Novel written by Carl Hiaasen
I was the only person that I knew who had been to Florida. As it turned out, my parents had visited there decades before I was born, but they never mentioned it while I was paying attention. Other than them, no one at elementary school or in the neighborhood seemed to have visited. We all watched Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (I did not remember that was the title) as Walt (apparently not dead) oversaw construction of his tremendous new theme park in the center of Florida. Not only was it a theme park, but also a permanent exposition center and living community. Obviously, Florida was the promised land.
My dad liked to have fun, which he hid well while puttering around in the yard and looking grumpy. But then he received early retirement and found himself with a summer off. He piled my mother and me into our car and planned an ornate trip down the right coast of the country. My older brothers were left behind, which I’m pretty sure made them perfectly happy.
We hit all sorts of wacky tourist stops through the Smoky Mountains. My parents insisted on stopping to see old friends along the way. Every night was another hotel that we found. I can’t say that I remember it well.
We arrived in Orlando before there were all the hotels. We stayed in your standard independent motel which offered a washing machine and dryer on the premises. (That I remember.) Walt Disney World consisted of one park. There was no Space Mountain or Pirates of the Caribbean. I think the most thrilling ride was Captain Nemo’s Submarine, which I dearly wish still existed.
As I started out writing above,
that was Florida. As time passed, it became apparent that Florida’s main purpose was to provide a destination for retirees who wanted to move. Sure, the state was close to Cuba and had a lot of ocean and the Everglades and Key West and all that other stuff. The thing is that you operated on a much more limited flow of information. We want to act like the current deluge provides a better picture of reality, but I don’t know if that is true if you are not discerning.
When I read that first Hiaasen book, I had no idea that we were headed toward a world in which Florida would fill the role of national freak show, although he certainly made a persuasive case that that time had already arrived. More accurately, Hiaasen manages to describe the national horrors with an ethical clarity that can only be arrived at from a lifetime of journalism work.
Because of a constant drumbeat of derogation, we seem to have landed in a place where we no longer distinguish between intelligent, sane commentary and drivel. Hiaasen reminds us that you must always read deeper and think harder than simply what is presented. More than that, he demonstrates how hard earned truths can lie within fantastic, accessible art.
What’s it all about?
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 19 more to go.
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