Allow me to share with you a little slice of life from the tourist Mecca that is Orlando.
It starts when we go downtown on a Wednesday night to meet up with some friends. The Doobie Brothers were playing at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Located in the heart of downtown. While not as big as the arena, it gives a more intimate venue for a new star rising, or old stars still rocking.
It seems forever since I’ve been down here. The atmosphere hasn’t changed much. We drive past the bar that’s ‘the place to be’ although I couldn’t tell you the name. The evidence is clear it’s the latest hotspot by the line that wraps around the building. On a Wednesday night. Also, there’s no one over 30 in the line. Dead giveaway of the place to be.
Since the four of us are all over thirty (ahem), we opt for a little less crowd and pull up stools at the more established watering hole for a pre-concert adult beverage.
After ordering the first round, my friend Chris asked why I brought my purse. Security will need to go through it, which means a longer line. Good point. I decide to take it back to the car, and tell my husband and friends that it’s just a block away, and I’d be right back. Out into the cool night air, the city is bustling for a Wednesday night.
Orlando is my home town. The people are as diverse a population as you could imagine. An older Asian couple passes me, arm in arm and chatting quietly in a language I don’t understand. The woman, wearing a tailored fur lined jacket looks up at me and smiles, which I return. The man nods a greeting as they pass.
A few paces behind them walks a rather large black man. He stands at least 6’3 and wears neon orange sneakers, black pants and a black tee shirt emblazoned in neon orange lettering urging those who read it to “Boycott Beyoncé.” Part of me wanted to ask why we should boycott her, but he didn’t make eye contact, and the ear buds he wore spoke of not wanting to be bothered. So, I walked on.
The purse task complete, I head back to my group. On the way, I notice what looks like an empty bar. The glass walls offer a peek into a western-themed saloon, and the name of the place is “Stagger Inn”. There’s a cowboy hat icon above the cattle-brand-font of the name. Cute.
I decide that it must shut down mid-week due to a lack of patrons. When I reach the front door, I find I am wrong for why it was closed.
Taped on the heavy oak-framed glass door are sheets of paper with handwritten notification of being closed for the evening due to “(name removed for privacy)’s Gender Reassignment Surgery.” The writer goes on to thank all of the patrons for their support during this person’s time of transition. They should reopen in the next day or two.
Two white millennial’s walk by, their gender near-unidentifiable. Wearing scarves, Levi skinny jeans, and Nikes, their young faces lit by the soft glow of their smartphones. They furiously work their thumbs across the screens as they walk.
The door to my destination is now blocked by three young men of various ethnicity. They’re vaping while one shares a story about what happened at work that day. They step aside as I approach, with appropriate mumbles of apology for being in the way, and one holds the door open for me.
I love my home town.
After the oldies concert, the four of us head outside. The full moon is gorgeous, and as we pass a wide expanse of grass I decide to take a picture.
Except I left my phone back on the seat.
The staff directed me to the information desk, where some wonderful soul (God bless you!) turned in an iPhone. The man behind the counter, wanting to be certain it was mine, asked me what the screen shot on the phone was.
I couldn’t recall. “Sunrise, I think?” Then remembering what I’d done the last time I lost my phone (yes, I’ve lost my phone before in Downtown Orlando), I said, “More importantly, I know the code to unlock it.”
He quirked a smile and handed it to me. My heart soared at the sight of my phone.
I entered the four digit code and flashed the now open screen to him. His smile was so warm.
I left the building floating on an emotional high. My husband and I tried to take a selfie with the full moon in the background. It wasn’t going well.
“Hey!” shouted one of the four Hispanic women walking past. “Selfies suck! Let me take it for you.”
She took the phone and stepped back a few paces. Aiming it at us, she seems seriously intent on the screen. Then she looks at us and shouts, “Love the camera!” Then she crouches, twirls and twists, dancing around while aiming the camera at us.
Her friend, laughing, said, “All right, Cecil B. DeMille, just take the picture!”
Of course, we obliged the photographer’s call to love the camera and so began posing like sexy fashionistas on the runway. I’m sure you could hear the laughter of the gathered crowd six blocks away.
What a fabulous life this is. I am so grateful to live in a place that is so diverse, so vibrant.