Years ago, living in Los Angeles, I dated a girl from central Florida who could not stop talking about how much she hated California. I couldn't get her to shut up about it. Disney World is better than Disneyland. Universal Orlando is better than Universal Hollywood. Why are all the buildings here painted brown? What's with the homeless peeing in the schoolyard? Leave the kids alone during recess.
It was not meant to be with her. Not because of her love of the Sunshine State, but because her nickname was "badonkadonk." Guys love a girl with a badonkadonk, and she sure had one, but her personality was just as badonkadonk as her actual badonkadonk. A girl nicknamed "badonkadonk" possesses the mentality to turn your life into what comes out of a badonkadonk.
And I damn sure didn't move to Altamonte Springs to find her, but it's time to leave. I just don't want to make this a bitter departure, so I figured I'd tell you what it's like to live here.
I left California because that state is completely out of control. Even worse, the people there are oblivious to how chaotic it actually is. Florida, despite the weird articles you see posted on Facebook about a crocodile suing a hillbilly for child support for her crocobilly triplets, is a much better state than you think. Floridians want those weird stories online because it will keep more Californians from moving in.
I was told I'd return to SoCal within six months because of humidity. I didn't. That's what air conditioning is for. Unlike California Gov. Jerry Brown, Florida Gov. Rick Scott makes sure the air conditioner switch works. Scott also has managed to figure out that a state next to an ocean should have water, something Brown hasn't deduced. And Scott has figured out how to do this without swiping 13 percent of your paycheck.
But this isn't totally about politics. That would be a stupid reason to move across the country.
Or is it? Because for all the talk we've heard for generations about laid-back California cool… Many Floridians are actually more tolerant of diversity than Californians, open to polite discourse and approachable. You don't get shouted down for being liberal or conservative here, let alone face an uprising of antifa or open Klan demonstrations.
The Beach Boys sang about wishing they all could be California girls. I sing about wishing California girls would STFU about how plastic bags are the destroying the planet.
Florida is neither Republican red or Democrat blue. It is the most purple state in the union, which is a blessing. Like California, Florida is so large that you could split it into regions. Out west, it's the extremely liberal coastline with a conservative inland swath. Here, north Florida is pretty damn redneck. Southern Florida is deep blue.
Here near Orlando? Perhaps being near a worldwide travel destination such as Disney World plays into it, but you have no choice but to accept those around you. I have never met so many different cultures and creeds in my life. California mandates you to accept everybody by governmental fiat. Here, you observe people, talk to them and appreciate who they are without getting beaten down on social media.
I've broken bread with Haitians, worked one block away from the Pulse night club, learned a little Arabic and Portuguese, watched Wrestlemania with Indians — both native and from Asia. Many of the people here have been delightful.
What is the difference between government-forced diversity and just getting to know people? Take the Pulse night club. The reaction across the state was inspiring. While many Californians tried to spin this into a political issue on social media, Floridians lined up in droves to donate blood or contribute to LGBTQ causes. That included Trump supporters. That also included people from the Islamic community. I know it. I witnessed it. Californians went to their smartphones to complain, but Floridians rolled up their sleeves to help.
The problem is, I haven't made lasting connections. I haven't had a girlfriend since I've been here. I don't have people I can call up and hang out with. To say I have been lonesome is an understatement. If you want to know how I can write multiple novels in two years and get published in such a short time, that's how.
When I was a child, particularly my teenage years, I was in the same boat. I wasn't hated — I hope — but I was working for a daily newspaper in my time away from high school. At that time in my life, that was my dream. I was called a prodigy. It came at a cost. I was emotionally running on empty because I was so isolated from people.
Isolation damages the soul. There's a saying about all work and no play making Jack a dull boy, so I did play. I traveled. I went to Magic games, Orlando City soccer, NFL, Cape Canaveral, the everglades, South Beach and Tampa. I volunteered for local charities, brought dozens of doughnuts for my coworkers and worked out like a man possessed. I never went to Disney World, though. A middle-aged man walking alone in Disney World is a one-way ticket to being posted on the Megan's Law website.
The other bridge I would not cross was listening to Jimmy Buffett. To hell with that creep. If you ever see me in a Hawaiian-print shirt and cargo shorts, humming "Margaritaville" in a Mustang convertible and cruising the local junior college for chicks, please take my life in the most disgusting way possible. But I digress…
None of what I did mattered. Hard work, lots of play and no friends to share it with makes Jack a depressed boy.
I worked at two diagnostic imaging centers. Life reached a nadir with my latter job, which I will not mention so that the coworkers still there will not be further brutalized just from knowing me. Most of the regular employees were nice people. Current management was bitter, cold and gossipy to the point of unethical. I could detail much of what went on if I chose to, but I will put it simply: I have never seen so many people openly weeping while they work in my life.
You're not supposed to be crying on the job. And people are supposed to care if you are crying on the job, but management didn't. The numbers did.
So about 40 hours of my week were spent around people wiping their eyes, and when I got home I had noone to hang out with.
I have no choice but to leave. The health of my soul depends on it.
When I got into diagnostic imaging, I knew it was a profession that could take me anywhere I chose. There are 50 states in the union. I've got 48 to go.
Let's see if Las Vegas is a better fit.
I will miss the girls, though. Turns out they all have badonkadonks.