To an employee, the downtown offices of Orlando Weekly are a wonderland of amenities: ample parking, state-of-the-art day-care center, 24-hour aromatherapist on the premises. But what many area residents don't know is that one of our building's best features is maintained solely for the benefit of the general public. Thanks to thoughtful grants from the State of Florida and Firehouse Subs LLC, we are able to offer an extensive reading library full of historical volumes and other artifacts that provide a rich portrait of Central Florida life. Curious visitors are encouraged to drop in any old time and while away the hours in our oak-paneled reading room, rifling contentedly through the vintage tomes and reference materials that line the walls. Here are some of the priceless treasures to be found in our permanent collection.
•The Taverns of Orlando: An Annotated History Out of print since 1979, Rollins College professor Foster West's meticulously researched, leather-bound guide to local watering holes starts with Old Earl's Place where thirsty Klansmen went to unwind and wet their whistles after the Ocoee riots and goes right up to the institution of the modern sports bar, covering all of the vast ideological ground in between. Most of the establishments West mentions are gone now, and so is he he fell victim to liver failure after completing his seven-semester, publish-or-perish project in late '78. (Read the whole sad story in fellow faculty member Curt Gardner's Untimely Death? We Smelled It on Him, available for your perusal in our library's biography section.)
•The Broad Stays in the Tank The gills-and-all memoir of Weeki Wachee mermaid Marian Carmichael has been assailed for its bitterness, yet there's never been a better or more thorough exposé of the Sunshine State's unique leisure substrata. Get the Weeki Wachee story straight from the fish's mouth, thrilling to Carmichael's eyewitness accounts of financial shenanigans, improper staff/guest liaisons and rampant HTH abuse. In our library, we offer the hard-to-find hardcover edition, complete with a controversial chapter that "outed" four Baptist ministers as tailfin fetishists and caused the book to be recalled two months after its release.
•The Last Cracker Photo-Essay This pictorial study by amateur photojournalist (and Crealdé School of Art '00 dropout) Wanda Harrison affords an up-close look at a vanishing breed of men and women. With a biographical eye Diane Arbus might envy, Harrison depicts a typical day in the life of Lazarus T. Murphy, a wizened local born in Christmas, retired to Eustis who is commonly recognized as the last living vestige of Central Florida's "cracker" culture. Follow the colorful "Murph" on his rounds from the free clinic to the package store and back again, each stop a potential last chance to transform the world around him with his old-fashioned ways and homespun wisdom. And notice the dawning discomfort on the faces of everyone Murphy meets as they realize that this "quaint" relic of a simpler time is actually just another semicoherent, dyspeptic and hopelessly inappropriate old sonofabitch in desperate need of a delousing.
•Kids' Letters to Michael Moore In what can only be described as a coup for our archival endeavors, we've been presented with the galleys to one of the fall's most eagerly awaited children's books. When America's tots want the straight story on the troubling Santa/Saudi connection, they put their trust in another jolly fat man: Michael Moore, the populist firebrand whose mailbag contains a higher-than-expected amount of missives from the underage. Months ahead of anyone else, read what our nation's youth had to ask Moore on the burning topics of homeland security, corporate crime and when it's OK to start wearing makeup. With his trademark, shoot-from-the-hip candor, the Michigan scrapper supplies the answers a fretful prepubescent population needs to hear. No matter what the question, his every response is essentially a variation on the statements, "Halliburton wants it that way" and/or "Because you're adopted."
•The Love Letters of Lord and Lady Farnsworth What would a library collection be without a portfolio of vintage correspondence that acts as a looking glass into yesteryear? In the late 1880s, English entrepreneur Lord Clark Farnsworth had to temporarily abandon his wife, Henrietta, in Orlando while he sought to blaze a trade route between South America and the area now known as the Sanford Flea Market. Separated for months, the pair affirmed their uncommonly affectionate relationship by trading lengthy letters almost daily. The lovers of today could take some pointers from the exquisitely poetic manner in which Lady Farnsworth expresses her longing to be reunited with her absent amour: "I beseech thee, leaveth me not in this hellhole; it stinketh of sulfur."
•Rose Madder We've got the books-on-tape version of Stephen King's 1995 bestseller. One of our former classified reps left it in the break room when she took off, along with two bottles of Zephyrhills and half a tub of cottage cheese. Tape No. 3 plays back a little slow for some reason, but what the Casselberry Public Library doesn't know won't hurt it. Especially since nobody's talking.
•Maps of Various Eras You don't know your community until you know what it looks like from above, which is why we maintain a comprehensive selection of area maps dating back to the mid-19th century. Comparing the formerly humble layout of Greater Orlando to today's sprawling metropolis will deepen any resident's understanding of land development, neighborhood gentrification, transportation routing and all the other Third-Reich-inspired social-engineering projects that have made this locality what it is today. As a side benefit, any visitor who can fold four maps correctly gets to take the fifth home; these things are driving us batty.
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