Published: March 2007
T.D. Allman

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

I enjoyed a superb Italian meal at Universal's fake-Positano resort. A Florida friend insisted we go there. I wasn't particularly thrilled at having to visit a plastic Italy since I was about to visit the real one. But the food turned out to be fabulous! Better than anything I had in Italy!

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

I have trouble being capriciously bossed around by people who are allegedly there to perform a service, so the smiley-faced crowd-control regimes in Orlando's theme parks vexed and agitated me approximately twice a day. The valet parking dictator at Universal insisted on collecting six dollars after we'd paid a fortune for that great Italian dinner, even though they'd given us a parking voucher. No six bucks, no car! At Disney, kids in Founding Fathers costumes summarily ordered everyone to leave the Hall of Presidents right in the middle of the voice-over about freedom. Scores of people passively shuffled outside into the pouring rain. When I asked to speak to someone in authority, a guy in breech pants replied, "That's not part of the Disney culture."

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

Orlando is a quirky town. Its ritziest shopping center is called the Mall at Millenia. Here on the moving edge of post-literate America, nine-year-olds can spell Gucci and PlayStation, but no one seems to care that the correct spelling is Millennia. People do point out that the mass-produced new "communities" are often named after what was destroyed in order to create them. At "Osprey Ridge," there's nary a bump, let alone a ridge, and of course no ospreys. Florida has zillions of used car lots, but outside Orlando there's a used heavy equipment lot: cranes, bulldozers, cement trucks, all priced to sell now! While driving around, I passed a place offering "NEW USED TIRES."