02 January 2008

A thought-provoking trip

I am opening up 2008 by booking another trip - this time, to Orlando, Florida, for a week in February, on business. It will be my first-ever visit to Florida. Although Orlando will not play a role in Perfect Girl, it still is a place that can provoke new thoughts.

When I needed a boy name for Sarah's past, I wanted to come up with an awkward-sounding name that started with an S. I didn't have much luck - until I started remembering the Amtrak schedule, and the town of Sanford, Florida, a suburb of Orlando. Sanford is a major Amtrak stop, where both the Auto Train from the Northeast and the Sunset Limited from Los Angeles terminate. I don't know how the town got its name, but the name Sanford stuck, and became Sarah's boy name. I don't expect to get out to Sanford though - aside from the train station and an airport, it appears to be just another suburb, far away from both the Orlando airport area (where I will do business) and the theme parks.

I will be flying on Sarah's airline again, and I found that United serves Orlando (nonstop from Los Angeles, which helps me quite a bit) but not Sanford, ruling out writing a scene where Sarah works a flight to Sanford. (It would've been pretty interesting to write!)

What will provoke my thoughts would be that I am visiting Florida, a state that is notorious for its rigged political system (as evidenced by its 2000 presidential election fiascoes that led to the narrowest of wins for W), as well as the conservative streak of the population, both from the Cuban exiles down in Miami and from the evangelicals throughout the rest of the state. The city of Largo fired a talented city manager last year for being transgender. Florida is one of the few states to ban gay adoptions.

Of course, the reactionary Disney Corporation and its dominance of Orlando theme park industry cannot be ignored either. However, Disney is also well-known for being LGBT-friendly, and shows an Ellen DeGeneres film at EPCOT Center, which I am planning on visiting on my day off. I have to ask: how will Sarah, and the politically aware Kirsten, both feel about the likes of Disney (or Coors Brewing Company, or Toyota Motor Manufacturing USA, for that matter), companies that support the LGBT community yet donate heavily to its conservative enemies as well? Speaking of Toyota, I reserved a Prius hybrid for the duration of my stay.

On another thought, perhaps I may find Orlando to be eerily familiar, thanks to its similarities to Southern California, particularly Orange County. Not only is Orlando also located in its own Orange County, but its dominance by Disney and other LGBT-friendly yet right-leaning media conglomerates is similar. Evangelical Christians and conservative immigrants (Korean, Vietnamese, and Central American, in the case of Southern California) are also a factor in both areas.

In terms of actual novel progress, Orlando won't push me forward. But it will definitely provoke some thoughts in me, and I look forward to that.

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