A tourism ad for Orlando usually consists of happy-faced kids engaging in hilarious conversation with their long-time buddy Mickey Mouse. It cleverly leaves out the four-hour wait and second mortgage you have to take out just to see him, but you get the idea. Orlando is a family-friendly destination! I’ve never once seen an ad that touted, “Come to Orlando! It is JUST LIKE being in New York City. Honest!” But I’m starting to think there is an ad like this circulating somewhere because how else would you explain why New Yorkers who now live in Florida insist on telling you this is not – and never will be – ANYTHING like New York (motto: We’re A REAL City). And yes, that’s a bad thing.
I had this conversation just last weekend at a social gathering. I introduced myself to a woman from New York who’s first question was, “So how do you like living in BOR-lando?” Usually New Yorkers greet me by honking or shooting so I didn’t think this was a bad start, but then she launched into a laundry list of ways Orlando was NOT New York (motto: We Don’t Smell Anything). She apparently didn’t mind spending twice her income on an apartment where the toilet doubles as a bed because it was located “in the middle of everything.” Everything being: Chinatown where you can have your pick of baby squids or knock-off purses, the subway that takes you anywhere if you happen to be one of the lucky 1,000 to get through the doors before they close, the numerous theaters featuring such timeless classics as “Saving Ryan’s Privates,” and Times Square where thousands of diaper-wearing adults ring in the New Year every year. I pointed out that at least a lady escort in Orlando doesn’t cost as much as $5,000 an hour, as we learned from former governor Eliot Spitzer. And if they do, where would one – hypothetically – apply for that job? But I did agree that New York’s homeless people work a lot harder to rid you of your spare change. The conversation ended with me slowly drifting away looking for someone with more interesting conversation, like a three-year-old child.
According to census data, New York City (motto: I Got Your @#$% Motto Right Here!) is the largest city in America. Orlando is 19th. There are also roughly 1,000 miles of land seperating the two cities. So it only stands to reason there will be differences between the two. For instance, one has Mickey Mouse the other has the mafia. When you visit New York City it’s probably not with the intention of laying out in your bikini by the Hudson River, unless you enjoy the smell of urban blight. Likewise, you don’t come to Orlando to see skyscrapers and dodge taxis.
Central Florida is more than just the flashy gift shops and pricey theme parks that make up the “tourist district” (or what Orlando residents refer to as “ALL The Way Down There?”). It’s the beach, it’s the Magic, it’s NASA, it’s canoeing in Wekiva, skydiving in Deland, dinner on Park Avenue, salsa dancing in Dr. Phillips, kayaking in Titusville, Broadway at Bob Carr, weekend trips to Miami, St. Augustine, Tampa, camping in Ocala, it’s happy hour in downtown Orlando, dancing at Blue Martini, shopping at the outlets, New Haven Avenue in Melbourne. One thing it is not is New York City or even Bismarck, North Dakota. So when you keep complaining that it’s SO boring here, maybe YOU’RE the one who’s boring, not Orlando.