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National obsession with 'weird Florida' just plain strange

Weird Florida!

It's the national narrative. Late-night comics say so. Bloggers say so, even my level-headed colleague Craig Pittman in Slate.

We have lonely monkeys terrorizing the suburbs and hooker-loving legislators terrorizing Tallahassee. There's the drunken stumblebum who shoots up an Orlando marina and then soils his pants when the lucky cop arrives. We have hanging chad and face-eating zombies. O.J. Simpson moved here. As Carl Hiaasen, whose latest novel is called Bad Monkey, likes to say, "I don't have to make anything up.''

Yes, I grant you that stuff happens in the Sunshine State. But I also believe that we are no weirder than anywhere else. There, I've said it.

It makes us feel important to be first in something, even weirdness. It makes us feel as if we're tough monkeys, if not bad ones. Delaware is for wimps. And don't even mention Indiana. We'll laugh at you.

Before our last national election, I was invited to be a panelist on a live stream for the Huffington Post. The topic: Weird Florida. When I tried to explain that Florida is no weirder than anywhere else, the host quickly moved on to a panelist more willing to stick with the narrative.

The Huffington Post, I found out later, had a dwarf two-headed dog in the hunt. It regularly publishes a feature called "Weird Florida.'' Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered its "Weird Utah" column. Utah? In fact, the Huffington Post has a "weird" column for every state.

I can hear what you're thinking.

"Okay. But have you ever read the book Weird Florida? I read it every morning while I'm in the bathroom. It's the Bible.''

You poor little lamb. I am so sorry to be the one to tell you this. New York's Sterling Publishing has 29 other volumes in its "weird" series. New Jersey is so weird it merits a Vol. 2.

So many contenders. So little space.

• In the Lone Star State's Hidalgo County, just a few weeks ago, police arrested a man for having sex with a horse. A repeat offender.

• Up in boring, low-crime Utah, a nice blond-haired mom opened a tampon box and discovered cocaine.

• In Hawaii, a despairing pet owner sued the dog groomer who had accidentally hacked off the ear of her beloved pup during some frantic snipping — and then, to cover up the faux pas, glued it back on.

• Public transportation has challenges in Oregon, where an undatable man was arrested because of his habit of masturbating into the coifs of female bus passengers. Apparently, the cops had been looking for "Mister Bad Example" for a long time.

• When I think of South Dakota, I'll admit, "weird" seldom comes to mind. That was before I heard about the prison inmate who sued the hospital where he had been born, claiming that the circumcision he had never requested harmed his sexual prowess as an adult. Meanwhile, a mom who had just returned home after giving birth woke up to find a complete stranger in her bedroom breast-feeding the new infant. Congratulations, South Dakota!

• In Delaware — who would have thunk it? — a jury cleared a doctor sued by a priapismic patient who complained that his penile implant worked all too well. His erection had lasted eight miserable months. His embarrassed son was afraid to invite friends over: What if Daddy came out to say hello?

• Meanwhile, in the Hoosier State, police arrested a shirtless wanna-be samurai marching along the interstate while swinging a 35-inch sword. He told officers he was "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs."

"Okay," I hear you saying. "But what about politics? Certainly, you must agree that Florida is the most corrupt state in the union.''

I'm sorry. Despite the best efforts of the current wrecking crew in Tallahassee, we're not even close.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, 32 other states are more corrupt. Georgia is No. 1 followed by — I see a pattern here — South Dakota. The most honest state? New Jersey, Sopranos country. So much for stereotypes.

I do regard Florida as unusual. But it's not the crime or politics that makes us so.

We're a large state populated by 19 million people. We have wonderful universities, hospitals, art museums and restaurants. We have Disney World and pretty beaches. I am told we even have ballet and opera!

Yet in our very civilized state we also have dinosaurs — alligators and crocodiles that, given the opportunity, might eat us. We have bears in certain suburbs and panthers in certain back yards.

Once in a while, a snake comes up a toilet.

I wish I had mentioned toilet-invading snakes to the host of the Huffington Post. I would have made her happy.

Jeff Klinkenberg can be reached at klink@tampabay.com. His latest book is "Alligators in B-Flat."

National obsession with 'weird Florida' just plain strange 07/17/13 [Last modified: Friday, November 22, 2013 7:11pm]

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