Leah and I just returned a week before yesterday from a week and a half trip to Orlando, Florida, where we stayed with her mom Tina and stepdad Eric, had Thanksgiving dinner with them, and for me at least, had a much-needed vacation. The intervening week has been another eventful one, what with Tyler and Angie’s baby (please welcome to the world my new friend Max Vincent), but I’ve been working off and on on this post since.

See, we’re not the touristy type, so no Disney World for us. Leah already hit Universal Studios when she was down there some years ago, as did I on a high school trip, along with Epcot, even longer ago. And we didn’t really have a lot of money to throw around. It’s a major improvement in our overall standard of living that we can afford to make such a trip at all! Not to mention a pretty good deal from Allegiant Air on their quick non-stop flights between Cedar Rapids and Sanford.

We had a blast tooling around town in a ratty old ‘82 Delta 88 that Tina and Eric let us borrow. Much cooler than a rental car because we looked like bona fide locals. We met some wonderful people (shout-outs to Rocky & Billie, Andy & Briel, Louis, Joe, Ted, Craig, Shawn, Joe, and DJ Di). In the midst of one seemingly mold-stamped strip mall after another, we found some pretty cool places to shop and/or hang out that I’d like to pass along to anyone else that may be in Orlando soon and looking for something to do:

Downtown Orlando. Quite a lot of annoying booty bars down here, but some good people-watching. Many bars set up some outdoor seating, since the weather is usually friendly, so you don’t even have to interrupt your people-watching to get your drink on.

Bar-B-Cue Bar. Downtown on Orange Avenue. Despite the name, this place doesn’t have food, and thank goodness, because it’s not the kind of place you’d want to eat in anyway. It’s basically your dirty old rocker bar, with a cement floor, rundown thrift-shop furniture, and walls covered in band stickers, posters, and graffiti. In other words, my kind of place. The jukebox is full of very cool indie/alternative stuff, although a lot of the album covers/songs lists are missing, so if you’re trying to find a particular song on Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary, you’ll have to enter the track number from memory. Also, via a back door, it connects with a couple other odd little bars whose names I never figured out. Downside of the Bar-B-Cue: lots of really annoying indie hipster guys (quite possibly local musicians), hanging around being uptight and trying to look sooooo cool in their carefully-disheveled indie hipster outfits with their super preppy bimbo-hottie girlfriends.

The Social. We never actually went in here, but it’s next door to the Bar-B-Cue and it’s where all the rock shows were going on. There was a show pretty much every night, but most of the few bands we’d heard of weren’t ones we like (we’d heard that Murder By Death was playing, but never figured out what night). They seem to have a really strict re-entry policy too, which sucks. Leah really hates that. Sometimes you want to get some air between bands, y’know? Still, it seems like it’s worth checking their show schedule.

Static. 240 N. Orlando Ave, In Winter Park. Stumbled into it mostly by accident the first time after Rocky and Billie had mentioned it to us at the Bar-B-Cue, then got seriously lost twice trying to find it again. Pretty much a rock apparel and accessories shop, a tad pricey as such places usually are. Lots of punk t-shirts and even a whole wall of Emily Strange gear. Patches, buttons, you get the idea.

Guitar Den. 5515 S. Orange. This is probably about the coolest vintage music gear shop I’ve ever been to. They had a ‘62 P-Bass perched up high behind the counter they were asking nineteen grand for – I don’t know what its story is. Tons of vintage guitars and amps ranging from acknowledged classics to off-brand oddities. Lots of old Fender and Kustom amps. The guys working were very cool and friendly. Even just looking around, you’ll have a good time.

Park Avenue CDs. One of those hip CD shops you have to go to a decent-sized city to find. Sorry if I can’t find the address, but it’s on an east/west street just a little north of East Colonial/Fashion Square Mall. Aloma maybe, or thereabouts. Even their used CDs section was good, I got the first Liars CD and the newest stuff by Sleater-Kinney and Parts & Labor from there. I was tempted by a lot of the new CDs in the main sections of the store, including an Unwound CD and a 2-disc “best-of” compilation of The Fall; they also have an “Experimental” section that had some very cool stuff – but damn, new CDs are so expensive these days. Actually that Fall compilation was quite reasonable for a double-disc. Anyway, cool place. This is where we met Ted, who told us about:

Rock & Roll Heaven. 1814 N. Orange. Hint: Don’t try to get from S. Orange to N. Orange in rush-hour traffic if you haven’t done it before under better circumstances. We actually went in a circle and ended up back on S. Orange going south, and we thought we were just following the road. Oh, and by the way, rush hour last like three hours. Anyway, this is a straight up record shop. Racks of vinyl of every description. Looking for some old Left Banke 45s? That hard-to-find New Order 12” single? Some obscure punk LPs? They probably got it. They have some stuff on CD too, but nowhere near the selection they have on vinyl, and it tends to be organized kind of weird and occasionally haphazardly, so if you’re looking for anything in particular, check several different sections. Which is more fun anyway, because then you discover stuff. Since I still don’t have a turntable, and LPs would probably be hard to get back home in our luggage, I got a CD of live Hawkwind from ‘70-‘72 (pre-Lemmy even!) called The Text Of Festival.

Boom Art. 1821 N. Orange, directly across the street from Rock & Roll Heaven, this crazy creative guy runs a shop selling stuff he makes. Home decor, fashion accessories, postcards, all sorts of stuff with retro pop-culture themes. Guy has a thing for old pulp novels, so he sells things like “Pit Stop Nympho” light-switch covers. The man has got his own distinctive style, that much is for sure.

Deja Vu. 1825 N. Orange. Vintage clothing shop right next door to Boom Art. I was going to go back and get a suit jacket, maybe a plaid one, but didn’t manage to make it back there. They’ve definitely got cool stuff though.

Express Body Jewelry. They have one of those little mall-carts in Fashion Square Mall, and I bought my new 4-gauge circulars there. Very nice and helpful.

Flea World. In Sanford, “the world’s largest flea market.” You could get lost in there, even though they provide maps. Row after row of little booth shops where you can probably buy seemingly just about anything. We got a bunch of used CDs pretty cheap, and this $20 video game thing that has a ton of old Nintendo-type games built in. I had no idea that there was a console out that could play either NES or Super Nintendo games, but at least one place there sells them. The same place that had it also had an Intellivision and a lot of other “retrogame” stuff, including some Atari 2600 stuff. You can also find car stereo gear, grills (as in, the tooth-jewelry kind), all manner of Asian-made goods with badly translated packaging, and a music shop that caters to Latino musicians. Hell, you can even get your car windows tinted at this place.

Radio stations: at 91.5 on the dial was a rather adventurous college station; “Real Radio” 104.1’s talk shows were often entertaining, and on the weekend they played a lot of 80s/90s “alternative” stuff.

DJ Di runs a fun karaoke show at various bars, including Tina and Eric’s hangout Clicks. We found her at another place whose name I forget now, and sang a few songs. Which was where we ended up meeting:

Libyan Hit Squad. A really cool local garage/punk band. Craig was especially fun for me to talk with because I don’t meet a whole lot of folks who share my love for music the likes of Hawkwind and Can. These guys have actually played in Iowa; Craig asked me about the Kickass Tarantulas, who they played with and liked a lot. I ended up hanging out with Craig and Shawn (and to a lesser extent Joe, he was rather quiet) pretty much all night, getting drunk and watching We Jam Econo. They gave me a copy of their excellent CD EP “Death Metal In Jerusalem” too. Told them to look us up if their touring brought them through Iowa again.

Stonethrower. Joe Krapek is a guitarist in Oviedo, he plays in something called Spit Babies and is working on putting together a new band called Stonethrower. They’re in need of a bassist, and possibly a singer, to do some heavy crunchy metal stuff. He’s a cool cat, we hung out and jammed some.

Surfer’s Pub. In Coco Beach. Bills itself as a “sports bar” on its sign, and looks like any regular strip-mall bar from the outside, but cool locals like Rocky & Billie and Andy & Briel hang out there and the jukebox is full of old-school punk. About 13 beers on tap, good ones even.

Coco Beach Actually, Coco Beach seems like kind of a cool little town. The beach itself isn’t bad either. Leah thought the weather was a bit cold for swimming, but I walked around in the surf a bit. We had lunch and some beers at a bar on thew beach whose name I can’t recall, but there was a fairly good cover band playing. The guitar player had a pink guitar with “Maniac” written on it or something like that. And of course there’s the Ron Jon surf shop, where I was eyeballing the long skateboards.

That stained glass guy. Coco Beach has several very talented local artist types worth checking out, many of them have shops there and they were having an art festival when we went there that we checked out. Louis’s mom had a booth there and she does some really great paintings. But I gotta say, the most amazing thing wasn’t at the festival, but rather in a shop a couple doors down from hers in this little mini-mall thing. Sorry I can’t come up with the address, but Coco beach is fairly small. It’s next door to this shop called Space World that sells space program paraphenelia. Anyway, this guy does various woodworking and stained-glass stuff, and among his creations are the world’s only functioning stained-glass guitars – both acoustic and electric. He even had a stained-glass amp with a light in it. He also does other really fantastic guitars with really cool intricate wood inlays and carvings all over them. There was this other guy that hangs around in front of the shop playing the guitars, and holy crap that guy can play.

Space World. Speaking of Space World, check this little shop out while you can, I think the proprietors are planning to retire soon. All sorts of cool NASA souveniers.

Kennedy Space Center. Tina scored us tickets from a guy who works there, I think he’s a customer of hers at Hair Plus (in Fashion Square Mall). We got there a little late and weren’t able to make the last stop on the bus tour, but what we did see was hella cool. They preserved a big chunk of the original control room from the Apollo 11 moon landing just as it was on that day, right down to the pens and ashtrays and partial packs of cigarettes, and built a theater in there where they show a movie presentation about that historical day.

Tina and Eric. Best hosts ever. And they have a playful Oscar fish named Tyson.

So that’s my report on Orlando. We look forward to going back again sometime.

Charlie Schiz

Charlie Schiz
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. I've been weird all my life. It's my time to shine.

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