The Haunting of Downtown Orlando

Orlando, that place in central Florida where Mickey’s wallet is fatter than the budget of the city, has suffered terrible economic droughts. Its downtown area has suffered greatly throughout the years, causing the tourist and nightlife scenes to shift to different parts of the city.

I grew up not far from this area. Visits to the famed Church Street Station were ideal for my parents. The kids kept busy wandering through shops and they could have a drink or two. There was Rosie O’Grady’s, a magic shop in the arcade, and even an old train permanently parked in front of the station that bears the streets name. During the day, the shops seem abandoned. The train’s windows are busted and there are more vacancies than occupancies.

Regardless of these conditions, the downtown area is beautiful maybe even more so because of its dilapidation. The architecture of a nearly vacant arcade on Pine Street and Garlind looked like it could have been constructed by M.C. Escher and the train looks ghostly and — strangely — grandfatherly sitting on the tracks like the patriarch of Orlando’s past.

The trip to the city was an interesting way of visiting my own past and seeing the physical and beautiful ruin of places I used to visit.

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