Oh, #Florida!

What Makes a Weird Florida Story a Weird Florida Story?
The rules are different here.
July 16 2013 6:45 AM

Oh, #Florida!


What makes a weird Florida story a weird Florida story?

Gnomes and other garden ornaments fill the back garden of Nigel and Jean Balcombe in Ashford, southeast England February 10, 2013.
Garden gnome, deadly weapon?

Photo by Luke MacGregor/Reuters.

“Brothers and sisters, this morning I intend to explain the unexplainable—find out the undefinable—ponder over the imponderable—and unscrew the inscrutable." —Florida poet James Weldon Johnson

Every day weird news comes out of Florida. As with the famous saying about porn, we know what it is when we see it. But what elements combine to make a story that occurs in Florida fit the definition of “weird Florida”?

Thanks to a lifetime of observing Florida weirdness all around me, I have formulated a few general rules. I also consulted a couple of experts on this subject: Brendan Farrington, who since 1998 has compiled an annual roundup of bizarre behavior in Florida for the Associated Press; and Barbara Hijek, who writes the FloriDUH blog for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Here's what we came up with:

1)      The story generally involves an unusual weapon. A machete is okay. A samurai sword will do. A lawn gnome is waaaaaaaaaay better.

2)      Nudity is not essential, but it is recommended.

3)      The presence of an animal helps, especially an alligator, whether large or small. Some sort of big snake is good. Monkeys are an old standby. Llamas are the new hotness.

4)      The participation of Florida's many sex-industry workers tends to boost the story's visibility.

5)      You'd be amazed how many stories there are about sexual encounters gone horribly awry (and how great the mugshots are). Note: Said encounter does not have to involve a couple. It may, however, involve something from No. 3.

6)      You'd also be amazed at what people post on Facebook.

7)      For “the Happiest Place on Earth,” Disney World manages to generate a lot of weirdness.

8)      You can always count on some help from 911.

9)      Florida thieves steal the strangest things.

10)  Mistaken identity stories are frequently good for a laugh.

One word of caution: Don't ever look back to see what happened next to the people in these stories. What you find might bring a tear to your eye.


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge


The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 5:47 PM Tale of Two Fergusons We knew blacks and whites saw Michael Brown’s killing differently. A new poll shows the gulf that divides them is greater than anyone guessed.
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 5:07 PM One Comedy Group Has the Perfect Idea for Ken Burns’ Next Project
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.