Introduction - Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland - Dave Barry

Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland - Dave Barry (2016)


Every few months I get a call from some media person wanting to interview me about Florida, where I have lived for three decades. The tone of the interview is never positive, or even neutral. The interviewer never asks: “Why do you live in Florida?” Or: “What do you like about Florida?”

No, the tone is always: “What the hell is wrong with Florida?”

I should note that these interviewers are not always calling from states that have a lot to brag about. I have been interviewed on the wrongness of Florida by people who live in, for example, Illinois. Not to be picky, but there are a few things wrong with Illinois. For one thing, the voters there keep electing criminals to high office. Illinois constantly has to build new prisons just to hold all of its convicted former governors, who form violent prison gangs and get into rumbles with gangs of convicted former state legislators. If Charles Manson ever gets out on parole and needs a job, he can move to Illinois and run for governor. The voters would say, “Looks like gubernatorial material to me!”

Also, Illinois has done a poor job of handling its finances, which is why its official credit rating, as determined by Moody’s Investors Service, was recently lowered from “Meth Addict” to “Labrador Retriever.” And this is the state from which a media person called to ask me what is wrong with Florida.

Florida has become The Joke State, the state everybody makes fun of. If states were characters on Seinfeld, Florida would be Kramer: Every time it appears, the audience automatically laughs, knowing it’s going to do some idiot thing.

We weren’t always The Joke State. We used to be The Sunshine State, known for our orange groves and beaches and deceased senior citizens playing shuffleboard. People might have seen Florida as boring, but they didn’t laugh at it. They laughed at New Jersey, because it contained the New Jersey Turnpike and smelled like a giant armpit. Or they laughed at California, because it was populated by trend-obsessed goobers wearing Earth shoes and getting recreational enemas. Or they laughed at Indiana, because the people there proudly call themselves Hoosiers even though they have no idea what Hoosier means.1 Or they laughed at Kentucky, for having a statewide total of twenty-three teeth.

But today all of these states are laughing at Florida. Everybody is laughing at Florida. Mississippi is laughing at Florida.

How did this happen? As far as I have been able to determine without doing any research, the turning point was the presidential election of 2000. You remember. It was Al Gore against George Bush. On Election Night almost all of the other states were able to figure out pretty quickly who they voted for. But not Florida. Florida had no earthly idea who it had voted for. At first, it looked like maybe Gore had won the state, but then it looked like Bush had, but then suddenly it was Al again, and then it was Bush again. At one point, William Shatner appeared to be in contention. It was insane. By dawn we still had no winner, and network TV political analysts were openly shooting heroin on camera.

Meanwhile, the morning skies over the state were darkened by vast fleets of transport planes swooping in from Washington, D.C., opening their doors and dropping tens of thousands of election lawyers. Some landed in the Everglades and were consumed by Burmese pythons. But, tragically, many survived, and, without taking time to remove their parachutes, they commenced filing lawsuits.

This was the beginning of more than a month of intensive 24/7 TV news coverage of the Florida elections. This coverage did not present a positive image of Florida. It featured endlessly replayed videos of deeply confused Florida election officials squinting at Florida ballots that were apparently designed by dyslexic lemurs and then turned over to deeply confused Florida voters, many of whom apparently voted for nobody for president, or voted for two presidents, or used the ballots to dislodge pieces of brisket from between their teeth. Some voters apparently just drooled on their ballots, not that this stopped battalions of Washington lawyers from passionately debating which candidate these voters were drooling for.

This gruesomely unflattering coverage of Florida ran nonstop, day after hellish day. It finally ended when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a 7-2 decision, that Florida should be given back to Spain.

OK, not really. But by then that was basically how the rest of the nation felt. And the nation did not forget. The nation had formed a negative, stereotyped image of Florida as being a subtropical festival of stupid. From then on, every time anything stupid happened here, America rolled its national eyeballs and went, “There goes Florida again!”

Journalists have built entire careers on chronicling Florida people doing stupid things. Somebody started a popular Twitter account called Florida Man, which consists entirely of links to news items about Florida men doing stupid things: Florida Man Seen Firing Musket at Cars While Dressed as Pirate; Florida Man Poses as Superman on Side of Road While Pantless, Urinating; Florida Man Sets Home on Fire with Bomb Made from Bowling Ball;Florida Man Seen Trying to Sell Live Shark in Grocery Store Parking Lot; Florida Man Slashes 88-Year-Old Woman’s Tires with Ice Pick for Sitting in His Favorite Bingo Seat; Knife-wielding Florida Man Tries to Rescue Imaginary Girlfriend from Garbage Truck; Florida Man Says He Danced on Patrol Car in Order to Escape Vampires; Florida Man Proudly Claims He’s the First Man Ever to Vape Semen; Florida Man Seen Masturbating into Stuffed Animal in Walmart Bedding Department; Florida Man Shoots Sister in Butt with BB Gun Because She Gave Him Penis-shaped Birthday Cake; and on and on and on.

To judge from the news, there is no end to the stupid activities that Florida men, and women, engage in. Quite often—probably because of Florida’s moderate climate—they choose to engage in these activities naked. In some other state, a person might say to himself, “I believe I shall pose as Superman by the side of the road!” But in Florida, that person is also going to say, “But first, I shall remove my pants!”

Why do there seem to be so many stupid people in Florida? Is there a scientific explanation?

Yes, there is.

A Scientific Explanation For Why There Are So Many Stupid People in Florida And Why This Is Not Really Florida’s Fault

Imagine several hundred laboratory rats that have been selected at random from the general rat population, so they vary in size, strength, color, intelligence, flea count, etc.

Now imagine that laboratory scientists scientifically place these rats in the center of a large box that is open on top but has high walls around the perimeter. The box is shaped roughly like a rectangle, but at the lower right corner there is a long, skinny dead-end corridor jutting out.

The rats are able to roam freely inside the box. Almost all of them, sooner or later, venture down the skinny corridor. After checking it out, they decide to leave. The intelligent ones immediately realize they need to turn around and go back out the way they came in. The ones with average intelligence, or even slightly below-average intelligence, take longer, but eventually they, too, figure it out. But what happens to the really stupid rats?

That’s right: They elect the governor of Illinois.

No, seriously, because these rats aren’t smart enough to turn around and retrace their steps, they become stuck down there in the corridor, wandering cluelessly this way and that, unable to figure out how to get out.

This is exactly what has happened in Florida, except instead of rats we have people, and instead of walls we have the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. People come down here all the time. Most of them, sooner or later, decide to leave, but the stupid ones can’t figure out how to do this. So they remain, and in time are issued ballots.

The point—and remember that this is not just my opinion, this is a fact, based on an actual laboratory experiment conducted by imaginary scientists—is that, yes, Florida, because of its unique shape and warm climate, does have an unusually high percentage of low IQ people doing stupid things, frequently naked. But most of these people came here from other states, the very same states that are laughing at Florida. Those of us who live here have to contend with not just our native-born stupid but your stupid, too. We are like Ellis Island, except instead of taking the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we take people who yearn to pleasure themselves into a stuffed animal at Walmart.

But it’s not just the Stupid Factor that has given Florida its unfortunate national reputation. There is also the Weirdness Factor. Things keep happening in Florida—things that are similar to things that happen in other states except that there is some mutant element, some surreal twist, that makes the rest of the nation nod its national head and think, “Ah … Florida.” Here’s a news headline from 2015:


This headline does not mention Florida. But you know that everyone reading it immediately assumed, correctly, that the incident occurred in Florida, because while you might imagine a pool heater being stolen in some other state, you cannot imagine another state where the heater would allegedly be stolen by Vanilla Ice.2 That is what I mean by the Florida Weirdness Factor.

Here’s another 2015 example: A tractor-trailer blew a tire on Interstate 95 and went off the road into some woods in Volusia County, Florida. The crash resulted in a fatality.

“Wait a minute,” I hear you saying. “That’s unfortunate, but it’s not weird. Accidents involving fatalities happen all the time.”

Yes, but in this case, the fatality was a shark. The tractor-trailer was carrying four sharks from the Florida Keys to an aquarium in Coney Island in New York City and one of the sharks was ejected during the crash. Fortunately, it didn’t hit anybody, but the fact remains that there was, briefly, an airborne shark on Interstate 95, and it could have hit a car, which would have been tragic, by which I mean pretty funny.

The point is, Florida is the only state I am aware of where a shark was killed in a traffic accident.3 Speaking of which: Florida is also the only state I am aware of in which a woman crashed her car because she was shaving her privates. According to the Key West Citizen, this woman was heading for Key West on the Overseas Highway. Technically, she should not have been driving, since her license had been revoked, but let’s not nitpick. She was going to visit her boyfriend, and—in the words of the state trooper who later arrested her—she “wanted to be ready for the visit.” So she decided to shave what is known in medical terminology as her Bikini Area.

How do you think she elected to do this? Do you think she pulled over to the side of the road and stopped the vehicle? Of course not! That would have wasted valuable time. Instead, she had the person sitting in the passenger seat—who happened to be her ex-husband—steer the car while she shaved. The fact that her ex-husband was in the car is a textbook example of the Florida Weirdness Factor.

So they were motoring along at 45 miles per hour, the ex-husband steering and the woman operating the accelerator whilst tending to her Area. What could possibly go wrong, right? Unfortunately, the car in front of them—in a one-in-a-million fluke occurrence that nobody could have foreseen—slowed down to make a turn, and Team Steering/Shaving slammed into it.

The Key West Citizen quoted the state trooper as saying: “‘If I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have believed it. About 10 years ago I stopped a guy in the exact same spot … who had three or four syringes sticking out of his arm. It was just surreal and I thought, “Nothing will ever beat this.” Well, this takes it.’”

By the way: The driving-while-shaving woman hailed from Indiana. That’s right: She was a Hoosier.

One more Florida motoring story: In March of 2015, a Tampa resident named Robert Abercrombie pulled his eight-year-old son’s loose tooth. How is this a motoring story? It is a motoring story because Abercrombie pulled the tooth with his Chevrolet Camaro. Yes. He tied one end of a string to the tooth and the other end to the back of the Camaro. Then, with his son standing in the street behind the car, he revs the engine and roars off, yanking the tooth out as clean as a whistle, if a whistle had gums that could bleed. This might conceivably happen in some other state, but the wrinkle that makes this a true Florida Weird story is that Abercrombie is a professional wrestler.

Fact: More professional wrestlers reside in Florida than in any other state.4

Abercrombie wrestles under the professional moniker “Rob Venomous.” On his Facebook page, under “Personal Interests,” Mr. Venomous lists “Meeting new people … beating up new people.” There is only one state where this man would reside and practice amateur dentistry.

Of course, not every Florida Weirdness story has a feel-good storybook ending involving a clearly relieved eight-year-old with bleeding gums watching his tooth bounce gaily down the street behind a Camaro. There are plenty of Florida tragedies and we should not make light of them, although we cannot help but observe how truly weird they are.

One vivid example of a Florida tragedy that got national attention because of the weird factor involved the death in 2012 of a man at a Deerfield Beach reptile store. There are many reptile stores in Florida, especially South Florida. I don’t recall ever seeing a reptile store when I lived in the Northeast, but down here they’re everywhere, like Starbucks, except instead of lattes they sell snakes. If you’re the kind of person who frequently remarks, “I wish to purchase a reptile but I don’t wish to travel a long distance,” then this is definitely the state for you.

But getting back to our tragic yet weird story: Try to guess what would cause this man to die at a reptile store. If you guessed that he was bitten by a venomous snake, thank you for playing, but no. The cause of his death—and here we are definitely in Florida-only territory—was eating cockroaches. The store held a cockroach-eating contest; before that, there was a worm-eating contest, which this man also entered.

Now try to guess why this man entered a cockroach-eating contest. To pay the mortgage? To defray urgent medical expenses? Please do not be silly. He was trying to win a snake. Yes. First prize was a ball python—which, for the record, the man did not even intend to keep for his personal use. He planned to give it to a friend. Anyway, he won the contest, but tragically the cockroaches did not agree with him. The reptile store stated, on Facebook, that the snake “now belongs to his estate.” So there’s that.

I think we can agree that this would not have happened in a normal state.

So to summarize:

· Florida, as a result of being a peninsula, through no fault of its own, contains an unusually high percentage of stupid people, many from other states such as (not to single out any one state) Indiana.

· Florida also—again, through no fault of its own, and possibly as a result of some kind of powerful Weirdness Ray being beamed at us from a distant planet inhabited by an advanced alien civilization that enjoys playing interstellar pranks—has a random Weirdness Factor that blankets the state like a fog, seeping into what should be everyday events and causing them to mutate into events involving airborne sharks or Vanilla Ice.

And so we are The Joke State, the state everybody loves to mock. Even people who have moved to Florida from other states continue to mock it. South Florida is infested by former New Yorkers who never get tired of pointing out—in that quiet, understated New Yorker voice that can penetrate concrete at six hundred yards—how pathetic Florida is, because we’re a bunch of yokels down here and we don’t know how to make decent pizza or bagels and we’re terrible sports fans and our restaurants suck and our newspapers are a joke because they’re not The New York Times and our theater is pathetic compared to Broadway and we don’t have real museums and it bears repeating that the pizza and bagels down here are terrible and our water tastes funny and there are too many insects and blah-blah-blah the pizza blah-blah-blah the bagels blah-blah-bl—


I apologize for using an all-caps bolded font but it gets really tiresome listening to these people who have chosen, voluntarily, of their own free will, to leave the paradise of New York and move to Florida, and who apparently have no intention of going back, but who cannot stop declaring how vastly superior New York is. I myself grew up in the New York suburbs and lived in the city for a couple of years. I still go there often, and, when I do, I enjoy its many positive qualities. I don’t dwell on the negatives. I don’t, for example, observe that during warm weather much of Manhattan smells like vomit-soaked garbage being boiled in a large vat of urine. I don’t complain about the traffic, or the prices, or the people behind you on the sidewalk who become annoyed if you delay them by walking slower than 23 miles per hour. Nor do I observe that when you eat in popular restaurants—after waiting an hour or more to be seated, of course—the tables are jammed so close together that adjoining diners sometimes accidentally put their food into your mouth.

I’m willing to overlook New York’s flaws because I believe every place has flaws. But these days nobody overlooks Florida’s flaws. Nobody cuts Florida any slack. Florida is everybody’s punching bag. I am looking at an Internet site called Thrillist, which is one of those sites with content generated by hip, smart young writers who years ago might have practiced actual journalism but who in the modern media world are reduced to writing clickbait lists with headlines like “Fourteen Kinds of Worms That Are Probably in Your Body Right Now.” The particular list I’m looking at is titled “THE DEFINITIVE AND FINAL RANKING OF ALL 50 STATES.” It begins with the state ranked fiftieth, dead last. Of course it’s Florida. Here, in its entirety, is the “explanation” given by the writers for this ranking:

When putting together a list such as this, there can be some temptation to defy popular expectations, and go against the grain. However, Florida’s awfulness resume is so staggeringly impressive that it couldn’t go any other way. You were born for this. Embrace it.

Notice that the Thrillist writers felt no need to offer a single actual specific reason why Florida is the worst state. It just is, and everybody knows why, and we Floridians, in the view of Thrillist, should just shut up and “embrace it.”

Here, according to Thrillist, are the four best states (seriously):

1. Michigan.

2. Maine.

3. Kentucky.

4. Wisconsin.

Now, I could note a couple of obvious things about these states. I could note that the largest city in Michigan is Detroit, where the value of the average single-family home has declined to approximately the price of a Happy Meal. Or I could note that the weather in Michigan, Maine and Wisconsin during winter—defined as September through late June—is pretty much the same as the climate on the lunar surface. I could also note that Kentucky is, with all due respect, Kentucky.

But I will not mention these things. Instead, I will go to Google and see if I can find out (a) whether people are moving away from these four wonderful top-ranked states, and (b) if so, where they are moving to.

Hey, guess what? It turns out that a lot of people ARE moving out of Michigan, Maine, Kentucky and Wisconsin. Apparently, these people do not base their life decisions on Thrillist. And here is an even MORE amazing fact: The Number One destination of people moving out of all four of these states is—you guessed it—Indiana.

No, seriously, it’s Florida. Florida is also the number one destination of people leaving a number of other states, including both New York and New Jersey, thousands and thousands of them every year, somehow tearing themselves away from the indescribable magnificence of the pizza, and, of course, the bagels—we can’t forget the bagels!—to move to Florida. In fact, people from all over are moving to Florida. Florida’s population is growing like crazy. It’s now bigger than New York’s. Embrace that, Thrillist writers.

So we have an apparent contradiction:

On the one hand, the national consensus is that Florida is a stupid weird insane dysfunctional hellhole that is also—I forgot to mention this earlier—a hurricane zone that is soon going to be largely submerged when global climate change causes the seas to rise to the point where vast herds of lobsters roam what is now Interstate 95.

On the other hand, people keep coming here. And most of them—even the non-stupid ones—decide to stay here.

The question is: Why?

To answer that question properly, we need to do some research. Specifically, we need to conduct an objective, in-depth study of the Florida immigration phenomenon—a study involving a professionally designed and conducted survey of a scientifically selected sample of immigrants to the state over a significant time period, and a thorough statistical analysis of the results. I think we can all agree that such an effort would be unbelievably boring. I nearly nodded off just typing about it. So instead I’ll just tell you some of the reasons why I, personally, like living in Florida:

The weather is warm.

Almost any day of the year I could walk out my front door naked and be perfectly physically comfortable until the police tasered me. Granted, sometimes in the summer (defined as June through the following June) it gets a little too warm down here, but too warm beats the hell out of too cold. Too cold means if you stay outside too long, you will die. Too warm means you might have to have another beer.

Since I moved here, I have never, not once, had to scrape ice off my car. Yes, I often scrape off deceased flying insects the size of LeBron James, and once I scraped off an ex-toad. But never ice or snow. One of the great joys of Florida life is watching CNN on a weekday morning in January when the top story is BLIZZARD BLANKETS NORTHEAST and there’s video of miserable commuters whose ice-covered cars are sliding sideways into ice-covered cars driven by other miserable commuters, all of them doomed to days and weeks and months more misery in a hideous frozen wasteland where the highlight of the average working day is getting all the way across the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot without being attacked by wolves.

We love watching that, down here in Florida. Sometimes we get so emotional watching it, even at 7 a.m., that we have to have ourselves a cold beer.

The taxes are low.

Florida’s taxes are close to the lowest in the nation. There is no personal income tax. And yet our state government is excellent.

No, that’s a lie. Our state government is incompetent and corrupt. But before we rush to any judgments, let’s examine this chart comparing Florida with some other randomly selected states:


Level of Taxation

Type of Government



Incompetent and Corrupt



Incompetent and Corrupt



Incompetent and Corrupt

New Jersey


Incompetent and Corrupt

New York


Incompetent and Corrupt

This chart tells us that the residents of California, Illinois, New Jersey and New York—not to mention other states—are paying unnecessarily high taxes for the quality of state government they’re getting. These people could move to Florida and get corrupt and incompetent government for much less. “More Value for Your Dollar” should be the official state motto of Florida, except that the Florida government would spell it “More Value for You’re Dollar” and nobody would notice the mistake until after all the stationery was printed.

The women are amazing.

I am not saying that women in other states are not attractive. Nor am I saying that attractiveness is the only quality that matters in a woman. Nor am I saying that there should even be such a concept as “attractiveness,” because women are not objects to be objectified as if they were some kind of objects or something. Nor am I saying, as a member of the white male patriarchy, that I am not, by definition, oppressive misogynistic vermin scum who should receive extensive mandatory training in gender sensitivity followed by castration with poorly maintained power tools. What I am saying is that if you were the kind of unenlightened male who enjoyed looking at attractive women—which would, of course, be wrong—then you would look at the women of Florida and say to yourself, quote, “Whoa.”

This is especially true of women in Miami. They really make an effort. Let’s say it’s Saturday morning and a woman decides to go to the supermarket. A woman in some other part of the country—I am looking at you, The Midwest—might decide that, hey, it’s just the supermarket, no need to get all gussied-up. So she puts on comfortable jeans, comfortable sneakers and a comfortable, loose-fitting T-shirt, usually with something written on it such as R.E.O. SPEEDWAGON 1995 SEVEN STATE WORLD TOUR. This also happens to be exactly the outfit her husband5 would wear to the supermarket. Sometimes they accidentally put on each other’s clothes.

Not Miami Woman. She would not wipe up cat vomit with a loose-fitting T-shirt, let alone wear one in public. Miami Woman does not own loose-fitting anything. If she ever went camping in the wilderness—which she would not, because the wilderness lacks nail salons—she would sleep in a form-fitting sleeping bag inside a form-fitting tent.

Miami Woman keeps herself in shape and spends a lot of time on her appearance, and she frankly thinks she looks pretty damn good, and most of the time she is correct. When she goes out in public—defined as “beyond the immediate bathroom”—she makes sure she is totally put together. The result is that Miami—in fact, South Florida in general—is swarming with what a less evolved person than myself would call smoking hot babes.

A few years ago a guy I know was visiting from another state, and he accompanied me to the supermarket. There were many women there, but I was not particularly distracted, because (a) I am used to it, and (b) none of these women measured up to my wife, who is extremely attractive and will eventually read this. But my friend was not used to it. He was walking into freezer cases. His eyeballs were falling out of their sockets and rolling around the produce section.

“Is it always like this?” he asked me.

“Pretty much,” I said.

“If I lived here,” he said, “I would go to the supermarket constantly. I would buy my groceries one grape at a time.”

And that’s just the supermarket. You should see how good Miami Woman looks at the beach.

Q: How good does she look?

A: Frequently the tide, after coming in, refuses to go back out.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the United States is some kind of giant beauty pageant. We can’t rank a state based on some superficial quality such as the physical beauty of its women; it’s important to consider other factors, such as the warmth of the state’s climate and the lowness of its taxes. All I’m saying is that if the United States were a giant beauty pageant, Florida, based on Miami alone, would kick your state’s ass.

Also I am told that the men of Florida are exceptionally good-looking. I cannot confirm this, because I don’t pay much attention to them. My wife assures me that she doesn’t either.

It’s not boring.

Florida is one of the least boring places on the planet. As we have established, things keep happening here. Granted, many of these things are bizarre or stupid or dangerous. Often drugs are involved. Or alligators. We cannot rule out the possibility of alligators on drugs. We cannot rule anything out, because we never know what will happen next in Florida. We know only that, any minute now, something will. That’s what makes Florida more interesting than states such as, no offense, Nebraska.

Don’t get me wrong: Nebraska is a fine state, with a proud tradition of vegetables growing there. Its very nickname is The Cornhusker State, reflecting the fact that it contains a huge quantity of corn, which Nebraskans apparently take pride in husking. But this is not necessarily a compelling reason to go there. “Let’s go to Nebraska and watch corn being husked!” is something you rarely hear people say when they are looking for excitement. They are far more likely to say, “Let’s go to that parade in Key West where the marchers wear basically just paint.”

Now, before you Cornhuskers complain that I am being unfair, yes, I know there is more to Nebraska than just corn. There is also a huge quantity of soybeans. There are even some tourist attractions. According to the official Nebraska website, one of the state’s top attractions is a geological formation called Chimney Rock, which, as its name suggests, is a rock. Here’s what the website says (really) about Chimney Rock:

According to early fur traders, Native Americans named the rock Elk Penis after the penis of the adult male elk.6 This made more sense to those who had lived for centuries on the plains than comparing the rock to a feature from a white man’s building. Prim and proper usage among Anglo-Americans, though, overwhelmingly preferred the more delicate name chimney.

Far be it from me to offer unsolicited advice, but if I were in charge of Nebraska tourism, I would definitely change the official name of Chimney Rock back to Elk Penis. I bet tourists would swarm to the state, if only to buy the T-shirt. Then, while they were in Nebraska, they would become exposed to the state’s many other attractions. (“Look, kids! More corn!”)

But I digress. My point is that Florida is not boring. Although if you want boring, Florida has that, too. For example, we have the Everglades. Biologists will tell you that the Everglades is one of the Earth’s most interesting ecosystems. What they will not tell you is that the word ecosystem comes from the ancient Greek words ecosys, which means “really,” and tem, which means “boring swamp that reeks of frog doody.” So anytime Florida gets too exciting for you, you can just wade out into the Everglades and stand around up to your thighs in muck and swat mosquitoes until you have calmed down sufficiently. At which point you will be eaten by a python.

Florida: Even our boring parts are exciting.

✵ ✵ ✵

At this point you are saying: “Dave, you have convinced me that Florida is superior to other states in the areas of climate, taxation, hotness of women and not being boring. But what about other areas, such as education, health care, employment, housing, environmental sustainability and infrastructure? Does Florida perform well in these areas?”

OK, not necessarily. But who cares, because:

Florida has Disney World.

Think about what this means. Never mind, I will tell you: It means that wherever you live in Florida, you have easy access to the number one family theme resort in the world. My family can get into our car in Miami and, in just three and a half hours, we can be in the Magic Kingdom, standing in a four-hour line to get into Space Mountain. You cannot put a price tag on a family theme experience like that.

I could go on and on, listing all the good things about Florida. I could point out that it is the only state where you can get a really good mojito. Or that it’s the nation’s flattest state, so if you fall down after a few mojitos, you will not roll far. Or that Florida is a very tolerant state, willing to grant a driver’s license to pretty much any organism consisting of more than one cell. Or that Florida leads the nation in lightning strikes, which is pretty cool as long as the lightning does not strike you personally.

But I think I have more than proved my point. Florida, despite what you hear from the haters in the cold boring high-tax Elk-Penis-attraction states with (no offense) ugly women, is a great state. This book is a celebration of that greatness—starting with Florida’s past, which is filled with fascinating historic events that I intend to find out about soon on Wikipedia, and moving forward to the present, which—believe it or not—is happening right now. Come with me, then, and let us together explore the many wonders of The Sunshine State, from Key West, way down at the very bottom, to whatever wonder is at the very top, and everything in between, except the parts we leave out. When we’re done, I think you will truly understand the feelings of the great Spanish explorer Juan Tostones de Bodega, who, upon setting foot in Florida for the first time in the year 1503, is said to have observed: “Esa araña tiene el tamaño de un guante de receptor.”7 He died only hours later, but his words are as true today as they ever were.