Opinion

Florida isn’t the worst state in the nation. Not. Even. Close.

45 seconds of Anna Maria Island beach therapy

After the recent cold weather, nothing hit the spot Sunday like a couple hours on the beach on Bean Point, Anna Maria Island. Bean Point is on the north end of AMI, at the entrance to Tampa Bay. AMI is on the Gulf Coast of Florida, near Bradenton,
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After the recent cold weather, nothing hit the spot Sunday like a couple hours on the beach on Bean Point, Anna Maria Island. Bean Point is on the north end of AMI, at the entrance to Tampa Bay. AMI is on the Gulf Coast of Florida, near Bradenton,

Thrillist.com, a men’s lifestyle click-churner of the digital age, has ranked Florida the worst state in the nation. Nice try, fellas. Picking on a popular state to amuse the bored cubicle crowd sure gets the job done these days. Say it enough and the rap sticks like a T-shirt in summer.

But let me tell you how dreadful Florida is:

The other day I woke up at the crack of dawn in Paradise.

It was chilly enough, high 40s. I wore a wool sweater, cashmere scarf, and knee-high boots to walk along the sand and photograph the sun rising over the Florida Keys. The wind rustled through the palm trees playing a soothing, raspy tune. On the horizon, pelicans gracefully spread their wings and glided over the shimmering sea before coming to rest at the end of a fishing pier.

This little beach behind the chic boutique Amara Cay Resort was deserted. It was just me and the guy from Indiana dipping his feet in the water out here. He wore shorts, no shirt. He laughed at my get-up and I at his frozen nipples.

Good times. We love our snowbirds — and the feeling is mutual.

So, unless you’re heavily penalizing Florida for helping elect Donald Trump — and for his self-indulgent weekends at his Mar-A-Lago estate, his idea of a Camp David — you’re way off base with that claim.

But even if our dreadful politics turned you off — and I get that! — this alone doesn’t help make case for the worst-of-the-lot claim. You ranked Michigan No. 1 and they, too, helped Trump win.

I’m not going to knock Michigan, which I’ve visited and found quaint, smart, and friendly, but let me just say this: When I visited Ann Arbor to speak at the University of Michigan, I couldn’t get past my hotel exit. I would take a couple of steps and fall flat on my butt on the ice. One of my hosts actually had to come help carry me to my engagement. Embarrassing! Another time I flew to Detroit, the plane was landing — then it was not. It aborted as the wheels were supposed to touch ground. Scary.

“Don’t worry, dear, this happens here all the time,” the Michigander sitting next to me said to my further horror. And there was more to come. It was so cold and snowy that February that I spent the whole week eating hotel food, unable to venture outdoors. Torture.

Most recently, I saw a lovely picture of Lake Michigan on a Chicago friend’s Facebook page: It was frozen solid.

The Fort Lauderdale Fire Department responded to a call of a manatee in distress on Jan. 24, 2018.

Need I say more?

Yes.

I know better than you.

I spend the year driving up and down Florida, almost monthly, not only to visit family and friends spread throughout, but also to measure the pulse of elections, to survey how demographic changes manifest themselves in growing cities, and to spend quality me-time in laid-back beach communities. My job is to be a critic, but I’m also in awe of the stunning nature, the complexity of the history that predates the Mayflower, and the people you meet here on a daily basis from all over the United States and abroad.

Don’t judge us of by the occasional headline-making F-l-o-r-i-d-u-h.

Every state has its shares of eccentrics. What others lack might be enough good writers to unearth and showcase them like we do in the Sunshine State with flair and discipline. I would name names but the list is long — and multilingual. Some of us turn our vices into the stuff of bestsellers.

It’s not only Florida that you misjudge.

Another state I came to know fairly well, Connecticut — home to Yale, charming historical towns, orchards and farms that leave a lasting impression — doesn’t deserve to come in at 44. But it also doesn’t merit ranking higher than Florida. It has flaws that directly affect the quality of everyday life. While Florida’s roads are among the best-kept in the country (even if we’re perennially under construction (jobs!) to accommodate growth) for example, some roads in Connecticut are full of potholes — and get-out-of-my-way “Massholes” driving on them like lunatics. Florida’s rude drivers aren’t alone.

Part of my family lived in CT, and after two winters they said Adiós! and headed back to Florida. Did I mention that flowering springs sure look pretty, but your car windows have a permanent yellow film that doesn’t let you see well? Yeah, that’s how bad the pollen is. If you’ve got allergies or asthma, it’s not just winter, but spring can kill you, too.

Isabel Castano, one of the oldest living women in the U.S. and the oldest living citizen from Miami Beach, celebrates her 112th birthday with her son, Danilo Lugo, friends and caregivers at Ponce Plaza Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on Thursday

Why would you come to the conclusion that Florida is the worst, Thrillist?

Because you’ve never tasted the dock-to-dish hogfish at Chef Michael’s.

Because you’ve never lived in a county, Miami-Dade, where you’re served a daily dose of book readings and cultural events in two languages, sometimes more. Several Florida cities, large and small, hang on to their independent bookstores, too.

Because you’ve never relished life in subtropical weather all year long. Hurricanes announce themselves with time to prepare. But states you rank higher suffer through deadly tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes, fracking, seemingly all year long. I’ll keep the occasional summer hurricane, thank you.

Because, let’s face it, you’re jealous.

How many states can boast major league sports teams in SIX cities: Tampa, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Orlando, Sunrise, Miami? In hot South Florida, we even have hockey. Go Panthers! Coming up soon: Major League Soccer.

Enough said.

Florida isn’t the worst state in the nation. Not. Even. Close. 

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