I have to step up on my platform, and call all of my Orlando pals to hear my speech regarding our “City Beautiful”.
I found a random slide show on Youtube entitled Downtown Orlando that depicts the daytime colors and buildings that we’re all accustomed to, have grown familiar with and connect with as our place of “home.” That’s why when this wanker made the comment of, “don’t go downtown at night . It’s a very dangerous place” I had to take a stance.
While we have all discussed time and time again about how we miss our days at Cairo and our trips through Church Street, we still are trying to keep our night life and our culture alive. And I’m not just talking as far as music culture, I mean the “real” substance and history of Orlando.
But this guy, who lives in Windermere mind you, made comments about how only idiots go downtown and the only “culture” we have is tattoo parlors (incidentally, didn’t they close that one down on Orange Avenue by the old Laser Tag place?)
So with this scare tactic mindset put in place, I had to retort by giving examples of what downtown is really about and how tourists are not going to be randomly shot while on Spring Break, trying to check out a club or a show on a Saturday night. I think what he’s perceiving as downtown Orlando is the now defunct Church Street that we’ve all been moaning about for years now. That’s something that hopefully will be renovated soon. Not that I have any interest in going down to any college pubs and watching naked women hand me a Jell-O shot, but, yes, we use to have a lot going on down there. But if you’ll all recall, we also had the law passed that said the homeless were only allowed to stand on certain, marked areas of the sidewalk. The younger generation (as I was part of back then) was harassed by being pegged as a “gutter punk” who wanted nothing more than to loiter. After that happened we lost anything substantial on Wall Street Plaza and now we have the Cantina that targets, woo hoo, tourists.
By this man not living and being a real part of downtown Orlando for the past ten to fifteen years as I have, as everyone in town as been, the real essence of pride and home and culture and pride that we’ve been trying to support and promote time and time again, is being refuted by now putting fear into tourists minds that downtown is totally unsafe. Well, there’s crime but there’s crime in every city. That’s common knowledge. Actually, the only time I had a problem with a break in of my car (and a handful of other people I knew who were targeted at the same time) was ten years ago when this nesnman guy is saying was safer. So much for what he knows.
I just wanted to send my opinions out to anyone in town who may read this and see what had gotten me so worked up about. All of us are trying to build up our town and to have someone say that only the theme park areas are “safe” just makes me irate. Unfortunately this is probably the opinion of many cash heavy snow birds who put money into big corporations and leave the smaller businesses to crumble. This is why we have lost so many clubs, restaurants, pubs and decent shows to the overly expensive Disney/Universal/MGM machine.
I’ve made a list of links and historical and cultural items that make up the real Orlando that we’re proud to have thriving to this day. As I stated in my YouTube comment, “Walt would be appalled at what Disney has become these days.”
Orlando is also home to the University of Central Florida, which is the second largest university in Florida in student enrollment and has the 6th largest enrollment in the nation.
Orlando is home to the Orlando Magic, an NBA pro basketball franchise that plays at Amway Arena in downtown Orlando. Led by Shaquille O’Neal, the Magic made it to the NBA Finals in 1995. Orlando’s Amway Arena, opened in 1989 is already one of the oldest arenas in the NBA. It will be replaced around 2010 by the $480-million Orlando Events Center.
Orlando Public Library, the main downtown library of the Orange County Library System, which features 15 locations system wide. Situated on an entire city block in the heart of downtown Orlando, the library is an epicenter for arts and cultural events, educational and entertainment resources, and solitude.
The Kerouac House, in the College Park neighborhood of Orlando, is where writer Jack Kerouac lived during the time his novel On the Road was published and released, making him a national sensation and Beat Generation icon. He lived in the house with his mother Gabrielle from July 1957 to the spring of 1958, and wrote his three-act play, The Beat Generation, a 51-chorus poem called Orlando Blues, and the novel The Dharma Bums during his time there. In 1997, the Kerouac Project of Orlando formed, and restored the Kerouac house. It is now a haven for aspiring writers who can live in the house as they create their own work.
Eatonville is a town in Orange County, Florida, six miles north of Orlando. It was one of the first all-black towns to be formed after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and, on August 15, 1887, was the first such town to be incorporated. Zora Neale Hurston grew up there. Every winter, Eatonville stages its annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities and the Zora Neal Hurston Library.
Harry P. Leu Gardens, which is an inner city oasis covering 50 acres (20,000 m²) and features colorful annuals, palms, an orchid house, a floral clock and a butterfly garden.
The Orlando Museum of Art is Orlando’s largest modern art museum. Located in Loch Haven Park, the museum has ongoing exhibitions of American portraits and landscapes, American impressionist works, and art of the ancient Americas. In 2003, the museum hosted the world-renowned full exhibition of the famous glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly.
The Orlando Metropolitan Area is also home to a substantial theatre population. Several professional and semi-professional houses and many community theaters dot the area including Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival, Orlando Repertory Theatre (Central Florida’s only Professional Theatre for Young Audiences), Orlando Theatre Project, Starlight Dinner Theatre, Mad Cow Theatre, Theatre Downtown, The Osceola Center for the Arts, Winter Park Playhouse, Theatre Winter Haven, IceHouse Theatre, and Seaside Music Theatre. Orlando also hosts the Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival every summer.
Church Street Station, a multi-level shopping mall and entertainment center that once featured an abundance of specialty shops, restaurants, nightclubs, and bars. Purchased in the late 1990s by TransContinental Talent owner Lou Pearlman, it is now virtually defunct, as the area suffered in post-9/11 tourist-industry slump. The area is being redeveloped with residential condominiums. Now closed due to bankruptcy and is due to be bought over.
Based on the Morgan Quitno Press “Safest and Most Dangerous Cities of 2007” rankings, Orlando ranks #11 nationaly. It’s to be noted that the American Society of Criminology (ASC) and the FBI object to such rankings and use of data stating “These rankings represent an irresponsible misuse of the data and do groundless harm to many communities” and don’t take into account “factors that influence crime in a particular study area such as population density and the degree of urbanization”.
And, ironically or not in the news today:
Tourist Robbed At Hotel Near Disney
Photo credit: NY Times