Orlando Airport’s Hidden B-52 Memorial Park

Nestled on the outskirts of Orlando International Airport is a tiny little park, with a great big retired B-52 Stratofortress bomber in it.  This particular B-52 flew missions with the 306th Bomb Wing of what used to be McCoy Air Force Base from 1963 to 1974.  It was retired and set up at this park, the B-52 Memorial Park, which was dedicated in 1985.

Here’s a fun factoid – Did you ever wonder why Orlando’s airport code is MCO instead of ORL or OIA?  It’s because the airport is still using the original FAA airport code from when it was McCoy.

The B-52 Memorial Park is located on Bear Road, just past the North Economy Parking Lot, and if you didn’t know it was there, you might miss it-  it’s set back a little bit from the road.  Once you’re there, it’s pretty hard to miss though, because a B-52 Stratofortress is HUGE.

I had been meaning to check out this park for a while after I learned about it, and I finally managed to stop by to take some pictures last October, after I came back from a quick trip to DC.  I had parked in the North Economy Lot, so this was just around the corner from my car.

I couldn’t resist getting a shot for scale-  even the tires on this plane are huge.  Please ignore the stupid facial expression in this photo.

There are several sidewalks and benches around the plane, as well as an elevated viewing stand that looks directly at the nose of the aircraft.  At the base of the viewing stand, there’s a sign about the park itself.

It’s possible to walk up close to and underneath the aircraft, which is fascinating to me.   I’m still a ten year old boy at heart, and I love airplanes and trains and the like.

There’s also a tiny memorial to the faithful K-9 contingent of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, but it’s also easy to miss if you’re not reading all the signs.  It just looks like a fenced off patch of gravel.

The B-52 Memorial Park is open 7:00 AM  to sunset, and is easily found with the help of Google Maps. It’s also close to the ride-share waiting lot, so you will pass a lot of loitering Uber and Lyft drivers on your way there.

Are there any hidden historical gems close to where you live?

 

Two They Might Be Giants Shows, Twenty Years Apart

I went downtown to see They Might Be Giants this week.  The show was at a venue called The Beacham, which is a large and venerable concert space right on Orange Avenue.

TMBG did a rollicking two-set show, where they served as their own opening act.  They made jokes about Clippy the paperclip and Phil Collins, and kept their audience thoroughly entertained while doing a combination of their classic hits and their new stuff.

While I was listening to “Whistling In The Dark,” I was thinking about the last time I saw this band- twenty years ago, at another show in Orlando.  They Might Be Giants played at the Embassy Music Hall in 1998.

When I lived in Orlando twenty years ago, the Embassy Music Hall was part of my regular rotation of clubs to go dancing; they had a Wednesday night (as far as I can recall) with lots of 80s and new wave music. I have loads of great memories of dancing there with friends.

The Embassy was a nondescript looking place, situated on the side of a big shopping plaza off Lee Road.  It was kind of nondescript, even when it was open.  This picture is long after the Embassy closed, but it didn’t look much different than this:

The Embassy had a regular rotation of amazing concerts.  While I was looking up details about the club for this post, I found information about shows by Love and Rockets, KMFDM, Green Day, Primus, The Damned, Collective Soul, The Lemonheads, Snoop Dogg, Marilyn Manson, Anthrax, and Iron Maiden, all from the late 1990s.  I got to see TMBG there in ’98, and I also saw Project Pitchfork and Front 242 there.   The Embassy Music Hall was awesome.

Sometime in 1999, Embassy shut its doors and was re-imagined as a sort of after-hours raver club called Cyberzone.  Cyberzone had problems right away, including multiple drug arrests and the deaths of two people.  I never went during the Cyberzone era, and the club closed in early 2001.

I hadn’t heard much about the place in a really long time, so while I was getting ready to see They Might Be Giants for the first time in two decades, I checked in on the old place with some Google Map action.

It’s a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Grocery now.

Yup, that sounds about right*.

*There’s a song on TMBG’s 1992 album Flood called “Minimum Wage.”  It uses a whip-crack to hilarious effect.   Seems about right.

What happened to your favorite places from years ago?

[Ancient Repost] It’s bloody Brigadoon!

I’ve been clearing out an ancient LiveJournal in preparation for deleting the account. While most of the stuff there is utter fluff, a tiny portion of the posts are worth preserving. What follows is one such post.  Although I have updated this post with new material, some sections were originally written in May of 2005.

In the late 1990s,  I took a trip to Orlando with a friend to see another friend. I grabbed a hotel out of some guidebook or other, and based on the fact that it was listed as being “near Disney,” I just made a reservation blindly. I was at a place called the Sheraton Lakeside Inn, and it was on Highway 192 not far from I-4. The aforementioned friend and I stayed in that hotel for a few days, and when the trip was done, I mostly forgot about it all.

Flash forward to May of 2005.  I was traveling to Orlando again, this time for an Erasure concert, and I realized that I had forgotten to make a reservation for a hotel.  The place that I normally used for Orlando visits was booked solid, so I turned to Priceline.com. I told it to find me something near Disney, since the concert was at House of Blues.

Can you see where this is going? I didn’t. At least not right away.

I got a result at a La Quinta Lakeside, for $25 a night. Fine. Drove up, pulled in, got my room. Thought to myself, this looks a little familiar. Wonder why.

Drove around to my room after checking in, and found even more familiar looking stuff. The stairs looked familiar. The doors looked familiar.

Then I wandered around the hotel and really looked. At the restaurant, the general store, the pool, the mini-golf, the lake…

It was the same fucking hotel. The exact same one. I was even in the same building I stayed in when it was still a Sheraton. For all I know, it might have been the same room.  Crazy, right?

I was amazed and confused. It’s a little creepy to wander around and see the exact same things more than a decade later. The same, yet different. Wild.

Then it happened again.

Another ten years later, in September of 2015, Amelie and I were going to Orlando for some theme park time.   Once again, I used Priceline.com to nab a room, and once more, I got a place for $25 a night.   This time, it was called the Maingate Lakeside Resort, but I still didn’t catch the “Lakeside” part of the name.

This time, I realized what had happened as soon as we arrived-  the hotel still looks exactly the same, despite changing from a Sheraton to a La Quinta to a no-brand hotel over the span of more than twenty years.  They even still had the little mini-golf course.

I guess I’ll be back in 2025.

Ever have a day when you feel like you got hit by a truck?

There is a moment, just a fraction of a millisecond, before you get hit by a truck, where you realize that it’s going to happen. You know with complete inexorable certainty that this hit is about to occur, and there’s nothing you can do to avoid it.

I was hit by a truck today, crossing the street in downtown Orlando. (Spoiler alert: I’m OK, just a little sore on the side where I was hit.)

I was leaving a job interview in downtown Orlando, wearing a suit and tie. I was walking with the crosswalk, and a work truck with two men in the cab was turning left onto the street. Even though it’s a clear and sunny day, he somehow did not see me.

I saw him before I started walking, but I had the crosswalk and the walk signal, and I thought that he would let me pass since I had right of way. I thought he saw me, too. I was wrong.

In that fraction of a millisecond when I saw that he wasn’t stopping, I did three things by instinct: The first was to try to cross faster so that I wouldn’t be in front of him. The second was to reflexively put my hands on the hood, as if that would stop the truck. The third, hilariously, was to hop up, so that if I was hit I wouldn’t go underneath the vehicle.

In my moviebrain, I totally saw myself jumping onto the hood like Robin Williams in Jumanji. What actually happened was that the main part of the impact was to my thigh, and the rest was transferred to my hands on the hood of the truck, which jolted my shoulder.

“OH MY GOD, are you OK?” It was the truck driver. Followed immediately after, I heard similar questions from a woman on the corner I was crossing to, as well as some people at the opposite corner.

I hadn’t been knocked down, my clothing wasn’t marked or torn, and for one completely ridiculous second, my biggest worry was that the phone in my front pocket had been damaged. A few timid test-steps right after the impact told me that I wasn’t terribly injured, so I said I was OK, and let the driver go on with his day. We both got good stories out of this one.

I hope he pays more attention to where he’s going though.

Have you ever been hit by a car?

Things end.

This week, I received a notification that AOL Instant Messenger is ending.    On December 15th of this year, the service that was the biggest part of my social life from the mid-1990s until just a year or two ago will go offline for the last time.

Up until fairly recently, I was always logged into AIM-  if my computer was on, my screen name was active.  At one point, I had collected nearly a dozen screen names-  some were used for work, but most were personal.  AIM was the way that we spoke between departments during my early years at my previous Mr. Company, because nobody had invented Slack yet and “team chats” were a fairly nascent idea.

Lately, the AIM buddy list is a ghost town-  there are only a handful of people who still connect, and most of those have their screen names configured to mobile devices.  I would venture a guess that at least half of them don’t even realize they’re still signed in- it’s that slow there now.

AOL Instant Messenger is just one more thing in the ever-growing bucket of things from my past that are gone now, things that I miss quite a lot.   AIM and Yahoo Messenger, both removed from heavy usage by their parent companies were one giant part of my life for most of the last twenty years.

So too was LiveJournal, at least from 2002 until around 2011.  The communities there were wonderful, and I made fast friends through those interactions.   I’ve been commenting in recent posts about the process of going through my old LiveJournal to move worthwhile content over here to WordPress while simultaneously preparing to close out the original LJ.  This is for two reasons:  The first is that LiveJournal was purchased by a Russian company a few years back and they have since moved their data from US-based servers to hardware that is actually located in Russia.  The second, and far more personal reason to close out LiveJournal is that it’s a ghost town-  most of my closest LJ friends have since deleted their accounts, and there’s only a handful of people from my list who still frequent the platform.  Posting there in 2005 was like being in a well attended warm and friendly party.  Posting there now is like shouting into an empty factory.

Things change, time passes, and many of the things that I love have faded away.

When I moved to Orlando, there were two restaurants downtown that I really enjoyed:  Frank & Steins, which was a delicious hot-dogs and beer joint, and the Red Mug diner, which was a 24 hour diner at first.

First they cut the Red Mug in half-  they said that the right side would be a new Poke concept restaurant.  Then they cut the 24 hour aspect on weekdays, saying that it was summer hours and you could still go there in the middle of the night on Friday and Saturday nights.   Finally, they said never mind all that other stuff we said, and we’re just closing the place up.

Frank & Steins was closed up to renovate and reopen as a “food hall” concept, but all the super delicious food on the original menu is gone, and my tongue weeps in gustatory grief.

I was going to include Smash Burger in this list, because the one in Oakland Park closed, but I was delighted to find this chain is alive and well in Central Florida.  Smash is one of my top-five favorite burgers, although my brother doesn’t like it so much.

So many of my memories are about food, now that I think about it.  My mental map of my adopted German hometown Regensburg is marked almost entirely by where the food is.    And then there’s the Navajo.

The Navajo sandwich was a Cheesecake Factory staple for years-  chicken, avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and a dash of mayonnaise served on this delicious thick sourdough bread, and I would order it more than any other thing in the restaurant.  When I came back from Germany, the Navajo was nowhere to be found.  Gone from the menu, without a trace.    A Google search shows that I am not the only person who laments its absence from the menu.  Someone even set up a Twitter account as the sandwich looking for work, but even that faded out after 2013.

Damn, now I’m hungry.

What thing do you miss that is gone from your past?