Greetings from somewhere to the south and east of Trump's America.
Florida went for Trump. One of the Nov. 8's first disappointments, In the beginning, Florida goes for Hillary Clinton and then for Trump and then to HRC and then.....
I'm in Central Florida, home of Disney World and Wide World of Sports World and Camping World and Universal Studios and Sea World and all the rest. The Holy Land Experience, alas, has gone out of business. This weekend they are having a big garage sale to get rid of Biblical relics such as couches, statues, fountains and a Harley. Not sure which Holy Land saint rode a hog, but he doesn't need it anymore.
Kissimmee in Osceola County is where we're staying. It used to be home to cattle ranches and cracker cowboys. Last night I learned a bit of history as I quaffed a can of Cigar City Florida Cracker Belgian-style White Ale. The story on the label says this: cracker "relates to the whip these 'cow hunters' used to herd cattle in Florida's Palmetto Prairies." This used to be one of those prairies. Kissimmee was home to cow hunters and ranches and one of the South's largest rodeos.
That was before Walt Disney bought up 43 square miles of palmetto prairie and forest and swampland at $200 an acre. The rodeo still exists. Tough to spot a cowboy along Hwy. 192 on a November afternoon. in post-Trump America. You see some pedestrians braving the six-lane stretch of asphalt that leads to Disney in one direction and, in the other, a seemingly endless line-up of strip malls and motels and dreary resorts.
Let me stop for a second and insert a caveat. I love Florida. Many of the people I care about live here. Old friends live here. The schools that I care about -- Father Lopez Catholic High School and the University of Florida -- are here. I spent hundreds of hours in the Atlantic Ocean off of Daytona Beach, surfing and swimming and just walking in the sand.
But I'm pissed off about Trump and Florida's role in electing this person as president.
Not that Wyoming did us a favor. But WYO has three electoral votes and Florida has 29. WYO helped elect Trump but wasn't crucial to the debacle.
This area is every new urbanist's nightmare. Suburban sprawl. Too many cars. Ugliness everywhere. Disney's planned community, Celebration, is also in the vicinity. It should be a new urbanist's dream -- walkable neighborhoods, tree-lined streets, quaint cafes, pleasing architecture -- yet it seemed weirdly lifeless, a "Stepford Wives" feel. Kind if like a theme park version of a real neighborhood. Not many sentient beings about, although a few older folks sat at cafe tables near the waterfront. I don't think they were droids.
Chris and I went to a pitch session for nearby resort properties. When in Florida, you feel obligated to hear a sales pitch. Think of Trump clones everywhere. I wandered over to the 7-11 to buy some snacks and a guy met me at the door and asked if I needed tickets.
"Tickets to what?"
"Disney, other attractions."
"I just want some cashews."
The man named Doug was not deterred. He looked and acted a bit like Freddy Prinz in the 1970s sitcom "Chico and the Man." He asked if I was interested in a resort, and would pay me $150 to listen to a sales pitch. I told him I already had a pitch session scheduled. That animated him. "I can tell you exactly how to act." He went on to say that I should say very little, don't be friendly and don't ask questions.
"Can I smile?" I asked.
I told him I would take him up on his offer if my session didn't work out.
Later that day, Chris and I went to our resort pitch session. Randy The Pitchman told us that he wasn't selling timeshares, which had gone out of fashion. He talked about points that can be used for week-long stays at properties all over the globe.
"Not Antarctica." He looked slightly annoyed. Think Dustin Hoffman in "Death of a Salesman." "Where's your dream vacation," he asked.
"Ireland," Chris and I said in unison.
He asked us how we would like to go to Ireland for a week for $169.
We were stone-faced. No smiles. No laughter. No convivial Irish-American banter. Randy went on to show us how we could go to Ireland for $169 plus airline tickets. If we also joined the Travel Club we also could get discounts on airline tickets.
"Go on," I said.
Randy went on. He jotted down a series of facts and figures and seemed pretty pleased with himself. I was getting hungry. He showed us the Travel Club website, He showed us the ownership units. All of it was very nice.
"In some of our units, you can see the nightly fireworks from Disney."
Wow. This property abutted Disney property and was only going up in value since everyone all over the globe wants to come to Disney World. Except for me.
We didn't buy anything. Received a $100 gift card for our efforts. Should have told him that Doug over at the 7-11 kiosk would give me $150 to listen to his pitch. But I was just glad to get out of there.
BTW, the Florida Cracker Ale is damn good. Made with coriander, which reminded me of New Belgium's Trippel Ale, although lighter. Florida may not be as well-known for its beers as Colorado but it's getting there. I had another Cigar City beer the other day. Jai Alai is an IPA aged in white oak. Not sure if I could taste the white oak but it is a great beer. Oskar Blues in Longmont recently did a collaboration brew with Tampa's Cigar City. Keep reaching out, craft brewers! We love you, especially the ones in WYO.
Now it's time to find a free arts event in Sales Pitch Land. Trump would definitely be at home here.