Sara and Matt’s Traditional Wiccan Wedding on Cocoa Beach

One thing about being Catholic is that we’re not allowed to rag on anyone else’s religion; gone are the days when dire consequences would accompany any religious act not taking place within the hallowed precincts of a Catholic Church. Eating meat on a Friday was bad enough, but attending a Protestant service– and participating!!– was like riding a leaky rubber raft down the river to Perdition City.

Not that most people paid attention to all that, really. Divorce? We divorced. Birth control? Over 90% of the faithful continued using birth control even after Paul VI’s famous veto of the decisions of the majority of the bishops during Vatican II. So there ya go. Wiccans? There weren’t any Wiccan families on my Brooklyn block that I know of, so this was a nice opportunity to partake of yet another religious tradition.

Our friend Sara married her beloved Matthew at a touching Wiccan ceremony out on Cocoa Beach yesterday, and a good time was had by all. Yes, there were some raised eyebrows as well as a tiny bit of amazed tittering during the pronouncements, but eventually everyone got it: it wasn’t about black magic or the devil, and nobody ever mentioned Rosemary’s baby, not even once. The shaman shared words of encouragement and love, had them plight their troths to one another, swept away evil by using a broom while circling the groom and then the bride, and then had them stand on a raised platform where they drank and ate symbolic food. He bound their hands together with a rope and that’s how they exited: linked together with love.

The color theme was black and violet and green, though the bride was in traditional white and the groom was kilted. The colors were carried over into the reception hall at the Tides Club, where bunting draped the utilitarian banisters and floated down from the ceiling in airy arcs. And in that space you had all the wedding traditions as practiced during the late twentieth / early twenty-first centuries.

My Manhattans came in a proper vessel  rather than in the current martini glass that seems to be wrapped around every cocktail of choice these days. I paid, and we got ready to leave, but intrepid Yesun chased me down because she had made a mistake on my tab; I thought I’d been getting a hefty discount (which I’d mentioned when paying) because I’m so charming, but that wasn’t the case.

The whole experience was a wonderful mix of traditions and people, and I even ran into a family of former upstaters (New York) now living in Central Florida. It’s great hearing their reactions to their New Land; even after many years here we still get the occasional urge to smack heads, but by now– at least in my case– it’s a sweeter sort of smacking… fageddaboutit!

Florida Stuff From My Bulging Files

FLORIDA! In 1978, it was a dream come true for me to move down here, on a lot of levels. I can’t believe that was 33 years ago, and now I’m almost as old as the people I saw driving at a snail’s pace on the highways when I arrived- I first experienced Florida in 1970, as a raw fourteen-year-old, and those memories seem to have seared themselves onto my brain pan.

Enamored with my newly-adopted home, I began collecting things (no surprise to anyone who knows me). Here, for your entertainment, are some odd items from my FLORIDA folder…

NOTE: Click on each picture for a larger, more detailed version.

The Florida Department of Citrus handed out postcards of their product for a few years, and friends of mine handed me a batch of them. I mailed them  to antagonize my family in the frozen tundra of Brooklyn.

Winter Park was where I settled, though I’ve never actually lived within the city limits. My first address was Maitland 32751, in Orange County; my second was Winter park 32792, in Seminole County; and my current is Winter Park 32792, also in Seminole County, though I am actually located within the city limits of Casselberry.

Yes… your social standing all depends on the post office which delivers your mail, which is why I don’t own a dinner jacket.

The fabled Langford Hotel was THE place to be seen in Winter Park at one time– the real Winter Park of 32789 fame. Here, women with beehives and barrel curls would sit at the bar talking with men wearing blue polyester suits. It’s true! Just look at the brochure below. Afterwards, everyone would jump in the pool and sober up, hoping that that string of electric lanterns wouldn’t fall in and suddenly render everyone redundant.

I have  a Winter Park Chamber of Commerce booklet from the 1960s– the telephone exchanges in the ads are all MIdway. Here are a couple of pages describing home life. “There is no snobbishness here, and you are judged not by what you have, but by what you are.”  “Houses are constructed here to conform to the casual, informal mode of living, and range in price from $13,500 to $100,000.”

I was introduced in 1978 to a Mrs. Anna Jillson, an assistant VP at the Barnett Bank on Park Avenue. A very nice lady, she sometimes manned a teller station. One day I brought my visiting grandmother in so that she could cash her social security check. The young teller asked, very condescendingly, ‘ohhh? Does SHE have an account here?’ What?! Excuse me?! In response, I name-dropped: ‘Maybe I should go upstairs and ask Mrs. Jillson to come down and see if SHE can handle this professionally?’  Instead, the teller said nicely to my grandmother, ‘how would you like that, in fifties and twenties?’

I eventually traveled further afield, sometimes taking the bus to visit relatives in Sarasota. (I still have the ticket stubs.) This spread in SEE Sarasota, a magazine I treasured from when I first visited the state in 1970, gives the impression that Sarasota was home to women in beehives and barrel curls, barmaids from California, and underground films. I wanted to see underground films, desperately, but what I mostly did with my relatives was play miniature golf and eat pizza.

We went fishing one time in Sarasota (1970), casting off from a place called Uncle Bob’s Fishing Place, “where fishermen meet.” I helped push the boat into the water, and even baited my own hooks– with nicely comatose shrimp one day, and maniacally wriggling shrimp the next day. And I’ll never forget a little black girl asking for some ice at the marina. When she walked away, the middle-aged white man who gave her the ice referred to her with a racial slur that I thought you only heard in movies about the Klan. Boy was I shocked! If I knew then what I know now, I would have asked him: ‘What exactly do you mean by “where fisherman meet.” ‘

Have you ever heard of Xanadu? It was a futuristic house built on a plot of land on Highway 192 going through Kissimmee. It promised all sorts of delights– ‘experience 2001 technology today!’– but it failed to deliver. The place was hot and stuffy; the Robutler stood dusty and broken in a corner, and the bathroom ‘with its waterfall and spa and solar sauna’ wasn’t anything to write home about; in fact, I never did. ‘Every room reveals a futuristic surprise,’ the brochure promised– yes, it was very surprising that each room looked like 1955’s idea of the future. That sculptural tree was supposed to keep the interior climate-controlled, but when you got to the top floor you broke out in a sweat and stopped breathing. And the clerk in the gift shop could NOT have been more bored!

When I got my car, I drove up to Deland and happened to take this photo just before the sky yawned and poured all over me and my camera… and now that I think of it, I know an Igou family.

Citrus crate labels are colorful and beautiful; you can get a lot of nice ones at the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation museums. And the Battaglia family owned a big house on Palmer Avenue in Winter Park.

Time flew… soon it was time for Disney to expand…

I still enjoy going to Epcot. It’s Xanadu in a way, but they do update it every once in a while. I wish they’d get more countries, though.

And here is a map of Orlando from before Interstate 4 was built through the city, which permanently ruined it when it bisected it into eastern and western halves.

And, finally, a page from The Orlando Sentinel, 1965…

I hope you’ve enjoyed your little foray into my filing cabinet. Now I’ve got to put all this stuff back…