[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?

Happy Birthday, Orlando!

July 31st, 2017 is Orlando’s 142nd  birthday.  To celebrate the birthday, there was a celebration today at City Hall.   With a big birthday cake.   Also, today was the raising of the brand new city flag.

The previous flag was created in 1980, and had a decent 37 year run.  You can totally see the 1980s influence in this design:

The new flag is a much simpler design, partly because the contest to design the new flag consulted vexillologists – flag experts.  The specifics indicated that the final design should be easy to draw from memory, and so we have this new flag, designed by graphic designer Tim Eggert.  To explain the symbology, I’ll quote from http://www.cityoforlando.net/flag/:

Orlando’s fountain at Lake Eola Park is the most distinctive and recognizable symbol in the city, one that is loved by our residents and enjoyed by our visitors. The water ascending from the fountain represents the continuous flow of energy and innovation that makes Orlando a city on the rise. The six equal segments on the base of the fountain embody the city’s six commission districts. The iconic fountain is surrounded by the letter “O”, which symbolizes Orlando’s unity, connectivity and timelessness. The color yellow represents the sunshine, hope and happiness that thrive in our great city. The reflection of the “O” in the water symbolizes our careful consideration of our past and our bold vision for the future. The flag is set on a two-toned background of blue and white representing patriotism, perseverance and peace.

I arrived at City Hall about fifteen minutes before the celebration was scheduled to start, so I could get the lay of the land.  I’d never actually been inside the building before, but it was easy to find the door because the giant inflatable 142 was visible from outside.

The party was held in the rotunda just inside the main doors, underneath all the flags-  the US flag, the Florida flag, and the Orland city flag are all visible.  The other nine flags represent the countries of Orlando’s sister cities, I think.

This party had all the fixins.   There was a photo booth for instant print pictures of you against the new flag.

There was one flag to be signed by people who were at the celebration. (I declined.  I feel like this is for important local officials, and I’m kind of a nobody.)

There were party hats, cowbells, fridge magnets, and tiny flags.  The tiny flag is on my desk now.

This was the city’s birthday cake.  It was delicious and I rather wish I’d gone back for a second slice.  There was also cookies and liquid refreshment, but I don’t have a picture of that table.

There was a table to order your own flag-  I considered this for a few minutes, but decided to wait- I’m confident this flag will be available later on.

There was live music courtesy of the Orlando Concert Band.  They were pretty great!

This gives you a better idea of how many people were in attendance.  The far end of this shot is the mayor of Orlando and some officials who were there to officially raise the new flag.

The flag raising was supposed to be outside, but Tropical Storm Emily spun up off the left coast of Florida this morning, and that forced a change.  They made the best of it, though, and put a fan behind the flag to make it flap in the “breeze” after it was raised.  Incidentally, the man in the beige suit is Mayor Buddy Dyer.  I’ve seen him speak a few times now, and he seems like a pretty good guy.

A bunch of city councilmen and other local officials posed with the flag, and that wrapped up the ceremony.

But wait, there’s more!   The rain was light enough that they decided to do a less formal raising of the flag outside as well.

Once Mayor Dyer got the flag up to this height, he tied it off, and joked, “Ok, now everybody blow.”  For a day with a tropical storm nearby, there was pretty much no wind at all.

I don’t know who any of the people in this next photograph are other than the mayor, but I think this is a good example of why I like the guy-  he’s approachable and friendly, and he seems to genuinely care about the people in his city.   Anyone who’s game for a ridiculously large selfie is pretty OK, I think.

When I lived in South Florida, I couldn’t have told you the last name of the mayor.  It’s refreshing to be in a city where the mayor is so much more visibly active in what goes on with his city.

The official Twitter account of the city posted this video about an hour after the event-  if you look very, very, very carefully, you can spot me in there.

There’s also an official Flickr gallery of this event, with all kinds of high resolution photos that are significantly better than mine.  I paged through the gallery, and I found myself in only one of the crowd shots.  I was trying to avoid all of the photographers, but I guess my Batman skills are a little lacking.  Here’s a zoom of the one picture that tagged me.

It occurs to me now that I need a proper Orlando t-shirt for stuff like this.

Do you like the new Orlando City flag?

Love is love is love is love.

Since the last time I posted on the blog, I moved from South Florida up to Orlando.  I meant to do a whole post about the transition up here, but this is not that post.

This post is about the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.  It happened one year ago today, June 12, 2016, and 49 people lost their lives, not counting the shooter.  Another 58 were injured during the shooting.   I didn’t live in Orlando at the time, but this city has always had a special place in my heart.

There have been vigils and remembrance events all over Orlando for the last few days, but today was the biggest set of events.   Amelie and I were out running errands in the afternoon, and our route took us directly past Pulse during their afternoon ceremony.  The traffic was our first clue that something was going on, followed immediately by the presence of a fleet of news vans.

There have been people standing in front of Pulse every time we’ve driven past-  the entire site is a memorial now, with a constant flow of mourners and people leaving things behind like flowers or a small token of their memory.  Today it was jammed, of course.

Later in the day, the crowds started to gather for the big Orlando United event at Lake Eola.  I didn’t realize it until this afternoon, but the city shut down many of the streets around the Lake for the event.   A little past 4:30 in the afternoon, this is what the traffic pattern looked like downtown:

On top of that, there was rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  Once most of the rain leveled off, I grabbed my old MIX 105.1 umbrella and walked over to the Orlando Public Library to catch the last few minutes of Drag Queen Storytime.  My timing was off; this picture was just a few moments after a spectacularly photogenic twirl by our storyteller.

After Drag Queen Storyteller wrapped up, I walked the remaining block or so to Lake Eola, and wandered around the event.   This mural by Yuriy Karabash and Michael Pilato was put up earlier today- I’m not sure where the mural will ultimately reside after today.

People continued to gather for the Orlando United event- it was supposed to start at 7pm, but weather delayed it somewhat.  Still, more and more people arrived. I’m somewhere in the upper left part of this photo from the Orlando Sentinel, wearing a bright red shirt:

You can see the top of the bandshell in this next photo-  that’s as close as I was really able to get to the bandshell.  It was broadcast throughout the park over speakers all the way around the Lake, though, and Disney had put up a pair of large overflow screens so that people could watch from the larger part of Lake Eola Park on the Eastern bank.

Once the event started, I could hear what was going on, but I couldn’t see it- until someone near me mentioned that some of the local news media were streaming it live, and everyone has a cell phone…  I caught the video of a drum and bagpipe corps, and some other musical acts.

During the show, I walked around the lake so that I could get out of the thicker part of the crowd for a bit, and I was treated to some pretty spectacular views from the Northern side of the lake. The band-shell was dressed properly for the occasion…

Lake Eola’s iconic fountain was also beautifully lit in rainbow colors for the occasion.

It’s difficult to express exactly how something like this makes me feel-  I don’t know anyone who was directly affected by the Pulse shooting, but I have such strong ties to Orlando through friends and friends of friends that I see the ripples outward.

It hits especially hard because it could easily have been someone close to me.  When I was twenty-five, I lived in Orlando.  I was attending UCF for my degree, but in my down time, I went dancing.  Some weeks, I would be out five nights out of seven-  Two of those nights were Club Zen, Wednesdays were at the Embassy Music Hall, one night was at Barbarella or at Cairo, an Egyptian-themed club a few blocks over, or the Blue Room.

Most of those clubs are gone now, but this was my circle.  Except for a few cherished friends from the university, my entire social scene was based around where we could find good music.    If I had lived in Orlando one year ago today, it’s possible I would have been out, dancing.

I’m happy to see that one year later, Orlando is still strong, still loving, and still dancing.