Outlet shopping doesn't make for very good photos. It also makes for kind of a long day if you're trying to save money and don't really need anything, which would explain why I spent eight hours at the outlet mall and only bought a new pair of slippers from Target.
Nastja and I snuck off alone for the outlets, with her clutching the printed directions and me driving. As English is her second language and I get lost driving on my own campus sometimes, this was probably a recipe for disaster right from the start, especially given the bland sameness of Florida. How do people navigate this place without landmarks? It's all pastel buildings with short signs and lush greenery, so that if you're trying to, for example, turn left at the McDonald's, you can't even tell that building was the McDonald's until you're already past it and you see a little tiny set of golden arches hidden in a bush. Miracle of miracles, though, we only got lost once on the way there, when we missed the sign for the mall itself and had to turn around and double back.
When we got there, we decided we were starving and went into the first restaurant we saw, the Rainforest Cafe, which seated us under a fish tank:
I've never been a big fan of the Rainforest Cafe or the related and very similar Kahunaville. The food is ok, but I'm fully conscious while eating it that I've paid more for it just so that things like this can hang over my table:
I've got the same issue with Disney, too. I've been to both Disney Land and Disney World, and while they're both interesting, I've never felt the "Disney Magic" that people talk about. I look around the park and see a place designed to separate you from your money, much like Vegas, but I'm more bothered by Disney because they are less honest about it. Vegas throws the slot machines at you as soon as you get off the plane, and makes it clear that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but most of what happens involves spending money. Disney, on the other hand, tries to cloak the whole experience in benevolent, almost altruistic motives, as if the Disney Magic was not cold-bloodedly engineered through a series of focus groups and customer feedback surveys.
I'm not saying that like I hate Disney with a burning passion or would never, ever go back or even that I didn't have an enjoyable time while there, but I'm unable to watch the parade and see Cinderella as anything other than a corporate shill, and I have trouble understanding how people can speak of Disney World (or Land, or Euro-Disney if anyone ever went there) as this magical experience that they were privileged to attend. Anyone with a checkbook can enjoy it, and if you have a bigger checkbook, it gets even more magical, which proves that there really is no difference between Disney magic and Pepsi magic, except better marketing.
Speaking of magic, and trying desperately to pretend this was a planned tangent and not an annoyed rant, there was also a little bit of magic at the outlet mall:
A very little bit, based on the kind of trinkets they were selling:
Statues of the Pope? Really? I may have my history a little confused, but I'm pretty sure that the Psychic Fair Emporium would have been burned to the ground with everyone inside by the Catholic Church as recently as the 1600's, but there's Pope John Paul II nestled in among the fairies, crystals, and lucky Chinese money cats. Oh, Catholic Church, how the mighty have fallen. I've never seen a psychic booth at the mall outside of "Mallrats" (there was a psychic lady set up in the food court once, though), so I went in to poke around. A ten minute reading with one of the five psychics on duty cost thirty dollars, which is more than I usually pay for that sort of thing.
I don't need spiritual guidance to know that I should hold onto my money.