Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Pros and Cons of Orlando

House Hunters is in Orlando, looking for some unrealistic house (it's always an unrealistic house in some way) for a couple, and it has me thinking about that city. I lived there for over a decade--and I hated it. So this list is going to be skewed toward the Cons already. But I also don't like how negatively I feel toward it, and I wanted to challenge myself to be not-so-hateful and see if I can make myself feel better about it.

Pros:

  • Disney is there. I love Epcot most of all, but they're all great. Especially at the Food and Wine Festival or the Festival of Lights or the Flower Festival.
  • There are freshwater springs not far away, and a few of them have very nice long rivers to float along in a canoe for hours.
  • I do still have a few scattered friends who live there.
  • ICFA, my favorite conference of all time, is there.
  • MegaCon, my first and most consistently-attended convention is there.
  • There are enough famous people who live there or who go through there, that you can meet a few randomly almost every year.*
  • Rennaisance Faires start way early there because the warmth of spring comes in, like, March.
  • They do have a very well-functioning and extensive public transport system that was rarely late or closed.
  • Access to fresh, local produce year round because there's three separate growing seasons--though you do have to go looking for it, since it's not really that high a priority outside of the rich parts of town.
  • You can literally grow anything with a seed there; gardens are lush and wild even when you don't really take much more care than watering them through the summer.


Cons:

  • The place is a wreck and has been since the 70s--just a little outside the specifically touristy parts of town and it's all falling down.
  • Crime is getting bad, and when I lived there, there were three separate really bad ghettos, one of which I lived in, and one of which had people living in houses with no rooves because they were THAT poor off.
  • The separation between the rich people and the poor people there is ghastly and dehumanizing, and there was less and less middle class because almost all the jobs you didn't need training for were service industry of the worst sort--theme parks or hotel staff--and the ones that weren't were in such high demand that I don't know anyone who wasn't considered replaceable and treated as such.
  • The schools were a joke. Colleges were better, but too large for someone like me who doesn't handle being lost in a crowd well.
  • Government there was just hateful. All old rich dudes who hated that a large portion of the population were immigrants and worked specifically against them, or who were so old that they didn't care if they were explicitly screwing over the next generation, or who were so isolated that they had no idea of the reality of living there.
  • Alligators. Everywhere. No joke.
  • Mosquitoes year round.
  • Killing heat in the summer--people literally died. I saw people just drop dead or have strokes every year.
  • Killing light--so much sun that both my parents wound up with skin cancer.
  • The worst allergies I've ever had because nothing ever stops blooming + the wetness, between humidity and rain, means there's lots of mold.
  • Snakes, spiders, chiggers, scabies, racoons, rats, snapping turtles, turkey vultures, more alligators, sea gulls...
  • Living in a middle-to-lower-class life in a tourist town is too unstable--tourism dips for a year or two and everything you have falls apart because pay goes down, hours go down, shops close, restaurants fail. 
  • Also, the roads are a mess because they're choked with people who have no idea where they're going and are driving in unfamiliar cars on roads that are always under construction; the accidents were rampant, and at least one year, Orlando was in the top three worst places to be a pedestrian--in the world. The year I was hit by a car, a friend was hit by a semi and my mom got whiplash from an accident.
  • Frequent water restrictions because so many people are living off one old aquifer that can't support them.
  • Lots of lakes, but they're mostly watered-in sink holes or manmade, and are too gross to swim in unless they're really big or away from the cities. The water looks like dark tea in most of them because of tannins from the oak trees; I like that, but it always grossed my sister and brother out.
  • Sharks at every nearby beach, year round.
  • The city is sweltering. So many buildings, so much pavement, means there's weather disruption and a lot of the daily storms and cooling winds have been diverted or cut off, and for more than half the year it's like walking around in a moist oven with no shade.


Reasons I'd Move Back:

  • Dire circumstances--like, Day After Tomorrow dire, where literally everywhere else is not an option.
  • Sudden extreme richness, where I could live there only when I wanted to, and could escape at any time to somewhere much less objectionable.
  • It's suddenly a utopia where everything works well, everything is clean, the government cares about you, and they've somehow tamed both weather and allergies.



NOTES:
* Personally, I met Jamie Farr on the floor at a Con when I literally walked into him in the crowd; I met Babyface at a movie; I had my seat taken from me at a different movie by Marilyn Manson and Twiggy and a million bodyguards; I went to school with Joey Fatone in a school where Wayne Brady had gone and where Gallagher's daughter attended, so that sometimes we saw him pick her up. My dad got to hang out with Bruce Springsteen once, my best friend was always running into sports stars and met Danny Glover once.
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