School is back in session so as routine dictates it’s time to report – What I did over the summer:
I’m not a student, so the only thing that made me aware school was out in June was my inability to skip haphazardly though a theme park with carefree abandon – as I have been known to do from time to time. Instead I was reduced to a vigilant crawl carefully navigating and calculating every step so as not collide with another god damned stroller. Never-the-less, I thoroughly enjoyed my “Flight of Passage” on the back of a banshee in the new land of Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I must admit all my pent up resentment over the fact the ride was nothing more than a cross utilization of the already existing “Soarin’” technology was quickly allayed about five seconds into this spectacular experience. It was actually worth the 90-minute wait.
I also waited in a mutha of a traffic jam virtually creeping only a few feet at time while intermittently moving south on Orlando/Mills Avenue upon leaving Winter Park Village one balmy summer evening in July. Fifteen minutes and one mile further down the road later, I came upon the reason for the congestion; the offer of a dozen glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts for 80 cents. Not even that great of a deal when you consider the offer was only valid in conjunction with the purchase of another dozen doughnuts at full price. I enjoy a warm Krispy Kreme as much as the next guy – I suppose, but Jesus Christ Almighty what kind of sheep wait in a mile-long line to save a few bucks on a box of doughnuts while being willingly coerced into buying two dozen in the process?
I guess this summer I was reminded what peculiar creatures we mortals be. If only people were as enthusiastic about their right to vote and just as willing to wait in line at the polls as they are at a doughnut shop, we might have been spared being saddled with a completely incompetent fool occupying the Oval Office.
Those who hold the highest public offices here in Orlando and Orange County did us proud this summer when both Mayor Dyer and Mayor Jacobs spoke with great humility to the crowd assembled at Lake Eola Park to commemorate and celebrate those who lost their lives at Pulse one year prior. Both mayors struck a perfect balance of compassion for those most closely affected by the tragedy with a measured amount of pride in the collective, compassionate response of our community at large. Neither of these elected officials even so much as flirted with politicizing the event, or using the ceremony as a way to self-promote which has far too often been the case with less sophisticated individuals who seem to delight in the spotlight cast upon them as a side effect of this unfortunate event. As I sat and listened to our mayors speak, I could not help but think how contrasting they were to the rhetoric that comes out of both Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., these days. Also how, just as the world can now take its cue fr
om Orlando’s loving and united response to the Pulse tragedy, our president might take a cue from the appropriate demeanor, carefully chosen words, and unifying message of valuing diversity espoused by our local mayors.
This summer I was reminded how far we have come. From the days, in the not too distant past, when we protested our Orlando police for unlawfully targeting gays with unwarranted arrests on trumped-up charges to now, when we could not be more grateful for their genuinely human response to those in peril regardless of their assumed sexual orientation or ethnicity. Now, when police cars are emblazoned with Pulse tributes, rainbow colors and slogans of unity clearly meant to include the LGBTQ community. The somber occasion of the Pulse-related event in early June somehow managed to be uplifting – a real credit to all those who had a hand in crafting the ceremony. Despite the horrors that necessitated the gathering, that commemorative event not only helped many of us take one more step in moving through our grieving process, but it helped us step into summer a bit less weighted down; lifted up by the firm knowledge that we are fortunate to be living in Orlando at this particular point in history. We are a community to be envied and emulated. Unlike the disgraceful, ill-mannered, undignified, barely literate bully in the White House, we in Orlando have leadership of whom we can and should be proud.
I am also proud of John McCain for his bill-killing vote that will forever be the emblematic footnote of Congress/Summer 2017.
Summer of 2017 brought with it the groundbreaking of the second phase of the Dr. Philip’s Center for the Performing Arts, and yet another reason to take pride in our city. The amazingly flexible space, to be known as Steinmetz Hall, will be an acoustical wonder which will transmit excellent sound to all 1,700 seats on three tiers without the use of electronic amplification of any kind; making it the perfect home for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. Within minutes the space will be able to transform from a symphony hall to a properly-surfaced stage for Orlando Ballet and all manner of dance presentations. Even the seating on the main floor will be flexible. It will be able to literally disappear to make way for banquet-style seating and other practical uses in between scheduled performances.
Summer construction also continues in other places of interest, not the least of which is an all new rain forest area at Sea World set to feature a new river rapids adventure. Infinity Falls will boast the world’s tallest ever river rapids drop! This summer I thoroughly enjoyed the unique experience of attending Sea World at night to delight in all their “Glow” and trance music-enhanced shows and dance party. All while under the influence of ecstasy, which is, I am quite sure, precisely what park executives envisioned based upon their TV marketing of their summer entertainment. May I just say it was an excellent pairing with most satisfying results and I thank the universe for the affordable Uber ride home.
And that’s what I did this summer.
Michael Wanzie is a playwright and theatrical producer residing in Orlando. You may subscribe to his weekly WANZeGRAM performing arts & cultural e-newsletter by logging onto WANZIE.com.