Welcome to Polk County, the black hole of Florida…

There are certain things that happen in your home town that you just don’t hear about any place else. We all have those stories from “back home” but none can compare with the stories told of my stomping grounds. Polk County, Florida is by far the saddest place to grow up, and the kinds of things you hear about in this place…well, they don’t surprise any of us, but they often sound like the kinds of things that should be happening in big cities. It is roughly 2010 sq. miles of ridiculous inhabited by a little over 600,000 creatures parading around as human beings. It’s really sort of sad, but that’s just the way it is around here. Today, I thought I’d highlight some of the recent news stories, and give my opinions (duh) but first…let’s talk about the county itself.

It’s nothing special, to be honest. It’s a tourist trap thanks to Highway 27 linking North Florida to South Florida through us and the Devil’s Interstate (I-4) running through the northern part of the county. This interstate runs from Tampa (think Ybor City, Busch Gardens, etc) to Orlando (Disney…Universal…you know where Orlando is…) and beyond. Right in the middle of the state, halfway between those two major areas of tourist traffic we find Polk County. Lakeland, Winter Haven, Auburndale, Davenport, Lake Alfred, Haines City, Lake Wales, Babson Park…all of these places offer something to these tourists and they flock to us year after year, season after season, sinking money into this county that none of its residents will ever see. It’s really sad, but that’s life here. We can’t change it, so we struggle on through it.

As a result of the booming economy–Thanks, Tourism!–(and we’ll let the residents of Polk County stop laughing before we continue), we have beautiful parks, wonderful roads, and plenty of golf courses. We have public transportation. We have amazing trails, state parks, and plenty of places to shop. The night life, arts, and entertainment this county offers doesn’t compare to our neighbors down the Devil’s Interstate, but we hold our own. Unfortunately, something you don’t see when you’re being herded through the tourist hoops here in Polk County…is reality.

For example, when I tell you that we have a drug problem here, I’m serious. I’m not talking about pot. I’m not talking about prescription drugs (though we have problems with these around here too…big problems) and I’m not getting into the debate about whether or not alcohol counts in drug statistics. Just take a look at this story that didn’t surprise anyone I know. We were kind of shocked that this made the news. Interestingly, the same day all this went down…I watched another team from the Sheriff’s Department getting ready in Lake Wales to bust somebody’s door in. It didn’t even strike me as strange until I read this story. That’s when I wondered if the two things may be connected. Maybe it was, but that’s not the point. The point is, we watch this stuff happen all the time. Nobody is shocked by this. This is NORMAL around here. So, check it out for yourself. Look at what we’re used to around here–$2 million worth of meth seized in massive drug bust in Polk County.

It isn’t just drugs. We’re not just battling that demon. We have all kinds of pedophiles here as well. In fact, I can call to mind seven women just at this moment that were sexually abused as children. That took me all of three seconds to come up with all those names. I bet if you give me a few more minutes, I could compile a list of women and men that were abused, assaulted or molested as a child that would make you sick. The length of such a list for this place…it would make you vomit. We’re just talking about kids. We’re not talking about the adults. I know of three people right off the top of my head that were victimized as adults in this county, myself included. What do we do here to people that are just plain sick? Look for yourself–Pedophilia Author and This Guy.

Remember, none of these things shocked us. This is the norm. That’s just what happens around here. Even murder isn’t weird, even if it’s a teenager that commits the crime. We have women stabbing their children (attempted murder). Then, there was the murder of Ryan Skipper, a close personal friend of mine. He was murdered because he was gay, and interestingly…even this didn’t surprise me. I knew one of the men responsible, albeit not very well. He was a friend of a family member, and none of this tragedy seemed even remotely out of place in this county. That’s just what happens here.

You may think I’m just being negative, but look over the news that comes out of here and tell me you wouldn’t feel slightly negative if this is the stuff you grew up in and around. The next time you’re thinking about vacationing in Florida, give me a call. I challenge you to take a look at the real Florida. The one Disney doesn’t want you to know about.

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