Despite being the butt of late night comics’ jokes, there are a lot of good things about Florida. But then every once in a while…
When Sharon and I announced that we would be moving to Florida at a dinner in Marin County with some of closest friends, the reaction was a combination of general sadness and extreme incredulity.
“Florida? Did you say, Florida?”
“What, are you two out of your minds? No one moves from San Francisco to Florida.”
“Florida is thatcrazy place where elections get screwed up (remember, this is before 2020) with old people and strange critters who slither and crawl. And did we mention the alligators? Or Marco Rubio? Or your crooked governor (at the time), Rick Scott?”
“And, there can’t be any culture. No world-class Opera company. No top-five Symphony. And do they even know how spell ‘Museum,’ let alone have one that’s worthwhile going to?”
But we moved nonetheless. And now, with two-year’s hindsight, it was a great move.
Yes, there are critters that would be unfamiliar to Californians (unless you’re a Californian who has GEICO insurance). In fact one, a little gecko, whom we’ve named “Seymour,” has taken up permanent residence in our screened-in backyard lanai (patio in Northern California terms). Seymour, with no visible means of sustenance, and “faster than a speeding bullet,” has lived there for months, impossible to catch – even with my recently purchased butterfly net.
And yes, there are loads of seniors. With a Palm Beach population of almost 1.5 million,, 31% or 465,000 are 60+. That means if you want a table for the early-bird special, better get there early.
But in far smaller “Marvelous Marin,” with a population of 243,000, 27% are over 60. 31% vs. 27%…not so different different enough for South Florida to be the butt of jokes.
With regard to the rest, the three counties that comprise southeast Florida, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade have symphony orchestras, opera companies, a multitude of legitimate theater companies and the same Broadway touring companies that visit San Francisco. Museums abound, not just in southeast Florida, but throughout the state…as I mentioned in a previous column, the Florida Holocaust Museum and the Chihuly Museum, both in St. Petersburg, are exceptional.
The restaurant scene here is superb, Miami could be the “hottest” (not talking about the weather) cities in the country and with the exception of decent Chinese food, there are no culinary deprivations.
Now, politics is another story. It’s not pleasant living in a GOP dominated state with a “little-me/Trump” governor and two of the Senate’s most vile, duplicitous members. But we’re working hard to turn that around in 2022 when both DeSantis and Rubio are up for re-election.
So, so far, so good.
And then this.
First some background.
I’m sure you all remember the infamous case of Trayvon Martin who was murdered in Sanford, Florida in 2012 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator in a gated community in which the unarmed Martin, a Black man, was temporarily staying. In his trial, Zimmerman pleaded self-defense, invoking Florida’s Stand Your Ground statute which provides that people may use deadly force when they reasonably believe it to be necessary to defend against deadly force, great bodily harm, kidnapping, rape, or (in some jurisdictions) robbery or some other serious crimes. He was acquitted.
As egregious as the Zimmerman acquittal was, stand your ground kind of faded into the background as both illegal police shootings and a rash of mass shootings took center stage. Until…
Florida man accused of killing iguana uses ‘stand your ground’ defense to try to get charge dropped
(Washington Post) – By the time an animal-control officer found the green iguana in September, blood was flowing out of its mouth and nostrils. Its head appeared to be injured. It was breathing, but unconscious, according to an arrest report accusing a man of torturing the creature.
The iguana died while the officer was driving it back to the animal-control office in Florida’s Palm Beach County, the arrest report says. PJ Nilaja Patterson, 43, was charged with animal cruelty for allegedly kicking, throwing and stepping on the animal until it was near death.
He later employed an unusual argument in his defense: The iguana started it.
Patterson, who stands 6-foot-3, argued that the three-foot iguana had “viciously attacked” him and that he was immune from prosecution under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which allows a person to use force against someone who poses an imminent threat.
Florida’s “stand your ground” principle, which also holds that a person is not obligated to retreat when threatened, does not usually apply to reptiles.
The Post article goes on to say that Patterson’s attorneys argued that Patterson’s use of force was reasonable because the iguana allegedly used physical violence first. Patterson was scared the animal would charge at him, the lawyers wrote. He later allegedly received 22 stitches at a hospital.
Prosecutors countered that the iguana bit Patterson as a natural instinct against predators when the Florida man tried to pick it up, the prosecutors said. Patterson allegedly kicked the reptile at least 17 times while it tried to escape and laughed about the situation with friends while the iguana lay on the ground, motionless and unresponsive.
At least Patterson didn’t use a gun!
Circuit Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen rejected Patterson’s argument. And if you are interested, there’s a surveillance video of Patterson standing his ground: https://www.palmbeachpost.com/videos/news/local/2021/06/08/surveillance-video-shows-lake-worth-beach-man-killing-iguana/7592427002/)
Could it be something in the water that causes weirdness in Florida? Or maybe it’s sunstroke induced. It is, after all, according to my license plate, “The Sunshine State.”
Or perhaps it’s just that every once in a while there needs to be something Florida weird to counterbalance all the good stuff; the good stuff that most non-Floridians aren’t aware of.