“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, I don’t improve; in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear disease is incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself. –Intro to John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley
I walked from the quaint Kissimmee downtown in the direction of the Serlago Hotel on US 192. I think I may have been about ten miles from the hotel. I caught bus 4 after walking about a mile passing by yards that looked to be unaffected by zoning or neighborhood associations. I saw several in progress construction projects. I hesitate to call them home improvements. Maybe that was the intent. I asked the bus driver if he passed by Fat Boy’s Barbecue. He said yes. When the bus stopped a few blocks from where I got on, the driver said this is where you need to get off. He gave me specific directions. I walked a block farther than he had instructed. Finally I pulled my phone out. My charge was low. I looked up Fat Boy’s. It was about a mile the opposite way. I walked there. I saw a Chinese/Doninican place. It looked a little seedy, even by my standards. I was walking down Irlo Bronson, 192. It is a cookie cutter of ugliness, strip malls for miles, concrete almost everywhere with small patches of turf.
I ended up getting something to eat at Fat Boy’s. It was alright. There were pictures from the past few years of patrons. The names of some well known cattle families were displayed on the wall. The decor, a predictable rustic clutter.
A few buses later I ended up at the Serlago. The busses are surprisingly nice. The bus stops are for the most part awful. When I lived Seattle fifteen years ago, I don’t remember seeing many stops that did not have schedules displayed at the stop. If you are riding the Lynx without a smart phone, you will either have to wait or get lucky and run into someone in the know. There were no seats at most of the stops. My friend Brendan O’Connor stepped up with a tactical urbanist intervention and placed chairs at bus stops all over Orlando. The project is known as the Sit Project.
A few years ago I read Umberto Eco’s Travels in Hyperreality. Eco talked about how some of the biggest offenders of creating a hyperreal place were the sunbelt states. Florida, California and Arizona. These are all places with beautiful nature, where people have built structures that seem to try to out do nature. I thought about this as I walked at dusk through Old Town listening to a classic rock soundtrack that filled the streets. The funny thing is that Old Town seems like a fake version of downtown Kissimmee. I thought why do tourists flock to the ersatz instead of the model? This environment has also co-opted classic rock. It’s a genre that is an irksome example how corporate America has recontextualized something that might have been cool and subversive into something that is mostly safe, or at least without meaning.
After walking through Old Town, I walked to the hotel. It is almost next door. The whole area was pretty quiet. I wanted dinner. My options were just chains. I had talked to Kim before Old Town, She said half joking, go to Denny’s and get that AARP discount. Neither one of us would probably go under normal conditions. I ended up going. I got some sort of skillet. I went to Walgreen’s after. I bought a composition book. I saw behind the counter that there was a Lou Reed Issue of Rolling Stone. I bought it too. I haven’t bought a Rolling Stone in years. I went back to room and read the tear jerker piece that Laurie Anderson wrote about Lou. Then I read an essay in the David Rakoff book I picked up at Park Ave CD’s. It made me sad both that Lou and David had passed away.
In the morning, I ate at the buffet at the hotel restaurant. It filled me up through lunch. I spent several hours on busses en route back to Lake Mary. As I walked back to the house, I thought about how I had traveled a little over eight hours and barely gone more than a hundred miles, but it did give me time to read on the bus, just like I used to in Seattle.