Tallahassee is so close to being great as to be irritating, like a mistake in an otherwise beautiful painting you can’t take your eyes off of.
After spending 4th of July there and nearly losing every appendage to illegal fireworks, I have a few thoughts on the place to share.
Good and Great
God is it pretty. Live oaks everywhere. Old red brick buildings. Odds and ends bits of Florida history everywhere.
It also sits right in the middle of some of the most gorgeous landscape in the country. Tons of hiking and camping and canoeing and just about anything you’d want to do outside. If you want to swim in the ocean, the gulf is about an hour away. If you want to swim in a natural spring, they’re practically all over. I mean what else could you want?
It’s Quiet and Slow
I just checked a map to confirm whether or not Tallahassee is in fact the furthest Southern town. New Orleans has it beat but I’d argue that’s it’s own thing. You could make an argument for Ocala, but by that point we’re getting into Florida Cracker territory which is too it’s own thing.
Tallahassee is 100% Southern, albeit also the state capital and a college town, both causing it to lean comfortably left and give you the best of both worlds in most ways. People are friendly but not creepy. Life goes at a reasonable pace. Making friends with the checkout people at Publix is not uncommon, unless they are jaded students, a subject I will address shortly.
The Capital Dome Looks Like a Dick and Balls
This greets you on the way home from Target- how could you possibly complain?
Related thought: how could an architect possibly design this? “We need a design that solidifies Florida’s status as America’s penis – wait I’ve got it let’s just make it a big penis!”
Weed & Whataburger/Momos/Gumbys/Decent Pizza
Listen: do you like to get high and eat stupid food? Man does Tallahassee have you covered. Not that I personally need to be covered or anything … just saying. If that’s your thing.
The city has it’s fair share of nice places to eat and drink and do things that adults generally enjoy doing too.
Bad and Worse
It’s Filled With
Morons 19 Year Olds.
Related story: My mom visited my brother in Gainesville during the summer before deciding to move there permanently. She didn’t take into account that the population would increase by 20,000 come fall and that most of those residents were really stupid. A little freedom and a lot of hormones turn out to dangerously effect any concept of good sense.
I generally didn’t have many problems with the wildlife when I lived in Tallahassee. I did once have some frat boys yell “faggot!” at me from a their window while I was walking to my apartment. I just sort of stared back at them as if to say “Really? That’s all you got?” while wondering whether their dilapidated woodframe frat house is the sort of thing one could burn down and easily get away with.
So the place is filled with a lot of people you’d rather avoid but this isn’t the biggest deal most of the time. That said – I did fear for my life the first 2 weeks of every fall semester, not only because drunk driving briefly became a pastime but also because:
It’s A Football Town.
My friends who are there still are living the dream. For the most part they live in a quiet Southern town in houses they bought for cheap. When I visited last summer I decided that the city is downright magical for the whole lot of them.
Then football season started and thanks to Facebook I remembered how little anything else matters there between September and January.
I have a lot of problems with the sport of football in its current form. Shit, a lot of people do. The NFL is corrupt, the NCAA is a joke, the NFL players union is powerless, and overall it feels like you have to be something of a sadist to be a fan. Which is to say Tallahassee might as well be a fetish convention come fall.
Truth is I don’t personally have a problem with football towns – I just don’t think I can handle living in one as an adult. Especially not one in which #FSUtwitter is a thing and one in which the entire Jameis Winston debacle unfolded. I have exactly zero comments about that specific situation except to say “only in Florida” (and probably that it’s for the best that we are keeping it there).
You Work for the State, the University, or an Auto Repair Shop.
Jobs. They’re a problem everywhere. A problem that’s causing reurbanization and the crowning of a new Brooklyn every 2 weeks among former industrial towns (most recent awardee: Pittsburgh!). So how does a tiny Florida town compete?
Answer: it doesn’t. As the higher ed system sort of begins to eat itself and the looming reckoning of a generation permanently saddled with student loan debt rears its head, one had to wonder what the city will look like in 20 years when one of its two breadwinners undergoes seismic change.
Whatever happens the government will always be there, assuming Skullface doesn’t just burn the whole thing down to spite everyone. If the South ever gets off its ass and rises again that’ll surely be a hotbed, but at that point you’d be conscripted in the battle over New South Florida secession (aka “The War of Northern Aggression No Not That One The Other One”) so you’ll probably have other things to worry about than gainful employment.
One of my friends whom is living the dream in Tallahassee griped heavily about the New York Times painting his town in a poor light and presenting all available facts based on an agenda – namely that as a community, Tallahassee is backward in nearly every way possible.
I understand his frustration. The number of times my hometown of Miami has been painted as a one-dimensional banana republic in national media is staggering. Nuance is difficult – especially when you have a city that functions under two independent semi-states with their own communities and sets of rules, one a public university with an extremely prominent football program and the other the seat of government for the fourth most populated state.
Assuming you can hide from both these things and assuming you can find a job while doing so Tallahassee can be a great place to call home or visit for a weekend.
So in conclusion: Move to Tallahassee. Or don’t? It’s a free country. For now. Just remember that when Walter Harris calls you home.