Pick up a copy of Lynn Waddell’s book “Fringe Florida” and you’ll discover some oddities you never imagined existed even if you’re a second or third generation native.
For example, did you know there is a small town 145 miles south of here between Orlando and Daytona Beach called Cassadaga that is dedicated to spiritualists who say they converse with the dead, is populated by psychics and mediums, and has consequently been named the “Psychic Capital of the World?” Ask our pal Pajama Dave and his girlfriend Zan Maddox about it as they’ve been there and have some spooky tales to tell about their unnerving overnight visit.
Or maybe you want to join a group of folks who sit around on the beach waiting to be picked up by a UFO, join a granny motorcycle club, or visit Gibsonton, a town populated by circus and carnival sideshow performers ranging from the Lizard Man and Lobster Boy to the Monkey Girl and the Human Blockhead.
On our way to Sarasota and Fort Myers, before the Sunshine Skyway was constructed, my mother used to stop in Gibsonton, which is on Highway 41 and was about a half hour south of our Tampa home, to visit the Giant’s Fish Camp, a dive bar and grill, where the owner was the retired circus giant and his wife the retired “fat lady.” I was more fascinated by what was out back though, where a swampy dilapidated chicken wire enclosure was populated by what I remember were a whole bunch of alligators of all sizes and I was allowed to toss them food scrapes. The town also had a midget police chief and in my child’s imagination I always thought it would make a cool Rod Serling Twilight Zone TV episode, with the show opening as a drunk speeding through the little town gets arrested and sobers up to be confronted by a gathering of bizarre local inhabitants.
Oh, and the book will also introduce you to some of the oddest swinger clubs in the country, claiming Florida is home to more of these than any other state. If nothing else it’ll give you some interesting suggestions on what to tell friends, relatives and tourists when they ask what other things they should do while visiting the sunshine state. Why bother with Disney or any of the other fantasy parks when you can go see the real thing? Just be careful where you take junior though.
Crime-Free, Pollution-Free Paradise? And speaking of unusual Florida locations, according to reports from Bloomberg News, our state boasts the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States and one that is also crime free, has almost no pollution, no children, and is just a little more than 150 miles southwest of Amelia Island, or about a three hour drive. With a population of some 110,000, The Villages, is the world’s largest retirement community and growing on par with megacities such as Lagos, Nigeria and Dhaka, Bangladesh, experiencing a 5.2 percent surge in growth this past year. It’s about 60 miles northwest of Orlando, and just a few miles southeast of Ocala. Golf-cart accidents have killed more people there than criminals, said Elaine Dreidame, president of the Property Owners’ Association of The Villages, which is about the size of Manhattan and has more golf carts than that New York borough has taxies. The Villages, which has rules governing how long children can visit and follows an age-restricted model used by developer Del Webb’s Sun City in Arizona, sells new homes ranging from $150,000 to $1 million. It also has been reported that the Villages population boasts 10 women to every man, has one of the highest sales of Viagra anywhere, a thriving swinger’s scene among married couples, as well as an alarming rate of sexually transmitted diseases. So, for a “good time” if you’re 55 or over head south and grab a granny.
Bathtub Blowout: Florida is a shocking state in more ways than one with recent news reports saying eight people across the country have been killed by lightning strikes this year with four of those fatalities taking place in Florida, the deadliest U.S. state for lightening strikes with close to 1.5 million hits annually. Of those killed two were fishing, which is the number one activity that puts most folks in danger says the Associated Press, while one was repairing a roof and the other picking blueberries.
But being inside doesn’t necessarily mean you’re safe. I read recently about a woman who was actually blown out of her bathtub and across the room when lightning struck her home. The startled woman was fortunate she wasn’t seriously injured but a timely piece I saw recently provides some tips for all of us on how to remain safe indoors during a thunderstorm advising:
- Stay away from windows, because lightning bolts can enter the home through cracks around the sides of windows.
- Don’t take baths or showers, brush your teeth, do dishes, or in any other way put yourself in contact with your plumbing.
- Stay off landlines. Use a cell phone instead. Landline phones are the number one cause for injuries from lightning inside the home.
- Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.
- Don’t touch electrical equipment or cords. That includes not touching the refrigerator or stove.
- Keep windows and doors closed during electrical storms
I guess diving in bed and pulling the covers over your head is also acceptable.
Puzzling Business Model: AnInsert in The Fernandina News Leader advertises subscriptions to that newspaper with a business model that I have trouble comprehending. For $49.99 the ad says subscribers can purchase an annual electronic version of the paper and for $39.99 they can purchase a mailed copy AND the electronic version. That’s like a happy hour price of one drink for $5.00 and two for $4.00 or am I missing something here?
Odds & Ends: One of the dimmest representatives in the US Congress is Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) who admitted just last week that she handed out bags of lollipops to illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico into Texas and believes the border crisis is not a national security threat, despite gangsters and alleged terrorists having already been apprehended along the United States-Mexico border.*** However, the Florida congressional trio of nut jobs Alan Grayson (D, 9th District), Jacksonville’s Corinne Brown (D, 5th District) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D, 23rd District) almost make the Lone Star State loony tune look sane in comparison. *** The Jacksonville Jaguars, one of the worst teams in the National Football League, will ensure that as many folks as possible know just how awful they are, when it inaugurates the world’s largest video board at EverBank Field the end of this month. *** The left’s handwringing and whining about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that enables private companies to avoid paying for four types of contraceptives for its female employees, isn’t about denying access to medical care to anyone, it’s about denying them free stuff with tax payers footing the bill. *** South African native and friend Benita Dodd of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation reports tongue-in-cheek that following Nigeria’s elimination from the World Cup the Nigerian captain offered to refund all the expenses of their fans that traveled to Brazil .He said he just needs their bank details and PIN to complete the transaction. *** Following Germany’s 7-1 blow-out of Brazil in the World Cup semi finals I wonder how many newspapers used the word “blitzkrieg” to describe the devastating Teutonic victory. *** The President of Germany and its prime minister can find time to fly to Brazil to watch their team play Argentina in the World Cup final but President Obama couldn’t find time to fly from Austin, Texas to the Mexican border to see firsthand the illegal immigrant crisis there.
Soccer Scolds Annoying: Encouraged by local Belgian expatriate Philippe Boets I watched with a number of others at the Green Turtle as tiny Belgium, a country where I lived and worked for many years and for which I have a deep fondness, eliminated the US in a World Cup soccer match, 2-1, a loss that didn’t bother me, or as far as I could tell many of the other folks at the Turtle that day. What does bother me though are the “soccer scolds”, those folks who come out of hibernation every four years during World Cup play to lecture those of us that don’t give a rip about the game and preach to us that the US is “now” fast becoming a nation of rabid kick ball fans. But once all this silliness is over, the rest of us will happily go back to watching our home-bred big four of baseball, football, hockey and basketball leaving, once again, soccer to the legions of small children and their suburban SUV-driving moms and wandering in the adult sports wilderness it so deserves. And the scolds, who insist that we adopt this monumental 90-minute period of boredom as a spectator sport, will once again slump back into their hibernation state for another four years.
Presbyterian Nonsense: During the Presbyterian General Assembly’s national meeting in Detroit recently that group voted to divest itself of $21 million in investments in three companies that supply Israel with equipment that the Presbyterians say is used in the occupation of Palestinian territory. Israel’s US embassy said the decision is shameful and I agree, and it is obvious from the selection of Detroit as its venue for an annual gathering that this group has a serious problem when it comes to decision making. Since we’ve been visiting various island churches and have yet to make a decision on which one to join, we can now with satisfaction scratch the Presbyterians off our list.
Dumb and Dumber: Not only did Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson agree with the 48 Democratic US Senators who signed a letter to Washington Redskins team owner Dan Snyder demanding that he change his National Football League’s 80-year-old team name, saying it is a racial slur, but he actually went a step further and wrote his own letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, saying he doesn’t believe that retaining the Redskins name “is appropriate in this day and age.” He described himself as “one of your great fans for both the game and you personally.” The only good news out of Senator Nelson’s office recently was the fact that he was not one of the 41 left wing ideologues of 40 Democrats and one socialist (B. Sanders, VT), who have vowed to rewrite the first amendment. Folks these Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) acolytes are dangerously stupid people who think we are dumber than they are. Oh, and the nasty, raspy-voiced Reid says he won’t attend a game until the name is changed, which I hear caused a surge in season ticket requests. As the song says, “Hail to the Redskins!”
Not Such A Hard Choice: From the reviews I’ve read Hilary Clinton’s more than 600-page book “Hard Choices” isn’t exactly a page turner with even leftwing New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd saying it is “…inert, a big yawn,” leading me to believe the publishers would have gotten more for their $14 million advance if they had just donated the cash to the Democratic National Committee. What would you rather have as a gift, Ms. Clinton’s “Hard Choices” or Denish D’Souza’s best-selling “America?” But hard core lefties will probably feel obligated to purchase, but not read the twaddle in the Clinton tome, and place it prominently on their bookshelves next to their unread volumes by Noam Chomsky, Saul Alinsky, Bill Ayers, etc.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: One of the interesting businesses south side restaurant Gourmet Gourmet has on the side is a catering service that provides private jets specially prepared hors d’oeuvres platters , meals, etc. for their trips out of our private airport so if it’s good enough for the jet setters why not treat your party guests at your next soiree. Call ‘em at 904/261-8973. Mark your calendar for August 16 when from 3 pm to 11 pm the city puts on Dunes & Tunes at Main Beach stage and features what they says will be a variety of bands, sand sculpting and water attractions. Steve Raszkin’s Wines by Steve is now at its new site at 4924 First Coast Highway, Suite 1, in the Palmetto Walk Shopping Village near Bar Zin and has wine tastings each Friday, 5-7 pm, and they are also back in the cheese business as well as some special gourmet foods thanks to all the additional new space. Call ‘em at 904/557-1506.