“The ramblings and grumblings of author Ad Hudler”

Exotic Florida Fauna, Explained
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

So I'm getting some grief from my Florida-cracker readers (Crackers are native Floridians) about calling the Sunshine State the White-Trash Crime Capital of the World. In my defense, I've lived here off and on for 25 years as a journalist and novelist, so I feel I'm qualified to say such a thing. Where else would you see:

1. A mother throw her baby from the car window, over the railing of a high bridge and into the river.

2. A man, claiming that jasmine tea had made him crazy, chasing a neighbor through his house with a machete.

3. A mother, claiming that palm trees (agents of the devil, she called them) were telling her to shoot her children ... so she does.

4. A man who uses his girlfriend's toddler as a toilet plunger, killing him ... and only because he had soiled his diapers.

5. A couple who get arrested after a film-developer at Walgreens discovers photos of them skinning cats alive.

I'm sorry, folks, but these things happen daily down here. There's a reason we have so many famous crime-novel writers in this state; they don't make this stuff up.

So ... why Florida?

Imagine North America being miniature in size, kind of like a snow globe ... with people the size of molecules. Pick it up and shake it ... and all of those people who have a firm grasp on their lives in all those northern states -- good jobs, good relationships, stable housing -- are able to hold on and stay where they are ... but all of those who DON'T have a firm grasp on their lives all fall downward, through the Southern states, and end up on the very bottom of the continent ... flotsam and jetsam that settles into this peninsula we call home. They often have no relatives or friends here, so there's no one to help them in time of need ... and there's no one to be accountable to. Most of our jobs are in hotels or restaurants or on construction sites and pay barely enough to get by. We have a huge gypsy-like population here, and these people, many with children, move from spot to spot, depending on their jobs and living situations. Teachers down here sometimes see up to a 50-percent turnover in their classrooms in the duration of the school year. Can you say "unstable, unpredictable household?" Do you think these kids -- or adults -- are going to thrive?

So: The next time you're down here on vacation, be especially nice to that waitress or chamber maid. And tip her well, please. Or else you're likely to read about her in the newspaper.


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