Today should have been devoted to writing and housecleaning, particularly since I have an invitation to go to a museum in Gainesville with my mother tomorrow. Instead I've been out driving around the Orlando area, taking Highway 17 north through Kissimmee, past Winter Park and Maitland and up to Debary. Disney World, the one Orlando landmark everyone knows, actually isn't in Orlando at all: it's in Lake Buena Vista, southwest of Orlando and just west--well, west-northwest--of Kissimmee. Winter Park is in the Orlando metro area, but northeast of Orlando proper. (Davenport, where I'm at now, is east of Lake Buena Vista, just off exit 23 on I-4: it seems to consist entirely of diners, to serve interstate travelers and retirees living in the less attractive, treeless hill country in this area.)
None of these towns are quite like what most people think of Orlando as--not even Kissimmee, which most people know only a small section of (the part on US 192 right next to Disney, of course). They're a little quieter and older. As you get north of Orlando, central Florida even becomes hilly as you travel along the Lake Wales Ridge. The ridge is something towns in the area seem to make a great fuss over, but these are the definition of "gentle, rolling hills"--the highest point in Florida is only 345 feet over sea level, and that's actually in the panhandle. Even so, it's definitely not flat--and the land is pretty. So are the towns, with curving, treelined streets and picturesque downtown districts.
Along the way, I stopped to visit what's supposedly the oldest cypress tree in the United States, in a county park somewhere in Seminole County. "The Senator" is over three thousand years old. You thought only redwoods and sequoias lived that long? So did I, really.
The path back home took me through Celebration, the town that Disney founded in 1996. I've visited there reasonably regularly from the time before it opened, an outside observer watching it lurch toward being a real town. It seemed at first everyone was treating it as a Disney attraction--residents, merchants, and one suspects the "Celebration Company" that acts as urban planner, realtor and town council. It's been noted that the early buyers who've been most disappointed with it were the True Believers who thought Disney Magic™ would keep it from having problems. Of course, life doesn't work that way; it's not only had the problems most "master planned communities" have, it's had extra ones that came from being the biggest and most visible New Urbanism experiment to date. Almost none of the stores that opened in its little downtown area in 1996-97 are still there: there's an equal number of restaurants but some of them have changed hands more than once, and the upscale boutique stores have, with few exceptions, been replaced by stores which, yuppie though they may be, sell things that residents rather than tourists might want to buy. The only exception I can remember offhand is a Thomas Kinkade gallery, which is fairly new and which I devoutly hope will join most of its fellows in quietly imploding before the end of the year.
It occurred to me as I was driving around that I was looking for some place to live. But I'd need a job out there to move there, obviously. Has anyone successfully hunted for a job by deciding "I want to live here" and then finding employment? Probably, but I don't know the trick. And, of course, if I was really going to be trying that trick, I'd be trying to get a position on the west coast.
After that thought, it occurred to me (not for the first time) that I need to learn how to network. With people, not with computers. Supposedly the best way to get a job is to find an "in" at a company that you might want to work for--whether they're actually hiring is almost irrelevant; you need to get to someone who has the authority to find you a position and hire you, and convince them that they need your talents there. That'd certainly help me. I've been feeling my lack of degree more acutely in searching for jobs over the last half-year than previously, and my resumé is probably too easy to dismiss as "web scripter." This is part of why I'd like to move into technical writing--the minor problem being that even though I've done technical writing in the past, I've never had it in my title, and I lack experience with some of the canonical technical writing packages like FrameMaker and RoboHelp. (I've never even seen RoboHelp, in fact.)
Well, now it's 8:50, and the pecan pie was indeed good. It's probably time to get back on the road. I'll be listening to CDs I bought at the Virgin Megastore, "The Well" by Jennifer Warnes and the Dirtbombs' new CD, "Ultraglide in Black." I had to get that one, because it's amusing to tell Mick Collins--the lead singer of the Dirtbombs and a friend of mine I've seen quasi-regularly at furry fan conventions since the early '90s--that I buy his punk rock albums at Disney.