Friday, August 3, 2012


Last weekend made me realize what I really don’t like about Florida. We went to Celebration, a Disney engineered  town outside of Orlando and near the theme parks designed to be the perfect family community. My friends say it looks a bit like something out of the Stepford Wives with the perfectly painted houses very close to each other in residential areas and pretty, well maintained streets and condo buildings. That’s the thing about Florida. Everything seems to be a driving distance away, but you need to drive. You can go through one of those small towns and never see anything but a gas station and a one story shopping strip every few intersections. Many of my friends who complain about finding a place to settle here when I mention Orlando also point out that it’s very spread out. Everyone from that area seems to be living in one of those places that have a separate name and are 20 minutes away from work. By car of course, Americans love their cars. On top of everything a lot of things you see from the road, the oversized banners and decorations sticking out of buildings feel very kitschy. Advertising for souvenirs and theme parks everywhere. It looked odd in 2004, still does eight years later. It’s random and over the top like Las Vegas. It has a nice downtown area full of life, pubs, restaurants and entertainment, but when we were out at night the music was blasting into the streets. A little too loud a little to crazy. Miami, I haven’t seen much of, but what I did see was very industrial and dirty. I was beginning to think that there’s no place in Florida that would fit my needs.  The humidity makes it a hard sell anyway. The heat you can get used to, but every day feels like sauna. Some years you feel you got used to it, others – like this Summer, it bothers you again. I need something a little more condensed or a place with good mass transit you can get around. It narrows it down to either a bigger city or a small town, because Gainesville feels like everybody here is just waiting to graduate and get out. Then, we discovered Celebration. And I fell in love with it. It feels like in many ways it doesn’t belong in Florida. It was as if we drove for hours to discover this movie like town out of nowhere. It did seem like a film set with how clean it was, how bright the colors were and how well designed and detailed it was. We drove pass well kept houses with American flags to squares with shops, parks, something that felt like a marina on a lake. My friend called it a New England type of town. Oddly some restaurants invited us to try Portland style cooking. It seemed like a place frozen in time, the ideal American town with a 50’s-60’s style diner and a movie theater that was not a multiplex that seemed to be directly from that era. We drove pass the elementary school and the high school, that I joked was so big every child got their own class room. Why would anybody go anywhere else? There’s even a university. I went there once before and I wanted to investigate. It was my birthday, so my friend took me there for the weekend. I think we both had fun. It was great to get away from the college kids if only for few days. I believe Gainesville topped the charts again of the best places to retire in. I wonder why and what is there to do exactly if  university dominates the town and bars are our main industry. One of Gainesville’s pluses is of course proximity to Jacksonville and Orlando, but why would you want to live somewhere only to drive somewhere else. Celebration is a new town. Built in the mid 90’s. Perhaps I’ll move there one day. I know I’ll be back. People were friendly (and adult), but most importantly, although though it’s a new place built around an idea purposefully to recreate that feeling of nostalgia, to me it had character and atmosphere.

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