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February 28, 2007

A Tourist Guide to South Florida

A Tourist Guide to South Florida

Thousands of tourist guides will tell you where to eat, sleep and shop. But I will give you helpful tourist tips you’ll never see anywhere else, in my

Viets Tourist Guide to South Florida

Sunglasses: Floridians may go nearly naked, but we keep our eyes covered. That sun is bright. Get yourself a good pair of sunglasses. Squinting causes crow’s feet.

Keep Florida beautiful: Floridians are casual about dress. We’re not afraid to show skin, even in our sunset years. We tolerate unusual dress, including leopard skin muu-muus and green satin toreador pants. We think there’s something funny about suits and ties.

But there is one subject where female Florida stands united, and our tolerance goes down to nearly zero: Speedos. Those little dinky suits that show off men’s dangly parts.

There are only six men in the world who look good in Speedos. You are not one of them, sir. Trust me. You’d be on the cover of a magazine if you had a body like that. Women would scream and faint when you took off your clothes.

If they just scream, please buy some nice baggy trunks.

Native customs: The sunset hours are sacred to Floridians. We celebrate them two ways: One is the Happy Hour, with free eats and two-for-one drinks. Happy Hour starts about four p.m. in many Florida bars.

So does the Early Bird Special, where seniors can enjoy cheap eats in restaurants and drive home before dark.

Enjoy your Happy Hour. It’s a short stretch from scarfing up free jalapeno poppers at Happy Hour to shoveling sheet cake and stale rolls into plastic bags in your purse at the Early Bird Special.

Drinking: Drinks with paper umbrellas will make you sick and stupid. Especially if you’ve had lots of sun and no food. They are the leading reason why smart women wake up in bed with guys who shouldn’t wear Speedos, and smart men wind up wrestled to the ground and handcuffed by the cops.

Driving: Everyone in Florida is either eighty going twenty, or twenty going eighty. During the tourist season, we add high-strung Easterners to the mix, whose only known hand signal is the bird.

Florida state law says all roads and highways must be torn up during tourist season. Every fourth highway exit is closed, and traffic is detoured through crowded shopping districts. Informative highway signs are also removed, although you will always know how close you are to Butterfly World.

Walking: Walking is even more dangerous than driving, due to "tourist brain," a blissed-out state in which otherwise sensible people wander into traffic, exclaiming, "Look at the parrot!"

Look at the semi, folks. Shipping tourists home in pine boxes is a little known but important Florida industry.


You cannot jump out of a ten-story window into the hotel pool. Even if they do it in the movies.

Shopping: In many Florida malls, you will see men selling stereo speakers, microwave ovens and big-screen TVs out of the backs of trucks in the parking lot. The warranty on these goods is null and void.

Go home: We love having you here. We think it’s grand when you call your friends in Poughkeepsie and said, "Ice? Yeah, I’m having an ice problem, too, Harold. It keeps melting in my glass."

But please go home when your vacation is over and your wallet is empty. Don’t move down here. We don’t need any more people. It’s getting crowded.

We’re the last tourists allowed to stay.

By Elaine Viets


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Except for lawyers. You always need more of them.

And writers.

Ahem. Neither lawyers nor writers are exempt from the Speedo Rule.

Forget flag burning. Gay marriage? With my blessings. But when I am finally running things up in this place, the Speedo Rule and its female corollary will be an official amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Great post Elaine - and so true.

My comment was directed to the moving to Florida part, not the Speedo part. I'm too insecure to wear something like that.

I don't mind Speedos on gay men. Maybe it's because it matters more to them how they look, and it is less likely that someone like me, or, say, Jim Belushi, would be in one. If that is politically incorrect, I apologize. It is unintentional.

Hilarious blog, Elaine. I adore Florida, but don't worry, I won't be moving there any time soon. Too crowded.

Simple social responsibility dictates that I never be seen in a Speedo. People within a hundred yard radius would suffer irreparable damage to their eyesight, and would not be able to enjoy the beautiful sunsets. I should not wish to be responsible for that.

Article in our local paper says the trend is reversing: Elderly retirees are moving home to Pittsburgh. We call it the Elephant Graveyard Syndrome. Everybody goes home to their families when they can't take care of themselves anymore. So when we baby boomers hit our nineties, we'll be out of your hair, Elaine.

Off topic, but Elaine had a very nice mention in todays St. Louis Post Dispatch relating to her former career during the '80s. I'm all atwitter since she got them in with the Ramones:

"It started with Radio Radio, an organization co-founded by Pick, Dunn and her brother George, whose Quixotic mission was to get classic-rock radio station KSHE to play punk and New Wave music. Post-Dispatch writer Elaine Viets did a story on the group after members picketed the radio station — albeit with minimal impact becuase they scheduled their protest for a Saturday, when none of the staff, save for a lone disc jockey, was there.

Soon after, the Ramones scheduled a concert for St. Louis, and Pick called Viets, encouraging her to interview them. She declined but was nice enough to help get Pick and the Dunns their own audience with the band."

The Happy Hours used to be more generous. When I was struggling to work in radio, I discovered that if I get a two for one beer - I could eat twenty dollars of free roast beef and salad at Mr. Laffs.

Sadly - this past week I saw the building that used to be Mr. Laffs get leveled on Federal highway.

Yep, Elaine - you we love them tourist dollars, but Easter weekend seems SO far away...

And if I hear one more time "That's not the way we do it back home!" So Go Back Home!!

My experience with Florida has been limited to the mini-state of Disney and the interstates from both airports to the town of Bartow. Rest easy, Elaine, I have no plans to return to any of them now that my dad has come home to rest. No offense to any central Floridians, but my visits to see said parent were always accompanied by sinus headaches...began as soon as we crossed the Bartow city limits sign and didn't end until the plane crossed the state line between Florida and Georgia. Honest. Love my dad, not fond of the phosphates plants or the mold.
Would I do a book signing in Miami or any other coastal city if and when I ever get published? Sure :o) But I'd be sure to take advantage of the muu-muu, happy-hour AND Early Bird specials :o) And then I'd spend my tourist dollars and go.
Happy Wednesday from the land where only the U of I swim team wears Speedos!

My first time in Florida was the week they electrocuted Ted Bundy. All over Orlando, establishments were celebrating the event with special sales, Barbecues(!) and signage.

Other than that, and the cloverleaf highways I got stuck on, going around and around and around and around, I really liked it.

Wait, wait! Elaine, you declined to interview the Ramones??????

You have inspired me to come up with my own set of rules for the folks that make their way to the New Jersey Shore every year.

The traffic alone is enough to make me go postal.

I admit to being a Florida tourist, albeit only for a few days in the winter. The Association of Women Martial Arts Instructors has held its annual Teaching the Teacher conference in Deerfield Beach every January for the last 3-4 years. It's awfully nice to see pretty blue water and walk around in shirtsleeves in the winter.

This spring, for the first time, my husband and I are going to visit his parents' condo (used to belong to his grandparents) in Key Biscayne. I imagine we'll do a day trip to Miami (we really don't do night life) and I'll want to drive to the Everglades. Otherwise, though, it'll be walking and hanging out. If any of you natives (or more seasoned tourists) have suggestions for fun, relaxing, casual things to do/see, let me know!

Hilarious post, Elaine. Oh -- can we also have a fashion rule about Bermuda shorts with black socks and walking shoes?


My affianced wife-to-be was teaching at the U.F. law school that semester, and the whole frenzy was, to say the least, disgusting.

Over the past few years, whenever I would see the Florida "Choose Life" license plates, I would always (yes, always, to the despair of my wife) ask why they didn't have "Choose Death" license plates. Instead of smiling stick-figure children, they could have a stick figure slumped over in Old Sparky with smoke pouring out of its ears, nose, and mouth, charred limbs, and x's over its eyes.

Um, sorry about that rant. Time for morning snack, low glucose level, and all.

Bundy deserved to fry. One execution wasn't enough for that guy.

(Josh, my friend, I couldn't resist!)

I was in Florida when Robert Allan Carr did his thing, when Theodore Robert Bundy was on his rampage, and when Adam Walsh disappeared, a case still technically open as Ottis Elwood Toole recanted his confession.

Wanna hear my stance on the Death Penalty?

I'll spare the debate. Let's just say I am in substantial agreement with Madame Prosecutor.

Oh boy. Kids, where I come from, Bundy got off easy.

Ever heard of turnabout as fair play? Bundy would've had all kinds of new experiences before he went, none too gently, into a very, very dark night.

Yeah, but it's one thing to fry the guy, and another to have a celebratory "All You Can Eat Barbecue--Kids Eat Free!" IMHO.

But I've always been odd that way.

I'm almost afraid to ask, Harley. What do they serve at a "let's fry the guy" celebratory barbecue?

Harley has a point, but we need some historical context. At that place in time, monsters like Bundy did not exist to the average person. Things like that just did not happen. It was incomprehensible to most.

The "parties" held were the equivalent of whistling in a graveyard, something done to prove we were not afraid of the Bogeyman.

Since then, sadly, history has shown us that Bundy was an amateur....

Elaine, I'm sorry to report that I did not attend the barbecues. I am a vegetarian.

Not that grilled veggies don't exist, but it didn't strike me as a real arugula crowd.

Whoa. Sorry about the hijack. Let's get back to the image of Ed Asner in a Speedo.

My in-laws said you could always tell the Canadians, because they were in shorts when it was 50 degrees out.

Ed Asner in a Speedo?

Is this another instance of Surfing Internet Porn Sites While At Work, Josh?

Canadians also have no fear of skin cancer. They sit out on the beach for eight hours the first day in Florida and turn a horrible shade of red. I actually was so worried about one man, I tried to give him sunscreen. He explained it was a status symbol to go back home with a bad burn.

Harley, after looking for your photos a couple of nights ago, I'm celebrity-surfed out. (Alyssa Milano's C&D letters have obviously not had the effect she wanted; I know she is active in trying to get rid of the pictures of some movie she did during a down time in her career.) I was just trying to get things back on track.

Being a north Florida gal displaced to Pennsylvania, I was home in Florida last April to move my mother into a retirement community. I had to drive a rented truck back to Pennsylvania. I have never seen so many campers and Winnebagos on the road in my life - all of the snow birds were heading home for Easter up I-95 (and I-75, I understand). The traffic flow through Georgia was about 45 mph! You hit home with your blog, Elaine!

You iz one funny lady, Elaine. Really enjoyed your post.

On a creepy note, Ted Bundy killed a coworker of mine when I lived in Seattle.

Okay, here's another hijack. I just read on CNN.com that the principal of my junior high school (sorry Sarah, not Northeast) was arrested for dealing crystal meth.

Too good.

Well, this blog has taken a bit of a winding road today, huh?

Josh: "My Principal Sells Crystal Meth" sounds like either an After School Special or a Lifetime Movie of the Week.

Hey, at least it wasn't kiddie porn. A few years back in NYC, the headmaster of a school that a bunch of my friends sent their kids to was arrested for soliciting teen girls over the internet. (It was all over the press for a while and helped me develop the plot for The Finishing School.) The thing was, everybody really liked the guy. It's weird --you so can't tell when people have secrets.

You can tell when people have secrets if they blog about them, however.

Josh, I'm honored that seeing nude shots of me would drive you to seek out Ed Asner in a Speedo. No need to be ashamed.

I didn't see nude shots of you. I just looked to see if they existed, and, apparently, they don't.

But, boy, aren't I protesting a bit much?

Having raised two competitive swimmers, I can tell y'all this: The only thing creepier than Ed Asner in a Speedo is a blue-lipped six-year-old in a Speedo about to dive into a freezing pool and trying to get in position and hide his dangly parts at the same time. That's just wrong.

You forgot Garage/Yard Sales and the dreaded Flea Market. I spent an entire year in Avon Park in just one day.

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