And so, home.

Thank goodness. We’ve had a great break, good family time – laughter, smiles, enjoyment, empty pockets. Good, good times.

Got to yesterday, though, and I think we were all ready to come home; there’s only so much stimulation any human can take. Still, we had a good last day at Aquatica, a massive water park where it’s possible to spend time on fun without the corresponding spend of dollars on tat.

In planning a trip to Orlando, DO make sure your kids understand the value of a dollar and how much just being in theme parks already costs, before you even go near the gift shops or restaurants.

In planning a trip to Orlando, DO make sure your luggage is only 2/3 full when you leave home – by the time you return, it’ll be full and, possibly, overflowing.

I’m sure more DOs and DON’Ts will come to me later, but right now they can’t get through because of the torrents of people snapshots running through my head. Many people talk about how much they like people-watching. I burnt out on that stuff during the 90’s

[you try doing over 4,000 selection interviews in 5 years and see if you’ve got any empathetic insight left]

and, though I remain fascinated with our species, being among too much of it can become just too intense.

Of course, it wasn’t helped by the fact that I’m re-reading Orwell’s ‘1984’ at the moment, so I was already in a sociological/philosophical funk

[try sitting in a Disney café when just that morning you’ve been reading about the stupor of the ‘proles’]

compounded by this being the 5th anniversary of hurricane Katrina and the ensuing SNAFU, FUBAR government response.

[New Orleans deserved better. Much, much better]

All I have is a flickering skull-cinema, snapshots and vignettes, observations and inferences.

The cinema shows me obese people, stuffing super-size candy down their necks. It’s too easy to paint these folk in caricature and stereotype – too easy and disrespectful. They left me sad. Very sad. I fear for their health long-term, and their spirit in the day-to-day. Sad, very sad.

The cinema changes reel. It shows me tattoos everywhere, on every body type; old, young, all colours under the sun. As recently as the early 90’s, tattoos were still considered left-field – the province of soldiers or counter-culture. In the intervening two decades, however, they’ve really crossed the alter-/main-stream divide. The classic image of a cross or a heart on a muscled bicep has been replaced by all manner of needle art on every body part, not just the arms. Notably, the most tattooed generally seemed to be the least physically fit, almost as if the body art was filling the gap to perfection. The phrase “lipstick on a pig” just went through my mind, though that’s not fair, given the cross-section of people who were wearing ink – I’ll let it hang around a bit, I’m decompressing and, frankly, can’t be bothered to chase that thread.

Another reel. It shows me women working so hard to present a strong, physically ideal impression of themselves, while men, frankly, were prepared to let gravity do its work without seeming to care – the proportion of “Men’s Health” types was probably only about 10% of the male visitors to the theme parks, whereas the proportion of “Vogue/Marie Claire/Cosmo” women was up in the 60% range. All trying to present their best physical self, even when tumbling off the bottom end of a water slide. Of course, at the water park, I fell into “real or fake”; impossible not to.

Each reel showing me so many people acting like they want to avoid their reality, trying to sell a different vision of themselves.

Maybe that’s what Orlando is about, after all… Sell the image, sell the story, sell the product. These over-stuffed, over-preened, over-indulged characters, living imagined lives, perpetuating fantasies.

And, of course, our opinions of others are mostly a reflection upon our own worst self-opinions.

So, when I viewed the chronically over-weight, I was conscious of my own battle with fat. The tattooed made me reconsider whether I would have my glyph tattooed on my arm as I’d been planning. The image conscious made me reflect on my bodily shape, what self I am perpetuating in holding my body this way; who I am choosing to be and how much of it is really me.

I’m surprised at how self-reflective Orlando has left me.

Maybe it’s not such a surprise given the superficiality of the experience, the shallowness of connections, the saccharine super-sweetness of mass-produced emotion – wouldn’t anyone find themselves compensating with questions for their own reality?

Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s about Nan’s funeral tomorrow, which I’ll miss – though I got to say my goodbyes when in the UK a few weeks’ back. Maybe it’s Dad’s continued recovery. Maybe it’s not having access to a guitar for over a week.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Maybe I’m choosing to face my reality rather than losing it in a superficial story of someone else’s making.

Maybe.