Wednesday, April 29, 2015


In Christmas, FL, you'll find Swampy, billed as "world's largest gator". Of course, Swampy is a building, not a real alligator, and thus probably disqualified, but hey, who's counting? It holds the gift shop, ticket counter and offices of Jungle Adventures, a nature theme park.

Swampy isn't even really a building unto himself, technically: he's just the façade of a larger structure, as seen on Google Maps below. But we love him nonetheless, and hope the future holds better things for him than have befallen Annie the Dragon.

Two-Headed Cow

Though mutations in animals have historically been considered a bad omen, Dwight Crews is excited about the birth of a two-headed cow on his farm in Baker County.

According to Click Orlando, Ripley's Believe It Or Not in St. Augustine has contacted the farmer about it. Here's hoping the calf survives and lives a full life before becoming immortalized in tourist taxidermy.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Drive-In Christian Church

There doesn't seem to be nearly as many churches here in Florida as there was back home in Kentucky (in my old stomping grounds of Richmond, it seemed every other building was either a church or a bar) but golly, the ones we do have are special.

Take, for instance, the Drive-In Christian Church in Daytona. Not "drive-thru" like a fast food place, which is how I first interpreted it, but drive-in like a drive-in theater. You park your car in a space among neatly ordered lots, just like at the movies, and tune your radio to 88.5 FM so you can listen to the sermon in the comfort of your own voiture. Plus, they serve free hot coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts. What are you waiting for?

Not everyone is familiar with their "Portate Cross" and so the church officials are often asked, "Um... why is the cross crooked on the building??" The answer is, the Portate Cross (or "Carried Cross") represents the cross that Jesus was forced to carry on his back to his own crucifixion (but someone named Simon helped.)

Monday, April 20, 2015


At the very bottom of Florida, at nearly its most inaccessible point, you'll find the ghost town of Flamingo. Why you would want to find it is, well, up to you.

Flamingo was founded in 1892 as a settlement and farming operation, but something about the spot seemed cursed from the getgo. The farming failed, and the flamingo which was the town's namesake vanished from the area in 1902. The post office closed in 1909 out of disuse. Says Wikipedia:

Life in Flamingo could be very unpleasant. Leverett White Brownell, a naturalist, visited Flamingo in 1893. He described the village of 38 "shacks" on stilts as infested with fleas and mosquitos. He claimed to have seen an oil lamp extinguished by a cloud of mosquitoes. He also stated that flea powder was the "staff of life" and that the cabins were thickly sooted from the use of smudge pots.

The citizens of Flamingo persevered on, hoping that Henry Flagler would use the area for a proposed railway to Key West. He didn't. By 1910, only three homes remained occupied there.

Still, Flamingo clung to a tenuous existence. A gas station, restaurant and marina tried to serve what few tourists came passing through, and in 1959 an ambitious two-story hotel called The Flamingo Lodge opened. Not only didn't it work out, it was almost all destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Wilma. All that chiefly remains of Flamingo now, aside from crumbling concrete foundations of old buildings, is its snazzy welcome center that welcomes nobody.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Another Climbing Cactus

A couple years back we examined this cactus climbing a tree like a vine in Pass-A-Grille, and now here's another one in Naples, way up a tree and yet somehow thriving. Is this really something that happens by chance, or did someone climb up there and actually install them?


One of my newest obsessions in Naples dining: Agave at 2380 Vanderbilt Beach Road, where this fine BBQ pulled pork slider and lobster macaroni and cheese were obtained and enjoyed.

Jacksonville is Watching You

Everyone's talking about the city of Jacksonville's latest scheme, a system of "smart street lights" that will be openly used to gather data on citizens and monitor their activity. The system comes from General Electric, a corporation whose commitment to Big Brother tactics (and a long history of really crappy home appliances and poor customer service) is well documented.

So enraptured are these fascists with their new toy, they can't seem to keep their stories straight, however. David DeCamp, city spokesman, said that your personal data will be "hosted on GE Lighting's network, city and JEA may request data and use it internally." He then goes on to say "Data may be shared with third parties only with written consent of GE Lighting." Why does this not make me feel any better about the whole thing? And yet Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is openly admitting he plans to use this data to fight the war on "distracted driving":

“I am fully supportive of preventing distracted driving,” Mayor Brown said, emphasizing that he recently signed a pledge to combat it throughout the city. “I want this data to impact performance. It's cost-effective and it will empower citizens and employees with data to use.”

But you might be surprised to learn that this is nothing new. In a little-noticed news report from 2011, we find that Jacksonville Police have already had twenty hidden cameras mounted in various places, like traffic lights and building rooftops. ""The cameras are not there to spy on people," the article quotes some dirtbag official, "They're actually there to make sure everyone is secure." Riiiiiight. And when they asked him if recordings are being kept, he wouldn't say.

Jacksonville has never been in my top 10 list of favorite Florida cities, and my desire to ever set foot there again is waning even further now. (Jacksonville Beach, on the other hand, I miss dearly. Despite the similar name, it's a totally separate city.)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Wal-Mart Weirdness

Wal-Mart raised eyebrows this week when it made the unprecedented decision to "temporarily" close (for at least six months) five stores in four states, and with only two to five hours notice for its employees.

Why? The reason Wal-Mart is giving is that these stores (one in Florida, one in California, one in Oklahoma, two in Texas) allegedly have massive "plumbing problems". Does it seem odd that "plumbing problems" occurred in 5 stores simultaneously, and that the problem necessitates an identical six-month closure in each case? Does that seem like a believable explanation to you?

Not everyone thinks so. In fact, almost nobody thinks so.

If the Pico Rivera, CA location is planning a major plumbing renovation, they haven't told anyone. The city manager told CBS News that his office hasn't heard a word about any such thing from Wal-Mart, and that no permits for construction have been applied for.

In Brandon, Florida, The Hillsborough County Commissioner told WFLA that the store "didn’t mention anything about plumbing" as the reason for the abrupt and mysterious closure. And ABC News is reporting that that no plumbing permits have been pulled in any of the cities where Wal-mart closed stores on Monday.

According to The Consumerist, a city official from Midland, TX reports that a city plumbing inspector was sent away when he tried to visit the closed store and offer help with securing the necessary construction permits.

What the heck is going on here?

The woo-woo channels are, of course, abuzz with the story. According to a post on Lunatic Outpost:

"What is going on? The little girl who lives down the street from me works there. She said they all got laid off and no real reason was given. She also said people who did not work for walmart came to take the inventory. Tonight they have the road blocked off about two blocks away. They also are moving heavy equipment into the parking lot. Why does the state police have a road block?"

"Called one of the Walmarts (Midland, TX location) just now. Phone was answered by a woman "Thank you for calling Walmart customer care, may I begin this conversation by requesting your first and last name?" (WHAT?) I just said I was calling to check store hours. She asked if I was calling about a particular location. I told her the one on Midland Drive. She said that the store was closed last night at 7pm. I said "Oh? For good?" She said "Yes, at first they said it would be for maybe 6 months but after further review they have decided to close indefinitely."

So far the leading conspiracy theories are as follows: A.) This is part of a government plot involving Operation Jade Helm 15 and martial-law FEMA camps. B.) This has something to do with a secret experiment involving CERN and underground bases. (Don't ask. I didn't even read the details of that one myself) and C.) This is Wal-Mart's way of getting even with employees of stores who protested for better wages. (The Midland store is one of Wal-Mart's top performers - would they really close it down out of revenge on a handful of disgruntled employees?)

None of these sound particularly believable to me. The truth may, in fact, be even weirder. Whatever it is. A plumbing expert told The Consumerist that even if these stores were ripping out all sewer lines and replacing them completely, it wouldn't take anywhere near six months and it wouldn't necessitate closing the store for that whole time. Wal-Marts have four bathrooms (two for the public, two for employees) and don't have an in-house irrigation system for their produce. Professional contractors who have worked for Wal-Mart in the past have noted that they've seen stores with portions of the roof gone for repairs, but they still didn't close. Stores with all refrigeration knocked out during extensive construction work, but they still didn't close.

Doesn't add up, does it?

(Images: Top: The Brandon, FL Wal-Mart, via Newslocker. Center: Graphic from Natural News. )

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Former CIA Director Warns Florida of EMP Danger

Well, here's something you don't see every day. This week, former CIA director R. James Woolsey Jr. spoke to Florida legislators and urged them to make preparations for an Electromagnetic Pulse attack.

"People can get through a few days when power lines or transformers are knocked out by storms, Woolsey said. But the loss of power for weeks or months would be difficult for most people and society to withstand, leading to a massive loss of life and return to 19th Century technologies and living standards."

Of course, I've always felt that a dose of 19th century living standards is just what this nation needs to make its spoiled citizens cowboy up a little. But since Florida has nuclear power plants that would likely go the way of Fukushima if the power grid got zapped into the dark ages, well, I suppose that would spoil the fun.

Whether or not the risk of an EMP attack on Florida is real (and I think Woolsey may be just a hair on the kook side on this issue), the fact remains that it's hard enough getting people to be diligent about hurricane safety, let alone an electromagnetic pulse.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Bilmar

I can't stand Bill Maher, but I love the Bilmar.

That's the Bilmar Beach Resort, right next door to the Thunderbird in St. Pete's Beach. Another fine old relic from the past that somehow still stands today, the Bilmar is a hip, swingin' and affordable place even into the 21st century.

But it's the Bilmar of another time that I'd surely love to experience, when it apparently had a restaurant and nightclub across the street called Kings Inn, complete with swing big-band music.

Though its gaudy yellow and tan stripe paint job screams retro, apparently this is a relatively new innovation. An old postcard from the early 1970s shows the inner walls painted yellow but the outer façade merely a dull gray.

Spinners Revolving Restaurant

Not far from Gulf 5000 in St. Pete's Beach there's another great old piece of classic architecture: the Grand Plaza Hotel.

What intrigues me most about this place is the revolving restaurant on its roof, called Spinners. According to their website, it makes one full revolution every 1.5 hours, just fast enough to give you a nice changing view during your meal, but not fast enough to make you seasick.

Gulf 5000

One of the many lovely old examples of Floridian architecture of a bygone era: the aging Gulf 5000 resort in St. Pete's Beach. I don't know if any of the rooms are still rentable short-term, though; it seems mostly to have been converted into very expensive condos. Here's one on Zillow that went for $250,000. Damn.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Norbert at the Organ

For those who sympathize with my frustration and fascination with the mysterious Joe Peppy the Singing Bartender, here's another piece of puzzling evidence gleaned from an old Miami newspaper: Norbert at the Organ.

Norbert. Norbert. At the organ.

Googling him, and his outfit The Russ Ramsey Trio brings up next to nothing. It never fails to astound me and frighten me how many of these intrepid pioneers of the Mad Men era of glory led such swingin' lives only to find it undocumented, unrecorded, unremembered, lost, as Roy Batty said, like tears in rain.

The only other scrap of evidence I could find that the Russ Ramsey Trio ever existed was a short squib in the Miami News, December 14, 1967. In Herb Kelly's entertainment column he makes a very slight, very passing, reference: "The Russ Ramsay [sic] Trio is drawing in dancers and listeners at the Happy Hour Tavern." No mention of Norbert. And that's all we know at press time.

We know a little more about the Happy Hour Tavern itself - it was operated by one Frank Whale, and was at 3680 Coral Way, where Miami becomes Coral Gables. A google search shows the address listed as being a Blockbuster Video and/or a Direct TV sales place, but a look at Google Maps shows the spot now inhabited by a Chase Bank. It would appear that the original structure is gone, as is the building that had been next door to it. (We can see the original Happy Hour Tavern building on an old postcard.)

All of this, however, gets us no closer to our goal: who the hell was Norbert, and where is he now?

Thursday, April 2, 2015


As if we needed another one, there's a new "Florida Zombie" cofactor out there: it's a designer drug known as "Flakka", which has been linked to cases of bizarre and insane behavior in Floridians. It's typically made from alpha-PVP, a synthetic version of the amphetamine-like Cathinone, and is in the same class of drugs as the infamous "bath salts" that was blamed for the "Face-eating Zombie" of Miami.

According to TIME magazine:

In recent weeks in Florida, this new drug has led to a man trying to break down the door to a police station, a man impaling himself while trying to scale a fence, and an armed and naked man shouting about hallucinations from a rooftop.

“We’re starting to see a rash of cases of a syndrome referred to as excited delirium,” Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University, told CBS. “This is where the body goes into hyperthermia, generally a temperature of 105 degrees. The individual becomes psychotic, they often rip off their clothes and run out into the street violently and have an adrenaline-like strength and police are called and it takes four or five officers to restrain them. Then once they are restrained, if they don’t receive immediate medical attention they can die.”

I say "cofactor", of course, because there is a voluminous body of data about Floridians (and people nationwide as well) flipping out in precisely the same manner. Flakka, bath salts, and meth all add to the zombie freakout problem, but it can't possibly explain all the cases. I think the Jumping Jack Flash Hypothesis website is on to something when it suggests that the methane and Hydrogen Sulfide that are rapidly building up in our ecosystem are things to consider.

Here's just a few of the hundreds of "naked zombie" cases in Florida, and there are thousands more, possibly tens of thousands more, nationwide:

In April 2014, a woman disrobed in a St. Petersburg McDonald's restaurant and proceeded to demolish the place in an insane rage. August 8, 2014: a grandmother enters her granddaughter's room to find a naked man has climbed into the window and into the bed with her. (A similar incident occurred in Tampa in March 2015.)

On August 16, 2014, a naked man armed with a sword went berserk, yelling and charging at people in Mayport, near Jacksonville. The day before, a naked and masturbating man terrorized Fort Walton Beach. In September 2014, a naked man in Palm Beach breaks a window and items in house, attacks police dog. September 11: naked man goes berserk on golf course and attacks golfers in Tarpon Springs.

On October 3, a naked bloody man tries to break into a home, attacks cops, and suddenly drops dead. Then on October 8, a man went on a naked rampage around town, then beheaded himself. The next day, a naked burglar inexplicably dropped dead while being arrested.

On October 27, a man with a metal ring around his genitalia said UFOs told him to go outside naked. On October 28, 2014 a man in Hollywood, Florida strips naked in public, talks to trees, attacks cops, gets tased and dies.

As Bob Dylan once said, "Something is happening here and you don't know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?"