Son of Real Florida: Stories from My Life

Son of Real Florida: Stories from My Life

by Jeff Klinkenberg


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As stories about "Florida Man" inspire wild headlines in the news, Florida's most beloved chronicler is here to show that the state is more than the stereotypes. Award-winning journalist Jeff Klinkenberg has explored what makes Florida unique for nearly half a century, and Son of Real Florida is a compelling retrospective of essays on the state he knows so well.

Klinkenberg tells what it was like growing up in pre-air conditioning Florida and becoming a newspaper reporter in mid-century Miami. He introduces us to the stout-hearted folks who have learned to live and even prosper among the insects, sharp-toothed critters, and serious heat. We meet beekeeper Harold P. Curtis and his prized orange blossom honey; frog whisperer Avalon Theisen; Sheepshead George of St. Petersburg; and Miss Martha, the oyster-shucking queen of Apalachicola.

This book also takes us to some of the most interesting, little-known places in the state. We travel to Solomon's Castle of reclaimed materials, the neighborhood of "Rattlesnake, Florida," and the smallest post office in the United States. Along the way, Klinkenberg stops to impart true Florida wisdom, from how to eat a Key lime pie to which writers and artists every Floridian should know.

Above all, Klinkenberg portrays Florida's people, places, food, and culture with a deep understanding that does not relegate them to cliche. He writes with warmth and authenticity of a state he still sees as wondrous in its own ways. Though some may think the real Florida is a thing of the past, he says, "Do not tell me Florida is no longer a paradise."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813056739
Publisher: University Press of Florida
Publication date: 04/03/2018
Pages: 248
Sales rank: 616,586
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 16.80(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Jeff Klinkenberg wrote for the Tampa Bay Times from 1977 to 2014. He is a two-time winner of the Paul Hansell Distinguished Journalism Award, the highest honor given by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. He is the author of Alligators in B-Flat: Improbable Tales from the Files of Real Florida, Pilgrim in the Land of Alligators: More Stories about Real Florida, and Seasons of Real Florida.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

I My Roots

Dad and Liberace 5

Dad and the Crawlspace 7

The Beatles in Miami 10

Keith 15

Dad and Me 18

II Florida Living

The Last Beach Bum 24

The Cedar Key Taxi 29

The Problem with Rattlesnakes 35

Lions in the Backyard 40

A Swamp Wedding 45

III Special Florida People

Nathan Martin 49

Miss Martha 59

A Cowgirl 61

Sheepshead George 65

A Cowboy 68

IV Eating Florida

Key Lime Pie 73

Joe's Stone Crabs 74

The Orange Shop 77

Bee Man 81

Robert Is Here 85

Fixing Tomatoes 88

V Florida Places

The Coral Castle 101

Solomon's Castle 105

Mister Cook's Garden 108

The Fountain of Youth 112

Rattlesnake, Florida 122

VI Florida Writers and Artists

Patrick Smith 129

Clyde Butcher 132

Mary Ann Carroll 135

Harriet Beecher Stowe 140

Michael Gannon 143

The Photo Laureate of Silver Springs 149

Louis Armstrong on the Ferry 153

Billy the Kid Emerson 158

The Lion's Paw 167

VII Seasons of Real Florida

Fall 173

Winter 174

Spring 174

Summer 175

VIII Far South

The Smallest Post Office 177

John Tigertail in the Everglades 179

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park 181

Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park 184

The Seven Mile Bridge 188

Hemingway House 191

The Dry Tortugas 194

IX More Special Floridians

Frog Girl 199

Murf the Surf 204

Charley Morgan 214

Ferdie Pacheco 218

Roger Hammer among the Poisonous Plants 225

X A Long Look Back

A Newspaperman in Florida 230

Acknowledgments 237

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Nobody writes about the real Florida with as much insight and affection as Jeff Klinkenberg. His essays—spanning the length and breadth of this intoxicating, infuriating state—are pure gems."—Carl Hiaasen, New York Times bestselling author of Razor Girl

"An authentic take on the most mysterious, confounding, and beautiful state. Klinkenberg's gotten to the heart and soul of Florida, and the sincerity, love, and compassion that comes through in these stories kept me turning pages."—Michael Connelly, New York Times bestselling author of The Lincoln Lawyer

"Too often this unique place finds itself the butt of a joke. In Son of Real Florida, Jeff Klinkenberg reminds us of its storied history and fascinating characters, its layers and natural wonder—and he does so with the glint of mischief in his eye. Deeply personal and often moving, rich in color and atmosphere, this collection is not just a love letter to the Sunshine State; it's a paean to family, memories good and bad, and a life lived well in a wild, gorgeous, often misunderstood place."—Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of The Red Hunter

"A time warp and a reflecting spring, reminding Floridians to appreciate what drew so many of us here. Klinkenberg takes you to places with exotic names and special identities to meet the most interesting cast of characters ever assembled."—Gary R. Mormino, author of Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida

"This collection takes us to the heart of real Florida."—Janine Farver, former executive director, Florida Humanities Council

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