Destination: Florida

Not Your Usual Spring-Break-in-Florida Story

This essay from the NYT, about Alessandra Stanley’s mother-daughter vacation, is causing a stir—no huge surprise, I suppose, when it starts with a line like this: “One of the good things about divorce is that you get to see less of your children.” Stanley and her daughter spent a less-than-idyllic spring break at a super-luxury resort on a private island near South Beach. Here’s a taste:

I imagined sunrise walks on the beach, giggly mother-daughter spa treatments and intimate candlelit meals during which Emma would lean in and at long last tell me what college was like besides “fine.”

I failed to anticipate that exam-rattled 18-year-olds sleep long past noon and then stay up all night (I get up around 6 and am asleep easily before 10). Nor had I known that embedded in the ethos of this particular private island is a class system that places short-term guests below the salt.

Refreshingly honest? Privileged and self-indulgent? The Times commenters are weighing in bare-knuckled. (Via Ta-Nehisi Coates)

76-Second Travel Show: Authenticity and ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’

Robert Reid ponders Andrew Potter's "The Authenticity Hoax" on a visit to Orlando's newest theme park

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Oil Spill Update: Heartbreak on the Gulf Coast

Two more moving pieces on travel and the oil spill in the Gulf: World Hum contributor and Lonely Planet’s U.S. Travel Editor Robert Reid writes about a “sobering and powerful” trip to the Florida panhandle last week, and Carl Hiaasen gets angry about the oil washing up on Florida’s shores. He writes:

It might be difficult for someone who was born and raised far from a beach or a bayou to visualize a place they cherish being poisoned and defaced on such a massive scale.

Or maybe not so difficult. Imagine if 120 million gallons of crude oil were flushed into the Minnesota headwaters of the Mississippi River, and for months the sludge was allowed to seep down through the veins of America’s midwest.

Now you begin to get the picture—the heartbreak, the helplessness.

Previously, Tom Swick wrote for World Hum about the situation in the Florida Keys.

An Ode to the 50 States, Gawker-Style

Gawker’s writers are celebrating America in their own snarky way, with an “attempt to defame each of America’s fifty states.” The latest target? Florida, “America’s jungle rotted phallus,” home of Teences the Driving Dog and the Bong-Smoking Baby.

76-Second Travel Show: A Tribute to the Gulf Coast

Robert Reid visits Florida's Gulf Coast beaches and contemplates an uncertain future

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President Obama on the Gulf Coast: ‘Come Down Here and Visit’

The POTUS is visiting the Gulf Coast today—and he’s urging other Americans to do the same. USA Today’s The Oval blog quotes Obama:

There’s still a lot of opportunity for visitors to come down here. There are a lot of beaches that have not been affected and will not be affected. If people want to help, the best way to help is to come down here and visit.

The Oval dubs the suggestion “oil spill tourism,” but I’m not sure voyeur-style disaster tourism is quite what Obama has in mind. Still, whether it comes in the form of beachgoers who manage to avoid the spill or the morbidly curious aiming to witness its effects, it’s good to see tourism to the beleaguered area being encouraged.

Can’t make it in person anytime soon? World Hum contributor Robert Reid is tweeting from the Florida panhandle. Elsewhere, The Big Picture has a sobering photo essay illustrating the spill’s effects nearly two months in.

London Mayor: ‘Harry Potter is Not American’

Universal Orlando’s latest theme park creation, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, opens next week—and London Mayor Boris Johnson will definitely not be attending any ribbon-cutting ceremonies. Strong words from the Mayor:

I deeply and bitterly resent that Orlando is about to become the official place of pilgrimage for every Harry Potter fan on earth… Because the fact is that Harry Potter is not American. He is British. Where is Diagon Alley, where they buy wands and stuff? It is in London, and if you want to get into the Ministry of Magic you disappear down a London telephone box. The train for Hogwarts goes from King’s Cross, not Grand Central Station.

Don’t worry, London. I’m sure there are still plenty of Potter fans that will want to visit the, er, not-quite-real thing. (Via The Book Bench)

Waiting for Oil in the Florida Keys

Waiting for Oil in the Florida Keys iStockPhoto

On a visit to the islands, where some are now contemplating the unthinkable

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Why I Walk

Why I Walk iStockPhoto

No, it's not quick or expedient. But it offers something other modes of transport can't. Bill Belleville on traveling by foot.

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Interview with Pat Croce: Pirate Soul

M.B. Roberts asks the founder of Pirate Soul Museum in Key West, Florida, about the enduring appeal of pirates

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Revealed: Robert Frank’s Elevator Girl

The previously unknown woman in Robert Frank’s photo “Elevator—Miami Beach,” the woman Jack Kerouac singled out in his introduction to Frank’s book, “The Americans,” has revealed herself. She’s Sharon Collins. At the time of the photo she was working the elevator at the Sherry Frontenac Hotel. 

Kerouac described Collins as “That little ole lonely elevator girl looking up sighing in an elevator full of blurred demons.” In an interview with NPR this weekend, Collins said Kerouac’s description of her was “pretty close.”

He saw in me something that most people didn’t see. I have a big smile and a big laugh, and I’m usually pretty funny. So people see one thing in me. And I suspect Robert Frank and Jack Kerouac saw something that was deeper. That only people who were really close to me can see. It’s not necessarily loneliness, it’s ... dreaminess.

Here’s the iconic photo.

Orlando Memories

Contemplating and celebrating the world of travel

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For Sale: Dinosaur Adventure Land

Theme park down: Dinosaur Adventure Land, a creationist theme park in Pensacola, Florida, has been seized by the government to satisfy nearly half a million dollars owed by its owners to the IRS. The site will be divided up into its nine constituent properties and sold in pieces until the debt is paid—so if you’ve dreamed of owning a fraction of a defunct religious tourist attraction, now’s your chance. (Via Gawker)

Miami International: Off to the Races?

One corner of Airworld could get a lot weirder. There’s a proposal in the works to build a horse racing track in the parking lot at Miami International—apparently, a working track is a prerequisite for the real objective, slot machines at the airport.

Hey, I can see the slogan now: Win back your checked baggage fees!

‘How Much are Venice, the Everglades, and New Orleans Worth?’

‘How Much are Venice, the Everglades, and New Orleans Worth?’ Photo by delgaudm via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by delgaudm via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Andrew Sullivan points the way to a Matt Steinglass post about the limits of measuring climate change damage in economic terms:

There will be no Everglades in 100 years. The economic cost of that change to US GDP is marginal. There will be no Venice in 100 years. The economic cost of that change to US GDP is tiny. There will be no New Orleans in 100 years. The economic cost of that change to US GDP is extremely small. ... But the worth of many precious things cannot be measured in money.