Tag Archives: FSU

Florida: it’s like living in an asylum and loving it

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“The deal with Florida is the charlatans and lunatics and Snapchat-famous plastic surgeons. It is the Ponzi schemes, the byzantine corruption, the evangelical fervor and the consenting-adult depravity. It is the seasonless climate. The lack of historical consciousness. The way in which this nation’s unctuous elements tend to trickle down as if Florida were the grease trap under America’s George Foreman grill.” – Kent Russell in a tongue-in-cheek review of the book “What Makes Florida So Weird”

Shug, I’m not a Florida native. That means I’m not allowed to psychoanalyze the state, as Kent Russell says natives are inclined to do. I will say that time has ground away some of the state’s weirdness, the alligator wrestling and jungle petting zoos that once lined major tourist arteries from the Georgia border to Key West like dead skunk roadkill.

gatorgirlSad to say, most of the real jungles and pristine beaches have been paved over by the grease trap of a million condos and bikini-clad bodies per square foot enjoying nature in a former natural setting. I know this will offend some people, but when I saw what was happening to the sunshine in the sunshine state as a kid, I frankly hoped a badass hurricane would clear away all the crap in the peninsula part of the state like a giant flush in a huge toilet so that “we” could start over.

God knows, Mother Nature has tried, but there’s more work to be done before the seas rise and the state slides down into the Bermuda Triangle with the missing ships, squadrons of military aircraft, and maybe Atlantis. Word is, Atlantis sank because its movers and shakers abused their power. By the time I graduated from college and left home, I thought Florida would go that route, compliments of rogue developers more prevalent than palmetto bugs and equally able to slither away out of the light.

When my fiance came down to Florida to meet the family, she decided one afternoon while we were tip-toeing through the alligators at a nearby wildlife refuge that we were crazy. “What about those gators?” she asked. “No worries, Sugar, they’re in the swap and we’re here on the road through the swamp.” That made her feel about as safe as a can of tuna in a room full of cats.

But here’s the thing. When one moves into the state, one usually starts out sane. But things happen. Maybe it’s the water or too much sun or a million mosquitoes per square foot no matter how many times Mother Nature tries to blow them out to sea. Nobody knows because the people who’ve been there long enough to judge are no longer competent to judge.  With more data, people could get out before they’re involuntarily committed.

Looking back on it all–chasing stingrays, sinking speed boats, teasing copperheads, crawling into dark caves, camping in the piney woods, getting addicted to boiled peanuts, dining on bait fish–I truly think the large blue welcome signs on I-75 and I-10, need to say “No exit,” meaning once you drive into paradise almost lost,  you become lost and can’t leave. You won’t know any better.

If you figure out how to leave, you’ll miss it fierce. If you’re a writer, you write about it. If not, you’ll look at your summer vacation  slides on an old Carousel projector and tell people that in those days, you had it bad and that wasn’t good. Of course, if you’re an FSU Seminoles fan, you’ll still hate the U of F Gators while you watch every game on ESPN. You’ll watch folks boarding of their windows with plywood on the Weather Channel during hurricane season, and you’ll remember the good old days when you road out all the storms because you didn’t know any better.

(Fact of life: people buy new plywood every year when the first big storm approaches because they threw it all away last year, thinking they wouldn’t need it again. If this isn’t a clue to something or other, I don’t know what is.)

Here’s a tip. If you’re planning a Florida vacation, keep it short because if you stay there long enough to start believing the Swamp Booger is read–maybe even in your closet–then you’ve gone native, lost in the swamp, so to speak.

–Malcolm

In a continuing search for sanity, former Florida resident Malcolm R, Campbell is the author of the following stories and novels set in Florida: “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” “Visiting Aunt Ruby,” “Carrying Snakes Into Eden,” “Cora’s Crossing,” “Moonlight and Ghosts,” “Snakebit,” “Dream of Crows,” “College Avenue,” “Emily’s Stories,” and “The Land Between the Rivers.” Learn more on his Amazon page.

 

 

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I wish I’d heard the blues at the Red Bird Cafe

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Just across the main east-west thoroughfare from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, sits the oldest black neighborhood in the state. Known as Frenchtown, the area was beginning to decline when I rode my bicycle on Macomb and Dean Streets delivering telegrams while in high school. Those older than me remembered the days when Frenchtown’s Red Bird Cafe was an important stop on the Chitlin’ Circuit, and they spoke fondly of the days when Cannonball Adderley and Ray Charles lived in the area and were famous along the streets for their music.

Red Bird Cafe - Florida Memory photo

Red Bird Cafe – Florida Memory photo

The yellow Western Union tag on my shirt identified me as a harbinger of death as surely as a black car in a military neighborhood. Perhaps it was that tag or perhaps it was luck, but I never ran into any trouble in Frenchtown even though most of my friends thought I was crazy to go there even though the job required it. I usually took bad news because that’s what telegrams were all about in Frenchtown. The recipients often made me open the yellow envelopes and read the messages at their front doors, and helplessly seeing their reactions and sometimes helping them compose a reply was–I think–my introduction to what it was like to feel the blues.

I wish I’d been more daring then, for I went to a Peter, Paul and Mary concert at FSU, but never went to the Red Bird other than to pedal past it on my bike. Surprisingly, I delivered–much to my embarrassment–more than one singing (usually “Happy Birthday”) telegram in Frenchtown where whole families and their neighbors gathered in the small yards to hear that poor, sweaty white boy sing. Who knows what would have happened if I’d ever had to sing such words at the front door of the Red Bird. Maybe somebody with an “axe” (guitar) would have emerged from the crowd and joined in. Never happened. But as I worked on my Conjure Woman’s Cat novella with its strong leaning toward the blues, I couldn’t help but think of Frenchtown and all the music there I never heard in the world where it lived.

If I owned a time machine, I’d get out the yellow Western Union tag that I “borrowed” from the company when I left, and I’d go back to the Red Bird and listen. In real life, all that music was at once so close and so far away.

–Malcolm

http://www.conjurewomanscat.com/

FSU v Oregon in the playoffs

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I’ve been going to FSU games since I was a kid. First, as a high school student selling peanuts and Cokes at the stadium and then as an FSU student. So, I’m happy to see the Seminoles are in the playoffs after winning 29 straight games through two consecutive seasons and winning their third ACC Championship in a row.

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More of a baseball person, I seldom watch football unless there’s an FSU game on TV. And, as (apparently) an out-date-viewer, I dislike the idea of having a formal college playoff system. But, if we have to have playoffs, it’s good to be there.

As for Oregon, they had a heck of a year. Nice to see in the playoffs. My father taught at the University of Oregon for several years and I still have snowy wintertime memories of Eugene. Plus, one of my brothers lives in Oregon and the other one used to live there.

FSU doesn’t have the dominant team they had last year, so heaven only knows how the Oregon game will end up. We’re probably going in as the underdog in spite of our record. (Too many close calls this year.)

Nonetheless, my prediction is FSU 65, Oregon 56. You heard it here first and probably won’t hear it anywhere else.

Malcolm

UPDATE: Obviously, the game was a mess for those who follow FSU. Frankly, I would have put in the backup quarterback in the third quarter to show Oregon something different for a series of downs or so and to give Winston time to calm down.