Outdoors: What's the deal with Florida?

Photo by Jay AnglinRJ and Mitchell Anglin were totally stoked about not being in Florida while enjoying the beach in Michigan City on a windy Thursday afternoon.

Unfloridaize — To remove from Florida; take Florida out of.

That's not a real word and I thought it was mine. I Googled it and some lady named Lucy beat me to it. She used it in a blog to describe her interior decorating taste. Her musings were mostly about sewing and RV’ing, which has always been a winning combination in my book (she does some awesome quilt work by the way).

Unfloridaize may technically be Lucy’s word, but I’m going to make it famous.

Why unfloridaize you ask? Well, in my case I try to go through life without much Florida. I’ve been to Florida plenty of times. When I was a kid we’d visit my grandparents who wintered there, and now I go there annually for work and the occasional fishing trip. But, generally speaking I do my best to stay Florida free.

Whenever I’m there it only takes me a day or two to start feeling like a cynical Jerry Seinfeld, muttering under my breath, “What’s the deal with Florida?”

When I think of Florida, I immediately have flashbacks of crowded, over-priced restaurants serving fair to middlin’ food. I think of cab drivers that speak whatever language, nodding to me in the rearview mirror as I attempt to get chatty with comments such as “Holy smokes it’s hotter than blue blazes!” or “What are we listening to boss?” as unfamiliar electronica mainlines into my brain and he taps the steering wheel to the beat with impeccable rhythm.

I think of beaches covered with people and some of them are exceptionally attractive. Alarmingly so perhaps. Though, the majority of the beach people should never display exposed skin anywhere other than the darkness of their own homes. I am of this ilk and I know better. I unfloridaize by keeping my clothes on in public pretty much everywhere.

I think of a coast that is essentially one long mass of concrete, brick, metal and humanity surrounded by palm trees and white sand full of fossilized shark teeth and shards of glass that cut at the heel relentlessly. I think of sand embedded in deep gashes on my foot and palm trees that offer little to no shade.

The core of the state is mostly pleasant rural country with a patchwork of pastures, wetlands and lakes full of cattle and wildlife. The coastal “back country” and shallow bays offer desirable fishing opportunities such as tarpon and snook on the fly. I think of expensive flats, fishing boats and screaming fly reels. These things are nice and one of the reasons I go to Florida sometimes and, refloridaize (… all mine Lucy).

Florida is sort of like an oblong keylime pie with burnt crust. If you’re like me, you force yourself to eat the crust to avoid being rude and the whipped cream hides the taste. The gooey inside is full of wonderful flavor but you take it for granted because there is a lot of it and it’s mostly green. Most folks are just the opposite, it seems like. They prefer the crust I guess.

I know because other than a handful of us that have chosen to stay home, the vast majority of Earth’s population is either in Florida or wants to be in Florida, as I type this. If I charted the location of people I know that are in Florida this very moment, it would look like one of those maps that identify the locations of McDonald’s, but in the shape of a sock.

Thursday afternoon I took the dogs outside and watched a garbage can blow past like a tumbleweed, which was kinda cool. In Florida, they have terrible hurricanes for that sort of thing. Here in Northern Indiana it happens any old time — no hurricane required. It’s not even on television. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, FLORIDA!

I saw the other day where a couple of Florida snake hunters found a non-native python that was something like 15 feet long. The state has a bounty on these snakes. Apparently, they are eating everything in sight including baby bunnies and puppies and such. Licensed snake hunters receive minimum wage from the state and additional monetary incentives for the bigger snakes. I’m sure that one brought a good day’s wage. These guys were unfloridaizing the snake. It wasn’t invited to Florida.

Social Media blew up with comments like “I seen one bigger than that eat my chihuahua!” and “There he is! Dang…lost him at the drum circle in Naples a while back…”. Keep an eye on Florida, it’s fairly entertaining.

Here’s an idea: How about easing up on the giant reptiles. Try some garter snakes for chriminy sakes. What is the deal with Florida?

Florida is full of non-native critters, including some humans. I’m far from xenophobic, but I once attempted to order a cheeseburger at a Jack In The Box in Coral Gables late at night while driving to the Keys and it seemed like not a single person working the late shift could speak English. “Uhhh, no onion por favor." The sunshine state is a true melting pot in many ways.

The temperature has been relatively mild here in Northern Indiana for Spring Break, hovering somewhere in the 40s or 50s consistently. Punctuated with rain (sometimes quite heavy), sleet and high winds, the weather has been a huge relief to many of us that work outside. Unlike Florida, the risk of painful, stinging sunburn has been a non-factor.

My daughter Lauren is in Florida. She does Facetime with the family to show us how much fun she is having. On Wednesday evening, she had her brothers and sisters watch one of the fireworks shows at Disney, live. I looked for a few seconds and the first thing that came to my mind was how reminiscent of Cedar Point and Six Flags it was, albeit with more singing and alligators.

I took the boys to the beach Thursday afternoon. It was about half as warm as Florida at 43 degrees. I can promise you that surfing on Lake Michigan in Michigan City, Indiana would have been spectacular. Way better than Florida, for sure.

The boys wanted to dive headlong into the raging waves, but unfortunately it was a red flag condition. I can promise you this: Not one single shark would have eaten their foot off if they would’ve gone swimming in our shark-free waters. We have that going for us, which is nice.

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