Twelve Signs You Grew Up in Fort Lauderdale

If you're from Fort Lauderdale, you know it isn't easy to brag about your hometown. There are way too many cringeworthy stereotypes about rowdy spring breakers, orthopedic-wearing snowbirds, and aloof Canadians. Plus, it's humid, our cops have been criticized as racist, and a dumb law tries to keep us from sharing food with the homeless.

But buried beneath the self-deprecating jabs is a complicated pride. Growing up in Fort Lauderdale means you belong to a land where people smuggle cocaine in their vaginas and streak through the streets high on flakka. We're the Venice of America! We have craft beer, and (more recently) Uber!

Here are the 12 signs you grew up in Fort Lauderdale:

12. You knew the cool side of the pier versus the tourist side.
It wasn't rocket science. Just stay far away from the folks doused in sunscreen and wearing socks underneath their sandals. And whatever you do, don't mess with the guys with their fishing rods in the water. 

11. You got your fake ID taken away at a club on Las Olas.
In a past life, you might've really been Jake from Vermont, but it didn't matter how many times you tried to convince the bouncer at Elbo Room. Your ID was swiped, so you called your mom to pick you up. 

10. Your diet consisted of Jack's Old Fashion Hamburgers and LaSpada's.
Growing up, these two places were your favorites. Watching your sandwichmaker cut the meat and perfectly layer toppings was like witnessing a miracle. When you die, you hope to be soaked in a Jack's milkshake and/or their leftover hamburger grease.

9. You sneaked into the Fort Lauderdale Swimming Hall of Fame.
It was in the Fort Lauderdale Teen Handbook 101. At some point in high school, you hopped the fence after hours at the Swimming Hall of Fame, stripped down to your undies, and jumped off the high dive. 

8. You remember when Riverfront wasn't a ghost town.
Once upon a time, Riverfront was happening. There was Off the Hookah, a movie theater, and a bunch of restaurants. Then the recession hit. These days, you'd be lucky to find a stray cat here. 

7. You still don't understand Fort Lauderdale High's Mascot.
Does anyone actually know what a Flying L is anyway? How can a letter be a mascot? Why does it fly? That blue-winged letter has never made sense. Pep rallies just look like a bunch of kids calling each other losers. 

6. You remember the actual Fort Lauderdale Air and Sea Show.
The Fort Lauderdale Air and Sea Show was cancelled after McDonald's withdrew its support back in 2007. Similar events were planned in 2012 and 2013, but there were problems with weather and pilots canceling due to federal budget cuts. This year, South Florida Ford is sponsoring the show, now called the Fort Lauderdale Air Show. It's nice that it's back, but nothing will compare to going outside in elementary school to catch the Blue Angels practice and seeing a stealth bomber sprinting across your line of sight.

5. You smoked your first joint at Birch State Park 
In the afternoons after school or in the summer, you'd head with your friends to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. No matter how cool you played it, everyone knew what you were doing. 

4. You got your boating license before you got your driver's license.
They don't call Fort Lauderdale the Venice of America for nothing. Back when every other 15-year-old kid was studying for a restricted driver's license, you were sitting pretty. That's because at 14, you had already obtained your Florida Boating Safety Education ID and were legally whizzing around South Florida's waterways. 

3. You took a field trip to the Stranahan House.
You went a handful of times during elementary school. Deep down you hoped you would catch a glimpse of Frank Stranahan's ghost. Of course, that never happened and you were always disappointed. 

2. You watched your parents black out on rum barrels at Mai Kai.
The Polynesian show featured stunning outfits and music, but the real show was watching your parents drink way too many rum barrels and finally confirm that you are indeed their favorite.

1. You avoided Miami at all costs.
Face-eating zombies and traffic? No, thanks. 

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