One of the keynote speakers today, the accomplished Dr. Sanjay Gupta, put his finger right on the oddity of this place. Making a speech on the Democratization of Information before 3570-odd Phi Theta Kappans busily enjoying themselves at Walt Disney World after having just spent the past few months in Haiti and reporting from West Virginia makes for a decidedly jarring transition.
Mine hasn't been that jarring but I am acutely away of the ir-reality of this resort. No, a pleasure dome, for it is all built on a monumental scale (about the only unpleasant thing is all the smoking that goes on). So here I am, writing by the pool, as the sun begins to set and the evenings frolicking begins at the bar. Two Mallards have claimed the pool as their own, much to the amusement of the last few diehard, prune-handed children. Everything is clean, orderly, and polite and you have to look very hard to find imperfection. After all the guest have gone to bed even the pool area will be magically cleansed in preparation for the next day.
Where am I and what am I doing?
Thanks to the determination of the folks in Student Services at TLF I am attending the annual International Phi Theta Kappa Convention in Orlando (technically at the WDW Dolphin Resort which is 15-20 miles out of Orlando or the airport). And actually, I am really excited to be here. Excited at the exuberance of all the students and advisors. This is a big deal. I have been advising for about a year and this is the first time that I have been getting a clear picture of what this is all about. Useful. This is the best thing that I can say about the conference part of it, although I will say that all of the eagerly lapped up platitudes about leadership are bit hard to take. The convention part of it, all of the yelling, screaming, and carrying on and the tedium of voting for officers I can probably do without (my ears are still ringing from today's exertions). GVB will attest, I just don't know how to have fun at these things.
But this hyperreality is hard to get over. Really hard.
You can see it in the deference of the staff under the guise of "custom care" or whatever it is called, the immaculate nature of everything, and the fact of isolation. This is a planned community in the first sense and it is possible to walk hither and yon (I've been discouraged from doing so as there is a lack of connecting paths, better to take the WDW buses from place to place if you lack a car). I am not trying to be snarky or dismissive. There is no irony here, this is an intentionally constructed simulacra of the real world, an escape.
So far, I've managed two short runs. The first, a 4-miler early yesterday morning, began with me stumbling around in the dark trying to find my way literally when the sidewalk ended and the road disappeared into a tunnel. I ended up cutting through a resort and found a canal path that took me out to a movie studio theme park. No one was around save for the random guest running or walking and the park workers getting ready for the day. It was just me and the wake up sounds of this patch of Florida. Birds (Mynah birds?), rabbits, and even a fox. Everything was tidy though, even this wildlife seemed like interlopers. I managed to see a wart too. A rat trap tucked into the underbrush that screened off a swampy area. Today's was a quick and very hot lunch-time run in the two-hour break I had between a opening session and talk/panel with Rachel Maddow and the afternoon's sessions. 80 degrees as I ran 3.19 miles in an attempt to circumnavigate the resort complex. In this I was not successful as, well, the pavement ended. I came in dripping and overheated with just enough time to shower, grab a quick bit, and get back to the fun. 5 feet of elevation gain on both runs. This place is flat. So flat that I can see forever from my hotel room and count cellphone towers as they set with the sun.
This is all very (expensive) fun but I will be glad to get home where a flat run means nothing less than 100 feet of climbing (unless you count Green Lake). Of course, the reality of my work keeps intruding (as it should) but, for at least one more day, I'll enjoy this.
Oh yeah . . .
AR "Yes" It is possible to get a pinot grigio here but I haven't a clue as to its quality. I have to say that the Whiskey Sour that I was able to get a few sips before it was demolished by an out of control toddler learning to walk was "Meh"—and it was made with Johnny Walker Red.