Where Dreams Come True
by Kiko Matsing
We were booked at the Sheraton Vistana Resort, near that section of Interstate 4 that cut across southwest Orlando and passed through the most famous theme parks in America: Universal, Sea World, and Disney. My sister had called previously from the Philippines to ask if I wanted to use my parent’s time-share that would have expired at the end of February, just two weeks away. Fortunately, I just live two hours north of Orlando where most of the properties were located, and customer service was more than willing to extend the reservations to the week of my spring break. But what would I do with a resort apartment that was good for eight people? I can’t imagine idling away time just sitting beside the pool and sipping piña colada for a week. It turned out that I knew people who would. A cousin from Montreal, tired of this year’s bitter winter, was happy to haul her family and flock to the sunny south. She had a two year old daughter who would love to go swimming and see Disney’s Magic Kingdom; the grandma who came along would prepare for us those much-missed Filipino meals.
Las Vegas for Children
Day two: my suntan was almost done. I had whiled away the time reading Camille Paglia’s offbeat theories on sex whilst lounging among senior citizens that congregated around the pool. So this was the time-share crowd. I felt restless. So far, the only thing exciting about this holiday was the four-jet jacuzzi in the master bathtub. My African roommate, who also came along, decided to spend this vacation sleeping over 12 hours a day, well into the early afternoon. We would start from the resort no earlier than 4 p.m. “Are you bored Biko?,” I kept asking him, worried that I was not being a good host. He would only respond, “but Ted I’m on holiday!”
We would visit the ticket-free areas of the theme parks, like Downtown Disney and City Walk Universal, just as their neon lights flicked on and glittered against the fading day. There is a place called Pleasure Island. As we entered through a bridge, we were greeted by the ginormous orb of Planet Hollywood, followed by a maze of tourist shops, bars, and restaurants. Something in me resisted the artifice of these polished surfaces, and the tremendousness of resources expended in their construction. There was something retrogressive and escapist in this culture that appealed exclusively to infantile pleasures, not unlike Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory or Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. Orlando was as decadent as Las Vegas–only for children.
Being in the middle of all this, right at the moment of the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression, there was a feeling of contemptible Roman excess, as when the late emperors escalated the spectacle of gladiatorial combat and the building of bath complexes, even as the Empire crumbled around them. The Baths of Diocletian–the grandest of these leisure centers–operated up until 537 A.D. when the Goths came and cut off their aqueducts.