Florida's headlines influence the nation, according to new book

- His 300-page book argues Florida's weirdness starts with the ground we walk on.

"We are the sinkhole capital of America," Pittman explained.

And it's from the ground up; in the air we breathe, the water in which we swim and the clouds passing over our heads.  

"We are the lightning capital of America. We get hurricanes making landfall here more than any other state," Pittman said.

Even the wildlife has a certain Florida quality. 

The headlines are stunning.

A car-sized gator sends golfers scattering in Palmetto.
A man lands a flying bicycle on the capitol lawn.
An orangutan escapes Busch gardens.

"You go, Oh, Florida!" said Craig Pittman, longtime reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, and author of a book by the same name.

"Weird things happen anywhere you find humans, of course, but more weird stuff happens in Florida and it tends to be weirder."

"We are the shark bite capital of the world," Pittman added. "Peril is all around us. That leads some people to live their life for today, and not think too hard about the consequences."

Whether you love the many quirks of the Sunshine State, or would rather eat a palmetto bug than hear about another #Florida story, Florida matters.

Florida has decided a presidency, defined fun, launched rockets - and people - into outer space, and launched nationwide debates on critical issues.

George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, triggering a national debate about race. A man with an AR-15 killed 49 in an Orlando night club, sparking the fiercest gun rights movement yet. Record numbers were jailed after pill mill busts, prompting intense conversations about pain treatment and prescription opioids.

"The confluence of events that affect the whole country and, in a way, the whole world, this is the crossroads," Pittman said of what Florida means in the grand scheme.

It's become the crossroads because of how many move here, how proud the native born are, how closely we all live together, and how just hearing "Florida" still evokes freedom for many.

"I just wanted to show people how widespread the strangeness and coolness of Florida is. It's all over the place. You just have to keep your eyes open for it."

Pittman's book, "Oh, Florida!: How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country" is out July 5, in hardback and e-book.

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