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Monday, August 29, 2005

Florida's Roadside Attractions

There's something for everyone in sunny Florida. My wife Cathy was intrigued by the diversity in messages along Interstate 75 between Ocala and Gainesville.
Ocala is the home of Florida bred racehorses and LOTS of retirement villages. Gainesville is the home of University of Florida, one of the nations leading sports/party schools. She started shooting pics of these billboards in a fifty mile stretch as we sped by at 75 MPH. Shooting with a fast lens between hog trucks and SUV's who insist on passing me on the right yielded photos she's not proud of but nevertheless amused by their content. So she assembled them into these collages.

highway collage 2

Missing from this collection are the Disney ads and the exterminator ads. It's quite a hoot when they put a pest control billboard near a Mickey Mouse. The Florida Real estate ads also failed to capture Cathy's interest on this shot. The fifteen foot alligator come-on to the T-shirt shops is also too commonplace to be interesting.

This first collage is a good cross section of the Florida attitude. If you're so lonely you have to pay these naked chicks to sit on your lap... If you're confused as to why K-Mart has become an adult superstore. Oh, wait that's X-mart. Well that's confusing too... If You're so angry or depressed that you just can't buy enough guns and amo... Well you know who has the answer. Whether or not you asked the question. I wonder if the islamic fundamentalists do this along the roads between the oil refineries. This looks like a merged dream of Pat Robertson and Jimmy Swaggart.

highway collage 3

Florida is nothing if it's not public spirited. The AAA was kind enough to post the speed trap warning signs along US 301 near Gainesville where we decided to avoid a traffic jam approaching Interstate 10. Lawtey, the town mentioned, is one of three state and federal prisons along that route. Two of these small towns get in excess of 100% of their police budget with speeding tickets. They design a better speed trap here. It is extremely difficult to adjust to the quick change speed limits along this route. It's not clear to me who the Birkenstock ad is supposed to appeal to. This is an area where the primary family income is derived from building and racing those silly mud racing vehicles (with the tires the size of a high school football stadium), prison guarding, lending bail bonds, hotels for visitors to the prisons and of course BarBQ joints to feed them. The appeal to neutering, for me, should go beyond pets. There is still no shortage of strays here. Both four legged and two legged.

highway collage 1

The last part of this trip's collection summarizes a bit but only of what we saw. Florida is much richer in it's ability to attract all kinds of people. It's not clear to me if the Go To Church ad is renting out said church or if the billboard is just occupying space until they rent it to another WE BARE ALL joint. Business and religion have always shared a warm embrace here. I've been preached at by accountants and windshield repair men. "What church do you go to?" has replaced "How are you?" as the official getting to know you greeting for many of these folks. Fireworks are officially illegal here, I'm told. Unless you are a farmer and use then to scare birds away. It is apparently a simple matter for a 15 year old girl in a tummy shirt to convince fireworks stores that they are just picking up a Waffle House paycheck's worth of bottle rockets and mortars for daddy who owns an orange grove. Cathy missed the sign that explained to us that "The United Nations wants to take away your guns," so we settled for this other public service announcement about the Free Trade Agreement. I, for one am grateful that somebody is considerate enough to explain complex political/economic issues that give me a headache when I attempt to read about them in the NY Times.

If I say that there is something here to offend absolutely everyone, I fail to point out that implies there is plenty to love too. It appears that we are about to dodge our 13th tropical storm/hurricane this year. And I won't be shoveling snow or losing control of my car in frozen rain this winter. This is a trade I happily live with.

posted by Bud @ 6:15 AM

I worry about ya'll with the hurricanes....I think, however, I was worrying about the wrong things getting you in the night! Those billboards are scary! I almost wonder if they are calling cards for UFO's????
If Aliens are keying in on this stuff, NASA with it's recent troubles, is not helping us by being just the other side of the state. They'll come in with light ordinance becasuse they must figure they can outsmart us. Challenge us to a game of Go Fish with the planet as the stakes.
Bud: Glad you are safe after tuning in CNN tonight. Those billboards: I swear, the song I have stuck in my head from the Springfield concert is that acoustic guitar/piano ballad "Free". All I can hear is 1,250 people siging the chorus "I'm Freeeeeee!" and I see these signs and just crack up!!! Especially about Swaggart and Robertson. A Riot!
Michael, I'll have to download that. I'm so unfamiliar with his stuff. Glad you enjoyed our take on the highway art.
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