Story by Micheal Dorsey, Photos by Stephanie Cobb
I am a third-year student here at the University of Florida. I think that means I’m meant to have more experience and more readiness for post-grad life than, say, a freshman. I am certain I possess neither. But I do know Gainesville—or as my friends refer to it, the “G-Spot”—pretty well.
Firstly, I’d like to address our friendly nickname for this wondrous city in which our university finds its home, as readers with a less-than-colorful taste in language probably already find themselves balking at my casual expletive. Gainesville shares two chief similarities with that infamous and much-debated portion of female anatomy: it is consistently between 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit, and most people couldn’t point it out on a map to save their lives.
You guessed it! I’m people.
Please don’t misunderstand; I love the University of Florida. It is the school’s surroundings to which I am less than partial. Join me, O Reader, on a tour of a singularly Floridian “city:”
We begin our journey on Archer Road. To your left, desolate and unoriginal strip malls. To your right, more strip malls. But don’t judge a book by its cover, these strip malls are full of tacky, unoriginal chain restaurants. The locals endorse them as places where you’ll never want to eat, but eventually will out of sheer desperation for variety! Take a good long look, folks. A good, long, look. We’ll sit here awhile. Gainesville’s civil engineers have designed these roads for the optimal bumper-to-bumper in honor of their favorite song, traffic-jam.
As we approach UF, boasting the best medical staff and the most infernal wait times, the architectural disaster called Shands looms on either side. We pass under its ominous shadow and turn onto 13th street. Driver, beware! Students dart across this street with the frequency and rapidity of manic squirrels. One almost imagines they’d want to be hit.
Before we turn right onto University, everyone please direct their attention westward. There lies Midtown, a safe haven for the more outgoing members of the student body to fraternize in a completely legal and age-appropriate manner. Towering above us is the Standard, where the collegiate one percent go to throw their money away. Take care to note Piesanos, a local pizza restaurant with deliciously buttery and fatty garlic rolls that make even Paula Deen’s head swim—can you believe they’re only 6,000 calories apiece?
Heading East on University, we pass by the clubs, and I don’t mean the academic kind. Most of the downtown clubs are 18 and up, so any and all students are welcome inside to stomp on their squishy muddy dance floors. After a few hours of sweating and being shoved around by other sweaty people, lovers of cheap fast food and belligerent angry men are sure to enjoy a quaint little hole in the wall: McDonald’s at 2:00 AM.
At last, we have arrived at Bo Diddley Plaza, home to Gainesville’s most overpriced farmers market on Wednesdays (seriously, $5 for a tomato?!). Hot yoga, hot walking, hot standing, and hot sitting are all popular pastimes taken up by those frequenting the plaza.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: But Michael, surely Gainesville isn’t as picturesque as you portray it—this is too good to be true! And you’re right. Although the Gainesville summer is the most hellish season I have ever experienced, the other seasons do their darndest to attain that high honor.
Picture a crisp Gainesville Autumn day—about 86 degrees Fahrenheit. You recline in the shade of a live oak, the sweat stains under your arms grow wider and wider as the sun gently burns your retinas. The delightful humidity is so high that you breathe more steam than air, and your lungs burn a little bit as they are slowly drowned. But wait—is that a breeze? No. It is a hurricane. A violently powerful natural fury that tears through Florida and strikes fear into the out-of-staters. Also, a great excuse for a party.
Now, a cold winter night—78 degrees. It is the first week of December, and all can celebrate the generosity of the holiday season by sitting back-to-back exams. An outsider touring campus would find its paths and plazas unusually devoid of people, as all campus buildings are all filled to the brim with students trying to find somewhere (literally anywhere with wifi and a chair) that they can study. Those lucky enough to claim a spot in the libraries are greeted by the smell of anxious students sweating their body weight in stress, all packed in like so many sardines in a can. The weather is nice, though.
And finally, springtime. Green leaves populate the—Achoo!—trees once more, and flowers begin to—Achoo!—poke out of the grass. Students—Achoo!—welcome the scenery and the Zyrtec with smiles on their faces and snot in their noses. Welcome to warm weather and hay fever’s heyday. Don’t disturb those students sleeping during lecture, it means the Benadryl has finally kicked in.
Ah, Gainesville. To students new and old, welcome home.
Or to hell. You decide.