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Only in Florida

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If there was ever any doubt about the state of weirdness in Florida, the argument got settled flat last week. In the space of less than four days, we not witnessed the nervous crackup of a NASA astronaut at an Orlando airport, but also the sudden end of a certain tabloid celebrity’s life in a Hollywood hotel. Hot on the heels of our hurricane problems, election debacles and inexplicable attraction for serial killers, it seems that the Sunshine State is a magnet for all sorts of strange behavior.

Of course, all of this is nothing new. For years, writers like Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey have made tidy livings writing novels about the colorful goings-on down here. From crooked politicians to trailer park divas, we never seem to run short on material. In fact, the best stories are the ones you just can’t make up. There truly is no fiction that could possibly compete with real life in the gator swamp.

To put it in restaurant terms, if the rest of the country is a Bennigan’s or an Applebee’s, then Florida is most definitely the Denny’s: you know, the place where everybody ends up at three in the morning after doing a few too many Jaeger shots. Maybe it’s just the heat or something in the water, but there has to be some explanation. After all, we’re the state that gave the world Debra Lafave and the hanging chad, not to mention the first ever topless doughnut shop. How many other places can claim to have made that big an impression on pop culture?

On the other hand, at least things are never boring. You never know what might happen the next time you turn on the TV news. Hey–isn’t that my neighbor getting hauled away in handcuffs?

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