park until after closing then disrobed and decided to swim with Shamu. It is undetermined if the man drowned or if the Orca had anything to do with his ultimate demise.
  • Some jackass is hospitalized after a night of drinking when he makes a bet with friends that he can kiss his pet rattlesnake. He's bitten but expected to survive.
  • Nasa Astronaut Lisa Nowak is jailed after attempting to kidnap her married boyfriend's new girlfriend at a Florida airport.
  • A 15-year-old boy stole a transit bus in Orlando and drove it about 12 miles, picking up passengers, collecting fares, driving the speed limit and making all the right stops before police arrested him.
  • Teen girls are arrested for kidnapping and beating a fellow classmate and cheerleader after they film the beating to post it on YouTube.
  • An Orange County sheriff's deputy was in uniform and sitting in his marked patrol car when a man walked up to him an asked if he wanted to buy some cocaine. The deputy said yes, the man pulled out a bag with cocaine and the officer arrested him. Another man in Tampa doubted whether the crack cocaine he bought was real, so he asked two uniformed Tampa police officers to verify. They did. It was. He was arrested.
  • Polk County deputies had to rescue a 45-year-old man who was naked and high on crack from the jaws of a nearly 12-foot alligator.
  • After State Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, was arrested and charged with grand theft, a television reporter showed up at his office. Instead of a "no comment," Siplin ran out the back of the building and was caught on tape climbing over a fence to reach a getaway car. After his conviction on the felony charges, Siplin filed a bill to restore voting rights to felons.
  • Stupid criminals in West Palm Beach picked the wrong guy to rob. Illusionist David Copperfield was walking to a tour bus with two assistants after a West Palm Beach show when four armed teenagers demanded valuables. The assistants turned over several hundred dollars. Copperfield had a wallet, passport and cell phone in his pockets, but when he turned them inside out, they vanished, using magic and slight of hand to prevent being robbed.

Serial killers. Where should I start? Florida must hold some sort of record on this one along with Texas and California. We've had Aileen Wournos, made famous not only because she is one of the few female serial killers in history but also because Charlize Theron won an Oscar for her performance of the recently executed Wournos in the movie Monster. Ted Bundy, several Lifetime movies on this guy. Gerald Stano, Gerald Schaefer, Danny Rolling. As I write this, Daytona Beach police are swabbing the mouths of those arrested or even pulled over for traffic violations in an attempt to find a DNA match for a serial killer on the loose (the "needle in a haystack approach to crime fighting").

Don't even get me started on politics in Florida. This year, when State revenues are plunging, foreclosures are at an all time high, the unemployment rate is rising steadily, our illustrious legislative leaders dicked around on issues like forcing teens to pull up baggy pants, outlawing "truck nutz", forcing women to have ultrasounds before abortions, a bill to allow "alternative theories to evolution" be taught in our public schools (read creationism!), and again with the state song, state pie, etc. Apparently, our legislative leaders still can't "find their ass with both hands" as my Southern Pappa so delicately puts it.

There's a reason why I didn't title this blog entry "Just when you thought it couldn't get even weirder here."

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