Florida, my Florida

Commentary

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.

Published by Ted Block

Ted Block is a veteran “Mad Man,” having spent 45+ years in the advertising industry. During his career, he was media director of several advertising agencies, including Benton & Bowles in New York and Foote, Cone and Belding in San Francisco; account management director on clients as varied as Clorox, Levi’s and the California Raisin Advisory Board (yes, Ted was responsible for the California Dancing Raisins campaign); and regional director for Asia based in Tokyo for Foote, Cone where he was also the founding president of FCB’s Japanese operations. Ted holds a Bachelor’s degree in communications from Queens College and, before starting in advertising, served on active duty as an officer on USS McCloy (DE-1038) in the U.S. Navy.

7 thoughts on “Florida, my Florida

  1. I am happy that YOU are happy in Florida. My granddaughter will be joining you Floridians this summer as she has a great job in Ft. Lauderdale. I warned her about the Trumpian politics and your Trump henchman governor. As a New Jersey girl, the culture will be quite different and I am looking forward to hearing about her experiences. So far she is very happy, has a wonderful apartment with a pool, and has looked around her Fort L. neighborhood and loved it. We shall see. Talk about culture shock. Our Calif. born and bred grandson is going to Syracuse in the fall. He does not know New Yorkers, except for me, nor has he lived with intense cold and snow. Variety is the spice of life, they say, and these two wonderful young people are about to experience variety and culture shock, one in the heat and one in the cold. Hope your lovely daughters are doing well. My best to you both. Joyce

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  2. I don’t know … those iguanas are scary creatures. 😉

    And don’t forget about the wonderful Dali Museum in St. Petes.

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    1. Iguanas are indeed scary. But they’re not indigenous. Some idiot must of started bringing them in after watching Liz and Dick in the film Night of the Iguanas. Re: the Dali. Didn’t go this time because they were featuring the immersive Van Gogh which we saw in Miami. Will go to the Dali on our next visit. All in all, not a bad place, Florida.

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    1. You heard of Crocodile Dundee. I’m Gecko DelRay. BTW…an iguana would not fit in that net…and I wouldn’t go within 10 feet of one in any event. Stand your ground or not, they’re not nice critters.

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  3. Love this! We are so glad you and Sharon are here and we don’t know how we managed without you. Yes, the Iguanas are pretty big (Sharon and I saw a huge male (they are prettier to attract the female) sitting on a rock at the Morikami Museum, which is another wonderful place. You forgot about the alligators. The local paper had a front page article today that the alligators are mating and you may see them in your backyard or in your pool. but you’re right Ted, we love it here (from NJ), despite the crazy stuff. Dave Barry wrote a book about Florida. After reading it, I realized that Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward County are the good news.

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