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AddiFB

20 years and I finally made it!

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AddiFB    418

Around mid last year I decided it was time to go where I had wanted to go for around 20 years. I just couldn't wait any longer. I bought my plane tickets, rented a house with a pool and a tub, rented a car and bought tickets to two Magic games. For twenty years I had wanted to go to Orlando but for some reason it was just me who wanted to go. Nobody else. There was quite a "London-lust" going on in this family before we went to Orlando. I had gone to London for 15 straight times before this trip. FIFTEEN. It was just time to go to Orlando.

 

It felt kind of weird, a very long dream was coming true. I didn't know if I should be feeling excited or worried. So I just got worried. The last two years have been quite bad for me, blew out my back playing basketball back in August of 2009 and it was horrible the first year after it happened. The last 6 months have been decent, but I was worried I might reinjure myself or the 8 hour flight might ruin my trip for me.

 

It didn't. The flight was ok, even though it was long. Worries had been replaced with excitement. I was finally going to Orlando. I kept watching the screen in the headrest in front of me. Watched some Family Guy, Simpsons, Inception, but I kept going back to the map screen to see where I was and how many miles and hours were left and before I knew it, I was flying over Orlando. Man I was smirking like crazy!

 

We got our bags, found our rental car and drove off to the house I had rented. A two story house with four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two living rooms, swimming pool, hot tub and a huge kitchen. It was so nice and comfortable, it sucked coming back home to this small apartmant we live in. What hit me though was the weather in Orlando in February. 80 to 86F is quite different to what we're used to.

 

We arrived on Tuesday and when I walked out of the airport I remember the surreal feeling I had. Was I there or am I somewhere else? Smiles! The first game was on Wednesday the 16th, against the Washington Rashards. I was so nervous. I kind of blacked out. This whole trip was on my shoulders, I booked everything, located everything, planned everything. I had been focusing on it a lot and now it was happening and I was just going numb. I put on my black Howard jersey, got into the car, put in the Amway Center address in the navigation system and drove off not sure how it was going to unfold.

 

When the robotic woman (GPS) told me "Destination ahead in two miles" I started staring into the distance. Where is the beast. Where is the Center and BAM there it was. Hellooooo goosebumps! I almost forgot to keep my eyes on the road and focus on the traffic and where to go. I just stared at the Center. I was officially numb. I got closer and closer and before I knew it, I was walking right next to it. I noticed a white Bentley waiting to enter the staff/players parking garage and at first I thought it was Dwight but later found out it was Rashard.

 

It was just so mindblowing to be standing right in front of this building after watching it get built through webcam still shots for all these months and then seeing it on TV. I walked to the front and the tower reaching for the clouds made me go "NICE". There were already quite a lot of people outside. Didn't expect that for a Wizards game, but it was the return of the Shard and I guess its just the way pre-game atmosphere is there. I loved it! Blue, white, black jerseys. Blue hair. Face painters. Loud music. Cute women. Everything was there.

 

My first stop was the Magic store where my little niece bought herself a white jersey with her name on the back and her birth year, 96 as her number. My Magic heart was proud, haha. There were a lot of stuff I wanted to buy, but for some reason it didn't at that moment. I was still numb. I was taking it all in. All the little details, the little things. I didn't have time to shop, even though I looked at everything there. I was just not in a shopping mode.

 

We walked into the main entrance area and my heart started pounding. All the big posters, the big escalators, the big chandelier. We went up the East escalator and walked up to section 113 where our seats were. I was a bit ahead of the group and on my walk I looked into one of the entrances to the bowl and I noticed the score board hanging there and that was the first moment of brain malfunction I had there. I knew it was big but seeing into the bowl, the rows of small people in the distance, but just that small part of the HUGE monster made go "What the f...".

 

I stormed back to the group, told them to NOT look into the bowl just yet. Just don't. We got ourselves some drinks and chicken tender baskets and some tater tots and it was time. I whiped the sweat off my forehead. Checked if my jersey was ok and had my camera ready. We walked down the blue neon illuminated staircase and the bass from the sound system started to hit us harder and harder. And there I was, staring at the court. The scoreboard. All the lights. All the seats. I looked behind me, more seats. I looked up, staircase in the ceiling. I looked around me, a lot more seats. So many screens and seats. The bowl was bigger than I anticipated. The scoreboard however was just mindblowing. Spotted the Budweiser Baseline bad and the OZONE. A big Magic rush going on.

 

My hand was like a compass, if you held it in your hand and circled a magnet around it like crazy. I was pointing at all the things around us and telling them what everything was. I told them about the ECF banners. The retired number 6. Why this, why that.

 

Goosebumps, pounding heart, excitement and joy. Players warmups and intro went past at the speed of light and before I knew it, it was tip-off time. I just turned 30. I turned 30 during the players intro! Best birthday ever! It felt so good, after all these years of wanting to see the Magic play on their home floor to finally experience it AND celebrate my 30th birthday at the same time. Good times, guys. Great times.

 

I won't go into much details regarding the games, you know how they went. Beat the Wiz, lose to the Sacs. What I enjoyed was the crazy roars when Dwight dunked, especially his first dunk I think, where he hang on the rim after a pass on the fast break. The place went nuts. Knew JJ was popular, but it was so awesome seeing him check into the game and getting the second loudest cheer, next to Dwight. Funny thing is, most of the cheers were female! The guy is a charmer, that's for sure hah. Oh and that reverse alley oop by Jason in the Kings game was nuts! Loved seeing all the replays on those huge, HUGE, screens above.

 

I've got to give this nice lady usher in section 113 a shout out. She was really, really nice. At the Kings game I got this "nice" cramp in my left calf just before halftime. I stood up and walked up to where she was standing. Just stood there for a few minutes and she asked if everything was ok. I told her about the cramp and she said it was ok for me to stand there and if I get cramps again or anything, just come and stand there with her. I thanked her for that. That wasn't all. My mom is getting old and her knees are bad. So walking up those stairs is hard for her. The lady noticed her having trouble with the stairs at the end of the Kings game and pulled her aside. She told my mom she had noticed her at the Wiz game and gave her directions to an elevator. If anyone from the Magic or Amway Center is reading this, the lady in section 113 gets big kudos from me!

 

Amazing to be this close to the game, seeing the guys run around, dunking, shooting, bricking and everything. It almost felt weird, because I'm so used to watching this on the net or the telly and having commentators, David and Matty, joke around and laughing. There, I was hearing the ball getting pounded to the floor, sneaker squeeks, yells, Stan being Stan. The sounds of the game. It felt fresh to me. They all looked bigger than on TV, except for Stan, of course. After the game, we walked around the Center and spotted the garage exit. I saw Jason Richardson drive off in his Lambo, Otis in his white BMW and Stan in his black Lexus. Does Dwight on a Superman themed threewheeler? Then I noticed the white Bentley again and the driver rolled down his window to talk to some man there, and I walked over to check who it was. It was Rashard. We even got a cool picture of him!

 

My mom enjoyed Stuff the most. I had seen the old Stuff back in 1993 and he's still adorable. So fun watching him run around, lifting up his shirt and being Stuff. I bought myself the Stuff hat and mom even bought a little Stuff to hang on her rear view mirror. She's a Stuff fan now. Other things that were fun in the crowd these two games for example was the guy in the Hedo jersey, very short shorts and dancing like crazy and watching Fat Guy run around, getting the crowd pumped. Like I said earlier, all the little things.

 

I noted earlier that I didn't buy much in my first Center visit, because my mind wasn't into it because I was just letting it all settle into my head. I did go again to the Center the day after the Kings game and bought me some stuff. The big blue hand with the index finger up, the big one, not the soft foam one. Dwight limited statue, Dwight bobble head, Stuff hat, Magic mouse mat, Magic glass, Redick T-Shirt and some other things. One thing I thought was awesome, was driving around Orlando and then seeing the SunTrust building in the distance and getting closer to it, knowing I'm going to pass the Center. I found it cool to just drive past the Amway Center while going from one place to another.

 

The Amway Center is nice. No, REALLY nice. I love the place. But one thing I wanted to do was go see the old Arena. So I drove up to it and BAM all the old Magic memories came rushing in. All the playoffs memories, all the great games, all the old players. I've never been there before but I felt bad standing next to it, walking around it, thinking it will be reduced to rubble soon. The shape and size of it was surprising. It was fun walking around it and taking it all in, looking at the design and hearing all the old sounds and noises of past years in your head. I guess I've been a fan of this team for so long that I almost felt I could hear the sounds, feel the atmosphere. Too bad I never got to see the Magic play in there, but the memories remain and at least I got to see it. And touch the ol' O-Rena.

 

What I noticed about the people of Orlando is they are very relaxed and polite. So relaxed, actually, that at Walmart my mom and fam had filled up a shopping cart of food and stuff and it took about 30 minutes to get it all through the chasier. Not because we had so much, because the nice woman was not very fast. One or two items per bag, reach for a sweater, look slowly for the tag, scan it, fold it, press it with her hands a little bit, put it slowly in a bag. It just took forever.

 

We went to eat at Longhorn Steakhouse one night, very good food and the service there was just great. Really polite waiters and seemed cheerful. But we couldn't stop laughing when they brought the desserts. The youngest and smallest of us, 15 year old niece, ordered a chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. The cake she got was almost bigger than she is! She couldn't stop staring at it in awe and we couldn't contain our laughter.

 

One thing I noticed some people were NOT relaxed about was traffic lights. The stop lights took forever, it felt sometimes. But when that green light hit, if you weren't off your brakes in like 1 second you'd get honked. But other than that, traffic and getting around there wasn't hard. LOTS of road work being done, a lot of cones and barriers. Also a lot of huge bling wheels and not so bling cars haha. I saw one 80's American car on like 24-26" wheels, car lifted up and looking all pimp. Man that was weird! Also noticed in what seemed to be some sort of trailer park or something, there was a newish Bentley Continental GT parked between two trailers. What?

 

One of the weirdest moments happened in Premium Outlets. We were driving out of the parking lot when I stopped at a crosswalk and this man walks accross with his 2-3 year old son who was completely naked. Not just that, but his behind was all covered in poopoo. He should at least try to cover him up, take off his shirt or something.

 

But my most bizarre moment happened at some gas station. I went in, wearing my shirt and sweater, unzipped. The clerk asks me where I'm from and I tell him I'm from Iceland. He asks where that is, I tell him it's in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, right in between Europe and America, below Greenland. "Oh I thought it was a place in Canada". Really? Anyways, he told me to take off my sweater, since I'm not in Iceland anymore. I told me I was just wearing it because my wallet was in the pocket and my jeans didn't have any pockets. He then asked "Wait... is Europe near the West coast of America? If so then Iceland is hot too, you don't need a sweater there at all". I just smiled.

 

So, as I was pumping gas on my rental car, this guy comes walking up to me and asks me for some change. I check my pockets, since I'm the polite type and tell him I don't have anything on me. Just plastics. Not one second later, he's all fired up. "You lie! Lying ain't gonna get you anywhere in this life! You [bad words] tell a lie and you die! God will punish you for telling a lie to me! You gonna roll that piece of crap car over and hit a tree or a sign and you gonna die and everyone else in it too! Hell is going to keep you warm! This ain't nothing compared to the heat in Hell! You [more bad words] tell a lie like this and you [worse words] will go up in flames!" and then he walked off, spewing out more curses and some God stuff. I just stood there, pumping gas. Hellooooo America!

 

We didn't go to many of the big tourist spots. I'm the "look around" type, I want to go to places and just take it all in. Look around. The rest of the group, well. Shoppers. So a lot of time was spent in stores and malls. We didn't go to Disney or Universal this time, we will later because it's clear we're coming back and next time for a longer visit. We did go to see Old Town, which was nice to a certain extent, too much "new" there for my taste to be "old town", but the go karts were fun even though I didn't try them out because of my back. I just liked the tracks. Gatorland was fun, I like crocs and snakes. The bees there were HUGE. Like these big helicopters hovering around you, dropping bombs, litterally. You could see them drop a brownie in mid air! The long swamp walk was long. Very moist and hot. Still a cool place! We also went to City Walk but couldn't stop for too long because one of us got migrane and we had to get out of the sun. Checked out some more stuff here and there, lots of car dealerships since I'm a car dude.

 

I could write all day and make this a 100.000 words. All in all, a VERY pleasing stay in Orlando. So nice, actually, that I have started to plan for another trip. My mom wants to buy a house there. She never thought she'd feel so good there, but none of us wanted to leave. We were all bummed out. I wanted to bribe the pilot to make a U-Turn and head back.

 

I'm definately coming back.

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Great write-up Addi.

 

You're reactions to driving up, going into, and walking around the Amway Center are top-notch....made me feel like I was there again for the first time myself. It is a special building.

 

Very sorry you had to watch the Kings game. I was actually at both of the games you attending, and I know regret not trying to find out where you were.

 

Hopefully, you'll make it back here much much sooner than another 20 years!

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Soul Bro    479

Nice write-up. Yes, welcome to America! Sounds like you got a taste of some good 'ole central FL: a killer NBA team, great weather, lots of tourism and shopping spots, many nice people, and a few ignorant, if not down right trashy, folk. Come back soon!

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So, as I was pumping gas on my rental car, this guy comes walking up to me and asks me for some change. I check my pockets, since I'm the polite type and tell him I don't have anything on me. Just plastics. Not one second later, he's all fired up. "You lie! Lying ain't gonna get you anywhere in this life! You [bad words] tell a lie and you die! God will punish you for telling a lie to me! You gonna roll that piece of crap car over and hit a tree or a sign and you gonna die and everyone else in it too! Hell is going to keep you warm! This ain't nothing compared to the heat in Hell! You [more bad words] tell a lie like this and you [worse words] will go up in flames!" and then he walked off, spewing out more curses and some God stuff. I just stood there, pumping gas. Hellooooo America!

 

Wow, you can't go or stop anywhere near downtown Memphis w/o somebody asking you for change, but I've never had a reaction like this.

 

Nice write up AddiFB, reminded me of going to my first Buc game as a kid, seeing the real big 3 in the Garden, ect...glad you enjoyed the experience & the trip lived up to your expectations.

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TrueMagicFan07    116

Wow, Addi. . .Nyce! You gave me goose bumps reading the chronicles of your visit. That would be a nice write up in a local newspaper. I live just up the street (actually a few miles) north of Orlando. And even though I venture out of the State of Florida 3 to 4 times a year, I always look forward to coming back home.

 

At first, I thought your piece was too long for me to read. But the more I read, I could not stop until I had read the whole thing. It was very interesting. It gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

 

Thanks, Addi, for sharing.

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Natesroom    57

Very Awesome Addi!!!

 

You've been such a consistent poster all these years and i hope any critiques i may have given you over the years with your increasing skills in photoshop in regards to your wallpapers, weren't taken as a selfish need for me to inflate my own ego or my own self-esteem.

 

Its very cool that you got to go to so many homegames, while you were on vacation here i hope you come back to orlando some day soon and check out a playoff game the atmosphere is awesome and i'm really excited to see how they do up the Arena for the playoffs.

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Natesroom    57

Very Awesome Addi!!!

 

You've been such a consistent poster all these years and i hope any critiques i may have given you over the years with your increasing skills in photoshop in regards to your wallpapers, weren't taken as a selfish need for me to inflate my own ego or my own self-esteem.

 

Its very cool that you got to go to so many homegames, while you were on vacation here i hope you come back to orlando some day soon and check out a playoff game the atmosphere is awesome and i'm really excited to see how they do up the Arena for the playoffs.

 

And i love reading your long posts!

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