Past and present

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The hibernation days (both of them) have come and gone, and Orlando is once again set to embrace its premature spring complex with all sorts of excuses to forget last year -- and history in general -- in the hopes of crafting a new "new."

Nowhere is this more apparent than on the fringe of the Orange County Regional History Center, where the wizards of O have decided to dredge up some revisionist history on the early seafaring Buccaneers and splash it across the steamy downtown pavement for the squealing delight of enraptured children. Swords! Hats! Kids who say pirate with a "w"! Aye!

A hungry pirate equals an eaten child, doesn't it? It's got to taste better than The Globe grub, right?

Fortunately, I've brought a ladyfriend to buoy my bones, and the rent-a-pirates are duly distracted. Not that they'd eat me, anyway. I haven't eaten in days.

"Ahoy!" one predictably grunts, with a series of pillaging glances at me lady's midsection. "There's treasure down there."

More treasure, surely, than there is to be found in the swashbuckling rattle of a city trying to create a history to match its refurbished courthouse. Not that they're not trying, though. By way of a lesson for our publicly educated, toeheaded masses, the pirates recreate swordfights on stage, hunting for soft spots to, um, penetrate. I hear there's some nice peep holes in the model ship erected on the park's corner. Or are those portals? Tom of Finland be damned.

Shipping off

Drowning in bad metaphor and worse costuming, myself and me lady catch wind of the Chinese New Year parade set to travel nearby down Orange Avenue in, well, more bad metaphor and costuming. Only this is an actual cultural event, which means there's virtually nobody in attendance.

"Look at them Chinese people!" I overhear a Harley bear speak to his kickstand bride, in yet another spirited grapple with the obvious. I'm dozing off standing, pitting the geishas against the pirates in battle for ornamental superiority -- think drag-queen pageant -- until I'm awakened by a fortune cookie passed my way. "You are well liked by others," it says. We'll see.

Quietly beautiful and actually quite charming, the parade whisks its stilted dragons-to-stilted dogs (the big New Year's hand-off) through the unfazed downtown, with little Chinese boys rallying for attention from â?¦ nobody. Still, the breadth of tradition and a new year that starts in February (a nice second chance) prove a suitable antidote to the History Center's Saturday Morning Cartoon version of swashbuckling knicker adventure. Whether it's bound feet or being bound and gagged, there sure is a lot to look down on downtown this Saturday. A History Center rep assures me the Pirates will be back again the second weekend in March (a nice second chance) for more false representation and eyepatching. The new year will be back, too. Next year.

The XFL, however, probably won't be.

Hot air

On the very same Saturday that sees two cultures colliding downtown, the Orlando Rage is having a hard time seeing over its belly to pee. For all of the bloated marketing ballast that preceded the inauguration of Orlando's newest professional football attempt, there doesn't seem to be much energy left to follow it through. Even the cheerleaders are finding it hard to meet the intended diameter of their hip swirls. Maybe it's the crepe paper covering their panties (take it all off!). Maybe it was just a rough night at Hooters.

"Where's the press box?" I query, desperately seeking sanity among my cynical peers at a higher elevation. The angst-affected laminate lady motions something that indicates a trip around a beer cooler and a couple of fat guys, which means it could be anywhere. A sleeping elevator operator takes me up, and says it's "somewhere over there." Thanks.

The press box for the Rage game is positively teeming with sarcastic guffaw at the season and league opener, and the guy next to me -- some high-school sports string reporter -- has a bleached rat tail trickling down his nape. I'm in heaven. Everybody cackles at the first flag for "unsportsmanlike conduct" and said rattail adds an unsportsmanlike "Unsportsmanlike conduct? I'm going home!." Add to that the catered barbecue, some publicist angst (the Rage-ing "this isn't working out like we planned!" brow sweat), and a whole lot of untouched I-Books, and you have a sense of the pungent apathy dangling over the Citrus Bowl.

Happiness is a sinking ship. Newness ends when you figure it all out.

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