They say everything is bigger in Texas, but everything is just better in Florida. I was lucky enough to snag a speaking invitation for this year’s CPAC and, eager to escape the lockdowns and wintry winds of DC, hopped on a plane to sunny and free Orlando, Florida.
Whereas refusing to wear a mask outdoors in DC is an act of resistance, in Florida it’s expected. Some businesses have their own indoor mask mandates, but they are often loosely enforced if at all. At first, mingling and schmoozing in a crowded bar without a mask felt naughty. By my second night in town, I reveled in the freedom. No flimsy piece of cloth would slow down my ability to slam old fashioneds and inhale jumbo shrimp.
New Yorkers love to express disgust and horror at videos of the pool parties and clubs in the south. They ignore the awkward truth that their own state and neighboring New Jersey have the highest COVID-19 death rates despite strict lockdown measures. Free Florida sits comfortably below average. I suspect the NY outrage at pina colada-sipping Sunshine Staters is more down to jealousy.
Florida isn’t just great because you can accept the risk of catching a virus and continue to live your life normally. There’s also the weather. Sure, it gets humid as hell in the summer, but right now it’s 80 and breezy. There’s nothing like writing an article poolside with a strawberry basil lemonade — spiked with vodka — rather than in a soulless pod.
Never mind the ‘Florida Man’ stories of debauchery and idiocy. As Florida congressman Matt Gaetz opined in a Clubhouse room on Saturday, it just means that Floridians are a lot less judgy than their Nor’eastern counterparts. Not once did I feel embarrassed for my terrible dance moves, a cocktail shrimp hanging out of my mouth and my feet bloody from wearing high heels for ten hours at a time. There’s something really beautiful about the shared sense of live-and-let-live.
The joyless left doesn’t have that same spirit. Some of them even tried to ‘cancel’ the Hyatt hotel chain for agreeing to host CPAC. Hyatt responded with the corporate equivalent of a middle finger. I think we’d all be a lot happier if we approached the mob with that attitude. Florida’s refusal to care what others think is its great selling point.