Outside the Greyhound station in Birmingham, AL
Transferring in Birmingham, AL

Woke up this morning with the taste of homemade vegan chili and Ron Burgundy scotch in my mouth. As the man at the liquor store predicted, my initial reaction was “Wow, that’s not as bad as I thought it would be.”

I’ve been in Orlando since late the night of April 1. I left the apartment in Huntsville, AL at 8:40 am in order to get on the Greyhound at 10:40 am. Transferred buses in Birmingham in the afternoon, eventually making it to Atlanta around 8 and the airport there (where I was met by a recording of CeeLo Green welcoming me) around 8:30 pm. Had enough time to scout out a vegan-friendly salad at the Atlanta Bread Company before hopping on a plane at 10:30 pm.

The one image that sticks out in all of that was the Greyhound station in Atlanta. All I could think of was the 1960s Carnival of Souls film. Misery and despair hung heavy in the air. So did the high percentage of bad tattoos. So, so many bad tattoos.

Snow White at MCO
Reuniting with Snow at the Orlando Airport.

My friends Jeremy and Kitty (lovely people, those two) have been kind enough to let me stay with them. To them I am very grateful and because of them my trip has begun on the right foot.

What immediately strikes me about Orlando is the smell in the air. After I’m here for awhile I stop noticing anything special about it, but the initial hit of it is intoxicating, transporting me back to being a child at Disney with my family, some of the happiest times of my life thus far. Same thing with the smell of the water. I notice it especially when taking a shower.

April 2nd saw the suggestion of canoeing through Wekiva Springs. My only previous canoeing experience was so short that I can’t really say I’ve been before, so this would be the first time.

We pulled up to the springs around 2 pm, the sun baking the land below. The place reeked of 80s teen spring break movie – in the most fantastic way possible. However, when I said I was waiting for the jocks to throw the nerds in the water my friend and I looked around and he rightly pointed out that we were those nerds. But on to the canoeing…Wekiva Springs

The water was calm and the scenery was stunningly beautiful. I’ve never been in a setting like that – my initial reaction was to be prepared for bad jokes and robotic hippos to appear ala The Jungle Cruise. But no, all was peaceful and calm. Nature sounds abounding. Everything was rich and green and bathed in sunlight. Relax.

Paddling, however, was a bit of a chore. My skinny writer’s arms weren’t designed for it, but I like to think I at least did my fair share. There were incidents with a bee-filled bush and a palmetto branch to the face, but all in all a great adventure. Cross that off the list of things I’ve never done before. Afterwards I was exhausted and more than happy to sit around the rest of the night.

Asian rum, Applejack, cards against humanity, bed.

11 hours later – longer than I’ve slept in years.

There are 4 distinct periods of my life in relation to Orlando:

  1. 1982-late 1990s – At Disney with my family
  2. August 2003-January 2004 – Walt Disney World College Program
  3. August 2005-July 2007 – Move to Orlando after graduating college and having no clue what to do with myself
  4. Spring 2011-Spring 2013 – Move back to Orlando because of my father’s illness

Each period is full of a different set of memories that when triggered elicit everything about that period. Some places/people/smells make all four arise at the same time, leaving me overwhelmed with nostalgia. Spent yesterday in such a manner. Took a trip over to Disney’s Port Orleans resort, where I worked with my father for a year, after which I left and he continued on there until he was too sick to work. Found lots of familiar faces who I’m happy to say recognized me, their Disney smiles turning into genuine ones.

Port Orleans Bell Services mini-Reunion
Port Orleans Bell Services mini-Reunion

It was good to see them all. They meant a great deal to my father and to hear them speak lovingly of him did my heart good.

From there I went to the Polynesian Resort, my favorite place in Florida and probably in the top 5 of all time. We stayed there several times as a family when I was young. The entire place feels wrapped in the happiest early childhood memories that I can imagine and all that comes with that. It was also the last place I ever went with my father before he was too sick to leave the house. I bought a Dole Whip (which I served as a cast member on the college program), sat on the beach (where I took a girl for the greatest first date I’ve ever been on), and toasted to my father (who introduced me to the resort in the first place).

Hanging out at the Polynesian on the beach

Afterwards the night descended into a happy revelry till sleep set in again.

I am writing this in the Renaissance Orlando hotel lobby. The sound of the indoor waterfall is filling the place, and I am happy.

On to more adventures.

Walking in Orlando at 7am