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Now in our third calendar year
PCR #115 (Vol. 3, No. 23) This edition is for the week of June 3--9, 2002.

La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
La Floridiana Goes West (on vacation!)

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The Magic that is Florida
This is a story that begins in Florida moves west to Colorado and comes back to Florida--enjoy!

The Prelude--The International Festival of Flowers, E.P.C.O.T, Orange County, Florida:

Rising majestically above one many ornamental plantings for the International Festival of Flowers is the Spaceship Earth structure at Walt Disney's E.P.C.O.T theme park.
After the NCPCR episode of the World of Nolan, I lamented to NCPCR comics guru and all around great guy, Drew Reiber, that I felt that over the years Disney CEO Michael Eisner has cheapened the entertainment value of the Disney Florida theme parks, and as a result, taken much of their magic away. I base this on the difference between EPCOT in its early days versus the EPCOT of today. In its early days EPCOT was secluded deep in a Florida pine flatwoods far from reality--its seclusion created a sense of place that sheltered you from the real world--it totally immersed you into the character and mission of that theme park. By the early 1990's the trip from I-4 to EPCOT was becoming junked up with Disney resorts and once the Swan resort hotel brooded over the World Show Case of France, much of the visual and sensory forces that gave EPCOT its isolated and internalized magic were gone-now the Disney quality theme parks were becoming denigrated--all that would be missing is a 7-11 and Walgreens on each corner of the entry road to this once truly magical place.

A showcase of harmonious color, texture and design highlights a slope in the Future World section of E.P.C.O.T.
I have not totally given up on EPCOT, however. Each year my dear friend, Susan Hughes, and I try to attend EPCOT's "International Festival of Flowers". This festival is a truly world-class showcase of tasteful garden design, exploring the use of colors, textures, and geometric and curvilinear themes to convey the most aesthetically pleasing living palettes possible (as demonstrated in the first three photos). Even more important is the festival's educational aspects teaching plant-human interrelationships, underscoring that in large part, humankind's continued survival depends on the plant kingdom. This form of enlightenment is in its own way magical and life-affirming.

Dramatically recreated is the botanical gardens of Victoria, British Columbia at the Canada exhibit of E.P.C.O.T.'s World Showcase.
The true magic to the La Floridiana mindset is where EPCOT and the Disney theme parks are--in Florida! Like them or not, we are only 90 miles away from a destination that has probably seen more pilgrims from foreign lands enjoy the works of Imagineers than have passed through Ellis Island. In many ways their motivations were probably the same-escape to something higher and better, even if its basic premise was founded on a lowly rodent! In addition to the Disney theme parks, we have Sea World, Universal Studios and countless smaller theme parks in that same neck of the woods. Within a day's drive we can walk the art deco-lined Ocean Drive of Miami Beach, or admire some of the the oldest structures in the western hemisphere in St. Augustine. Florida is also blessed with beautiful beaches, seasonally warm weather, and incredible natural features. This is the magic of the Sunshine State that we too often take for granted. Florida--the land of the flower.

COLORADO    What a Difference a Week Makes!

Susan and I visited EPCOT's International Festival of Flowers on May 18, 2002. In less than a week, my wife and I would board a Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 bound for Dallas, Texas, where upon arrival, we would change planes to a Delta MD-88 in order to fly to Denver, Colorado. When we left Tampa on May 24, 2002 it was 93 degrees Fahrenheit. Dallas was only slightly cooler in the mid-80's. Denver on the other hand was 37 degrees upon landing at 4:00 local (Mountain Daylight) time! Strange but true, a dry 37 does seem less cold feeling than Florida's moist 37 degrees.

Not What I Expected
Upon our descent into Denver one fact became glaringly apparent--the "Mile High City" ain't nestled in the Rockies! It is about 40 miles east in a western extension of the Great Plains known as the Front Ridge. The Front Ridge is very barren and desolate rolling grassland that encompasses eastern Colorado and Wyoming, western Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska, and northwest Texas. Trees are sparse, limited to creek beds or rivers, and limited typically to Cottonwoods and Willows. To a Florida boy used to palms, pines and oak, the landscape out there was strangest thing I've ever seen. I would find out by the next morning that we were in a form of a high plains desert.

Denver International Airport--Responsible Growth or Overkill?
Those of you who read my column know that amongst other things I am an airliner and airport fanatic. I can honestly tell you that Denver's International Airport was so I clean that I would literally have had no problem eating off of the bathroom floors. But this relatively recently constructed airport is also the largest I have ever seen. It is in land mass literally the size of the greater Denver area, taking up 100 square miles. It has six active runways. When you enter it on Pena Boulevard it has a sign about 100 feet away that says "Terminal 10 miles"! Of course you can see the terminal off in the distance because there aren't any trees for about a zillion miles to obscure the view! Two admirable other features about this airport are the bike route leading to it all the way from Denver, and how the original farms and equipment were left on the land (as close as the terminal!) as a demonstration of the area's former agricultural history.

Ft. Collins and the 3-D House of Cats
We drove 40 miles north on Interstate 25 to stay with our friend Anita Clardy in the fine city of Ft. Collins, Colorado. Anita has nine felines that roam her domicile! Ft. Collins has a population of over 100,000, and is the home of Colorado State University. The snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains are about 40 miles to the west of Ft. Collins and visible from just about any part of town. Surprisingly, and delightfully, Ft. Collins is home to many tree-lined streets filled with massive Plains Cottonwoods, American Elms, Green and White Ash, Silver Maples and Colorado Blue Spruce. The city is exceptionally progressive with bike trails on every major road, as well as a bike trail running the entire length of the Poudre (pronounced "Pooder") River. On my last day in Ft. Collins, I jogged seven miles of the trail and saw gorgeous rapids and waterfalls from this Rocky's-fed river which joins up with the South Platte River, which eventually empties into the Mississippi River and then into the Gulf of Mexico (I saw the Mississippi delta on the way to Dallas at 37,000--it was exquisite). So conceivably I could send myself a message in a bottle from the Poudre River to Tampa Bay if the conditions are just right.

Halley's Comics
It is the responsibility of all crazed fanboys and girls to visit any and all local comic book stores. In Ft. Collins that shop is Halley's Comics at 322 Walnut Street, owned by John and Susan Bonner. While there, I had the privilege and honor of meeting Susan Bonner who took the time to write directions on the best places to eat and visit. In addition to her husband, John, two cats, and an incredible collection of comics (including the first World's Fair Comics pairing Batman and Superman) also populate the comic shop. Many Golden and Silver age comics were in mint condition at this gem of a store. I was also fortunate to obtain a copy of "The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino" an autobiography of my childhood idol artist who drew the Flash, Adam Strange, Batman, and a host of other DC titles in the 40's through the 60's, and became its publisher by the 1970's. If in Ft. Collins, Will says check out Halley's Comics, Wood Roasted Pizza, Austin's and Swetsville.

A rocket and a robot created with parts from farm machinery at the Swetsville Zoo in Ft. Collins, Colorado.
The Swetsville Zoo--It's like a little bit of Florida in Colorado
As mentioned above, Susan Bonner was sweet enough (and let me take this time to point out that I was favorably impressed with the warmth and friendliness of the Colorado people) to recommend that I visit a place called the Swetsville Zoo. The Swetsville Zoo, located just south of ft. Collins in Tinmuth is an artist's collection of creations made from farm machinery. There are over 150 such machinery sculptures, along with a numbered interpretive guide, created by artisan Bill Swets. The zoo has been featured on the Today Show and Good Morning America.
The VW Beetle at the Swetsville Zoo that never has to worry about a traffic jam!
The Poudre River runs through part of the compound, and since there are picnic tables, one can enjoy a lunch there to boot! There is no admission, but donations are appreciated. This Colorado kitsch was my first inkling of already missing my beloved, yet tacky, Sunshine State where I would fully expect an old roadside attraction of this type. When in Ft. Collins, you must see the Swetsville Zoo, 4801 east Harmony Road right next to Interstate 25.

Next week we hit the heights as we visit the Rocky Mountain National Park. We will also travel through the desolate plains into Cheyenne, Wyoming, fly into Atlanta, and enjoy returning to the majestic mountains of Florida. All in Nolan Canova's Pop Culture Review!

"La Floridiana" is ©2002 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2002 by Nolan B. Canova.