I went down to Orlando yesterday. Orlando is quite a drive (two hours plus) that takes me from what I have helpfully termed Ruralia to a terrifying fake city that has Oz-like qualities for me because it is has the best shopping in Florida; it has become a destination to which I point myself when I feel as if I need a reminder that I did used to live in Los Angeles. That's the once-upon-a-time part that keeps me hurtling southwards on the I-75 despite the knowledge that niche fragrances other than Bond are not available.
Orlando is a manicured sprawl that I find somewhat disturbing. There is a Whole Foods (a beacon, truly) that can only be accessed from this major highway by finding a way to cycle around Universal Studios. There is the Mall at Millennia, now an oasis of desperation since it contains Neiman's and Bloomingdale's and we all know they can't give anything away these days. The Florida Mall mirrors a crappy mall in Tampa by having a Saks anchor in a mid-range, generic mall; this Saks has had the best selection of fragrance in Central Florida. Then there are two outlet malls (Prime and Premium) that are full of merchandise made expressly for them and a much-admired Barney's Outlet that, upon inspection, is out of style by a full season and at that unexciting.
Everything new in Orlando reeks of urban planning. Condo complexes handily adjacent to the Millennia Mall ride high on grass that appears to have been subjected to a Marine buzz cut. A distinct lack of trees marks these complexes that have no resort but to bake in the sun. Across the boulevard are small ranch-type homes from the 1960s in complexes with upscale names like Carrollwood or Windfield; these appear now to be Hispanic neighborhoods that must feel forced to admire the thrust of those condos across the street. Elsewhere, shabby little circles and drives loop you by out-of-business gas stations and confusing street signs; all roads lead either to one of the entertainment meccas or to International Drive (which, for your perfumistas, has two of those stores that sell mainstream scents and a form of smell-a-like with the most hopeful packaging. This is not Parfums de Coeur territory. I have some idea that they wish people would buy these imitations bec. I am fairly sure the markup on them is higher).
Sometimes I have the impression that the whole of Orlando is an urban biosphere that is watched, 24 hours a day, by a giant, all-seeing eye. It's suspiciously clean, especially where money might be spent. Everything gleams, and it isn't just that blinding sun making everything appear so sterile. Bathrooms are spotless and there is every effort made to dazzle the shopper with spectacle, even if said spectacle is merely a discount coupon or a free chicken wing as you walk, blinded, past a chain restaurant that has on its "porch" a man with a big white smile who appears to be playing Calypso music. He's dressed in a tropical shirt that has pineapples on it and he is probably tuneless; behind him he has a boombox that plays the music while he makes excited trills on the steelpan and inveigles you to do something foolish, like eating at that restaurant.
Elsewhere, have you ever been lost on one of those roads in Disney or Universal? They are all designed so you cannot escape. If you try, you will be met with a strict motoring code that virtually ensures you are delivered right back to the front gate: No U-turn, no left turn, no turn on red, turn back, O, Man, to the temple gates!
It is by this system that the lost motorist is mandated to do something illegal. The ticket will arrive in six weeks, in the mail. One day this system will be improved and the ticket will arrive immediately on your cell phone, but please don't try to view this while you are still trying to escape. We don't want you to leave. We love you.
A couple of friends of mine went to Disney for a birthday. The birthday girl got in free and the pair split a Caesar salad. These two are fairly poor and have no fixed address. They tour with medieval fairs, enacting a skit with a mythological creature that has been made out of insulation material and cardboard. They spent two hundred dollars the day they went to Disney, and as Lisa was telling me about their outing, all I could think was: That would have bought most of a bottle of Attrape Coeur.
I bought Stella body cream, something I've wanted since my rediscovery of Stella some months ago. The scent is true to the parfum and I find its sharpness to be sublime. I think I will wear it when I take another road trip, this time to rural Alabama. The South is a weird place. There is much to miss out on.