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April 2nd, 2013
10:08 AM ET

Florida turns 500 (an ode to weird)

By Dan Szematowicz, CNN

Follow on Twitter: @CNNDan

Editor's Note:  CNN’s Dan Szematowicz grew up in Florida and has a taste for the stranger news in life. Listen to the full essay in our player above, and join the conversation in our comments section below.

(CNN) – Five hundred years ago this week, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon – a man I once impersonated for corporate parties in St. Augustine (don’t ask) – landed on a pristine beach somewhere on the east coast of the Florida Peninsula.

On that day in 1513, he landed in a simpler Florida. The only residents were Native Americans, and historians have not yet found conclusive evidence that they had "$20 Spring Break Sink Or Swim" drink specials.

Legend tells that de Leon was on a quest to find the Fountain of Youth. History suggests he was hunting for undiscovered islands to claim.

Either way, de Leon set in motion a chain of events that culminated in Sunshine State headlines like these:

Over the last couple of decades, starting in the 1980's and, apparently, increased use of cocaine, Florida natives have made “weird” an art form.

For every oddball news item that you can send me about any other state, I bet I can send you three from Florida, all at least five times as strange.

The easiest way to comprehend this "Floridaness" is to think of the state as one big Mos Eisley Cantina, that bar in the very first Star Wars where Luke and Obi-Wan meet Han Solo and Chewbacca for the first time.

At Mos Eisley, countless species of aliens gathered to drink, make shady deals, listen to electronic music and fight. Droids were not welcome there.

Go to almost any public gathering place in Miami, Tampa or Orlando on any night and you’ll see people doing all of the above, often at the same time.

That’s the view of Florida that the rest of the country sees more often than not. It’s an entertaining view, but it’s not an accurate one.

7 wild ways to celebrate Florida's 500th

The key to all this is Florida's amazingly awesome diversity. It boasts an almost infinite array of cultures, nationalities, transplants and age groups.

Painting with a broad brush, you’ve got your diverse Latino and international community in the Miami area, retirement communities on both coasts, snowbirds from up north and traditional Southern rural communities in the center, north and Panhandle.

There’s something about this mix that gives Florida that extra sizzle. Maybe it’s the humidity. Maybe it’s the stepping outside and having nature immediately try to eat you. Maybe it's the sun. Whatever it is, there's something about Florida that makes a person say, "Act my age? Hell no!"

And you know what? In most cases that's a pretty awesome way to think. As long as it's not overdone.

So yes, let's appreciate the amazing feats of drunkenness, the mystery monkeys and the roaches that can powerlift you.

But let's also recognize that the vast majority of Floridians have normal, non-headline-grabbing lives just like the rest of America.

As a Floridian, you become used to the otherworldliness that happens just down the road. You watch the news, see the crazies and sigh.

With all that weirdness, it’s easy to forget about many of the things that still bring hundreds of thousands of new folks to the state every year: the beaches, the tropical weather and the never-get-old mentality.

No, Ponce de Leon didn’t discover the Fountain of Youth in Florida. He did help create it though.

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soundoff (112 Responses)
  1. Danielle

    I'm a native Floridaian, now living in Nevada. I've lived in Ohio, N Dakota & Maryland.

    Nevadans are the weirdest people hands down. Everyone I know who's from here is a bi-polar alcoholic who thinks they are somehow connected to the local mob.
    Native Floridaians are just simple people. For the most part were interested in having fun, raising kids. I never understood the term "career-focused" until I left Florida. I think we get a bad rap for not being very goal oriented. Were not bad drivers. It's the NYers whove never driven in their lives and all the sudden are forced to drive. U know how I can prove that point true? Cuz las Vegas is FULL of NYers causing accidents here too.

    April 8, 2013 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Katie Poviones

    Being a 13 year old, I don't see a problem with eccentric varieties of people in Florida. I live in Florida myself, and I think its one of the greatest states in the country, just for the strength and personality of the array of immigrants inhabiting this place. If you have a problem with the state, then you must have a problem with the country. Because we are one, and when you mess with the bull you get the horns. So I suggest you keep your crude opinions to yourself.

    April 8, 2013 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  3. Chuck Norris

    Wish everyone did hate Florida, then it wouldn't be so flipping crowded. It's that Damn Mouse in Orlando!

    April 5, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ProudFLNatvie

    You know, if you have a problem with Florida, please feel free to get the hell out. There are plenty of us who can actually see the beauty in this state. Go away and leave it for the rest of us to enjoy.

    April 4, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JGN

    Carl Hiaasen makes his living spoofing the weirdness of Florida. No one seems to tear him apart so I don't understand why you're so ready to ream the article writer. It doesn't sound like he's grossly exaggerating anything especially if the 'proud Floridians' who are responding are any indication.
    California gets spoofed and judged by the rest of the nation all the time too; I grew up there and I LOVE it. No giant cockroaches, a good mix of races, ideologies and politics, gorgeous temperate coastlines with low humidity and abundant wildlife. Every place with desirable weather is terribly overcrowded now; humans did that to ourselves; there is no one else to blame. But I would hope that wherever people live they are HAPPY there and content to inhabit their state.

    April 4, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Hogan's Goat

    Any place where people retire is going to fill up with eccentrics. Besides the retirees, who have had plenty of time to develop strong personalities, you get young people moving in to sell them stuff and services, and predators moving in to steal from young and old. Then the population booms and the streets fill up and the crazy begins. Arizona, California, Florida. and every other retirement area are weird places to live. Heck, any place where vets retire is going to get weird real fast.

    April 4, 2013 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Panhandle Native

      Hogan,
      While I can agree with most of what you said, I completely disagree about th evets comment. I live in an area full of verterans and am one myself and trust me most veterans are not that wierd. most of us sit back and look at the others and just laugh at them, and do our best to make our commuities a better place.

      April 4, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Panhandle Native

    I grew up here on the Panhandle, Destin to be exact, left for parts all over the country, CA, Chicago, Charleston, Maine, Virginia, and now happily back in Sunny Florida on the most beautiful beaches in the world. Yes,we have our nut-jobs, but most of us locals are nice welcoming folks who are just trying to live a decent life mixed with ever crazy from up north that decides Florida is the place to go and act like a complete fool. We have to tolerate ignorant spring breakers that trash our towns and beaches, destroy things, just for fun, drive like they got their licenses from Cracker Jack boxes, and I won't even talk about how they dress and speak. Most of us love it here, and wouldn't live anywhere else. As for the commenter's that are complaining about our state, well, if you don't like it, leave, and don't come back. I promise we won't miss you.

    April 4, 2013 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. undeadandlovingit

    I was not only born and raised in South Florida, but I have a love/hate relationship with it. What people are not realizing here is that the majority of florida is comprised of people from everywhere else! no wonder their 'crazy' they're probably from where you live. Tourism drive our economy and many of them decide not to leave.

    April 4, 2013 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
    • ed dugan

      My wife's family settled in Coral Gables in 1924 and we both love the State. Developers tried their best to ruin it and have almost succeeded. Thank God for the real estate bust! We miss Coconut Grove of the 70's with the Grove Pub, Mama Mangoes, the Tom Thumb restaurant, the Taurus,Monty's and the general laid back feeling. Our dock rent at Dinner Key was $50 a month including water and power.

      April 4, 2013 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. King Henry

    Let's clarify this, everything north of Miami is where the weirdness occurs... Granted Miami is probably the fraud capital of the USA but that's as weird as it gets with the exception of the face eating incident (but that can happen anywhere if the right drugs are being consumed)... I have lived in Miami for 35 yrs born and raised and the only other place in the US I would consider living is LA.. Most of the serial killers in the US are from north Florida, I guess it's something in the water.. And for the ignorant people that say that there are no native Americans here we have the Seminole & Miccosukee tribes.. So please don't include the 305 in the weirdness category unless you want us to unleash the bathsalt face eating zombies on you....

    April 4, 2013 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
  10. Escaped FL & Glad I Left

    I left FL back in the early 80's and have never regretted it. Each visit back to Miami confirms my decision. It's not just weird, Floridians are obnoxiously proud of their weirdness. They actually put Los Angeles to shame. Superficiality and shallowness is the new norm. At least when I was growing up in the 70's there were some genuine people left, most of those have have gone into hiding.

    You can keep the Sunshine State. I'll take the Golden State any day.

    April 3, 2013 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Xorax

    I grew up in Bradenton ('68 to '83) and later lived in Orlando ('95) and Melbourne ('96 to '00). Florida used to be nice, as did California. Both were ruined not by the obvious influx of Hispanics, but by the less obvious influx of just plain way too many people. Almost 20 million there now. As the Eagles once sang, "Call some place 'paradise', kiss it goodbye".

    April 3, 2013 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. fish

    there are no native americans living in florida that are native to florida . check you facts bub. the writer was talking about florida . i am white my family has been in florida since the early eighteen hundreds . we are more native than the seminoles . read your history books dufus !

    April 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Szematowicz - CNNCNN

      Thanks for the comment fish. At the time, the Calusa and Potano tribes were both settled in Florida. As far as my research can tell, the Potano were the first to have contact with the Spanish.

      April 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
      • FL

        Wow, sorry about that guy. I am also from FL and know that you are correct. That guy sure did a good jump at keeping up our ignorant, egotistic appearance.

        April 3, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Xorax

      Thank you so much for pointing out that the Native Americans in Florida now are not native to Florida. I'm not sure why that's so significant to you, though, considering that (a) it means all the Native Americans who WERE native to Florida are dead, and (b) it brings up the fact that all the Native Americans who are there now were either shipped there or chased there by Europeans. None of this makes me proud of my white skin. But hey, if it makes you proud, by all means thump your chest.

      April 3, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. notnativeamerican

    The first two paragraphs are so VERY racist. How can this article be published in today's top news sources? Are we so obtuse that we must dismiss thousands of years Native American civilization and assume that nothing important happened until white people showed up? Also THERE ARE STILL NATIVE AMERICANS LIVING THERE yet this article dismisses them as well. Let's start getting some quality in here.

    April 3, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. elwood

    i lived in FL for 6.5 yrs.
    My best experience there occurred the day i left and moved to Minnesota.
    Much better weather and nicer people and less crime.

    My memories of those years include gunshots ringing out 2 blocks away, having my house robbed,
    giant flying cockroaches, incessant humidity from May to October, having my vote lost in that infamous presidential election, and learning that there was an epa superfund site only 1/2 mile from my house
    Haven't been back in 12 years, hope never to go back.

    April 3, 2013 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. fish

    hey nedloh, shut up and go to bed

    April 3, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Nedloh Dleifuac

    Okay whoever wrote this should stop writing, and for several reasons. Aside from the overbearing and obnoxious "jokes", (although calling them "jokes" creates a gross mockery of actual socially acceptable humor), the author's idea of the country's perception of Florida and his/her perception of Florida is also disturbingly inaccurate (you know, because Florida is TOTALLY a place with a "never-get old mentality" because there aren't an abundance of "snow bird" communities containing all of the North East's grandparents, who without a doubt "act their age".)To make the matter worse, he/she managed to drag the Catina from Star Wars into this "news-worthy" piece of garbage.

    April 3, 2013 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  17. oldbones24

    A little like California don't you think? Just don't judge us by our State Congress, they are for sure the dumbest bunch of carpetbaggers we have ever had.

    April 3, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  18. fish

    ok its sticky and hot most of the time . plenty of white trash folk , i am one . bugs all over the place and birds too and they crap all over everything. wetbacks , smelly black folk and white too. yanks , rednecks , canadians , brits, everybody from everywhere. but its always above freezing most of the year. oh and did i mention queers too. so what the hell can we all agree the weather makes the place bearable.

    April 3, 2013 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Dr. B

    I've lived in FL all my life, still do. I love it, mosquitoes and all. What I don't love are people who stereotype. Sure, there's weirdness here. But there's weirdness everywhere. If you don't want to come here, that's great. Stay where you are, by all means. We are running out of clean water, anyway, so the fewer people who come here the better.

    April 3, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  20. septicemia

    Fla looks like a big droopy winkie with a drip.

    April 3, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Esteban

    This shit is racist. Natives were not simple people, unlike the ken of the author.

    April 3, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Natalie

    I'm going to use this article to explain to people why Orlando-born me will never, *ever* live there again, if I can help it. "Oh you're from Florida?! I'll bet you'll retire there!" Hell no. I miss my family, but not that freaky place.

    April 3, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harvey

      You need to get away from the larger cities. I was raised in Orlando and saw the place go from some place nice to being a total toilet. The smaller cities such as Leesburg or St. Cloud can be quite nice

      April 3, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
      • Sam

        @Harvey, Leesburg and St Cloud??? nice places? yeah if you want to die

        April 3, 2013 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
      • DrewInLC

        There are many places in FL that I would consider "nice" and Leesburg is not one of them.

        April 3, 2013 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Your making me reconsider

    I've been thinking about moving to Florida for a job and this article isnt helping! Although when I see 20 degrees on the thermostat my bags pack themselves! Hopefully more people from the west like me move too so there will be some decent people

    April 3, 2013 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • pointless1

      Unless you have one lined up and it's rock solid stay the heII where you are at! Pay here is much lower than northern states by far and UE is high here.

      April 3, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harvey

      There is one thing in Florida that makes it worth while; the fresh water springs. There are rivers that literally come out of the ground that are so pure it is safe to drink. With a mask and snorkel, visibility under water is a hundred yards. Google 'Florida Springs' for more informnation

      April 3, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
      • Mj

        You're kidding, right?! Florida used to have nice springs, until they started to dry up and what was left became polluted. If we had a Governor and Legislature who cared more about the environment and less about the next election or the money they rake in from special interest groups, the springs MIGHT still be able to be saved. I love Florida, but am loving it less and less these days.

        April 3, 2013 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anne

      Of course there is normal regular decent people there. I used to live in Orlando area, there are nice neighborhoods, I loved it because of the Parks, so close to the beach, lot of things to do. That you see weird people yes, and very often, it depends where you go, and also in 5 minutes driving you can switch from the pretty to the ugly. Take your time before buying a home, do lot of research and drive by the neighborhoods that you are interested in. It took me several months before I bought something nice, lot of redneck areas there. If it is Miami, you have to live in the very expensive neighborhoods.

      April 3, 2013 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  24. RealVoiceOfReason

    I used to think Florida was full of crazies, but then I realized they were all transplants from up North. Most of us 'Natives" are just too even keeled to bother with you all northern 'immigrants' and your shenanigans who come down looking for a better way of life, oh and work. Leaving Florida? Excellent, take a friend.

    April 3, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Gene2

    I lived in Florida for five years and while many, many people there could be called weird, 'trashy', 'dim-witted' and 'disgusting' also apply.

    April 3, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • ID

      I don't see the weirdness. It's certainly not worse than Long Island. It's cleaner here than Long island though and it's not like it is a crime capitol of the US like Detroit, ST. Louis, Oakland, Chicago, Baltimore or NY... I don't see it.

      April 3, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fla Gal

      Thank you for using the past tense

      April 3, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • jt

      Well now that your gone, they could probably loose a few of those names. You can take them where ever you moved too.

      April 3, 2013 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
      • pointless1

        Spoken by a Florida educated individual I presume. Loose and lose are two different words. Learn the difference.

        April 3, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
        • BornnraisedFLnative40years

          You both could learn the difference between "your" and "you're," as well as the difference between "too" and "to." I won't even address proper sentence structure. . .

          April 3, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Guy

    I grew up in Ft Liqourdale, and lived there again for 10 years as an adult (30 years or so total). I've lived in several other US areas, including LA, and travelled world-wide, and I think South Florida is easily the weirdest place in the world. The books of Dave Barry & Carl Hiasson, and the music of Jimmy Buffet (plus Zevon's Mutineer album), provide additional weirdness substantiation. SoFla in the 1970's was a nice weird, a 'live & let live' place. Since the 1980's (cocaine cowboys & a continuing, massive economic refugee influx), it has been a mean kind of weird – a 'laugh at the incredible ways people find to hurt or kill each other' place. So, adding up the meanness, limited job opportunities, and the probablilty of Fla south of Lake Okeechobee being underwater eventually, I voted with my feet and moved to Seattle area. Still miss a few friends and the fishing, diving, lobster & stone crabs though.

    April 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • jt

      Clearly you have never been to Michael Bloomberg's APT

      April 3, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Alisha

    I moved down here for grad school and was amazed at all the crazy news headlines. Buzzfeed.com for the past two years has gathered them up into an end of the year post. 2011 was the best, they pulled one a week and some of them were beyond ridiculous. I think a man attacked a woman with butter or someone.

    April 3, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Booger

    I've lived here most of my life. This is normal to me.

    April 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Carlos

    It is not de León, it is Ponce de León...

    April 3, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Captain Underpants

    There is poop in my butt.

    April 3, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • jt

      You are clearly from a New England state sir. TY for sharing

      April 3, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Jim Brody

    As a former Floridian, the word "wierd" doesn't capture its essence for me. How about "dysfunctional", or "f'd up" or "dystopia" or "no-where's-land".

    April 3, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Myrv Gryphon

      I think "depraved" sums things up most appropriately.

      April 4, 2013 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  32. Meiewe

    The only reason Florida sucks is because all of the Northerners came down and sullied the place with their "ways". Once you get skunk on you it takes a full tomato bath to get it off. I remember a simplier Florida, where people were nice to one another and we didn't have idiots driving on the road. If the Northerners would just stay at their residences during the winter and leave Florida alone, we'd all be a lot happier.

    April 3, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      That's funny. On my one trip to Florida the only jerks were the locals. And it was obvious who they were based solely on how slutty they looked, dressed and acted in public.

      April 3, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
      • jt

        Dave you didn't have any cloths on......I would have hated on you too.

        April 3, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • spock

      Yep, might just sell mah trailer house and take mah mullet to Bammie.

      April 3, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  33. us_1776

    Florida is still trying to get rid of it's GOP legislature so it can crawl out of the Dark Ages.

    .

    April 3, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack Rivera

      We are doing just fine with the existing government. At least we are not banning 20 oz. drinks and law-abiding gun owners like nanny-states up north.

      April 3, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
      • Tim

        No, you're just letting criminals back on the street because for some weird reason it's legal to shoot people there if you don't like the way they look at you!

        April 3, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
      • Jim Brody

        Which "Northern state" is banning soft drinks (of any size) or "law-abiding gun owners"? None that I know of.

        April 3, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
        • george

          new york

          April 3, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
        • Kristen

          Bloomberg is the mayor of NYC not NY state. Typical Floridian lack of education. Lived there 20 years ago. Sad, little redneck haven where ignorance, bigotry and guns abound. A true idiocracy.

          April 3, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Morning Star

      One of the best mineral waters of the world, is located in North Port, Florida. It contains high amount of minerals, which may have healing qualities. Therefore, it can be dubbed the Fountain of Youth!

      April 3, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
      • Meiewe

        It is "The Fountain of Youth" (literally). Look up Warm Mineral Springs and its history and you will see that it is the very spring (fountain) that Ponce de Leon got killed over, by the Caloosa indians, when he tried to "discover" it.

        April 3, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • ID

      It's better than that of New York. Keep your liberal policies to yourself (banning soda and shrinking your apartments to the size of a closet). I also really like no state tax.

      April 3, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  34. MackOS

    Dan,
    Loved your article. I grew up in Tallahassee and lived in Fort Myers for five years; you've captured the craziness (animal and human) perfectly. My favorite parts: "you'll see people doing all of the above..." Yep. "stepping outside and having nature immediately try to eat you." Yep. "the roaches that can powerlift you" Yep. Let's not forget the 70 yr old ladies with perpetual surprised look on there face and gravity-defying 36DD chests. Let's write a book- "Florida Wild Life".

    April 3, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Szematowicz - CNNCNN

      Ha! I would read that book. Twice. Thanks for reading...I'm glad you dug it!

      April 3, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Spenser Amadeus

    I lived for a time in Erie, Pennsylvania. I used to say there were two kinds of people in Erie. Those who were planning to move to Florida and those who had just moved back. I could never figure out whether it spoke ill of PA, that everybody wanted to leave, or of Florida that nobody wanted to stay.

    April 3, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Joe

    You can't get any further "south" than Florida.

    I miss it !

    April 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  37. psfitz

    How about the guy on crack who was sitting naked by a lake and an Alligator tried to chew his arm off?

    April 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  38. Jenny

    If you are looking for the hottest apartments, check findmybuilding com

    April 3, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Brody

      Hottest aaprtments? That's the LAST thing you'd want in FL! No sale!

      April 3, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  39. canton wootang lee

    ive seen alot weired things happen in Los Angeles

    April 3, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  40. bubba's cousin

    I used to think California had the weird-market cornered. But more and more I see Florida in the news, with not just strange things happening, violence taken a whole new level. . What's wrong with these people

    April 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Latuya83

      I don't know what's wrong with "these" people, but I know there's something wrong with you, why would you stereotype a whole state because the news likes to sensationalized stories. Yeah a guy eat someone else face, lol, but have you ever heard of Jeffrey Dahmer, he also liked to eat people, after he raped and torture them. The news stories that you are basing your opinion on are the Stand your groud case in Orlando, the Human Zombie and the election fiasco a few years ago. That's not really all that out of the ordinary compared to what goes on in most cities in this country.

      April 3, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  41. ID

    I've been living in the treasure coast (hutchinson island) for almost two years now after 20 years on Long Island, NY. It's insanely clean and doesn't really fit the stereotypes. It's a fun state though with a lot to do.

    April 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  42. eric g

    its a weird thought but everyone i know has lived or comes from florida
    and im in Massachusetts!

    April 3, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  43. M.E.

    All states have their quirks. Florida has its crazies, here in Colorado, you'd think we have an ongoing competition to see who can shoot the most people in one go.

    April 3, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  44. clowns to the left of me

    "That’s the view of Florida that the rest of the country sees more often than not. It’s an entertaining view, but it’s not an accurate one." I totally disagree. In my opinion it is extremely accurate. The second I find a new job in a different state I am out of central FL.

    April 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • sb

      I had to leave. After 5 years of insanity in the Sunshine state, I know know why the natives call it Flori-duh.

      April 3, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  45. JIM

    New York make's Florida look like chils play.

    April 3, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • clowns to the left of me

      Florida IS New York with palm trees...lol

      April 3, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
      • native

        lol palm tree's and MORE jews. CRAZINESS

        April 3, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  46. bob rober

    SEE: floridaorohio.tumblr.com

    April 3, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Myrv Gryphon

      That's amazing, somebody else agrees with me that there exists a Florida/Ohio migratory axis of depravity. Didn't Casey Anthony and her family move to Florida from Ohio?

      April 4, 2013 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  47. bob rober

    FLORIDA vs. OHIO – for weirdness, no other states can compete. granted a lot of Floridians are probably from Ohio so my guess is Ohio for the win.

    April 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Szematowicz - CNNCNN

      And plenty of serial killers hail from Ohio too. But, they all tend to gravitate to flavor country: Florida. Maybe Ohio is Florida's farm system? Thanks for reading Bob!

      April 3, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
      • Emily

        Not to mention the numerous amounts of nut jobs here. Serial Killers are the LEAST of my worries in Ohio.

        April 3, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  48. jesse

    Such and interesting and awesome state. The energy down their is palpable!

    April 3, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  49. dragonfire77

    Any state that has it's own whole section in 'weird news' sites is really deserving of an 'ode to weird'.

    Florida: Producing about 58% of the 'weird stuff' in America since statehood.

    April 3, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  50. glades2

    Florida in it's natural form is (was) a beautful place – not so much today because of over development...

    April 3, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Brody

      Agreed. How can the residents stand to look at one more new Publix store, one more condo tower arising from filled swampland, one more twelve lane highway or one more tacky subdivision miles from anywhere?

      April 3, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  51. Jeff

    I believe Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla used to do a bit called "Florida or Germany" where they would describe bizarre news stories and callers had to guess where they took place.

    April 3, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Szematowicz - CNNCNN

      Jeff, I loved that segment and miss the two of them on that show. They were definitely ahead of the curve on the "weird Florida" thing. Thanks for reading!

      April 3, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  52. Donny C.

    I'm a native Floridian, which is actually very rare to find in many parts of the state, and I find it the best place to be, most of the time (hurricanes). To say Florida is abnormal can be an understatement, and Dan, I think you got it right. To be clear though, most of us Floridians are actually quite normal other than our complete lack of resistance to cold weather, below 60 is just too cold! It's great to have lived to see the 500th anniversary. Great article Dan!

    April 3, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Szematowicz - CNNCNN

      Thanks Donny! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      April 3, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  53. Rae

    I am not a native Floridian, but I have been in love with Florida since I first went there with my family when I was about 4 or 5 years old. I have been dozens of times and have plans to move this fall (or as soon as I can sell my house!). I know some people think Florida is full of whackos, but it doesn't phase me at all. You see, I am from Missouri, and trust me, if Florida is #1 in the "weird news" category, Missouri is #2.

    April 3, 2013 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  54. Mary Ann

    Before moving permanently to the Sunshine State, my son pointed out that on Drew Curtis' FARK website, there is a stand alone category that is simply "Florida"......no other state gets the same recognition, wink-wink. I love the nature of Florida – not too crazy over the humanity of Florida. Although being witness and surviving the snow-bird phenom each winter, you are right on the money about people coming to Florida and not acting their age. I just wish they would remember how to drive!

    April 3, 2013 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan Szematowicz - CNNCNN

      You're absolutely right. Florida drivers...wow.

      Yeah, I love FARK's Florida section...it's part of my daily read-in. Drew Curtis is one of the great American curators of weird.

      Thanks for reading Mary Ann!

      April 3, 2013 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • FloridaMan

      Florida is one of the worst states to live in. HIgh crime rate, low pay for employees, and the humidity...It has a seasonal rich population who come down 4 months out of the year, pay no taxes, then retreat back up north, only to leave the local floridians with half prompted up businesses and a bill to pay.

      April 3, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
      • clevercandi

        if you dislike Florida so much, why are you still living here???

        April 3, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
      • Shannon

        Pay no taxes???
        That's we because we don't have a state income tax, so why would they pay taxes. A lot of those people own homes here, so they're paying property taxes. They also pay State sales tax when they make purchases.

        April 3, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeanneboo

      As a native Floridian, one of my favorit bumper stickers says "When I get old, I'm going to move north and drive slow." But I guess Florida wasn't wierd enough for me, so I moved to Mexico.

      April 3, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  55. Steve Ornberg

    Dan, Very well written piece. I think you were right on the money. I think it is the heat and humidity. Well done.

    April 2, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  56. (JS)

    Dude, my favorite is the one where a couple got in a fight outside of Tallahassee and started throwing alligators at each other.

    April 2, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Szematowicz - CNNCNN

      You have no idea how difficult it was paring down crazy Florida stories to use. Well, actually you probably do. Thanks for reading!

      April 2, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
      • Liz

        What about the woman who was arrested for hitting another car while shaving her private parts?!?! Classic crazy FL right there!

        April 3, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
        • Crissy

          The one that had me rolling was the Florida woman who pulled a gun when Walmart wouldn't accept her coupon.

          April 3, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
        • RealVoiceOfReason

          No, the best is the New York women who was drinking and smoking pot, driving down the wrong side of the road and killed herself, her children and the people in the other car. Ahhh yes all the crazies in Florida.

          April 3, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • SPW

      best one is the guy in jacksonville that called the police because subway didn't put enough seasoning on his sub

      April 3, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
      • RealVoiceOfReason

        I believe there are plenty of examples of people all over the Country who abuse 911. The strangest place I've ever been is New Jersey. What, are you people too stupid to be allowed to pump your own gas. Oh those crazy Floridans.

        April 3, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
        • Hogan's Goat

          When I worked at a self-serv gas station in the early 80s, a Jersey drove up and screamed at us for ten minutes about how we were stealing jobs from people who wanted to pump gas, and how wrong it was for us to make Jerseys pump their own gas because they don't know how or want to and we're job-stealers and dumb rednecks. Finally my boss told him unless he wanted to find out first-hand about Georgia chain gangs, he needed to shut his mouth, pull in his tongue, and get out of our parking lot. "I refuse to sell you gas. Go away." We reported him to the sheriff as he drove into town instead of up the ramp.

          April 4, 2013 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
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