Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Songs About the Swampland

The title refers to Alabama, but could easily refer to the state of Florida as well. My typist spent a week in the sultry weather not too long ago, apparently bringing it back to the mid-Atlantic states on a return flight.

When in the vicinity of central Florida, it is mandatory to pay homage to the Mouse. Below, a picture of EPCOT's iconic globe. (Inside, Siemens tells visitors how wonderful life will be in the future, thanks to lots of Siemens technology.)

By far the best attraction at EPCOT is Soarin', which takes riders into the air in a darkened room and projects aerial images to create the illusion of traveling across California by air. One has a bird's eye view of people rafting on a river, skiers, hang-gliders, a group of fighter jets, the California desert, an orange grove (complete with the aroma of oranges sprayed into the theater!), the San Diego naval base, and, finally, Disneyland. It's so popular that those in the know move as quickly as possible to that ride as the park opens.

(The next-best ride is the GM-sponsored Fast Track, wherein the last two minutes or so involves whizzing along an open track, roller-coaster style, in a vehicle designed to look like an automobile. It's cheaper than renting a convertible, but much of the sensation of driving over bumpy roads and dodging traffic is all-too familiar to adults.)

I'm also partial to the England section of the World Showcase, in large part because of the availability of Guinness at the pub. (They also have a nice selection of whisky, which always struck me as a difficult sell when the outdoor temperature is 95 degrees.) Since my last visit, the park canned the guys playing Beatles tunes - and doing a passable job looking like the Beatles - in favor of a band that plays a broader selection of songs from British (and at least one Australian) bands. They play well, even if they look like something out of Spinal Tap.

The odd thing about the World Showcase is that the countries never change. There's Canada, England, France, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Japan, China, Norway, and Mexico, if memory serves. (The staff for each country comes from that country and dresses in some version of traditional garb, which is a great deal more comfortable for people from warm-weather nations.) One would think that the Disney people would find it worthwhile to rotate in some new people - Russia, perhaps, or a South American country, or a country from central or southern Africa.

The remainder of the trip was spent on the west coast of Florida, south of Sarasota, which was slightly cooler and had the advantage of the occasional coastal breeze. There was also ample wildlife, from raccoons and opossums that came to the back door and begged for food (a hugely successful effort, I might add, despite my protestations that this wasn't really healthy for any person or animal), to a lazy house cat...

...to more dangerous creatures. (That picture was taken a few days before I arrived, but served to reinforce my notion that one should watch where one steps.)

The local news reported a cat - not the one pictured above, fortunately - had become the meal of a coyote. All of this left me wondering if I wasn't better off in the more metaphorical jungle of Washington.

I had to make an unusual shopping trip while I was there: the liquor store. Oddly, none of my usual DC-area spots carry either absinthe or Bauchant, an orange-flavored, Cognac-based liqueur much like Cointreau. The latter, I am told, is essential for a perfect margarita, splashed in at the last moment. Well, we'll see. The need for the former is obvious. Brindley's Liquor, in Venice, Florida, carries both. I'm told that favorite pastimes of retirees include golf and drinking, which might explain things. (If I played golf, I would no doubt drink more.) Both bottles survived the Southwest baggage handling process. Plenty of wrapping and being swathed in dirty clothing does wonders. (The dirt molecules provide an addition cushion, you see.)

Travel always reminds me that traveling is unpleasant. While I enjoy seeing other places, I'm not a big fan of the process to get there. Flying is particularly bad: one has to get to the airport inconveniently early, suffer through the latest humiliations of the TSA - including the infamous nekkie machine now used to go through security - wait for the plane, queue up to get on (grumble, grumble Southwest Airlines), have a fully-loaded flight, including people who take the most enormous carry-on bags into the cabin and then wonder why they can't find overhead bin space, wait to take off, stop in inconvenient spots (the return flight from Tampa had a stop in West Palm Beach - really, guys?), wait for the luggage, find a shuttle bus back to the parking garage and, finally, when one is quite exhausted from all of the above, drive back home.

At least that process creates appropriate expectations for going back to work.

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