Orlando

Norfolk: Day 1 – Travel and tribulation

It’s 10am as I’m sitting here, fighting sleep in the middle of a crowded terminal and writing this intro while waiting for my flight to begin boarding. I had less then 3 hours of sleep as my shoulder and gut bothered my for most of the night and I had to leave the condo no later than 8am to get to the airport in time to get through both the chaos at AA’s self-check-in area and the notoriously difficult TSA screening area. This is going to be a great day.

So, we arrived at PHL approximately 20 minutes early. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, except that my layover has now gone from 2 hours and 40 minutes to just under 3 hours. Three hours at an airport is a long time so I stopped to get lunch in the food court between terminals B and C before heading over to the shuttle at gate C10.

I got off the half-full shuttle, walked up to the giant monitor above the “Information” desk and saw there was a flight to Norfolk leaving in less than 30 minutes from gate F29 so after some careful consideration, I decided to go for it. I get to the counter, speak with the middle-ages agent who looks at with a plastic airline smile and says:

“I’m sorry, the last passenger has already boarded, and the plane door is already shut.”

“So,” the gravity of the situation sinking in. “You’re not saying I’m too late?”

“Yes, but don’t worry. There’s another flight in only two hours. I’m sorry. Have a nice day.”

That’s the thing about people being “sorry” for me, it’s always bad news and their semi-sincere apologies never actually change the situation. However, I likes how she said “only two hours” as if pissing away time in an airport was easy and fun. It wasn’t.

I go back to the dining area near the entrance, put my bags on a chair and sit down at the table next to them. Less than a minute later, I’m approached by a blonde-haired young man in a bright yellow vest, probably going to tell me to “move along” or something.

“My name is Alex, and I work for the airport. And I have a, um, question for you. Are you coming in or out – arriving or departing today?”

“Both,” I replied cautiously.

“You mean like a layover, um, okay, thank you. Sorry for bothering you.”

What the hell just happened? I know he was fishing for a reason to toss me out of the airport, but his body language and anxious tone said otherwise. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was…. *facepalm*

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s TWO “missed connections” in less than ten minutes. Yeah, overthinking an awkward two-minute encounter with a super-hot airport employee I’ll never see again is definitely going to make the next hour and…ugh, forty-five minutes just fly by. It didn’t.

An hour later, I was sitting in the crowded terminal area when the gate opened and people stream out of the small plane parked outside said gate, down a set of narrow stairs and down a cattle shoot to the gate that I’m supposed to be traveling out of. That is not a good sign, and it was exactly what I was afraid would happen. Guess what, it did, and as a special bonus, I was too large for my seatbelt to fit correctly and my toes were scrunched up in the same under-the-seat-in-front-of-me area as my bag. I had friction blisters on my toes, and my vacation hadn’t even started yet. The good news was it was only an hour long flight. Yep, wait three to fly one.

I leave the plane, relieved that I’m exiting into the gate rather than down those narrow stairs, and pass through the windowed bridge linking the terminal to the main lobby (which resembles the pre-security seating area at MCO) – where I could see that it was pouring rain outside. It was almost 6pm so I stopped into the only restaurant in the building that was still open – a sports bar with more TVs than patrons despite the nearly full airplane I just got off of.

I finish my food and head downstairs to the Baggage Claim area where I eventually find an information counter. When I asked the clueless young woman in the beige Navy uniform where the ground transportation counter, she just looked at me blankly. Apparently, ORF doesn’t offer “shared ride services” so if I wanted to do anything besides pick up my luggage and take it to my rental car (duh, this is America – EVERYONE drives), I was like the Navy says “SOL.”

I take my hat out of my bag, flip the hood of my raincoat up and walked around on the median until someone asked if I “needed a cab.” It wasn’t my first choice of transit, but it beat walking around on an uncovered median for another 10-15 minutes as my vacation officially opened….

Categories: adventures, florida, flying, Norfolk, Orlando, Pennsylvania, Philadephia, transportation, Virginia | Leave a comment

Healing a pain in the backside

Came back from my Primary Doctor this afternoon (after trying to get an appointment for the past month or so), I arrived about 20 minutes early to get paperwork and whatnot out of the way. But all they did was have me sign in. After a half-hour of waiting, the nurse calls me back to get my vitals.

While she was checking my BP, I was telling her about my diet and getting out more…and when I stepped off the scale she looks at me and says: “you’ve gained 15 pounds.” She leads me around the corner to an exam room and tells me the doctor will see me “shortly.” Finally, another half-hour later, the door bursts open and another nurse comes in:

“You forgot your co-pay at the desk,” she said shoving a receipt or something in my face.

We can’t forget what’s really important here now, can we? I checked my bag…and, naturally, my checkbook isn’t in there (it was back on my desk). She informed me they didn’t take cash so I either forked over a credit card… or forfeited my entire afternoon. She returns 10-minutes later with my card and a receipt for me to sign, and 10-minutes after that, the doctor finally comes in the room.

He looks at the chart he picked up from the rack in the door and asks what brought me to his office today: “Alternating diarrhea and constipation,” “occasional severe pain in my stomach,” “queasy, bloated, semi-nauseous feeling that is sometimes relieved by eating and sometimes made worse by it.”

He stops me and informs me of what I already know: “That’s definitely Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”

“That’s odd, YOUR nurse prac on my last visit said it was ‘Kidney Stones’ with a ‘Urinary Tract Infection.’”

He looks at me sourly, gets up, takes his laptop with him and leaves the room. Ten minutes later, he returns with another sour look on his face but says nothing. After sitting down on his stool again, he asked in a professional tone if I had “any other issues” to discuss with him.

I asked him about my shoulder, he grabs it, lifts it up (though I only got it up halfway)\towards him (yep, halfway again) and back behind me (less than a quarter, but it definitely hurt the most). He asked if there were any “continuous, repetitive motions” I made on a “regular basis.” I told him, “yeah, but I use my RIGHT hand for that.” Hey, that’s the same look he gave me too.

He then shrugged and said it was “probably mild Tendinitis, nothing to worry about.” If this is “mild,” I’d HATE to know what “severe” feels like.

Speaking of severe, I mentioned the other pain and swelling my IBS was causing (that and a failed, um, “experiment” I won’t get into here) – that it was making it painful to sit down and next to impossible to sit still though I conceded that was “probably my Asperger’s or ADHD,” he shrugged both suggestions off – which I wasn’t sure if that meant he didn’t believe it or took it for granted.

Regardless, he said of my rectal issue, there is only ONE way to check it. I asked if he was SURE there wasn’t some “less invasive” method of doing this, and he looked at me like that was the dumbest question he’d heard all day. Let’s just say if I thought having strangers touch my shoulder was awkward… (yes, I know, gay man in his mid-30s should be totally used to that by now… but I’m not – I can’t stand people touching me).

Fortunately, he didn’t find anything too bad: some redness, irritation and “minor hemorrhoids” (yes, I definitely felt it when he found it) saying some over the counter medicines (which burn like Hell for 8-10 hours after application) and they’ll “be gone within a week.”

The doctor directs me back to the payment counter, and the nurse asks me about scheduling a “follow-up appointment.” I know, I should have, but I need a chance to recover first…

Categories: Autism, florida, Health, healthcare, Orlando | Leave a comment

Editorial: Summer openings and other comments

Avatar Land – Disney has been REALLY hyping this area recently from the weeklong preview on The View (which I was actually there for part of) and weekly teaser videos on their blog (which they know will be picked up by other blogs and websites). What little I’ve seen of it looks great… without legions of strollers or EVCs in the camera’s way. I would have rather they found something a little closer to home (they already have rights to the Pokémon anime which is also fantasy\family friendly\HUGE built-in fan base and that they could’ve easily opened it 5 years ago for one tenth of the cost) but I’m still looking forward to riding their two main attractions… when the crowds thin a bit after their big summer season.

Frozen Games – Disney is bringing back last year’s popular sidekick event at their ice themed water park. I thought Frozen fever peaked about 2 years ago, but why waste a good theme. Besides, it sounds like it could be fun. #TeamKristoff

Star Wars Land – Is a full year away from opening and yet every line of every artist rendered teaser sketch is being picked apart for even the slightest new detail of the two lands. To say they are hyping these two areas is an understatement, but unlike Avatar Land, I think these fraternal twin projects will be a HUGE win for Disney.

Toy Story Land (which was supposed to open quickly to give guests “something to do” while waiting for SWL) – Nothing. No news, no rumors, nothing.

Volcano Bay – Universal’s replacement for the recently shuttered Wet ‘N Wild opens the same weekend as Avatar Land. I’m certainly excited (even though my apartment complex already has a pool), but I’ll wait until some of the inevitable early bugs in their system are worked out before commenting.

Categories: disney world, editorials, florida, news, Orlando, Universal Studios | Leave a comment

Transit troubles

Note: These are some actual updates from my Facebook page of the same name about my day going to\getting back from seeing the new exhibit at Orlando Science Center (a traveling one at that). Some of said stats have been edited to fit a more detailed narrative timeline.

 

10:56am – Chased out of the apartment by the obnoxious noise the landscape crew was making with their mowers and whackers. I got everything together to go out… just in time to see them packing up as well. Maybe a little adventure will give this headache a chance to go away…

11:35am – Disembarked at Lynx Central Station and immediately traded my transfer pass for a Sunrail card as I figured (wrongly as it turned out) that an 11-minute train ride would be easier than a 25 minute bus ride… or it would have been except the last morning train left six minutes ago…and “mid-day” trains come at TWO HOUR INTERVALS?

11:55am – I am strongly considering opening my Lyft app and requesting a fricken ride. The only problem is the battery on my phone is running out so I shut it down for the remainder of the afternoon to conserve power.

12:25pm – I am hungry, and decide to go into the actual station itself to get something to eat. It turns out, the building itself is pretty bare bones with restrooms (complete with not-at-all-creepy “these restrooms are being monitored…” sign #eww), vending machines and a rack of schedules across from the entrance (which was closed due to maintenance).

12:47pm – I just finished lunch at their tiny in-station café. No menu, no tables and the cashier tried to rip me off, but it filled 15 minutes so whatever. Yeah, meanwhile, I am sitting here realizing how noisy it is out here: birds, buses coming\going, station announcements and guys with leaf blowers (because someone hates me today).

-1:13pm – Only fifteen minutes to go. ^_^

-1:28pm – After watching two Amtrak and one southbound Sunrail train zoom past me, the Northbound train to Orlando Health finally arrives.

-3:38pm – On my way back from Orlando science center. I was there to see their temporary exhibit #AstronautOSC. I haven’t decided if it is worth writing a review of or not. I like space stuff, but this exhibition was kind of #meh.

-5:04pm – Got on at the wrong bus at the transfer so the driver rudely threw me off at the last stop. He did begrudgingly let me back on 15 minutes later with a condescending lecture about it being “YOUR responsibility to make sure you get on the right bus.”

Sorry, I keep forgetting I CHOSE to have a brand-new car totaled by a teenager I never saw coming. The best part, the state rewarded my pain and suffering by revoking MY license forcing me to deal with assholes like this. 😡

-5:21pm – Thanks to that blunder, I arrived at The Florida Mall about 40 minutes later than I planned. I have less than 20 minutes to get dinner on the opposite side of the mall before my transfer pass expires (as he refused to issue me a new one). Fortunately, it’s a food court, so it shouldn’t be too hard.

6:20pm – On my way back now, I had to use my last remaining ones as my transfer pass expired just as I was leaving the food court… but I still haven’t decided if I’m doing a full write-up my visit to OSC. Fortunately, I have just over a half-hour to make up my mind…

Categories: adventures, Autism, florida, LYNX bus, Orlando, sensory processing disorder, Sunrail, transportation | Leave a comment

Photo: Orlando Eye at dusk

Categories: entertainment, florida, Orlando, Orlando Eye, photography | Leave a comment

Opinion: “Wasted space at Disney”

Theme park Tourist recently posted (reposted from 2015) a story about the 5 biggest (in their opinion, not mine) “Wastes of Space” at WDW with a clickbait-y “literally” just for good measure. Of course, they cover the basics: Odyssey Restaurant (I’ll throw in Tomorrowland Terrace), Tomorrowland Speedway, The Outpost (which I always assumed was more “Australian” than “African,” but I digress), the abandoned Wonders of Life pavilion and Chester & Hester’s Dinorama (1000x YES!!!).

I agree that Dinorama is largely useless, but I’m not sold on their idea to tear it out and put in another thrill ride (since it covers roughly the same footprint as the nearby Dinosaur attraction). My suggestion would be to take out that and the Theatre of the Wild (and while their “Finding Nemo” show IS popular also takes up a HUGE amount of space in Dinoland USA) and replace it with an Australian themed exhibit (I’d say Antarctica, but that’s already taken).

Seriously, I haven’t been to The Boneyard so I cannot comment on it either way, but Dinosaur regularly has a wait of 45-60 minutes and “Finding Nemo” is usually packed. When was the last time you saw an actual line for either of the two carnival rides, eating at the trailer “diner” or anyone playing their noisy games. I can’t stand being in that area because it’s too frenetic and noisy, but the biggest nail in that area’s coffin is the ONE store in the land sells toys\apparel themed to Cars, Toy Story and even Star Wars (seriously)… but nada for The Good DINOSAUR (in a land themed to dinosaurs).

That brings us back to World Showcase. Yeah, Frozen Ever After is fun, and I love walking through the various pavilions… but what exactly does The Outpost do besides take up space? I don’t know if they have enough space there for a full pavilion or not but, surely, they can do better than leather bracelets, frozen colas and a bunch of drums for kids to bang.

I have a lot more thoughts, but it’s after midnight as I’m typing this. I may or may not get to posting the remainder of this reaction later this week.

 

Categories: adventures, disney world, editorials, florida, news, Orlando | Leave a comment

Valuable information

Great news – the receptionist said the insurance company declined my doctor’s visit this afternoon. You know what it means when the doctor can’t help you: I’M CURED…or not. The truth was, I had zero interest in or need to see said doctor – especially on such a cold, miserable and rainy day.

In fact, I spent the entire morning on the phone with the insurance company making sure I wasn’t wasting my time going out to this appointment and then calling the primary physician to confirm it with their office to recall the insurance company… and at that point I was going through with this regardless.

Keep in mind, I can’t just hop in a car and drive there. Unfortunately, I had to anyway just so the driver can literally pass right by me without stopping and report me to the app as a no-show. I was literally exactly where I said I was standing, and with waiting for a new driver (who the app assigned 5-stars on my behalf) very nearly made me late for my appointment.

To be fair, it wasn’t his fault I was an hour late leaving the apartment for my errands. For instance, I couldn’t find the deposit slips for the bank, and the line inside was at probably 15-20 minutes so I had to use the ATM outside which worked reasonably well and got me on my way relatively quickly. I had a disgusting lunch, checked the times for the trolley to Sand Lake Road and opened my transportation app. I already gave you the non-story there so I’ll just say that I arrived with less than six minutes to spare before my appointment.

“New or returning patient,” the receptionist said barely looking up as I entered. I couldn’t tell if the receptionist was bored, uninterested or both. “Here, give me your insurance card and fill these forms out. You’re lucky we aren’t busy right now, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to help you” (an ironic bit of foreshadowing).

As I said above, I have no “need” to see this doctor and filling out the four page packet made that painfully clear to even the most uninterested reader (seriously, it’s like that nurse when I had my EKG in October said “if you aren’t having heart trouble, why the hell are you getting an EKG?” “I don’t know. I didn’t schedule it.”)

Finally, after 45 minutes, she calls “Mr. Twaaaygeer” up to the counter and tells him that he will not be seeing a doctor today. He, sorry I lack permission from the insurance company because I lack a Primary Care Physician – “You’re supposed ‘Primary’ has never heard of you, and your last visit there was with a Nurse Prac back in OCTOBER and the doctor who sent you down here doesn’t count – only a PRIMARY can make a referral. You need to make sure you get all your things in order BEFORE you make an appointment!”

“Thanks for the lecture. I wasn’t the one who made this appointment, the doctor I saw earlier this month did. I knew this was a huge waste of time. Congratulations, I’ve just proven RIGHT!”

“No, you haven’t. You have gained valuable information and now have explicit instructions on EXACTLY what you have to do to move forward with your care. See your primary, get a referral THEN come back, we’ll save the paperwork you just gave me to your file. Have a nice day, and we look forward to seeing you again, Mr. Twaaaygeer.”

Disappointed AND humiliated – burn! But, hey, at least, she cares what kind of day I’m having, even if its in the least sincere tone possible.

It’s just over a half-mile from the hospital to the Dunkin Donuts on Sand Lake Road where I usually stop on my way back from appointments like this as it’s roughly halfway between the hospital and the trolley stop I need to take back to the apartment. It’s a long walk (“35 minutes” according to Google Maps), and I spent the duration of it trying to convince myself I was in a better mood than I obviously was, and when I got to the plaza it was in, I stopped in front of a menu board on the sidewalk contemplating if I should take a sandwich home for dinner (as it was already after 4pm) when I hear:

“Hi, I’d like to talk to you about investing with Primerica!”

Great, as if I wasn’t already feeling bad enough, he effectively has me cornered. He’s standing less than a foot away from me and making direct eye contact with me so I can’t escape. He’s caught me looking at the menu board so I can’t say I “don’t have time” and, frankly I have ZEROS excuses to give him on why I can’t listen to his sales pitch. Literally none are coming to my head – I love when I do that. I need my brain to work, and it doesn’t.

Yep, once again, my “flight” response is triggered with no escape routes (why can’t it ever kick in when there IS one) so my brain just shuts down instead. It’s a perfect defense mechanism as it leaves me utter defenseless. When I finally get away, I’m too anxious to order coffee (what if he’s waiting outside the store?) which I guess is good as coffee\donuts are bad for me.

I continue on Sand Lake Road to the trolley stop on I-Drive. The rain has mostly stopped, but the sky is still dark and cloudy making it feel later it really was (the relatively cold wind wasn’t helping). Fortunately, said trolley arrived within three minutes of me arriving at the stop.

I decide maybe getting some food would make me feel better so I hopped off the trolley near a chain restaurant and proceeded to prove my theory wrong. I also used my return fare for the trolley so I had to take the balance out of my server’s tip (which I really didn’t want to do). At least, I have lunch for tomorrow.

I leave the restaurant to find the last vestiges of sunlight burning in my eyes. It was a hopeful sign (kind of like a blindingly bright rainbow), and I hope it foretells good days to come… as the rain is coming down again as I’m typing this.

Categories: adventures, Autism, florida, Health, healthcare, insurance, Orlando, sensory processing disorder, Williamsburg | Leave a comment

Review: Epcot’s inaugural International Festival of the Arts

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First off, today is Saturday. I never go anywhere NEAR the parks on a Saturday unless I absolutely have to…or unless I’m super bored and the event only happens on weekends like the inaugural Epcot International Festival of the Arts.

Theme Park Tourist couldn’t recommend it highly enough – even going so far as to suggest making it a multi-day event for art\food lovers. I wouldn’t that far, but I do see it’s appeal… as a way to draw attendance to the park between the phenomenally popular Flower & Garden Show and the overpriced pub crawl know as Food & Wine Festival. Nothing wrong with that – Busch Gardens hosts its own Food & Wine Festival during their slow season.

The problem (and you knew I’d have one) is Disney is trying too hard to make what little they’re offering sound like a lot more than what it is (kind of Hollywood Studios). I’ve been to arts festivals in Miami (Beaux Arts), Harrisburg (Kipona), Baltimore (Artscape), Tampa (Gasperilla Festival of the Arts) and, yes, even Shamokin has one (Anthracite Heritage Festival of the Arts) and none of them were like this.

It’s like the people planning this had never been to an arts festival.

I get this is mainly about drawing people into the park so they can spend their money in DISNEY’S stores and restaurants (so no blocking paths leading to attractions or restaurants) so even though they also advertise this as a “culinary festival,” those tasty “seminars” were tucked safely behind Disney’s trademark paywall.

To be fair, this was one of the weak complaints TPT made of the event: Little food, big prices and long lines. At Artscape, I couldn’t walk 50 feet without running into a food vendor, here the closest thing to fest food was the existing Funnel Cake House at the American pavilion (and, yes, it had a line too). In fact, there were times where I completely forgot I was walking through an “Arts Festival” rather than an overcast day at Epcot.

As I was walking through the various “Art areas,” I noticed they were dominated by house booths with house merchandise. Don’t get me wrong, ALL of the festivals above had their own merch tents – Artscape had several of them spread throughout their festival – but they had other vendors there. Some of them varied in price\quality (see early years of Heritage Fest), but they weren’t all house booths.

Normally, I’d give them some slack for being an inaugural event, but this is DISNEY and I know they can do better than this. Well, there’s always next year…

Categories: adventures, art, disney world, editorials, entertainment, festivals, florida, news, Orlando, ramblings, retail | Leave a comment

Confession: I didn’t watch the inauguration

I used to post moderately conservative posts on this blog back at the beginning of the primaries in 2015 so it’s kind of embarrassing to say I didn’t get to watch the inauguration. It’s not that I was “protesting” or “boycotting” it…though I was planning on checking out that whole inaugural International Festival of the Arts at Epcot this afternoon.

Unfortunately, I didn’t do either.

I woke up at 5am with a dry throat and sore stomach and after I got some water and used the bathroom I went back to bed…and when I woke up: it was 1:30 in the afternoon! Too late to do anything about EITHER inaugural event, but at least I was feeling better so that’s good.

Fortunately, I’m not worried about the Epcot thing all that much as it’s going through the end of next month (and, truthfully, the ONLY reason I’m even considering going is because I don’t want to “waste” my AP). Eh, tomorrow’s another day…

 

Categories: disney world, florida, news, Orlando, politics, ramblings | Leave a comment

New Year’s resolution

I don’t generally make “resolutions” because I hate disappointing myself with promises I have no intention of keeping. However, I have decided to make a change to this blog starting today that will probably kill what’s left of my page views: No Disney, Universal or SeaWorld through at least the end of August if not later. This will force me to find NEW places to see and explore like Winter Park, Lake Mary, Downtown, Kissimmee. I might even spend an afternoon at Fun Spot or Magical Midway.

I have other plans that are still in the planning stages and I’m hesitant to reveal them now as I had to cancel LAST summer’s plans (a 3-week summer job and a 5-day volunteer job) due to a still unexplained stomach ailment that wreaked havoc on my body for 6 full months – and I didn’t even lose a single pound! That last part really frosts me as I was really looking forward to fitting into my old jeans again.

I am also looking into more volunteer and summer jobs – the former are for the immediate Orlando area which is difficult for since most of the opportunities are downtown – and I’m in Williamsburg\LBV area. As much as I’d love to spend six months helping the OSC (though working two or three 1-day events over same period would look better on my resume), I have no car, no friends with cars and I have found local cabbies to be unreliable at best. The latter is anywhere BUT Florida, however, I have extremely poor luck in this over the past few years, but I have hope that this year will be different.

Yes, THIS year will be different – and that regardless of what happens, is a resolution I plan to keep.

 

snoopy-goodyear

* HAPPY NEW YEAR *

Categories: Advocacy\volunteer, announcements, florida, holidays, job hunting, Orlando, photography | Leave a comment

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