I was in the Orlando area last week. Strictly business — I have never visited Orlando for any reason not associated with work. I have never been to Disney Whirled or Epshot or Universal Stoody-ooze, either. No interest. I don’t like kids. Tourist crowds give me hives. Orlando isn’t my kind of place.
Heading up the turnpike, the Come-to-Jesus and anti-abortion billboards make their appearance just above the Palm Beach/Martin County line. In Florida, to travel north is to travel backwards.
The city’s main tourist drive is a hideous trail of franchise hotels and fast food outlets, souvenir and scavenger shops, Las Vegas style signage, and buffet restaurants catering to America’s mission to stay stuffed and bloated with Very Bad Shit. On the positive side, the restaurant advertising “100 Kinds of Pizza” is out of business.
Travel advice: Don’t sleep in restaurants, and don’t eat in hotels.
The plan is to spend the night in Orlando so I wouldn’t have to drive all the way to Eustis for a 10 o’clock next morning. My directions tell me to “take I-4 to exit toward Sanford/Mt. Dora, exit 101C.” Is that east or west on I-4? I ask three people at the hotel. Nobody is certain, but they think it’s east.
Perhaps you noticed that Sanford has been in the news lately. It seems to me that even in a place like Orlando, which concentrates on distractions, vacations, and fantasy as opposed to the larger world of reality, the population would have heard about the Trayvon Martin shooting a few miles down the road, and would have known where the city of Sanford is in relation to their own.
Anyway, they guessed right: it’s east of Orlando. And Eustis is to the north. But there’s no there there in Eustis — it’s quite rural, with gently rolling hills, lots of vegetation, and very peaceful looking.
After my appointment I stop the car at a roadside stand — two rednecks selling peaches and tomatoes out of their pick-up truck. I asked them for directions — unlike Christopher Columbus, it bothers me to travel west to go east, but that’s what I need to do to get back on the turnpike. Despite the language barrier (“y’all need ta haid ovuh tawd Wilewud to fahnd nondy fahv but ya’ll be aways nawf of whay y’all wanna be haidin….” And people think Miami is a foreign land? Really?) they gave me sensible directions as well as some fine looking produce.
I ask them if the Sanford incident was big news lately.
The one guy shakes his head sadly. “He kill ‘at boy,” he says. “Shot ‘im daid, and now ain’t nobody knows whut went down but the killer and the Lawd.” Frown. “But d’boy is daid, and dat ain’t rot.”
I’d call that native intelligence. We wish one another a good day and I take off in the direction they suggested, which gets me back to the turnpike, and home.
The peaches and tomatoes are real good.