Floridians Are Losing Their Minds on Synthetic Cannabis
The rumors are floating among bystanders in downtown St. Petersburg, where a body lies motionless on the sidewalk, covered by a plastic sheet. Was it over a stolen lighter? Or was it a bicycle? It doesn’t matter. Kenneth Robert Sprankle finally snapped. Just like he said he would.
On the afternoon of September 24, Sprankle “borrowed” a red and yellow firefighter’s axe from a fire engine responding to an alarm at the Princess Martha Apartments. He started his evening by smoking spice, grabbing the axe, and wandering through downtown. Surveillance video caught Sprankle clutching the axe across his waist as he walked purposefully through the frame, seemingly oblivious to concerned onlookers trailing him from a safe distance. Witnesses recalled seeing him in an agitated state, wandering around nearby Williams Park with the axe for nearly three hours. Nobody bothered reporting him to police until things began to unwind, and Sprankle began yelling incomprehensible threats and chasing terrified citizens down bustling sidewalks.
St. Petersburg police quickly responded to an emergency call. The small group fleeing his erratic pursuit rounded a corner and ran past the officers. Moments later, Sprankle followed, axe raised menacingly. His world was closing in. Ignoring repeated orders to drop the axe, he charged. As Sprankle closed the distance, axe held high, veteran officer Damien Schmidt leveled a pistol at his chest and fired.
Five shots later, Ken Sprankle’s body crumpled to the sidewalk. The holes in his chest were fatal. He was 27.
As Americans continue to self-flagellate over the decrepitude of their transportation infrastructure, it has become more and more en vogue to demand improvements to our airports. Donald Trump, billionaire and professional asshole, recently referred to American aiports as “third-world” compared to Qatar and Abu Dhabi. Mr. Trump failed to realize that most Americans will never be able to afford to go to Qatar and think Abu Dhabi is either a character from the movie Aladdin or something you order at an Indian restaurant.
Congestion, delays, lack of luxury amenities, and poor customer service are some of themost popular gripes cited when travelers are surveyed about their trips. In the face of this criticism, airports across the nation are dropping big bucks to spruce up their digs. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta spent $1.4 billion to upgrade their international terminal, adding 12 new gates, a bunch of art installations, giant glass windows, and a separate entrance for international passengers.
Nowhere did I see anything on that list of improvements about “places to plug in your phone” or “restaurants that don’t charge people eight dollars for a bagel,” but I can report that Atlanta’s airport does have the finest smoker’s lounge in the entire American south. If you’re looking for great conversation, and even greater exposure to toxic chemicals, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is your first (and maybe your final) destination.
Dylan DeRose hails from Orlando, Florida, which sounds like it would totally suck, but Dylan has taken lemons and made lemonade. Or should we say oranges into orange juice. After getting the hell out of his hometown, Dylan bravely ventured back to create his project, aptly titled Orlando. In it, he documents the lasting effects of taking an empty swamp and building it into a mecca of tourism, consumerism, and fantasy. Dylan was especially drawn to the influence of themed experiences on the city as the whole. Check out his photos of the creepier side of living in the shadow of the mouse above.
It was hot enough to burn the dead lovebugs on my car’s hood. Farmland and pine trees were on the horizon, streets named after eight reindeer and brown wreaths hung on mailboxes. It’s not a holiday for the people of Christmas, Florida.
Christmas sits between Orlando and Cape Canaveral. The yuletide name of the community comes from the Second Seminole War. On December 25th, 1837, more than 2,000 US soldiers built a supply fort for the war. They never saw a day of battle. The place today seems like an outpost vibrating with its pioneer past.
Highway 50 runs straight into Country Craft ‘n Christmas. This year-round holiday store looks like a winter cottage airdropped into Florida-cracker land.
“First thing that I do in the morning, change out the numbers,” Becky Hamilton said.
Hamilton opened her doors in 2001, as owner and operator, always wanting to own a X-mas gift store.
Hamilton is more than just a business owner in Christmas, she is part of the historical association. She handed me some pamphlets for the Fort Christmas Museum.
“Why do I keep seeing the same last names popping up everywhere?” I asked.
“The town started with 21 pioneer families,” she said. “There are still descendants living in the community today.”
She then made a comment under her breath about cousins marrying through the years. As I left, she gave me a baseball-shaped gingerbread cookie and an “I Love My Cat/Christmas, Florida” nail file for my wife.
Up a couple blocks from Hamilton’s store is the Christmas Post Office. People come from all over to this post office to get their Christmas, Florida, postmark for their holiday mail.
The post office employee seemed caught off guard when I walked through her door.
“Do you get a lot of people during the holidays?” I asked.
She told me that there are lines out the door, so long that they run all the way around the side of the building.
I asked her about this mailbox which read: “LETTERS TO SANTA.”
In 1999, award-winning Magnum photographer Eli Reed set off to document spring break in Daytona Beach, Florida. Having watched the white kids getting hysterically drunk and “trying to crawl up inside the backside of uncaring contestants” in wet t-shirt competitions, he moved on to the black spring breakers who were doing much better things, like driving around with albino pythons and stuff. Here are some previously unseen moments from his series.
Sex Offenders in Florida Now Have Warning Signs Outside Their Homes
Last week, 18 sex offenders in Bradford County, Florida, found large red signs outside their homes that read, “a convicted sexual predator… lives at this location.” The Bradford County Police Department installed the signs.
I spoke with Brad Smith, the department’s Chief of Operations (pictured above left, looking least smug), to see what this new method of community notification was all about.
VICE: What’s with the signs, Brad? Captain Brad Smith: Florida statutes say that we must notify the public of any sex offenders in our jurisdiction. We already do that with Facebook and by going out into the area to notify people when the person first moves in, but we realized there was a possible issue with continued notification. For instance, if somebody moves in after we’ve gone around notifying people, then they’re not aware that there’s a predator there. We’re just trying to do everything we can to make the public aware. And, in a certain sense, it protects the predator from having people, especially children, approaching their residence without being duly notified.
OK… So it’s just sexual predators with child victims? Or is it all sexual predators? It could be somebody who raped an adult or a child. In the state of Florida being a “sex offender” and a “sexual predator” are different things. A “sexual predator” is somebody who’s been convicted of a first-degree felony that’s sexual in nature or multiple second-degree felonies that are sexual in nature.
Right. Any plans to extend this to other crimes? Like murderers or serial scam-artists or whatever? Only if the Florida statutes said that we had to. At this point in time, the only statute that’s directing the sheriff to do anything is with sexual predators.
Most entrepreneurs start dating websites to make money, but Alex Furmansky created his because he wants to end hookup culture. After attending the University of Pennsylvania’s business school and working at a series of technology and finance companies, Alex founded Sparkology, a dating website for “young urban professionals” that requires members to either receive invites from current members or to have a degree from an elite university. Since Sparkology’s launch in February 2012, over 7,000 people have joined and two Sparkology couples have gotten engaged. I didn’t know what a young urban professional is or why they’d have trouble meeting other young urban professionals for sex or love, so I asked Alex what the fuck was going on.
VICE: What inspired you to start Sparkology? Alex Furmansky: When I was living in Florida, several friends of mine were girls in their mid-20s and early 30s, and objectively they were gorgeous, intelligent, really nice people. They just couldn’t date good men. I know so many good guys, but they just go to bars and stand there looking at girls across the room.
How does Sparkology help those good guys learn to approach women? We had an event just for our men. One of our concierges came in and gave a short speech about how to date like a gentleman online. We have three concierges. One helps you write a profile, and we have Allegra, who plans and books your entire evening. Often the guys are busy and don’t have time to read the foodie blogs. Then we have Portland Thomas, our photographer. His name’s really Waspy. When I heard his name, I was like, “He’s hired!”
What does going to a good school and having a high income have to do with your being an ideal dating partner? It’s not about that. It’s the kind of person you’re with and whether you can communicate and whether you can have a conversation.
What’s a young urban professional? I feel like that could mean many things. It’s someone who takes his or her career seriously. For you and I, it’s pretty obvious. I think you and I are in this bubble, and if you step out of the bubble, the vast majority of guys don’t take their careers seriously.
I take my career seriously, but my career has led me to review interactive-video sex toys. Do I still count as a young urban professional? We’re not the banker crowd. We have a bunch of teachers, for example. We have a guy who’s helping start a new kind of elementary school in the Bronx. We have authors.
KILLERS OF SERPENTS – THE PYTHON CHALLENGE IS THE ONLY THING KEEPING THE EVERGLADES FROM BECOMING A TWO-MILLION-ACRE SNAKE PIT
On July 1, 2009, a pet Burmese python in Oxford, Florida, escaped from its terrarium, slithered into the crib of a two-year-old girl, and strangled her to death. The snake, named Gypsy, was eight and a half feet long, weighed 13 pounds, and had not been fed in a month. The child’s mother and her boyfriend—who had six prior felonies—were each sentenced to 12 years in prison for third-degree murder, manslaughter, and child neglect.
The incident was Florida’s first known case of a nonvenomous constrictor killing a child, and it set off a media frenzy. In stepped a tattooed Florida wildlife rescue expert named Justin Matthews. About a month after the girl’s death, Justin made national news when he captured a 14-foot Burmese python in a culvert outside a Sweetbay Supermarket near his Manatee County home. He identified the snake as an escaped pet and scolded its owner for not having a radio-transmission device implanted in the animal, as required by law. He named the snake Sweetie, after the Sweetbay chain. Local news outlets declared him a hero.
But later that summer, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) discovered that Justin had actually purchased the animal at a reptile supply store and staged the capture. He made a public apology, insisting that he had simply been trying to demonstrate the dangers of keeping pythons as pets. “I did it for wildlife education,” he told the Tampa Bay Times. But Justin was quickly written off as a loose-cannon redneck seeking personal glory and publicity for his rescue business and faded from public view.
Now, more than three years later, Justin, a rangy 50-year-old with a beard and a Pall Mall-induced rasp, is walking through Big Cypress National Preserve—a 720,000-acre patch of cypress marsh in the northern part of the Florida Everglades. His mission is to kill Burmese pythons, which can grow as long as 20 feet. He is one of 1,400 people who have signed up to hunt, shoot, and decapitate as many of the snakes as they can in a month as part of Florida’s first-ever Python Challenge.
Many media outlets have described the 2013 Python Challenge as a “bounty hunt.” But the contest’s chief organizer, Frank Mazzotti, a professor of Wildlife Ecology at the University of Florida, prefers to call it an “incentive-based market solution.” Participants compete in two separate divisions: one for general competitors, another for year-round permit holders. The winners receive cash prizes for kills—$1,000 for the longest, $1,500 for the most.
Partying in Panama City Beach - Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers
An overview of the eight-week period of spring break in Panama City Beach, Florida, when hundreds of thousands of students take over the usually sleepy beach town. We talk to the mayor, the chief of police, the owner of the largest club in the United States, and an evangelical street preacher who protests spring breakers with a bullhorn and says that “Spring break is just another excuse for people to sin.”