Welcome to 19 Questions, a feature where we ask longtime Orlando residents 19 questions that are mostly related to living in the City Beautiful.
Freelance writer, video specialist and theater maker Tony Bolante (onomatopoeia, on the nOse) claims native Orlando status, save one stint "out of state" a decade ago. Tony refused to provide further detail about his time beyond our borders, so we interpret that to mean he's mastered the art of time travel. His most recent play Liquid Courage debuts next month at the Fringe Festival.
1. Who's your favorite Orlando resident, living, dead, real, or fictional?
Jack Kerouac "went to bed obscure and woke up famous" right here in Orlando. I like that idea. But Orlando can feel a little more Ralph Kazarian than Jack Kerouac. It's the difference between feeling "on the road" and being nearly un-insurable.
2. What's the best meal you've ever eaten in Orlando?
Lee and Rick's Oyster Bar. Of course, what makes a meal great isn't just the food, but the company. Don't eat 'em raw alone.
3. What was your first concert in Orlando?
The Nutcracker by Orlando Ballet. Yes, that's a concert, and that's my answer.
4. When's the last time you went to Wet n' Wild?
Not since I was a kid.
5. Favorite beach?
Playalinda. It's natural, and at the end of the Barrier Island, au naturel.
6. What's your favorite Orlando attraction that no longer exists?
The Plaza Theatre, a.k.a. the Rocking Chair. Today, it's the Plaza Live, but it was once a cinema with soft seats that literally rocked.
7. What do you hate most about living in Orlando?
Its distance from every other great city.
8. What do you hate least about living in Orlando?
The weather nine months out of the year.
9. I-4 or I-75?
I-75 is a better drive, but you know it doesn't go through Orlando, right? So, if all interstate highways are on the table, I vote for I-95. It's a better escape route.
10. In one word, describe your day job.
11. What's your favorite coffee spot in Orlando?
Downtown Credo in College Park. Their space, people and product are enough to make them my favorite. But their authentic commitment and connection to the community seals the deal. I should also say I've more recently become a fan of Cafe Divina in Ivanhoe Village, a little closer to home.
12. Do you have an alcoholic beverage of choice? If so, what?
Vodka is my go-to spirit. I was recently on a Moscow Mule kick, so to speak. But if it ain't in a copper cup, comrade, it ain't a mule.
13. What do you think of Wesley Snipes?
I don't think of Wesley Snipes. Next question.
14. The Oviedo chickens: pro or con?
Pro. Hating the chickens would be like hating Punxsutawney Phil. In Strip Mall America, local color is hard to come by. Keep the chickens.
15. Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure?
Islands of Adventure. The Dudley Do-Right flume ride squirts water on you just for the hell of it, which is funny to me.
16. How much is too much to spend for a vintage Shaq Magic jersey?
Any amount is too much. We wear different shirt sizes. Also, I don't care.
17. Can you tell us about the first time you went to OBT?
Huh? Orange Blossom Trail is a LONG road, spanning from Kissimmee to Ocala ... but I'm guessing you're interested in the stretch of South OBT notorious as a red light district. Sorry, I can't indulge your prurience. If you're looking for a good time on South OBT, go to Woodlands Indian restaurant. It's excellent.
18. If you could give Orlando a new motto or nickname, what would it be?
"When you're here, you're family." Same as Olive Garden. Or maybe, "It'll grow on you." Or, "The little city with a big city theme."
19. What makes someone an Orlandoan?
Is this like the old "you know you're a redneck if
" schtick? What makes someone an Orlandoan? A sense of history that doesn't extend before the most recent theme park ride? A love-hate relationship with the Walt Disney Company? ... for better and for worse, what makes you an Orlandoan is nothing but your zip code. Our population is diverse, but not exactly cosmopolitan. It's fast-growing, but with high turnover. There seems to be at least as many naturalized as native residents. And sprawl conspires against community. So it's gonna take more than 19 questions to discover a common sense of identity. But it's a start.