Tasting Tallahassee

I lived in Florida for five and a half years. Part of it was spent finishing high school in Daytona Beach; the other half was spent rushing through a four-year degree at what was then called Florida Technological University (now the University of Central Florida) in Orlando. Being a northeastern boy, spending the latter half of my teen and early adult years in Florida was a big change. Overall, Florida did not agree with me. After graduation, I migrated back north to the Washington D.C. area where I have been happily but expensively abiding ever since.

Florida was too weird for my tastes: too hot, too humid, too old, too flat and too much weird nature including giant armor-plated rats (armadillos), pervasive monster-sized cockroaches and conjugating bugs. During mating season, “love bugs” would smear your windshields and gunk up your radiator grills. It was also too conservative: Baptist churches overwhelmed the religious landscape. Anita Bryant got tired of selling orange juice while I was there and found it convenient to attack gays and liberals instead. While Orlando seemed a much more happening place than Daytona Beach, not enough of the right stuff (like jobs) was happening there to make me hang around.

The Florida panhandle remained unexplored territory until business took me to Tallahassee last week. I wondered, would it be more of the Florida I remembered or much different culturally and climatologically?

Four nights in Tallahassee in October are not long enough to say for sure. One thing surprised me: Tallahassee has hills. Granted, they would hardly qualify as hills in most other states but they are enough to be noticeable. Perhaps that is why Florida put its capitol building on a Tallahassee hill. From there you can look down on the state, such as it is.

Yet what of the rest of Tallahassee? The trip from the very laid back Tallahassee airport to my hotel was not encouraging. It tells you something when you routinely pass by business establishments with iron bars in front of their windows and doors. Happily, the neighborhoods improved as we moved toward the center of the city. Our hotel just east of the capitol on Apalachee Parkway seemed situated in a more prosperous and growing area of the city. It came complete with an Applebees and a mall.

The Washington area is hardly known for its low humidity. Nonetheless, the humidity in Tallahassee, which hit us from the moment we disembarked our plane, was pervasive. During our five days and four nights, it never abated. The Courtyard Inn where we stayed was reasonably upscale. Even so, the effects of living in a humid climate were impossible to mask. The cold air coming from my air conditioner unit was cold enough, but it also smelled of mildew.

I have returned to Central Florida a number of times since I left in 1978. In many ways, particularly around the Orlando area, it has grown cosmopolitan. The same does not feel true of Tallahassee. It may host two large universities. It may have nicer areas on its northeastern side. Many roads may even come with bike trails, a nice touch I also saw in my last business trip to Madison, Wisconsin. At its heart, Tallahassee feels good ol’ boy redneck, with a dash of Cajun thrown in. There are Starbucks in Tallahassee, but proportionately far fewer than in most cities. A search on Google Maps shows only eight Starbucks in the entire city. This was a source of consternation to our group, for whom quality coffee was critical. The Carmel flavored water represented as coffee at the Courtyard Inn didn’t quite do the trick.

There was a dearth of other expected institutions in certain parts of the city. I take these for granted elsewhere. Where I live you cannot walk two blocks without tripping over an ATM or a bank branch. In certain parts of this city, ATMs and banks were simply unavailable. You could drive for miles on the major roads and find neither. Maybe in these neighborhoods people like from paycheck to paycheck. Maybe they use neighborhood cash checking businesses instead. However, I found the lack of banks in many areas of the city disturbing.

Also disturbing were the number of obese citizens in Tallahassee. Maybe obesity is part of the good ol’ boy culture. Thank goodness for the students, who generally have fewer weight problems. They provide some balance to a city that is disproportionately not just overweight, but obese. Perhaps the obesity is one consequence of farm subsidies, which have made grains and processed foods so plentiful and cheap, while pushing up the cost of quality vegetables and fruits. A doctor specializing in diabetes should consider moving to Tallahassee. He would have no lack of clients, particularly among the African American community. I imagine Glucophage manufacturers would want to set up special distribution outlets in Tallahassee to handle the demand.

Wherever I go on my employer’s dime, I try to take in some of regional cuisine. As you would expect being near the Gulf coast, there is plenty of seafood, as well as Cajun cooking in Tally. I have not yet been to New Orleans, but I suspect the Cajun cooking we sampled is not quite as good as what you can find there. Naturally, being in the South, finding grits and black-eyed peas on the menu was a given. Barbeque joints are also popular. The hardest kind of food to find in Tallahassee is the quality healthy kind. There are no Whole Foods in Tallahassee. I am not sure a Whole Foods store would be commercially viable there. The obesity epidemic in the city is no doubt fed by the many, many greasy fast food joints available in the city.

One upside to living in Tallahassee is that it is a cheap place to live. 1960’s era housing, particularly the run down three-bedroom ranch type house with a carport can be had for a song. While you may not get the variety of foods found elsewhere, at least food is cheap. A retiree looking to pinch some pennies could pinch many pennies living in Tallahassee.

Overall, my northeastern biases are probably showing. If you prefer relatively slow traditional Southern living with some of the advantages of living in a city, Tallahassee should meet your needs rather well. While in Madison, Wisconsin at the end of September, I was impressed enough by the city to mention it to my wife as a possible retirement community. I think we can rule out Tallahassee as a place to spend our golden years. Nonetheless, I was glad to becoming acquainted with Tallahassee, although my acquaintance is likely to remain fleeting.

You Porn: A Traveler’s New Best Friend?

A couple weeks back I read somewhere, probably on Craiglist, about a web site called youporn.com. Hmm, YouTube, YouPorn. I think I had a good idea what sort of content would be found on this site. Being of prurient mind, well over 18 as well as a blogger who is always looking for something novel to write about, I checked out the site.

As I expected, it was a site modeled somewhat after YouTube.com. Here you can upload your personal pornographic videos to share with others not offended by sexually explicit content. Moreover, just like on YouTube, you can rate the various videos. This may give you an idea of what’s hot and what’s not. Naturally, before you can get into this digital red light zone you first have to assert that you are at least 18 years old. This takes only a single mouse click.

The folks at YouTube go out of their way to ensure there is no sexually explicit content on its web site. However, on YouPorn, you expect the graphic and the lurid. Instead of YouTube’s white backgrounds, you get a dark black background. You feel like donning a raincoat when you enter the site. On its main screen, you can see what was recently uploaded, with the highest rated videos of the day appearing first. By placing your mouse over one of the preview images, you can see a number of snapshots from the video. You have to click on the image to bring up a page with the video on it. Once there you then click on the larger embedded image to start the movie. As best I can tell, there are no gay movies to be found on youporn.com. However, lesbian flicks, at least those where buffed up women pretend to be turned on by other women, are plentiful.

The video quality is often not that great. Like YouTube, it appears that uploaded videos are in a Flash video format. If you go to YouTube regularly, you know what that means: the videos load relatively quickly, but lack a little something in resolution. Some of the videos are so fuzzy and grainy that you will need to substitute imagination for explicitness. However, at least they load quickly and stream. (Stream means you do not have to wait for the whole thing to download before you can start watching it.)

Nor as best I can tell, are most of these videos actually amateur videos. Most of them appear to be blatant rip-offs of vignettes from “professional” or semiprofessional pornographic web sites. The videos appear primarily oriented toward horny men, although I imagine there are many women who also like their video sex raw. In short, expect more of what you would see elsewhere on the web or on Usenet in the alt.binaries.erotica newsgroups, just with less resolution.

There is another and perhaps crucial difference between YouPorn and most other adult oriented web sites. On YouPorn, you do not have to buy a pass in order to view its content. You do not even get annoying pop up ads. You do get advertising, of course, but the ads appear to the right of the embedded videos. The ads are what you would expect: generally adult sex personals and girls with web cams, all of whom presumably will want to start their meter running when you pay them a visit.

In short, YouPorn is free porn for the masses. The video quality may lack something. Given the hordes of horny Internet users out there, its servers may sometimes slow down. But it appears that YouPorn will always be there for you. It is your new trusty if somewhat dirty digital friend, always ready to transport you into a much hotter and more perverse world than you likely encounter in real life. But then, when has pornography ever modeled real life?

I am currently in a hotel in Tallahassee, Florida. It, like most hotels these days, comes complete with high-speed Internet service. I take this for granted now but until I learned about YouPorn, I had no idea exactly what this meant for the frequent traveler. It is now possible to have safe sex on the road, as long as you lug your laptop and do not mind having sex with yourself or your trusty battery powered device. I hope that though you will try to muffle your orgasmic screams rather than rouse the curiosity of your hotel neighbors.

It used to be that Leisure Suit Larrys would congregate in front of the hotel bar hoping to score there, but usually without much success. Those with deeper pockets could call an on-call massage service and hope they provided more than a massage. Given how hard it is for travelers to find sex on the road, and how dangerous it would be if it were found, YouPorn is providing a valuable service to the traveling public. You get much better, or at least much more explicit porn on YouPorn than you can get from the soft-core stuff on your hotel’s private TV channel. Nor will you acquire a social disease. Except for any friction generated by your fingers, hand or vibrator, your sex will be virtual rather than real. Perhaps you will have a new sin to whisper to your priest at your next confession, but otherwise there seems to be no downside.

Therefore, I predict a decline in hotel bars. Massage parlors and escort services may also be taking a financial hit. For better or worse, YouPorn will be changing the dynamics of both online pornography and local sex businesses. It is far from pornographic perfection. Yet it is the 80% pornographic solution that travelers can turn to in need. It is also a possible solution for the many millions of sexually frustrated people out there who would like to have sex but for whatever reason cannot acquire it.

I once wrote a very popular entry wherein I compared ex porn star Sharon Mitchell with sainthood, because of her tireless work within the adult industry to ensure that porn stars do not transmit STDs. YouPorn is also providing a public health service, by giving those who need it a safe outlet for their sexual urges. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

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