To all the 50,000 delegates, journalists, demonstrators, and cops at the Republican National Convention:
Welcome to the Sunshine State!
OK, Florida can be a little like Camp Grenada: you may have to wait a couple of days before the sun comes out, but it’s worth the wait. (And if you are not familiar with Camp Grenada, Google the phrase, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh.”)
Chances are you have been given more tourist brochures than you will ever read, plus a couple of dozen weather alerts.
Here is what you really need to know: a visitor’s primer on Florida.
Hurricanes. There are five categories, of which One is the lowest, sort of like you learned in kindergarten. It is not rocket science.
A Cat 1 hurricane is basically good kite-flying weather.
At Cat 3, it is wise to keep an umbrella handy.
Cat 5 is a witch, or something that rhymes with witch. If you plan on staying around for a few days when a Cat 5 hurricane is in the offing, invest a few hundred bucks in a generator and learn how to use it. Gasoline without ethanol is best.
Buy three day’s worth of provisions that don’t need refrigeration. I recommend cans with lids that do not require a can opener, but there are those who still enjoy the challenge of hand-powered models. For beverages, lay in a gallon of over-priced spring water a day, or a six-pack. Your choice.
Incidentally, any hurricane tracking chart created more than 48 hours before landfall is an educated guess, nothing more. Floridians know this; TV weatherpersons do not.
Learn the lingo.
If you hear the term “a major rainfall event,” change the channel. You are listening to a bureaucrat who is showing off.
If you hear the term “thunderboomers,” change the channel. You are tuned in to Nick Junior, or maybe Sprout. You need to be listening to an adult channel.
A major thunderstorm, which is basically what a hurricane is (until you reach the “witch” stage) may be appropriately referred to as a gully washer or a bullfrog strangler.
Both terms, incidentally, are misleading, since gullies pretty much disappeared when the state started requiring phosphate companies to reclaim mined-over land, and a bullfrog is an amphibian and does quite well in thunderstorms. Neither term should be preceded by “literally,” a term that has been corrupted by broadcasters when they use a term in the figurative sense.
Incidentally, the decision to cancel the first day of the convention obviously was made by someone who literally did not know what he was doing. There are few safer places to be in during a hurricane than a major public building, and if you’ve got to burn a day listening to dull speeches, better to do so when the weather is too foul for a day at the beach.
Frankly, the GOP needs better leadership when it comes to convention planning.
And finally, before departing the state, please leave all your remaining money, except for enough to pay for your return trip home.
Here’s how to do it.
(1) Skip Miami. Floridians feel about Miami the way that Lousianians feel about New Orleans. If you are from Louisiana, you will understand. If you have ever visited New Orleans, you will understand.
(2) Skip West Palm Beach. There’s nothing wrong with WPB, but if you can afford two nights there, you can afford a week at Walt Disney World. Choose Disney.
(3) If you want to experience a little authentic early American history, visit St. Augustine. Do not miss the Castillo de San Marcos. And St. Augustine has more great seafood restaurants than Las Vegas has sleazy nightclubs.
(4) And if you want to see the Florida of yesteryear, visit Cedar Key. Unfortunately, there will only be room for a couple of hundred of you, but if you are one of the lucky few, you can tell your friends you have seen the real Florida.
And oh, if you are thinking of selling your home in Indianapolis, packing all your goods in a Winnebago pulled by an SUV with a bumper sticker that says, “Spending My Children’s Inheritance,” and moving to Florida, you should be aware that hurricane season lasts six months.
Sorry about that. Heh-heh.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. He has a system for finding the best seafood restaurant in any coastal community. You spot a gray-bearded guy who looks like Ernest Hemingway, and say, “There’s a great seafood restaurant here that only the locals know about, and I can’t remember the name of it. It sits right on the beach, and the window screens are rusted out, but it has the best fried shrimp in Florida.” He will recognize the description. Prepare for one of the best seafood dinners of your life. The onion rings will be great, too.)