Lost in Orlando

Posted By on July 7, 2007

So I’m in Orlando, involuntarily, on Tuesday, June 26. I’m attending a hotel technology trade show at the cavernous Orange County Convention Center, it’s the end of the day and I and want to get back to the hotel where I’m staying. I manage to snag a cab in the swelter and tell the driver I want to get to the Fairfield Inn on Vineland.
When we get there, it’s the wrong Fairfield, and not the Vineland I expect. So we turn back the way we came; I tell the driver the Fairfield I want is near Universal Studios, the magnet that makes this landlocked Florida city such a tourist attraction.
We wind up in an area that seems familiar. But when the guy turns right into another hotel area — there are 140,000 hotel rooms in Orlando, by the way — it’s still not the right Fairfield. I’m getting ticked because the driver, who’s from Haiti and is hard to understand, doesn’t seem to know where he is and because I, such a dummy, never wrote down the address, let alone the phone number, of my hotel.
I tell the front desk clerk, a nice Spanish woman, about my predicament while the driver keeps his Plymouth minivan running (I can’t blame him; make money and pollution be damned). Finally, she finds out that I am confirmed at a Marriott by Fairfield on Vineland Road North, so we go there — and thank God, it’s the right Fairfield.
Seems there’s a gang of Fairfields in Orlando. And a gang of Vinelands. Which leads me to ruminate on how to me, Orlando exemplifies what’s wrong about American cities:
— It is in no way pedestrian unless you’re in a theme park or hotel area
— It seems like it’s all franchise; there is no sense of the local
— It is generic in look, unless you’re on International Drive, which, because it’s the main thoroughfare, at least has commercial density, if not power. Which means that no matter the approach to an area, they all look the same and orientation is challenging
— It is oddly familiar because it is so generic. Unlike Las Vegas, which has the strength of kitsch and greed, it doesn’t seem to have a style of its own (not even a style based on imitation like Vegas), so you can read anything into it you want. It’s not familiar like Los Angeles, where you can tool up Mulholland Drive, say, or Hollywood Boulevard, and recognize places from the movies or TV. No, Orlando is a singular city, built on Disney and Universal and totally lacking in the organic.
The point of all this? I can see why families want to take their kids to Orlando. It’s a tourist city on steroids, branded to the max and a testimony to the power of franchises. Me, I prefer individuality and a sense of place. I like cities where “local cuisine” isn’t an oxymoron.


3 Responses to “Lost in Orlando”

  1. Local says:

    Your story illustrates population control here in Florida. Enjoy the snow.

  2. Erin O'Brien says:

    Words composed from the letters in “Florida:”







    You cannot compose the word “ruby” from the letters in “Florida,” but you can compose the word flid, which is not a word, but clearly should be.

    Cascading light. Prisms and bounce and the sound of hunger.


  3. Ariel says:

    Too bad for you Carlo – our experience in Orlando included a rat sighting out front of the Convention Center. Maybe that could be considered “local cuisine.”

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About the author

I'm a veteran critic and business writer who reads and listens and writes about music, books, hotels and travel. I've been in the business for many years and still enjoy it. My pride and joy is my book, Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories. Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CarloWolff