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Written by Jay Beskin, BT Contributor   
February 2017

We must learn to embrace our weirdness

Pix_JayBeskin_2-17everal months ago our inimitable hometown treasure, Dave Barry, published a wonderful little book titled Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland. The premise of his work is that the State of Florida has an odd penchant for attracting the weirdest news stories in the country.

He offers various theories why this might be the case, including the notion that eccentric or violent people whose antics are expelled elsewhere work their way down the Eastern shoreline until they reach the end of the road on our doorstep. Theories aside, the factual contention itself arrests our attention.

Are we really living in the home of the freaky and the land of the brainless? Or has Dave just taken a few offbeat stories of the sort that could appear in any city in any state, clumped them together without context, and extrapolated from there an imaginary idiosyncrasy?

Is it possible, my friends, that Florida is no more and no less quirky than the other 49 states in our great Union?

At the end of 2016, I was none too sure Dave was on to something. Our big news here last year involved the Zika virus, which came and expanded, then shrank and disappeared. Nothing too terribly exotic or of epidemic proportions. A fair amount of early hype, then the thing ran its course. Both the public and private sectors did their jobs. And although some residents did scatter for a bit, especially those considering pregnancy in the near term, most have trudged back home.

We also had some kerfuffle about Debbie Wasserman Schultz; the occasional Casey Anthony or George Zimmerman sighting; Mario Rubio running for president and his humiliation by Trump, his retirement from politics, then his reenlistment, then his run (again) for U.S. Senator, then his win; and the passing of Janet Reno. Nothing too crazy. And so 2016 ended with my dropping a large grain of salt into Dave Barry’s theory and stirring lightly.

Well, perhaps I spoke too soon. We are hardly one month into 2017, and the news has broken that the State of Florida has contracted for the services of two snake charmers from India.

Yes, our state has decided to go the “full Monty” in our battle against the python. Florida has always been a natural habitat for snakes in the grass, but in past years they were mostly busy with Ponzi schemes and fake insurance claims. Now we have a flourishing population of pythons, concentrated in the South Florida area but believed to be moving toward Naples.

Their “means of introduction” is not known, but most locals believe the snakes got loose when a breeder’s facility was damaged in Hurricane Andrew back in August 1992. Almost a quarter century later, we are still dealing with this problem.

We are not sanguine about the anguine. We want these snakes gone.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is on the case, not to praise these killers of roamin’ mammals, but to bury them. They are not trying to conserve the snakes; they are trying to conserve the victimized creatures whose populations are being decimated by these predators.

Critics of interventionist government like to say we shouldn’t be picking winners and losers in the business environment, but in the environment business, we must do just that. Mammals good, snakes bad, with apologies to PETA.

So far, this story about whacking these terrible bullies of the wild is not so terribly wacky. The problem is that conventional means, while not quite exhausted, haven’t held much promise of eventual victory. We kill a few hundred a year, including the 106 in one record month last year. But this is still limited to (the merest) containment of the population, not its elimination.

Finally, in a sort of bureaucratic desperation, the Fish and Wildlife folks have dispensed with all the psychics, shamans, and faith healers, going straight to the source: Indian snake charmers. They have hired Masi Sadaiyan and Vadivel Gopal to sing the python lullaby.

Sure enough, in their first two weeks on the job, they caught 14 snakes, an average of one a day. That tells me they know what they’re doing, and in small towns with a small problem, these guys may be just the ticket. But I suspect the serious infestation over millions of acres in South Florida is not going to be eradicated by two guys catching one snake a day.

Still, the comedic potential is vast. A Three Stooges episode, with our heroes accompanying the snake charmers as they scour the countryside, would be a sure winner. In truth, these are not the old-style charmers, who trained their animals to follows a stick with their eyes as if hypnotized. These guys hunt the snakes for the purpose of getting rid of them. They do sing to the snakes, which scientists deride because they say snakes have no ear for music. Who knows?

The most important part of the story is not the question of whether this is an effective method or whether taxpayer money should be expended for the benefit of one snake death per day. It is the fact that Dave Barry has been vindicated. We are a nutty state with nutty situations that we approach with nutty solutions.

It is time to relish the madness and to stop being “deniers” of Dave Barry’s global warning about the Floridian environment.

We can no longer hide our heads in the sand; we must learn to find a comfort zone outside the box. We are the people of the hanging chad and the short-circuiting electric chair. We are where O. J. Simpson comes to play golf while he searches for his ex-wife’s murderer.

We are where LeBron James comes when he feels sophisticated and leaves when he becomes domesticated. We are where you can cruise the beach or take a cruise away from the port. We are where you can come to seriously overhaul your lifestyle, or you can come to hang out at Haulover. If you have time to burn and a high pain threshold, you can get in your car and drive (or try to drive) up Biscayne Boulevard from the Aventura city limits to the Broward County line. Ha!

Thank you, Dave Barry, for identifying our weakness and our strength, our vice and our virtue, our shortcomings and our long suit. We come here from New York and Chicago and everywhere else, but once we arrive, we’re never anything but Floridians. Best. State. Ever. Do not let any snake in the grass tell you otherwise.

 

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