There's a bad taste lingering in my mouth, and it isn't just the Arrogant Bastard Ale I was sipping last night. That bawdily named, bitter brew turned out to be the last beer I would ever imbibe at Blank Space, the mixed-use Orlando arts venue that was shuttered Friday, June 1. The intimate lounge/art gallery/performance space at the corner of Rosalind and Central only opened in late 2009, but it quickly became a top destinationduring my downtown arts strolls. Over the past two and a half years, I visited Blank Space for a wide variety of entertainments, from art exhibits and Skill Focus: Burlesque stripteases to my very first pecha kucha seminar.
Each event I attended at Blank Space was pretty much packed, indicating an impressive customer base – enough to earn it the “Best Alternative Arts Space” award in Orlando Weekly's 2011 Best of Orlandoreaders' poll, but that popularity was apparently not enough to keep Blank Space's doors permanently propped open. In late May, proprietor David Charles Desormoux Jr. posted a Facebook announcement stating that “due to unfortunate circumstances having to do with the building owner” his operations would cease at the end of the month, and he invited fans out for a final night of half-price beer.
I arrived just a few hours into the final soiree, but the spot was already swinging. Artists were adorning the bare walls and outer windows with cartoonish graffiti, one proclaiming “I shall miss the beer the most.” I swigged my vile suds (with a hundred brands on their wall-sized menu, they can't all be winners) and scoped the diverse crowd of hipsters and homelesshanging out; one of the artists spray-painting a colorful tag on the exterior shared that he'd recently been snagged by the cops for leaving his mark on State Road 408.
Finally, it was time to make one last visit to the AstroTurf-covered restroom and leave Blank Space behind forever. As I exited, Fleetwood Mac's classic album Rumours was spinning songs of heartbreak over the sound system – an appropriate choice for a bittersweet occasion. But as I departed, the optimistic anthem “Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” kicked in like a hopeful sign from above.
Of course, attractions come and go in Orlando every day, most with little fanfare. The night before Blank Space's final bow, another area favorite faced its finale. Though the Magic Kingdom's Snow White's Scary Adventures ride existed on the opposite end of the artistic spectrum from Blank Space, in its own way it was equally unique.
A direct descendant of the original “spook house” dark ride that debuted at Disneyland in 1955, Walt Disney World's take on the iconic Snow White attraction was the longest and most narratively coherent version in any Disney park. It was also notorious for terrifying the piss out of any preschoolers with parents clueless enough to take them on it expecting happy dwarvesand pretty princesses.Though the Wicked Witch's unexpected appearances were drastically toned down in a 1994 renovation (when, ironically, “Scary” was added to the ride's marquee), Snow White stood as the most terrifying attraction for toddlers in Disney's repertory.
Snow White closed May 31 and will be transformed into yet another character meet-and-greet; the dwarves will return in 2014, when they will get a new family-friendly mine car roller coaster in the newly expanded Fantasyland. Unlike when Mr. Toad closed, I won't be shedding many tears for Snow. But I'm thrilled that the final voyage went to Ben, an autistic teen who's ridden 3,500 times since age 8, when his parents discovered he responded to the attraction's sights and sounds. A decade later, his obsession with Snow White has helped his social skills blossom; that's a happy ending I think Walt would appreciate.
Between the two sad extinctions, I visited I-Drive's newly opened WhirlyDome,an indoor sports arena that combines bumper cars and lacrosse in Florida's only outlet for WhirlyBall, “the world's first totally mechanized team sport.” Though I didn't play myself, the staff from a local hotel who were sliding around the court seemed to be having fun, despite their 0-0 final score.
With laser tag, a Ferrari-approved F1 racing simulator, and a full liquor bar and restaurant also on site, I could see spending a Saturday evening here slinging whiffleballs at buddies. But I'm still waiting for the next Blank Space to bring a breath of the offbeatback to Orlando.
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