And she’s well aware of the fascination people have with the state. “It’s almost this mythical place. Everyone has a connection to Florida, regardless of whether you live here: We watch Disney movies, people go on vacation here, everyone has a great-aunt who has a condo in Florida. For better or for worse, people just want to look.”
Ultimately Calise hopes readers will simply be along for the ride and open to all that Florida has to offer. “Even if you’re not sure that you would ever want to go to watch coleslaw wrestling in Daytona Beach, you should indulge us a little bit. I want people to see all the different Floridas that exist. This is our home, and we want people to come and enjoy it as much as we do too.”
Here, Calise shares some of her favorite excerpts from the book with Vogue.
“If you’re researching a trip to Tampa, you will come across Ybor City. It’s a very cool place because there are roaming roosters and old brick buildings that look like you’re stepping onto a movie scene and a lot of history. There are guys rolling cigars in the window. That is great, and you should see it. But you should stay until it’s nighttime and then go to The Castle.
It’s a goth club that’s been around for over two decades. It looks like a medieval castle and consists of five large rooms: One is a dungeon, and one is this dance floor with fog and go-go dancers in weird outfits and people whipping people in the corner. Everyone is wearing a different outfit: People are dressed in their very best goth or fetish or Halloween costumes. It’s truly a come-as-you-are space, [with] the best people-watching. They play industrial, goth, EDM. I don’t always like the music, but I always have a good time there. You have to look for Peter Pan and an older gentleman wearing women’s lingerie whom they call the Senator. It is a fun community and so welcoming—and so Florida.”
“In addition to the Worm Gruntin’ festival—where worms are coaxed from the ground with a vibrating wood stake—there’s this annual tradition on the beach during Spring Break called the Flora-Bama Interstate Mullet Toss where people try to throw dead mullet fish as far as they can across the state line. It’s just so fun and goofy.”
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
“I always take people here. There’s this great tradition that goes back to the middle of the last century where women dress like mermaids and dance underwater and you get to see them breathing out of air hoses. And there’s also a water park, so you can get in the springs too and realize, Oh, my gosh! This is so cold. These women are dancing and wearing costumes in the same temperature. It’s fantastic and has such a special place in my heart.”