I’m in Florida, and You’re Not
By Patrick F. Cannon
Retired people with some money often flee places like Chicago during the winter to warmer climes like Florida or Arizona. As it happens, I have spent a week or so at a time in Florida for many years, so have become something of an expert on all things Sunshine State. As you read this, I am basking in that advertised sunshine.
I find people have many misconceptions about Florida. For example, that the state is actually owned by the Walt Disney Company. This is nonsense; just most of it. Quite near Disney World, however, is one of Florida’s most historic attractions, the deservedly famous Gatorland Zoo and Jumperoo. Here you may find Gators aplenty, supplemented by a smattering of Crocs and Caymans. The entrance to the theme park is a state landmark – a giant Gator’s mouth. Inside, in addition to the park’s portal, is a museum shop with a riot of Gator-themed kitsch. But the real reason to visit is the amazing Jumperoo.
At stated times throughout the day, zoo attendants climb to perches over pools of Crocs and extend plucked raw chickens over their lair. The hungry reptiles oblige by leaping into the air to snatch the chickens, whereupon the admiring crowd cheers! As it happens, they don’t actually leap, but use their long tails to rise to the bait. In any event, a family of four can visit this historic attraction for only $100, instead of the minimum of $400 a day for Disney World. After all, which represents the real Florida?
Speaking of Crocs, there is a common misconception that the state is crawling with them. Nonsense! I drove up the center of Florida once and saw mostly citrus groves and cattle ranches. So, you have to go where there is abundant water to find them. As it happens, these are the same areas of the state that appeal to tourists. I have myself seen many of the monsters at their leisure, often when addressing a golf ball with my trusty three-wood. While they rarely attack people, it is well not to leave your dog unattended.
As you might expect, snakes can be seen from time to time. Most are not poisonous, but it would be prudent to familiarize yourself with those that are before tramping through one of the many nature preserves that are one of the glories of the state. By the way, the local snakes not only inhabit the terra firma, but can often be seen hanging from trees. And if you tour the Everglades, you will find that they are infested with Boa Constrictors. While not native to Florida, it appears that snake fanciers have carelessly let them loose, with predictable results. The dog warning also applies here. They can also be a nuisance on the roads through the Everglades, especially at night, when they lie across the pavement to cool off. Many a car’s suspension has come to grief as a result.
Finally, one should say something about hurricanes, or “huricanoes” as Shakespeare called them (see The Tempest). Tourists who come for the high season (November-April) generally need not be concerned, as most of the hurricanes lay waste to the state between July and October. Even then, in some years they give Florida a miss. And really, the only people who travel to Florida in the summer months are parents, who couldn’t afford to bring the kids to Disney during the high season. You see, it’s very hot and humid in the summer, and the bugs – a problem all year really – are particularly active when the Sun is high and the monsoon arrives.
Many people of means own winter homes in Florida, and are called “snowbirds” by the locals, who loathe them because they clog the restaurants and attractions and drive up prices. They often stay long enough to claim residency, since taxes are much lower than are those in northern cities like Chicago, New York and Pittsburgh. Your tax attorney will advise.
On the other hand, you might prefer the desert, in which case…
Copyright 2018, Patrick F. Cannon