Only on the Gulfshore
Writing in a recent issue of The New York Times (motto: "All the News That Won't Fit Into Our Web Site") a columnist offered the opinion that visitors entering Florida should be issued manuals to help them understand what she called the "Do-Wrong State." She then went on to mention a number of screw-ups that have taken place on our fair peninsula, notable miscues that cannot be blamed on such time-honored Florida excuses as 100-percent humidity or a democratically-elected government.
I agree that newcomers to Florida too often just don't understand exactly what they are getting themselves into by coming here. And, in the interest of promoting harmony, avoiding conflict and relying on tourists to generate sales-tax revenue so we Floridians don't have to pay a state income tax, I have recently published The New Florida Dictionary. A few entries from this much-needed reference manual are offered below:
Alligator - An aggressive toothy reptile that is fond of swamps (not to be confused with a real-estate agent) and is the main reason why Florida doesn't have a larger poodle population.
Beachfront - A precious unit of linear measurement (see also "Waterfront") and a source of unending agony for longtime Floridians who know they should have bought more of it when they had the chance.
Billboards - A form of outdoor advertising that generates spontaneously along Florida highways and represents the closest the state has come to a homegrown literary tradition.
Caloosahatchee - A major Southwest Florida river, separating Fort Myers from Cape Coral. And for which both sides are happy.
Condominium - A complex of apartment-style homes with jointly owned common property in which people from varied backgrounds can live side by side and create new ways of being disagreeable to one another.
Election Day - The Florida version of April Fool's Day.
Florida - The southernmost state in the continental U.S., named by the explorer Juan Ponce de Leon from the ancient Basque words "flor," meaning "send," and "ida," meaning "old," and generally translated as "place to mail my social security check."
Georgia - A state to the north, created by God to provide more billboard space for advertising Florida.
Gulf of Mexico - A misnomer for the body of water that is correctly known as Florida's Great Salt Lake.
Hurricane - A storm with winds exceeding 75 mph that is ranked by five categories of intensity. Category 1: Dude, the Gulf's actually got some righteous surf for a change. Category 2: What the heck are we gonna do with all this leftover plywood and duct tape? Category 3: Well, I didn't like that screen enclosure anyway. Category 4: Hey ma, we've got skylights! Category 5: Look on the bright side, honey. Our condo is now an offshore reef.
I-75 - A hugely successful federal building project that cost billions of dollars and created a parking lot stretching from Tampa to Naples.
Marco Island - A popular retirement destination along the Gulf of Mexico named after the Midwestern explorer/developer Marco Condo.
Mobile home park - An unnatural preservc and the habitat for one of Florida's most prolific creatures, the Vinyl-Sided Double-Wide.
Naples - A resort town on Florida's Gulf Coast, which traces its ancient Italian roots to Gucci, Armani and Lamborghini.
Orlando - A city in Central Florida whose name comes from the Seminole "orlan," meaning "gate" and "do," meaning "money" and generally translated as "land of the daily admission price."
Seminole - 1. Not quite a whole 'nole. 2. A Native American tribe that resides in Florida and worships several deities, including Toe-Bak-Oh, the god of tax-free cigarettes, and B-14, the goddess of Jackpot Bingo.
Tallahassee - A Panhandle Florida town whose name comes from the Seminole "talla," meaning "meeting," and "hassee" meaning "place," and generally translated as: "Why the heck did they put the state capital way up here in the boonies?"
Tornado - A devastating cyclonic weather system created by God to express his displeasure with Florida's mobile home parks.
Waterfront - A precious unit of real estate measurement, used to describe a home where, if you crawl up on the roof, you can catch a glimpse of a retention pond.
Waterfront access - The neighbors will let you crawl up on their roof.
Zoo - See "Florida."