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Vacationing on the Other Coast
updated: Nov 20, 2010, 8:45 AM
"Florida …" The name has a nice ring to it. Land of oranges, tennis, Seinfeld's parents' Del Boca Vista (View of the Mouth) retirement community, swamps, 'gators . . . a stop for my Scots-Irish ancestors as they pushed ever farther south from Virginia, and then west. And now our vacation trail back to the Southeast for a family reunion.
En route through lovely skies: The stew, a woman settled well into her middle years, spoke in measured tones, trying hard to be perfect. She and her young black femme coworker were fine; all was well.
Breakfasted, as the sun rose over the desert, on a Big Fat Bran Muffin from Lazy Acres that I had frozen the previous day. Health food? SD brought cheese and crackers and a hard-boiled egg. You be the judge.
Dawn was sliced by the lazily flowing remains of the Colorado River. Fresh snow on the Rockies.
Altogether, a fine flight. Onward.
The three-hour leg from Denver to Orlando was equally efficient, save for some odd turbulence. For maybe a quarter of an uneasy hour, it felt as if the big plane was rolling down a bumpy, rock-strewn road. I knew my daughter Karen, with her husband in the row behind us, had a bit of Fear of Flying. Ever one to josh people out of such things, I said, "See? We should have gotten seats closer to the tail area. Then if it crashed we could be thrown clear!"
She shook her head at my inane sense of humor, but I think she was actually somewhat amused, and perhaps thus another step closer to being cured. My next move will be a reminder of the enormous odds against a crash of any kind occurring -- as if logic ever helped much in dealing with such fears.
But suddenly, after a frighteningly hard-driving rain en route from the Orlando airport, there we were, in Kissimmee, Florida (pronounced Kiss SIM ee), next to Orlando, and a short drive to . . . EPCOT!!! and all the rest. A bunch of SD's relatives were to gather in the lobby of our huge Radisson Hotel -- and I got lost.
In what was to be the first of many times I got lost or at least turned around in this flat land, I exited the wrong door and walked three-fourths of the way around the hotel as the sky darkened and a light rain returned. I tried several large doors and they led nowhere.
A worker was sitting idly on a covered porch and I yelled, "WHERE THE HELL IS THE LOBBY?" I was getting panicked and desperate.
"Ees een the nest bildeen," he replied calmly.
"Jus' go around the corner" -- a long way, it seemed to me -- "by the green awneens."
It was a long walk, and I was beginning to empathize even more with the hapless Walter Mitty than I used to, but then I saw the awneens. Went to the wrong end of the covered walkway and had to return to the other end, which finally revealed the porte cochere. I took time out to get a grip on myself and a good time was had by all of us, as we traveled to a steak house for the first gathering of the clan.
Next morning, both Karen and I, being addicted to caffeine, wondered why we got only decaf packets in our rooms' coffee kits. We anxiously called for replacements and someone brought plastic sacks full of packets, containing BOTH decaf and regular.
This morning I caught the maid in the act of erring again and got it straightened out: She was one of many Haitian immigrants working around here and she didn't know coffee from the package that said "decaf". She simply didn't know what I was talking about. The poor gal would be delighted with the generous tip that SD always leaves. She doesn't have to understand it. And I finally got my requisite supply of caffeine.
Breakfasting at IHOP, I asked the waitress where her accent was from, thinking Haiti. She said she was born "right here," so her accent was Southern Black. Speech accents always interest me. In Dallas, the imported workers came from Ethiopia. Here, the Caribbean.
Locals seemed alarmed by an early cool snap in the air. It was almost down to 40 degrees at night, warming to about 80 by day. Folks thronging into Disney's world were buying sweatshirts for warmth, never mind the prices and kiddie logos. We were pleased by Florida's green tropical look, with palm trees among the pines, bodies of water here and there . . . So different from my semi-arid homeland.
Next: What hath Disney wrought?
The waters of southernmost Florida are home to the manatee, a large creature that lives on underwater vegetarian crud.
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