Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Something Is Strange Here; Florida Stories, Real Stories, Are That Way

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Something Is Strange Here; Florida Stories, Real Stories, Are That Way

Article excerpt

Byline: Lee Scott


Author: Jeff Klinkenberg

Data: University Press of Florida, 338 pages, $24.95

Now it's house-eating giant snails. Before that it was giant pythons and before that walking catfish and migrating iguanas. Exotic animals from around the world find our tropical state a perfect habitat.

Writer Jeff Klinkenberg has found that exotic humans also find our state enticing, even some who have a taste for the aforementioned animals.

"Alligators in B Flat" is the long-time Tampa Bay Times writer's third collection of stories about past and present oddball denizens of La Florida. He opens with his introduction to the state and its "loathsome" menaces in the 1950s and ends 58 stories later with a salute to one-time burlesque doyenne Chesty Morgan.

The title comes from a story the author wrote in 2007 of a fascinating attempt by a world-class tuba player to elicit a roar from a bull alligator. The idea came from a report "about the musical note B flat and its mysterious role in nature's sound track" on National Public Radio. It quoted a 1944 study that had accidentally discovered a relationship between this note and the "mating bellow" of an alligator. Enough said. Klinkenberg set off to replicate. With the Florida Orchestra's Billy Bob Mickelsen and his $20,000 tuba in tow he headed to Gatorland in Orlando where, despite the naysaying opinion of its top alligator expert, they eventually hit the proper pitch, proved the scientists right and had gators bellowing all over the park. "It sounded like T. Rex was coming after us through the woods. He was only flirting."

As you probably ascertained from the Chesty Morgan reference, animal/human interaction is only a part of Klinkenberg's take on his fellow Floridians. He explored iguana eating with an eco-gourmet, satisfied his appetite for oysters at an off-the-beaten-path Apalachicola raw bar, toured Ravine Gardens State Park down the road in Palatka, headed over to Levy County Quilt Museum, visited with our own Stetson Kennedy before he died, and so on.

Klinkenberg writes of a culture that like some of his animals is endangered. It is the "story of real Florida. …

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