From the moment I emerged from the womb into another sticky state of discomfort, my opinion of Florida has been pretty low. There’s a reason people call the place “the dick of America,” and it ain’t just because of its comically phallic contours. It’s all well and good when you picture the Sunshine State as the peninsular paradise of popular propaganda. How could the warm, sunny, tropical balloon animal of a state you visited with your grandparents every summer break be anything but Disney-magical?
Well, believe it or not, there’s such a thing as too much sunshine, folks, and that amount is 11.5 months of hiding out in the movie theater just to mooch off their air conditioning. When every step outside means squinting as if Jesus himself has come down to say hello, you stop trying entirely and resign yourself to a life of long-term summer agoraphobia. Not all native Floridians harbor quite the flaming hatred for their home state that I do—but that’s because they’re too busy literally being on fire. Seriously, you could brick-oven a pizza on top of most peoples’ heads these days.
But even besides the spirit-squashing heat, Florida is a bit of a disaster. Actually, to be 100 percent frank with you, it’s a consumeristic clusterfuck of crunchy-grass suburbs, strip mall restaurants called such charmingly-descriptive names as “GRILL,” and people’s midnight-snack chicken nuggets baking on the curb.
My advice: Don’t venture too far from the maniacally family-friendly grins of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck (I hear that guy doesn’t wear pants). The rednecks have been known to bite.
1. The Soul-Sapping Weather
I realize that any old chump can complain about the hellfire presently barbecuing all residents of the United States, but even so, Florida’s brand of heat is particularly…enjoyable. Why, you inquire?
Let me tell you a little something about going outside in Florida: Every walk to class feels like you’re in a crowded public pool swimming a marathon you didn’t sign up for, racing desperately to get to the other side before your lungs give out and you’re flopping on your side like a beached Magikarp. (I wouldn’t recommend reaching this point—people tend to stare.)
It’s a thing called humidity, and believe you me, it is one cruel bastard. Nothing sucks the joy out of a happy face quite so nauseatingly as stepping into air the thickness of a deluxe Krabby Patty with cheese. And let’s not forget the blisteringly-direct sunlight Florida suffers from, thanks to its dangerous proximity to that lovely equator. I made the mistake of playing Pokémon Go at high noon the other day, and I could literally hear my fingertips sizzling like nubs of bacon with every touch of the screen. I’m still nursing the third-degree burns.
As a person who lived in the Sunshine State with only minimal use of air conditioning for 18 long, frugal years, it’s a miracle this article was written by a semi-functioning human being and not a burnt piece of popcorn.
2. The Culture of Cheap Recreation
There’s a special kind of commercialistic disillusionment that comes from being delivered by a guy in a Goofy suit at the peak of Space Mountain. After a few years of living a short drive away from the good ol’ Mouse residence, the idea of flambéing yourself in a 140-minute line for your sixteenth go at spinning a teacup starts to lose its luster.
Not to mention the heat exhaustion you’ll probably die from if you schedule your trip between March and December. (If you still want to come to Disney even after reading this scathing roast of mine, do yourself a favor and come in the winter—by which I mean the two-week window in January when you can’t scramble your eggs on the sidewalk. Your scalp will thank you.)
And don’t get me started on the beach. I’ve seen so many tourists laying themselves out on the sand like leather handbags and frying themselves to a breaded crisp in my day, that I feel I’ll need to bleach my corneas before I can ever set foot on the beach again. I shudder to think of the melanoma.
When you’re born here in Florida, the novelty of getting off the plane and enjoying the sweet smell of green foam pool noodles from Walmart mixed with your grandmother’s SPF 100 sunscreen is totally lost on you. Hell, I recently came to the unsettling realization that I’ve never—never in my life—looked at a palm tree and thought, “By golly, that’s a palm tree!” To my tropics-weary eyes, they’ve always just been trees, albeit floppy ones.
Consumeristic enchantment attracts tourists to Florida in droves, and once the families have completed their annual trampling of Walt’s house, cultural disenchantment drives them right back out. Believe me—I can hear the door slamming from under my cabinet of “Frozen” coffee mugs 32 miles away.
3. The Famous Floridian Loonies
My home state is rather well-known for housing a collection of possibly the most, shall I say, interesting characters in the country. For one thing, as famously noted by every Floridian ever, the governor split his soul into seven Horcruxes when Congress wasn’t looking.
But the truly special members of this wretched swamp are the (seemingly) normal people from (seemingly) normal suburbia. For example, my childhood slice of Floridian suburb is known for exactly two things: cows and nudist resorts. Nothing warms your heart quite like driving by endless fields of future hamburgers followed by the giant bubble letters that shout “CLOTHING OPTIONAL” to every family of four chugging down Route 41. Oh, the nostalgia.
I concede that the rampant nakedness may have just been my odd little corner of the marsh (and hey, congrats to the nudists—pants are overrated), but Florida in general is still often a poisonous concoction of elderly snowbirds, spring break hooligans, lamentable crazies who never fail to make the nightly news and, last but certainly not least, hordes of casually racist hickeroos. Doorless Jeeps sailing the Confederate flag were not an uncommon sight in my high school parking lot—and for the sake of your sanity, shield your eyes from the bumper stickers.
The only myth I can (somewhat) debunk is my good buddy “Florida Man,” the spirited rustic who wields a bearded dragon lizard in his right hand and a machete in his left, while riding off into the sunset on his dolphin seductress—but I don’t want to, because it fuels my point. Suffice it to say, the Sunshine State probably doesn’t really hold more sociopathic buffoons than the rest of the states, but I wouldn’t discount the hot steaming commercialism’s propensity to make lifelong residents a bit screwy ‘round the eyes.
Okay, I’ll admit, Florida isn’t all bad. The sidewalk doubles as a pancake griddle, so there’s that. Stick a spatula and some batter in your pocket and you’re good to go! Instant breakfast on the concrete before Spanish class. Nothing like the taste of gravel in the morning.
All kidding aside, I recommend not doing that—sidewalk waffles put sidewalk pancakes to shame. Ask anyone. (And don’t forget the syrup! Goes great with your tears. I’m the expert, of course.)
Now excuse me as I attempt to reconcile, for the 3,028th time in my life, my condemnation to this cooking appliance of a domicile for the next three years.
I am standing in a wet oven, friends, and its contents are quickly turning into steamed broccoli.