BEARD | Heading South: Reflections on the Sunshine State

Like Canadian geese in the winter, Cornell’s student body shed their thousand dollar Canada Goose jackets and fled south for some vitamin D rehabilitation and much needed rest and relaxation away from prelims, deadlines and CHEM 2090: Engineering General Chemistry. Many decamped to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, California or anywhere that a sunburn would be possible. In a similar vein, my fair skin and I left New York and made for warmer waters in the state of Florida — Tampa specifically. In the space of 10 brief days in the Sunshine State, I saw some things worthy of the famed “Florida Man” headlines, learned a few important life lessons and returned to Ithaca with my skin a few shades redder.

Our Florida odyssey began as we made our way south on I-75 towards Tampa. When you think of Florida, your mind tends to conjure up images of beaches and sunshine. What you don’t realize is that the interior is mostly cows and mosquitoes. Here’s a question for you: in a state with such an abundance of water, why are so many of its cities inland? Seriously, think about it; Orlando: inland, Tallahassee: middle of nowhere and inland, Tampa: kind of inland and Gainesville: inland and built on a literal swamp. Everything about Florida seems like a mixture of hyperbole and paradox. It is beaches and cows, infrastructure built on top of fragile ecosystems with no rhyme or reason and urban areas that will be underwater before most of us get a chance to sprout any gray hair.

After eight hours of being passed by land rovers adorned with sorority letters arrived going 20 miles over the speed limit, my friends and I in Tampa. By Tampa of course, I mean St. Petersburg (my apologies to all of the infuriated locals). The sun was shining, the skies were blue, a man at a gas station rebuked me in the name of Satan, etc, etc. Seriously, Tampa is an interesting town. The road into the city was highlighted with various political bills, one of which even depicted our current president dressed as a Taliban fighter.

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