Now, most of our hang-outs have been bulldozed and rebuilt. Terror, Yab Yums, Center Court, Church Street, even the little shops within walking distance (in Floridian heat, that is) have vanished from the face of the earth. How do you find people when their world and its culture has been expunged from the face of the planet?
I'm afraid to hop the bus (which used to be 25 cents for students), walk up past Pine Street and turn the corner, lest I discover that the corner is no longer occupied by that little pool hall and the Subway on the other side. Lest I find the smoky Kit Kat no longer standing, and poetry night is no longer held at what used to be Yab Yums. No stage will ever feel the same. Wall Street Plaza was the last vestige of the Bohemian in a tourist city. It was what made Orlando different from Vegas. It was the dirty, poor, beautiful, colorful, and wholly real pit of its soul.
But I'm willing to bet money that those silly swan paddleboats are still floating around Lake Eola (unless Paris Hilton has turned them into little diamond-studded, dog-paddling Chihuahuas). Seriously, guys, I will pay you to sink those things.
My name is Samantha (the last name is new). The first day I moved to Orlando, I ran into someone who looked like me, grabbed his arm and said, "You! Tell me where your friends are." He (Jay, alias "Vlad") pointed me downtown, I took the bus that day, and visited every day thereafter...until I left, to be beside a friend until she passed away. Then, well, life happens and before I knew it, people I'd met over the internet who also hung out on Wall Street (seems we gravitate to one another, bound by something greater than "location") told me the place was shutting down, piece by irreplaceable piece. Like the border towns of an empire, our little world grew smaller and smaller.
I was Ziggy's sister, Charlie's partner in crime, JC's (ixidor's) best friend (and adopted daughter to his dad, who ran Gravity off Center Court), lucianzxzyl's friend, and that's just the top of the list. From Yab Yum's Bryce to Chris Paven to the twins, to Darcy, Marcy, Missy, Kat, Brianna and Megan, Shane, Rob, Caesar and Javier, I could name names all day. Many of them disappeared like stones into the waters of time.
I never thought I'd have the opportunity to reminisce about those dickhead cops who harassed anyone who walked onto that block. I still cringe when I see bike cops, and no one else gets it. :) Whenever I walk past a Subway, the smells of that street come back to me (Hell, I have a scar on my left knee from the business end of a Subway straw, because I this brilliant idea, and thought if I could walk like an acrobat across the black fences that enclosed the garden, I would...reach enlightenment...or something. Hadn't thought that all the way through). Whenever I take a sip out of my black Yab-Yum coffee cup (and yes, I always carried a spare), I think of that place. Whenever I hear bongo drums or see people playing hacky-sack, I think of Squeak and Billy Mike. I remember hiding behind the Satanists when those pamphlet-distributing Christians would chase Mandy (razourfairy) and me all the way up from Church Street. And Church Street...all the little rocks, necklaces, rings and other pieces of crap we'd pick up from that mall. The food court was the only place to get a decent meal for something less than tourist prices. And, I remember when all my girlfriends fell in love with the people they met down there.
We all did, with the place and the people within. Thanks, eddie_offermann, for putting this together and rejoining forty-five of the lost. I'm proud to be one of the few who remembers Orlando at its best.