Before I get into this, let me state for the record…I like it here. It’s my adopted hometown. What is it about us Americans? A huge percentage of us can’t wait to get out of wherever we grew up. And I’m no different. Hell would be being forced to live in the small town where I mostly grew up.
But I’ve been fortunate since that time to have lived in six different cities, some way larger and more legendary than this one. In each one, I met loads of people who couldn’t wait to leave, though most of them never did. They just stayed in place and whined. From them, I learned the art of appreciating where you are at the moment. I always saw “their” cities through new eyes.
When I moved here from West Palm Beach, a friend told me I was going to hate it. He said, it’s so…provincial. You will not fit in. When I returned to West Palm after my first visit, I told him…You forgot to mention that it’s beautiful there. Well, he said, there is that.
When I define Tallahassee, it breaks down to: it’s the State Capital, it has two major universities, and it has a lot of trees. I think it’s pretty cool that in the course of my everyday life, I can drive by Andrew’s Capital Grill and see the governor having lunch on the patio. Politics, thought and enthusiasm generated by the university atmosphere, and lots of live oaks. What’s not to like?
According to the 2000 Census, the Tallahassee MSA has a population of 284,000-plus, and 150,000-plus within the city limits. But its size does not begin to define it. So now we move on to yesterday’s news.
One of the universities here is Florida State, and one of the top ongoing stories is that they are being sanctioned by the NCAA for a cheating scandal. To condense, some 60 or so student athletes cheated on an online music appreciation course (oh, stop me from picturing Bubba trying to understand Bach), aided by 3 staff members. So the NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to vacate any victories by FSU in games those students played in. The big deal about that is that if that holds, Bobby Bowden will fall way behind Joe Paterno in the quest to be the winningest coach ever. Okay, fine. Yawn. But that isn’t the story. The story is that when the NCAA issued its decision in reply to FSU’s appeal, they said FSU couldn’t tell anybody what it said. They sent a read-only file to FSU’s lawyers. The local newspaper sued. Finally the State Attorney General sent them a letter saying they were in violation of Florida’s open records law. Then and only then, the NCAA said FSU could release the records, but they themselves wouldn’t, and didn’t feel bound by that silly Florida law. So that is the story. I always thought that the NCAA were the good guys. Who knew they were fascists?
The other important story in the news yesterday concerned Gary Michael Hilton, who is awaiting trial here for the murder of a nurse a couple of years ago. She was found decapitated in the Appalachicola National Forest. The story was that the Ormond Beach authorities are looking at him for the murder of a decapitated man found in a state park near there. In that case, his head has never been found. Gary Michael Hilton confessed to the murder (and decapitation) of a young woman in Georgia, and was sentenced to life in prison for it. Only because he confessed. So he will go back to Georgia to spend his life in prison, unless Florida kills him first.
I went through a tough moment when I was called for jury duty some months ago. I was afraid that I might be called upon to be in a death penalty case, such as Gary Michael Hilton. I think Hilton is a monster and a serial killer. If a jury convicted him and sentenced him to death, I would be okay with that. It’s just that I couldn’t do it myself. It’s a contradiction, I know, and trying to reconcile it in my mind gives me a headache.
So Tallahassee is not that provincial, as provincial goes. We’ve got high school teachers having sex with students, the NCAA acting like the Gestapo, and serial killers in jail in our midst. This is, after all, the place where Ted Bundy got caught.
“This is, after all, the place where Ted Bundy got caught.”
Sadly, it is not.
I believe Bundy was actually arrested in Pensacola but I could be wrong. I also remember that he killed a girl in Lake City after the Tallahassee murders.
And for the record, I hope that the NCAA upholds the vacating of victories for all FSU sports involved. Cheating on an online music appreciation is like treason to me.
The only real issue with FSU is the number of victories the football team will have to forfeit. Drop the Gators from the schedule and Western Kentucky every year. That will bring back some of the victories.
As for Gary Hilton, they should send him back to Georgia and try him in absentia. Do we really need to spend a million dollars on a capital case that is already predetermined?
Of course Tallahacky isn’t that provincial, compared to Crawfordville, Monticello and the other yahoo cities around us.
But it’s way too yahoo for me….
Bundy: So he was just tried here?
Hilton: You make a good point, ee. At the very least they should just get on with it. What is taking them so long?
Crawfordville: And Monticello, are not cities!
Bundy: So he was just tried here?
The presiding Judge could not seat an impartial jury in Tallahassee, the trial was moved. It is a horrible memory in the minds of the “family” that is the Seminole Nation. One best burried along with the monster he was.
Did his murders occur during the time you were at FSU, pt? I can only imagine what that must have been like. He was indeed a monster. And so is Gary Michael Hilton. Though there will never be an answer, I just want to ask him Why? You already killed them, why did you have to behead them too?
Answering my own question. There are two possible reasons. One, he is so completely ignorant that he thought separating the head from the body would prevent the authorities from identifying the victim, and therefore, magically, would prevent them from identifying him as the killer.
The second reason, and the one I believe, is that he thought it was fun. People like Bundy and Hilton are so far outside our understanding that it’s useless to try to make sense of them.
“Did his murders occur during the time you were at FSU, pt?”
No! However when I was in the Theta Chi house I walked past Chi Omega every morning to class.
For some strange reason I can’t remember I was in Tallahassee within weeks of the murders and walking past the house again made my skin crawl.
To watch him gloat and grin on the news while he prepared his own defense made most of us crazy.
I was also in Gainesville jogging around the Campus during the Danny Rollins killings before he was caught. It was a very strange and erie feeling, I only jogged once and then stayed in my hotel the next two mornings. It’s like being in a nightmare and not getting away from the deamon who is after you.
That gloating and grinning thing is indeed the most unreal part of it. He thought he was so smart and handsome that no one would ever convict him, much less put him to death. Surprise. That’s what makes these people so alien, and what gets them caught. Their view of themelves is a fantasy.
I can completely understand your feelings about passing by the Chi O house. It’s the same sort of thing people feel about buying a house where someone was murdered or commited suicide. Like a house is responsible. But call it irrational, I would be the same way. If I had been there at the time, I would never have set foot in that house again. Even if you sent someone else in to bring out my clothes, I’m not sure I could ever have worn them. And now, so very many years later, I would still never set foot in that house.