Friday, December 18, 2015

Craig Pittman is the expert on Weird Florida

Some have likened Craig Pittman's desk to a "toxic waste dump," however
he prefers the term "compost pile of information."

(Click image to enlarge.)

My friend, Craig Pittman, writes about Florida's environment for the Tampa Bay Times.

Last year, Pittman and a colleague shook up Tallahassee with an investigation into trips taken by Florida Republicans to an exclusive hunting ranch in Texas...trips that were funded by the Florida sugar industry.

He's been on the environmental beat since 1998, so I guess that makes him an expert on the subject.

But being a Florida native, he's also an expert, and the go-to guy on all things Flori-DUH.

Two years ago he wrote about Florida weirdness in a series of posts on 

His fourth book titled "Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country"  was inspired in part by his posts. It hits bookstores next year.

I recently asked him to tell me about the book.

My fourth book titled "Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country" is due out next July 4.

The book will offer readers a whirlwind tour through the craziest, kookiest tales of Florida Men and Florida Women stumbling, bumbling, and occasionally blowing things up. I recount such "only-in-Florida" tales as the one about the domestic dispute in which the weapon was a three-foot alligator; the wannabe mermaid who got in trouble with her homeowners' association because her costume violated the "no-fins" policy in the community pool; and the U.S. Senate candidate who admitted sacrificing a goat and drinking its blood. Longtime Floridians will recognize a lot of the characters -- crooked cops, dopey crooks, moralizing politicians caught with a prostitute, phony doctors inflating butts with unsafe substances,a developer who stole a customer's money to pay for a sex change -- just your typical Sunshine State crew.

But the book -- which grew out of my tweets that highlight weird stories by tagging them "Oh #Florida!" -- also shows that Florida Men and Florida Women have influenced life for everyone across the country. The guy who invented the computer, John Atanasoff, grew up in Polk County, where he was fascinated by the slide rule carried by his father, a phosphate mining engineer. Ray Charles, who revolutionized American music, learned to play the piano at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine. Billy Graham got the call to preach on an abandoned golf course in Temple Terrace. Floridians started everything from the '70s streaking fad to Indian gambling casinos to the sports drink industry.

Miami gets a lot of ink in this book, and not just for all the mayors who have been arrested. For instance, I spend time talking about the case that led to TV cameras being allowed in America's courtrooms and how it started with two crooked Miami Beach cops. There's a section on Anita Bryant's anti-homosexual crusade that made her the Bull Connor of the gay rights movement. Al Capone gets a shoutout, as do the two Miami residents currently running for president, Jeb! and Marco?!. And of course I cover the giant house-nibbling snails that were smuggled in by a religious cult.

The book also talks about how Florida is billed as a paradise but is constantly trying to kill us -- with hurricanes, sinkholes, shark bites, lightning strikes and the occasional poisonous tree. I also write about how the Florida voters who stood in line for seven hours to hand liberal Barack Obama the state's electoral votes also elected Tea Party darling Rick Scott as governor. 
And I cover our educational follies (how DID Pitbull wind up with his own charter school?), our environmental crimes and our ecdysiast industry with equal verve. 
Oh yeah, and I also go into why the Tallahassee cops once tried to Taser a llama. 

"Oh, Florida!" shows how all of Florida’s contradictions fit together to make this the most interesting state in the Union – not to mention the one that’s likely to determine who will be the next president of the United States. 
Ponder that fact for a while, and then go pre-order this book, pronto! But watch out for those giant snails.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment on anything you read here.

All comments must first be approved. Spam and spam links will not be tolerated or approved.