The Bizarre World of Florida

Vampires, nudists, snakes: Nobody does wacky like Florida April 7, 2014


By: Scott Maxwell

Last week, news broke that a congressional candidate in Gainesville had a secret pastime: impersonating vampires. And superheroes.

Some people would call this nutty.

In Florida, we just call it Tuesday.

Seriously, that’s not even our highest-profile vampire story. Remember the “vampire killings” from Lake County?

Some of our stories are heartbreakingly tragic. But so many are also mind-numbingly strange.

In Florida, we do weird the way Kansas does wheat.

Here, giant pet snakes escape. And breed. And then invade our national parks.

We have fish that eat people, alligators that eat people and people who eat people.

Two years ago, when news of the “cannibal attack” broke, the nation let out a collective gasp … until learning it was Miami. Then it all made sense.

We have killer amoebas, hanging chads and diaper-wearing astronauts. (All of which would make awesome rock-band names, by the way.)

We have a town named Christmas … where it never snows. We have the world’s smallest post office and a couple trying to build America’s largest house.

I used to think Florida attracted wacky people. Now I think it creates them.

Take my grandfather, for example.

Early in his life, he was a NASA engineer in Virginia — and as strait-laced and buttoned-down as they came. His passions were photography and crossword puzzles.

Then he moved to Florida. After Grandma died, we worried that our sober and contemplative grandfather would become listless and uninspired.

He became neither of those things. Instead, he became a nudist. (Lending more credence to the notion that it’s never the people you want to see naked at a nudist resort.)

At first, we were all: What the heck, Granddad?

But you know what? He found new life and inspiration. He’d travel down Interstate4 from Ormond Beach to Cypress Cove, where he’d pay strict adherence to the two main rules: Never take pictures, and always place a towel on the bar stool before you sit down.

Florida liberated him. And he spent the remaining, widowed years of his life happy. So you go, Granddad.

By the way, nudity is another one of our weird themes.

•”Nude man found dead on killer whale’s back”

•”Florida Lotto winner seeks to open a nude dude ranch”

•”Blind woman sues nudist colony over heavy dog”

Florida newspapers carry such headlines the way other papers carry horoscopes.

Some of that is understandable. It’s hot down here.

And I don’t mean happy, sand-at-your-toes, wind-in-your-hair hot. I mean sweaty-thighs-stuck-to-your-car-seats, armpit-stains-like-dinner-plates hot. It’s enough to make anyone nutty. And naked.

But it cuts both ways. When it’s hot, it makes us crazy. When it’s pleasant, we attract other states’ crazies. I mean, if it’s January and you’re already planning to run a scam, con or heist, would you rather do it in Buffalo or Boynton Beach?

This state is also lousy with newspapers and TV stations, meaning we have more ink-stained wretches and blow-dried broadcasters than your average state to tell all the weird stories.

Finally, there’s our melting-pot effect.

You simply can’t throw so many different cultures together and not expect some fireworks.

But you know what? That is also part of what makes this state so splendidly unique.

We have character and texture — a bouillabaisse of native and newcomer, sinner and saint, scholar and simpleton.

It’s a fusion that produces a weeklong bacchanalia in Key West and pioneering medical research at the Burnham Institute.

It’s the reason Orlando can turn out just as many people for a Veterans Day parade as it does for Come Out With Pride.

And it explains how a mild-mannered rocket engineer can feel inspired to start a new life by ditching his pocket protector — along with everything else he’s wearing.

And, yes, it’s also how we end up with some of the wackiest politicians in America — including a vampire-impersonating, superhero-mimicking, punk-rock lawyer running for Congress.

Just what we need … another lawyer in Congress.


KKK literature surfacing in Union County … oh, with candy March 14, 2014

1394652802000-KKK-FLIERKu Klux Klan flyers wrapped in plastic along with a few pieces of candy are surfacing in people’s front yards in a rural Union County community.

Union County Sheriff Brad Whitehead says the literature was tossed in the middle of the night. The Sheriff’s Office fielded a handful of complaints.

“It does surprise me…because I would not think something like that happens in a small town,” said Libby Parrish who works at Skips Deli.

The sheriff says the FBI has been notified about the flyers.

“We are a very close knit community and we just won’t tolerate this kind of stuff in our community. We don’t like it, no one likes it,” said Whitehead.


Report: Rebel flag on firefighter’s ax gets the hatchet January 13, 2014

Filed under: Controversy,Disrespectful,Dumb,Racism,Unusual,WTF? — floridaduh @ 8:35 pm

ORCO_REBEL_FLAG_FIRE_AX__60An Orange County firefighter’s decision to paint a confederate flag on a county-owned fire ax has resulted in a 12-hour unpaid suspension, Channel 9 has learned.
The ax was discovered at the scene of a house fire in Pine Hills.

The report claims a black man who lived at the home that was burning was already upset about the fire at his home, so when a fire department lieutenant saw the ax with the flag painted on it, he told a supervisor about it and took it away before the homeowner saw it.

A few days later, the son of Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Holton admitted he had painted the flag on the ax.

Holton told investigators he did it to “touch up” the ax at Station 42 and said to him it signified his small town roots and core values of family and hard work.
He denied being racist or intending to offend anyone.

Holton has since been placed on 12-hour unpaid suspension. He has 10 days to appeal the punishment.

Orange County’s Professional Standards investigation report said the battalion chief took action immediately.

The report calls it “startling” that most other firefighters at Station 42, including supervisors who should have been doing regular equipment checks, denied ever seeing the Confederate flag.

“Either they knew and didn’t say anything, or they should have known,” said Orange County Fire Chief Otto Drozd.

Drozd said the investigation revealed a culture of entitlement at his busiest fire station.

He said that beginning this weekend he is breaking that up – more than half the staff is being transferred.


Assignment for 2nd graders: Color minstrel caricatures of African-Americans, black-face and a lynching? March 2, 2013

Filed under: Amazing,Bizzarre,Controversy,Racism,Really Dumb,Sad Story,WTF? — floridaduh @ 1:58 pm

A coloring assignment sent home to an Atlantic Beach Elementary second grader  during Black History Month featuring minstrel caricatures of African-Americans,  blackface and a lynching has prompted an investigation by the Duval County  school system.

met_jimcrow3a_0302“It was just highly inappropriate use of imaging for coloring for second  graders,” said James Hill, father of a student who received the material.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the materials “raised immediate concerns  that warranted an investigation.”

It’s unclear how many students received the material.

The assignment came from the website edHelper.com, which said the materials  were suitable for eighth- and ninth-graders.

Hill’s son’s second-grade teacher is Teresa Flores.

Flores has not returned emails for comment.

Hill said he and his wife, who is the “room parent” in Flores’ class, don’t  hold the teacher responsible for the assignment. He said he believed the  assignment either “snuck” by Flores or was handed out by an assistant. Instead,  he blames edHelper.com for the material.

“Any scene depicting a murder of any kind just seems inappropriate for  coloring,” he said.

EdHelper.com, which has not returned inquiries for comment, does not identify  the assignment as a coloring exercise. The 13-page document uses drawings and text to address the history of  slavery and Jim Crow, a term used for what was once government-sanctioned  segregation in the South.

Vitti said the district’s policy allows for teachers to use outside resources  for instruction as long as it aligns with the standards.

EdHelper.com faced criticism in 2011 for a lesson given to some Georgia  third-graders on immigration. One of the lesson’s questions asked how the U.S.  deals with “illegal aliens.” Among the multiple choice answers were the U.S.  kills them, another said the U.S. shoots them into outer space.

Hill said he and his wife aren’t sure who provided the material to his son or  how many students received the assignment.

In early February, the couple emailed their concerns to Atlantic Beach  principal Kimberley Wright about the issue. Hill said the principal responded  the next day that the matter was under investigation.

Wright did not return a call to the Times-Union for comment.

The investigation began on Tuesday after Melissa Nelson, whom Hill’s wife  showed the assignment to, sent an email to Vitti and all seven School Board  members.

“It’s crude, it’s disgusting,” Nelson said, whose granddaughter is a  fourth-grader at the school. “It’s everything we don’t want to teach our  children. You’re suppose to have children color this man hanging in the  tree?”

Nelson said the school and Flores are both responsible for ensuring  appropriate materials are used with students.

Elnora Atkins, chairwoman of the education committee for the local NAACP  branch, said the material was offensive and wasn’t age appropriate.

“I didn’t know they still did things like that in schools in today,” Atkins  said. “Even though it happened you can still portray it and not be as negative  as these pictures.”

The investigation, Vitti said, should conclude early next week and a  recommendation should come no later than the School Board’s April meeting.

“The greater community can expect swift and fair disciplinary action once I  receive and review the complete investigation,” he said.

Hill said he just wants there to be a system that ensures younger students  have age-appropriate instructional material.


Sounds like the nut didn’t fall far from the tree. Bet mom also thinks his tattoo job is awesome. August 4, 2012

Filed under: Amazing,Bizzarre,Dangerous Nut,Florida Nut,Racism,Really Dumb,Scary,WTF? — floridaduh @ 1:43 pm

A Palm Bay man connected to white supremacist group American Front, which is accused of training for what the leader called a “race war” in Central Florida, has been sentenced to prison in the case.

Christopher J. Brooks, 27, on Wednesday was sentenced to three years in prison on a conviction of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. At the time of his arrest, Brooks was on probation for a criminal mischief conviction for vandalism to a synagogue in Virginia.

According to a plea agreement, charges of participating in paramilitary training and conspiracy to shoot at or into a building were dropped by the state.

He was among a group of 14 people — including several with ties to Brevard County — who were charged earlier this year with paramilitary training and other crimes after a domestic terrorism investigation that used an FBI informant. According to case documents, the group trained with AK-47s and other weapons at alleged ringleader Marcus Faella’s home outside St. Cloud.

They planned to counter-protest a May Day rally in Melbourne and planned a disturbance at Orlando City Hall, according to documents.

Faella faces up to a life term in prison if convicted. He and others in the case face trial later this year.

Brooks’ mother, Patty Kenny of Palm Bay, said despite the plea agreement, she is talking to an attorney about getting her son’s sentence reduced and charges against other members of the group dropped.

“I don’t think any of them did anything wrong,” she said.

Watching her son be sentenced Wednesday was so upsetting Kenny said she lost control, had to leave and was issued a no-trespassing order for at the Osceola courthouse. She said she was unhappy with her son’s defense attorney and the plea was just another step in a stressful process.

“I have not felt good ever since,” his arrest, Kenny said. “My head always hurts, it’s been horrible.”


Stupid line of the day: “I’m not racist,” says leader of white supremacist group accused of hate crime plot May 11, 2012

Eleven people have now been arrested in connection with a suspected white supremacist group that investigators said planned violence throughout Central Florida.

Authorities in Osceola County, where investigators said the alleged hate group trained, said even more people could find themselves behind behind bars.

News 13 has spoken exclusively with the leaders of the group, known as American Front, who denied the charges against them.

Investigators said the group is very dangerous, and an FBI information had been working for two years with the group as it trained with AK-47s and other rifles in a remote part of Osceola County.

According to an arrest report, the group had planned violent attacks at Orlando City Hall and during a protest in Melbourne.

But the group’s leaders, Marcus and Patricia Faella, said they were not planning to be violent.

Speaking exclusively to News 13 Wednesday, Patricia Faella said she does not consider herself a racist, but called herself a “proud white nationalist.”

“I mean, there are so many good people who are upstanding members of the community that this is going to affect, and this is just outrageous,” she said. “They are already attacking my husband’s family, you know, and his business.”

The mother of one of the other suspects told News 13 she was outraged at the charges, and said her son was not a violent person or a racist.

The latest person arrested, identified as Verlin Lewis, 40, has since been released on bond after turning himself in to authorities on the Florida Panhandle earlier in the week.

A court date in the case has not been set.

According to investigators, supporters of the American Front have started an online petition. As of Thursday morning, that petition only had just a few signatures.


Guess they must be in a time warp in Florida: Racism paints an ugly picture May 2, 2012

Filed under: Amazing,Controversy,Racism,Really Dumb,Unusual,WTF? — floridaduh @ 1:29 pm

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office received reports of graffiti in Lady Lake consisting of  swastikas, the letters “KKK” and racial slurs, according to a news release from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

Once on scene deputies observed a swastika painted on a wooden privacy fence, “KKK” and a swastika painted on cars and the “N” word painted on a garage door, the report states.



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