Don’t whine, Kansas: Dave Barry says Florida’s image is far worse

Dave Barry will be in Wichita on Tuesday signing copies of his new book, a defense of Florida called “Best. State. Ever.”
Dave Barry will be in Wichita on Tuesday signing copies of his new book, a defense of Florida called “Best. State. Ever.” Courtesy photo

You can try to convince Dave Barry that the people of Kansas have more to defend than the people of Florida, but he’s not having it.

Barry, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, humorist and best-selling author, has after all just authored a whole book intended as a much-needed defense of his oft-ridiculed home state.

“Best. State. Ever. A Florida Man Defends His Homeland” is Barry’s latest book, and it was released on Tuesday. He’ll bring his book tour to Wichita on Tuesday, Sept. 13, when he’ll speak and sign books at an event at Abode Venue, 1330 E. Douglas.

Don’t expect any sympathy or commiserating when he arrives.

“Get over it,” he said during a recent phone interview about his book tour. “It’s not even close. Is there a website in Kansas devoted to stupid things that stupid people do that is widely read? No. What everyone thinks about Kansas is that it has sensible people walking around doing sensible things in sensible clothes, harvesting crops. Don’t give me any sob stories about how bad Kansas is.”

Barry is an expert on Florida. He lives in Coral Gables, and he wrote a nationally syndicated humor column for the Miami Herald from 1983 to 2004.

He’s also an expert on the stupid things Floridians do, he said, noting that those things are faithfully documented on a Twitter account called @_FloridaMan, which posts links to unbelievable-but-true news stories from the state. Some humdingers Barry points to: “Florida Man Slashes 88-Year-Old Woman’s Tires With Ice Pick for Sitting in His Favorite Bingo Seat,” “Knife-wielding Florida Man Tries to Rescue Imaginary Girlfriend From Garbage Truck,” and “Florida Man Sets Home on Fire With Bomb Made From Bowling Ball.”

Kansas might occasionally make headlines for its foibles or its politicians – and it might even have been the subject of a book called “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”

But Kansas is not in Florida’s league, Barry insisted.

“When did Kansans ever hold up an entire presidential election because they were too stupid to operate a punch ballot?” he said, referring to the hanging chad debacle during the 2000 presidential elections – the moment Barry points to as “the turning point of stupid” for Florida.

Barry said he was compelled to write the book after years of being asked by other journalists to explain what the heck was wrong with his state and to defend its image as “a subtropical festival of stupid.”

He admits that Florida is often hard to defend. Yes, weird things happen in all states, but when they happen in Florida, there’s always a twist. He knows of no other state where a shark was killed in a traffic accident or where a man died from participating in a cockroach-eating contest. Both have really happened in Florida.

“I thought, ‘Maybe I can mount sort of a defense,’ although I can’t say it wasn’t a wholehearted defense,” he said. “Yes, we’re weird and stupid, but beneath that weirdness and stupidity, there’s some charming weirdness and stupidity.”

Barry, who has authored several bestselling books over the years, including “Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer Is Much Faster)” and “You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty,” said he remembers being in Kansas once before, and he’s pretty sure he visited “the Eagle Beacon,” the former name for this newspaper.

When he returns for Tuesday’s appearance, he said, he’ll speak and take questions from the audience. Also:

“I’m always happy to sign books and pose for pictures. I pose nude a lot, and that generally shortens the evening considerably.”

Denise Neil: 316-268-6327, @deniseneil

Dave Barry book tour

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13

Where: Abode Venue, 1330 E. Douglas

What: Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, author and humorist will speak and sign copies of his new book, “Best. State. Ever.”

Tickets: $33 tickets come with a copy of “Best. State. Ever,” and $38 tickets come with a copy of the book plus a ticket for one companion. They’re available at www.watermarkbooks.com/event/dave-barry or at Watermark Books & Cafe, 4701 E. Douglas

Information: www.watermarkbooks.com/event/dave-barry