End of the Line

Florida, Man!

Rambling along in the Sunshine State

Photo: Barry Blitt

The Hidden Florida issue? My first thought: Florida Man. We know the meme, the legend, the guy who keeps running over himself with stolen lawn mowers and trying to cash a check for $368,000,000,000 that a homeless man sold him for $100. Now, at last, the man himself in an interview:

G&G: How do you manage it? Making those headlines day after day: “Florida Man Charged with Picking Magic Mushrooms While Carrying an Alligator.” “Florida Man Accused of Pressure-Washing His Neighbor.” “Florida Man Claims He Only Drank at Stoplights.” “Florida Man Wearing Mop on His Head ‘Terrifies’ Neighbors with Demands for Eggs.”

FM: Uh-huh. And considering how much of the time I’m incarcerated. Or hospitalized. Yeah. Or both. Well, one thing is, my publicist is an escaped nun, so she doesn’t charge much— 

G&G: An escaped nun?

FM: Well, I don’t guess technically—

But that whole thing began to feel tacky. Who needs Florida Man? I go way back with out-of-the-way Florida, myself. My father’s-side roots are in the Panhandle: Hosford, Marianna, DeFuniak Springs. For thirty-odd years, I have almost annually visited the Forgotten Coast, as the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce calls it: Alligator Point, Panacea, Sopchoppy, Shell Point, Dog Island, Carrabelle. Apalachicola—what a great name that would be for a soft drink. Sopchoppy—what a great name that would be for a hot dish. I ate fried snake and armadillo once in Winter Haven. My paternal grandparents met in Chattahoochee, at the Florida State Hospital for the Insane. They were attendants.

But far more notably, this coming March will be fourteen years since the following announcement:

Dear Friends,

We got married Saturday evening in Tarpon Springs, Florida, on Sunset Beach. 

Behind us was a sunset, which was planned (though we didn’t expect the double-yolk effect created by certain atmospheric conditions) and prolonged (as sunsets go), and a pair of dolphins, and a pair of ruddy turnstones, which were fortuitous and passing. 

In front of us were a fully robed Unitarian Universalist preacher whom Lee Smith rustled up at the last minute and about twenty-five friends and acquaintances singing “Chapel of Love.”

The friends and acquaintances of whom we speak are people who visit Tarpon Springs every spring to watch baseball, eat Greek food (it is a Greco-American sponge-fishing town), and sit around the motel pool until long after dark, talking. We sprang the wedding on them. Quite a few of them said it was the best wedding they ever saw, and the ones who didn’t say it was, didn’t say it wasn’t.

We are very sorry not to have shared the wedding with all of you, too, but we are blessed to have so many of you that when we thought about trying to get you all together, our eyes rolled back in our heads. We hope to see you soon enough that you will not have forgotten to ask what in hell a ruddy turnstone is and we will not have forgotten that we mentioned ruddy turnstones in the first place.

Joan changed her name?

Yes, to Euphelia. From the Greek, for “true feeling.”

Living together yet?
Not strictly speaking, but Joan’s going to sell her house and squeeze in with me while she builds a new house, out of clay and wattles, for us both.

Going to get a dog?
We’ll see.

How about a cat?
We’ll see.

Llamas or something?

Who is this from?
Oh, sorry:
Love, Joan and Roy

Fourteen years ago, as I say. We didn’t build the new house—we improved my kitchen and bought an old house together in New Orleans. No dog or llamas. A cat, yes, of course: Jimmy.

A ruddy turnstone is a bird, robin-sized and (in breeding season) calico-cat-colored. It bops along shorelines on its orange legs turning over rocks and shells with its beak, looking for what’s good to a ruddy turnstone. It is born in frozen tundra. Three weeks later it flies thousands of miles, with no parental guidance, to warmer places around the world. To sight a pair of them is rare, I’m told, at a wedding, in Florida, in spring. A tribute, no doubt, to the bride. Who is still prettier than you can imagine.

The thing about Florida Man, he has no real sense of romance. Okay, “Kidnaps Scientist to Make His Dog Immortal” shows feeling. But “Drives Date to Sports Bar on Stolen Walmart Mobility Scooter”? Come on, bro. A sports bar?