We all know that Jacksonville has long been the home of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, which is as it should be. However we at Dawg Sports are also citizens of the world (or at least the greater southeastern United States), and from time to time like to take a look at other worthy locations for your touristing dollar.
This evening we're not going to look at a worthy location. We're going to talk about Gainesville, Florida. We'll delve deep into the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of Alachua County's crowning jewel. Perhaps on the way out of Jacksonville you can stop by for a visit. You know, assuming you have nothing better to do or are wanted for a felony literally everywhere else east of Waco. Most Bulldog fans haven't spent any significant amount of time in Gainesville. Why would they? But I have been into the belly of the beast. I have seen it with my own eyes. Been there. Done that. Got the sleeveless teeshirt.
Sounds of the Town
I've said this before and I'll say it again: Florida fans in general and Gainesville residents in particular have horrible taste in music. Or perhaps they have good taste in crappy music. That one could go either way. But really other than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Gator fans wouldn't know good music if Scott Stapp and all the members of Sister Hazel hit them over the head with it.* Matchbox 20? Aleka's Attic? Seriously, Blender Magazine once named Gainesville "the best place in America to start a band." You know why? Because in all the time that Gainesville has existed no one in the place has started an act worth a damn inside the city limits. The floor is yours, mediocre musicians of north Florida. Go Gator! Go start a Fortune 500 company! Go start a band that doesn't sound like Keanu Reeves on quaaludes! Please!
I went to an Of Montral/Whigs double bill in Gainesville once. Some guy down front kept asking them to play "Back 2 Good." You think I'm making this up? You're damned right I am. But it could have happened. Unlike anyone in Alachua County making a record that's purchased by anyone other than tween girls and guys with totally unironic tribal armband tattoos. And if one of you Gators throws up Less Than Jake or the two guys in the Eagles who nobody's ever heard of as your counterexample, I'm sorry, we're going to have to crack you in the nuts with the sharing stick.
Speaking of hitting people while they're down, Gainesville really hates homeless people. It's actually against the law to provide a free meal to a homeless person there. That's right. Well, actually, it's against the law to serve too many meals to homeless people. In Gainesville it is against the law to perform too many random acts of charity for the less fortunate. Excuse my french, but what sort of taintweasel seance gave rise to this ordinance? This would never fly in Athens. Partially because the guy on the street corner who looks like he hasn't shaved since Paul Johnson only had 1 chin could easily be a world-reknowned physics professor. Or that kid who sits behind you in Macroeconomics who's opening for Danger Mouse in Prague next weekend.
The other "local color" in Gainesville is green. As in weed. Pot. Sticky icky. Fully 75% of the people I know who attended the University of Florida have used marijuana and have neither glaucoma nor cancer. I don't know how that number compares to the general population of other college towns. But given that the only four people I know who went to UF are a tax lawyer, two priests, and Jessie Palmer it seemed noteworthy. None of them knows how to properly tie a tie, which may or may not be a related issue. "Gainesville Green" may also explain why no one there remembers anything prior to 1990 or why in the hell Jeremy Foley hired Ron Zook.
The Flavors of Gainesville
So, don't listen to the music, don't bogart that joint, and don't feed the homeless people. Got that? Oh, speaking of food, eat before you come. Gainesville loves it some cheesy chain restaurants. I mean most college towns have their share of Applebee's and Chili's and other similar monstrosities because, let's face it, college kids have awful fine dining tastes and even if they didn't they wouldn't be able to afford anything better. But Gainesville doggedly carries through with most of the state of Florida's general vibe, which is built around things and people who came from somewhere else, carried to tacky extremes. Gainesvillians eat more fried jalapeno poppers per capita than denizens of any other U.S. metro area. I dare anyone to deny or disprove this. Florida grads take their crappy taste in food with them when they leave Alachua County. It is entirely possible that TGI Friday's would cease to exist without them. That should be enough to trigger your loathing.
One of the top local attractions is a sinkhole. I couldn't make that up if I tried. Another is a wall which has been perpetually covered with graffiti since 1979. All of which is to say that it's no wonder Florida fans take their football so seriously. There's nothing else for them to do other than sit around listening to crappy music while eating loaded potato skins, kicking homeless people and trying not to fall into the giant sinkhole. So come to Gainesville, assuming you have nowhere better to be. I'll see you after the game, until then . . .
*Gator fans like to pretend that Creed is a Florida State thing. That's a damned lie. After a brief incubation period the Seminoles kicked Creed out of town. Only Gainesville would take them in. And Petty actually formed the Heartbreakers in Los Angeles with other former denizens of the G'Ville music scene. How bad a place is it when people who live down the street from each other have to fly crosscountry to play together?