Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Floribama Flavor

I want to give you a general sense of what it's like here. I'm on the Panhandle of Florida, in Santa Rosa county. It's really different from Miami and South Florida so people say it's not the "Real Florida." The closest medium sized city is Mobile, but people say it's not the "Real South." It is some kind of in between place that no one wants to claim. But it has a certain personality, which I will now attempt to demonstrate.

Let's begin:
Strong drink is raging
What's going on here? Santa Rosa county recently got all up in a ruffle about the wet/dry vote. What's this, you ask? Well, it's a "dry" county, which means that hard liquor is not allowed to be sold in stores here. What's that I hear you wondering? Why yes, you sure can buy beer, and lots of it, every day except Sunday, and you can get your hard liquor by driving about ten minutes down the road. So it's not that you can't get drunk, it's that they don't want you to get drunk quickly or in fruity flavors. There are many perils of fruity flavored drunkenness, and the kinds of alcohol that might be mixed with jell-o.
See here, it makes women cry:
hard liquor makes women cry

The churches had a lot to say about it.

I especially like this one because if you read the tiny print on the lower sign you can see that the pastor really didn't have a choice in occupations, given his last name:
Plus that wacky backward ampersand shows their sense of fun.

Now here's what it's really about:
What it's really about

There were hundreds of these signs, posted prominently on the well-manicured lawns of the upstanding townsfolk:
Show your ideals!

The opposition (pro wet) side had only these lame signs, of which I only saw three and they were on random roadsides and not in front of houses. I guess nobody on the wet side wanted to admit who they were:
It's time!
I mean, "It's time"? That's your argument that's supposed to win against the children and crying women and God hating you? Pretty lame. That sign was actually all flopped over when I found it and I had to straighten it up before getting the shot for you.

I don't really think this guy was doing this for the vote, it was just his personal sentiment, but it applies to the topic at hand:
Whisky for my Women Beer for my Horses
If whisky is for his women and beer is for his horses, what's he drinking, milk? Or a white wine spritzer?

Clearly, these pro-liquor types were disorganized and not very persuasive. Certainly they had nothing on this bossy sign:
Right this way

What happened in the end, you wonder? Well a couple of days ago, wet won the vote at about 60%-40%. The almost silent majority will soon be drinking strawberry daiquiris to their hearts' content. And serving beer to their horses, in all likelihood. Not to worry, though:
U-turns ok

I have to say, the whole episode convinced me at how awesome those christians are at making signs. If you like them and their creative signage, you can buy your own at this handy store:
You're selling what, now?
It seems like kind of a weird thing to sell, but if you want a sign like this at home you're going to have to get your own and have him or her make it up for you:
Just wondering.
Question marks not included.

So since there hasn't been any liquor in town because of the children, what is available for entertainment? Wal-Mart has you covered:
Wal-Mart Gun Rack
Yep, that's a big old gun rack, right between the fishing poles and the soccer equipment. It's sports time!

There are also some weird accessories for hunting that I didn't know about:
Huntin' stuff
They should sell that cough muffler at libraries and opera houses, too. Duh.

And if the taste of fresh free range meat is not gas-station-cuisiney enough for you, you can fix that up right in the field:
Jerky Maker!

But Wal-Mart isn't the only place:
What's the such?
When I go to a sewing store and see a sign for "Ribbons & Such" I know that means they have cords and silvery thread and ugly iron-on doodly-bobs. Ribbon-like things. Guns & Such? What's the such? Switchblades? Crossbows? Cannons? What's like a gun?

If hunting is not your thing, there are other weekend hotspots:
Fort Walton Beach High School
What's special about a high school? Besides this awesomely weird looking mascot:

I'll tell you what's special, it's the parking lot. There are awesome things in high school parking lots come the weekend:
Car Show

Featuring such gems as:
Scooty thing
Big Dumb Truck
This one's pretty cool:
Except- it spawned!
Quick! Someone call the Dinosaur Adventure Land scientists! It's evolving!

This one has manly purple skulls airbrushed on the front which must be what qualified it to park in the disabled spot:
Orange Car

Right on top of the latest trends:
Back to the future car

A car show in a high school parking lot involves a lot of sitting in the sun. This necessitates some fancy lawn chairs:
Parking lot sitting in style

Out front there's this:
What's going on here?
Even though it looks like the drug deal pictured here went well, you can tell that you should still say no because the drugs have withered that poor little girl's head. And the cat? I have no idea.

There was a stand at the front where you could pick up your trophy. It looked to me like there were more trophies than cars, but hey, who am I to judge?
Medals aplenty
I did happen to pass by the trophy stand just as they were calling a winner named Buddy Pickle. No lie. Welcome to North Florida.

After the car show, we stopped for some barbecue:
As if it's not enough to be named Daddy's, the BBQ spot also had this sign:
Hey, that friendly patriotic pig is wearing a Hawai'ian shirt and saluting our troops! What a great guy. That makes me hungry for ribs.

There's this cool bar nearby which is in a trailer. They've got a pool table which takes up a third of the bar and they jammed a foosball table in there too. After a couple of Miller Lites, you head for this door:
Rest Rooms
Which leads outside to the his-n-hers outhouse buildings, complete with half moon cutout doors.

Now that we know what there is to do around town, what should we wear?
My new shirt!
My new shirt, of course!

And where can we find a technician to assist us in the technical aspects of looking good?
Best friends!

You're probably starting to get a feel for the area by now. I'll just flesh it out with a few more details. There's a local radio station that plays "the hits" of the last 25 years, but keeps the real classics in heavy rotation: Steve Winwood, Paula Abdul, and Taylor Dayne can be heard at least once an hour. It's so excruciatingly lame that it's almost rounded the bend into cool. I mean, who doesn't want to hear "Forever Your Girl" twelve times a day? That was the true birth of the synthesizer/drum machine/obvious-low-budget-voice-alteration genre. It's important to remember where we came from.

Keeping with the theme of modern, simple, classy aesthetics:
Klassy incarnate
Welcome to E MET MARKE
It's obvious what they sell there, "E MET MARKE" must be French for "Butcher."

Speaking of meaty culinary treats, these can be purchased in the "fancy" bread section at the local grocer:
Hot dog rolls. In the fancy bread section.
Hot Dog rolls. The ultimate fun roll, according to their tagline. The perfect bring-along for your trip to the whitest beach in the world according to me.

Creative entrepreneurs open tasteful apparel stands by the roadside in late summer:
Hurricane Ts!!!

Not to be upstaged by suburban Hawai'i, there are also creative mailboxes:
Tractor mailbox

There's also a really adorable side to this area. It may not be very urban, but there is some awesome graffiti in Pensacola:
You Are Beautiful
I don't know who does this. I think it must be a group, because you find it all over: on defunct buildings and gas stations, scribbled on bathroom walls, spray painted on old billboards. It's very sweet.

Santa Rosa county doesn't often make the national news, but did just yesterday when a popular local bar was forced to close because of a sinkhole under it's floor. No, I'm serious.

Last but not least, my personal favorite:
Boiled Penus

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Dinosaur Adventure Land

Have you wondered about Creationism and Intelligent Design? Have you wished there was a children's theme park explaining the science behind the theories? Well, there is. And it's right here in Pensacola. Lucky me, I got a chance to go.

The park is in a suburban backyard. It cost $1.5 million to build, and has a museum, a park, and a science center.

Creation Science evangelism

There's a teensy parking lot and a big gate out front. The moment you cross the threshold, friendly sweetie pie guides (all male, all caucasian) in yellow button down shirts with their first names embroidered in blue on the pocket approach and offer assistance. We politely declined at first, preferring to explore the science center on our own. The science center has all kinds of hands-on experiments for kids, similar to the Exploratorium in San Francisco. I say similar, but there's one pretty notable difference. These experiments all have a biblical lesson.

Here's the jist of the thing, with some Lincoln Logs and Legos as definitive proof:

Creation Station!

This applies to all kinds of science:


That eyeball was definitely fearfully made, it's creeping me out right now.

The experiments generally had simple instructions, a description, and then a spiritual lesson to be gleaned from the activity. This sign demonstrates how it's set up. Pay special attention to the lesson at the bottom.

Generator Sign

It seems simple enough, but I still had a hard time figuring out how some of the spiritual lessons connected to the science activities. Like this one, which was with a lesson about magnets:

Spiritual Application

Did you know? The Grand Canyon couldn't possibly have been made by a river!

That river didn't make that canyon!

Here's a pop quiz next to a little motor display:

Pop Quiz!

Where did the motor come from? It's either A or B:

A or B?

And you open the little doors to find out which one is correct:


I can't really tell if it's annoying or refreshing that they're so sarcastic on the signs. I'm gonna go with a little from each.

Here are the two timelines side by side:

Timelines, big and small
It's obvious where the $1.5 million went with displays like this.

I thought this was kind of sweet in a way, a 12 year old learning to tan hides in the traditional painstaking ways, but it's also a little creepy to think of him in the backyard harvesting them:

Cute! Sort of.
Note the fun typo on the last line. I know I have some typos on here from time to time, but how does that saying go? He who hath typoed first should cast the first... something. I think I'm still entitled to laugh at it.

Eventually we agreed to a tour of the science center by one of the guides. He was extremely well informed, super friendly, and very polite. We learned:

Science Fiction
Underlining makes it more true. See? Is it working yet?

It becomes more clear when you see the proof, that lots of things have a larger or smaller counterpart:

Robot Evolution

We also learned that there were dinosaurs and lots of white people on Noah's Ark:

Dinosaurs on the Ark

Here's a close-up showing that some pastel colored adorable baby dinos and a cartoon kid with an incongruous British Colonizer outfit were also headed to the Ark :

Dinosaurs boarding the Ark

There are also still dinosaurs alive today, evidenced by the Loch Ness monster.

People used to be at least 12 feet tall before the flood, as this replica of a leg bone proves:

The leg bone proves it

That's a regular modern human skeleton over on the side for comparison.

Back outside, there is a display about paper airplanes:

Super Paper Planes

And an awesome snow cone shop:

Frozen Mammoth snow cone stand

Also, a real live scary dinosaur (sponsored by the local yellow pages):

Scary Dinosaur!

We made sure to hit up the gift shop before we left:

Dinky Dinosaur

And I picked up some free informational booklets. All in all we spent probably three hours learning, and we wanted to sit back and get something to eat and discuss what we'd seen. I spotted the perfect place along the road.


As the beer disappeared from our glasses, we talked about the things we'd learned and it all started to make sense. Spicy debate over hot wings and circular logic over onion rings:

Hooters' famous wings

It was falling into place. It became clear that the pamphlet titles would make excellent names for punk bands:

Reviewing the informative pamphlets at Hooters

And as we lingered my attention wandered to the slogans at the eatery:

Hooters sign

And the interesting outfits of our friendly servers:

Hooters waitress uniform

Why, oh why do they make them wear tan pantyhose under shorts and sweat socks? WHY???

It's a good thing though that they're not chauvanists. The name "Hooters" is really in reference to their cute owl mascot, not the women in revealing clothing. We had the genius idea (after three beers) to start a sister restaurant with a squirrel mascot called "Nutters" that has attractive male waiters with revealing outfits. And I wouldn't make them wear those tan pantyhose either.

All said, it was a very informative day. It began as educational and then evolved into something else. Or did we create it as something else? The debate rages on. In the meantime, if anyone wants to audition for THE DEATH COOKIE, THE LAST GENERATION, or IT'S COMING! drop me a line. I don't really have any musical skills, so I'll just be the manager or play the tambourine.