Dave Barry is funny – funny/ witty, not funny/peculiar. (At least I assume he is not funny/peculiar. I don’t know him personally.) In this book, he says he is “defending his homeland.” (Florida is not technically his homeland; he grew up in the North.)
In the Introduction, he notes that interviewers (“not always calling from states that have a lot to brag about”) always seem to want to know what is wrong with Florida. He feels that Florida is unjustly accused of being strange and relates stories about other states, focusing frequently (but not exclusively) on Illinois. “For one thing, voters there keep electing criminals to high office.” It seems that Florida is now “The Joke State.” “We used to be The Sunshine State.” He thinks that the turning point may have been the 2000 election, “as far as I have been able to determine without doing any research.” He gives “A Scientific Explanation For Why There Are So Many Stupid People In Florida And Why This Is Not Really Florida’s Fault.” People come down to Florida all the time. Most of them decide to leave, but there are some, the less intelligent, who can’t figure how to get back off the peninsula.
He gives several examples of this. (And we’re still in the Introduction.) What other state could make the national news because a shark was killed in an automobile accident? What other state has a resident who pulled his son’s loose tooth with his Chevrolet Camaro? Or a man who died in a reptile store (Florida has many of those) from eating cockroaches?
So why do so many people really choose to live in Florida? Barry answers this question by saying why he does: warm weather, low taxes, amazing women, and it’s never boring.
Dave Barry was a humor columnist for the Miami Herald from 1983 to 2005. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1988. He has published numerous fiction and non-fiction books. In this one, he travels around Florida, giving readers a look at some of Florida’s attractions. He’s still being a humorist, of course, but he describes the sites fairly kindly for the most part.
After a brief history of Florida (Don’t hand this one in to your history teacher.), he takes us to meet the Skunk Ape, Weeki Wachee, and Spongeroama. (Here he buys the only present that his wife receives from the trip. Guess what it is.) On then to Cassadaga, the Villages (a retirement community), Gatorland, guns in Miami, and Key West. Along the way, he gives a possible five out-of-order Mold-A-Matic machine awards. (Spoiler alert -The Machine Gun Experience wins the most.)
Sometimes we need comic relief. Best.State.Ever. is available at the Mary Willis Library.