Dave Barry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times-bestselling author who lives in Florida. In Best. State. Ever. he offers a defense of his home state, countering the stereotypical image of Florida as “a subtropical festival of stupid.”
You clearly feel Florida is everybody’s punching bag and have quoted an Internet site called Thrillist. Why do people have such a low opinion of the state?
We have done some stupid things. We’re still answering for the 200 presidential election. To this day, nobody really knows for whom we voted. Everyone in the country tried to figure out what Floridians meant to do with their ballots. We were doing everything but voting with them, perhaps even engaging in acts of personal hygiene. [Laughter].
There’s a steady stream of really bizarre stories coming out of Florida. For instance, somebody will do something stupid, but will do it naked. [Laughter]. There’s just an extra degree of weirdness in our behavior. I contend that a lot of that isn’t our fault.
We’re dealing with everyone’s weirdness. For some reason, everyone is attracted to Florida. They come down here and then can’t figure out how to leave even though it’s a peninsula and there’s only one way out. We end up with people from every state in the Union, so the entire nation needs to take some responsibility for the weirdness of Florida.
Speaking of weirdness, in Best.State. Ever. you describe weird things happening in Florida. Will you give us a few examples?
We had a truck accident where a truck blew a tire and went off the road. There was a fatality. In this case, the fatality was a shark. A live shark was being transported to New York and the shark was ejected onto I-95. I don’t know of any other state where you would have an airborne shark on the Interstate. It was kind of like Sharknado, but for real.
Not too far from where I live, a guy died in a cockroach eating contest held at a pet shop. The way other places have Starbucks, we have reptile stores. If you ever need a reptile on short notice, this is the state for you. The prize in this cockroach eating contest wasn’t money; it was a snake. The poor guy died trying to win a snake to give a friend. I don’t think that would happen in a normal state.
In the book, you devote an entire chapter to the skunk ape which is unique among Florida’s exotic wildlife and is heavy on the weirdness scale. What is the skunk ape and how can we find it?
The skunk ape is kind of like a yeti or the Loch Ness monster in the sense that it probably doesn’t exist, but lots of people believe it does. It’s an ape-like thing that roams the Everglades. People claim to have seen it. Of course, I don’t know how many drugs these people had ingested before spotting it. There are reported sightings every now and then. I visited the Skunk Ape Research Center located in the middle of the Everglades. Even if you don’t actually see the skunk ape, you can buy a skunk ape t-shirt. [More laughter].
Dave, you moved from Pennsylvania to Florida. How come?
I moved here because the Miami Herald hired me. Through incredibly poor planning, they located the Miami Herald in Miami. [Laughter]. I love Miami.
What do you love about living in Miami, Florida?
I love that it’s warm. It’s never boring. Things keep happening here. For instance, even though there’s nothing funny about the Zika virus, when it came to the United States, where did it show up? Florida, of course. [Laughter] Florida is a giant festival of weirdness and craziness. I just love it.
From reading the book, I understand you were able to get into Miami Beach’s hottest nightclub, LIV. Tell us about that experience.
I went to LIV, which is very difficult to get into. Now, I’m thousands of years old, but even if you’re a young, attractive person, which I’m not, it’s hard to get into that place. But I arranged it with a friend who covers nightlife for the Miami Herald. I showed up around midnight; usually by midnight I’ve been in bed for about four hours [Laughter]. There were all these hyper-attractive buff young people trying to catch the attention of the bouncers to get let in.
When I got in, the music was unbelievably loud. It was electronic dance music. Far be it for me to say the music sucked, but it really, really sucked.
I was blown away by the concept of a celebrity DJ. The same skill set required to operate a microwave oven renders the DJ an internationally valued talent.
Basically, if you want to stand around and listen to incredibly loud music played by a guy pushing a button, and if you want to purchase drinks for twenty dollars a pop, this is a fun place to go.
A fascinating chapter in Best. State. Ever. is “Lock and Load Miami.” Tell us about that.
Lock and Load is a place in Miami where you can go to rent a machine gun. They offer different packages. You pick your package and then go to the shooting area where a large, muscular man who makes you feel incredibly inferior in the masculinity department, shows you how to shoot the machine gun. I was terrified, but it was also an adrenaline rush like I couldn’t believe. There was a paper target about twenty feet away, and it was hard to miss when firing thousands of bullets. You end up thinking you’re an expert marksman. That was a fun feeling.
What would you say to people who negatively view Florida?
Well, you must understand that Florida has very low taxes. There’s no state income tax. The sales tax is reasonable. We have really corrupt and incompetent government. But in other states, you pay really high taxes and also get corrupt and incompetent government. So we’re getting the same kind of government as other states, but for much less money. [Laughter]
What’s coming next from Dave Barry?
I’ll write another book because I have no useful skills and don’t have a trade to ply.
Congratulations on writing Best. State. Ever. an uproarious defense of your much-maligned state. The book unearths the roots of why Florida has become ‘The Joke State’ and details why from beginning to end, you maintain ‘I love this crazy state.’