Best Of 2021

Plenty of ladders, but no stairway to Heaven

Because home is the only place throughout this pandemic that feels safe to take off our hazmat suits, we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time this past year in stores to improve it, dropping the cash we’d normally be spending on bar tabs and merch. And one thing that’s repeatedly made us do double takes is the music playing at the Home Depot on Lee Road. Instead of the innocuous fare usually piped in at such common big-box places, this location has frequently been tuned to some classic alternative station. Oh, we’re not talking your basic crossover stuff like “Just Like Heaven” or “Tainted Love” here. No, it’s been a dreamy playlist of songs from bands like the Church, Gene Loves Jezebel, Camouflage and the like that would’ve lit up the dance floor at Visage (which, eerily, was located in this vicinity). It’s made for some deliciously subversive shopping experiences. So far, no creepers or Docs have been spotted peeking out from under those orange aprons. But to whomever is responsible, we may not see you but we sure hear you. (homedepot.com)

Dorsa Vaziri of WOW Rolling

As the days turned into weeks turned into months of working from home, some went quietly stir-crazy. Others, denied the gym time they counted on in the before times, were aching to stretch and sweat. Whatever the reasons, somehow skating — roller-, not -board, and on four (not inline) wheels — blew up from a cute trend to a national obsession. We watched Orlando seized by a roll-bounce passion this past year, evidenced by endless Reels and TikToks of our friends progressing from wobbly gaits to full-on dancing on wheels. And a lot of them were doing it in custom skates from WOW (Wonder on Wheels) Rolling, the brainchild of Dorsa Vaziri. WOW Rolling offers an incredibly diverse and well-rounded assortment of products, services and mutual aid. (The "Guide to Orlando Roller Skating" doc in the @wowrolling Linktree is required reading.) Vaziri, an accomplished skater herself — understatement — can make you a pair of custom skates out of your favorite Vans, or fit your old pair out with fancy laces, toe stops, ankle straps and new wheels. She offers advice (wear kneepads!), she offers lessons, she organizes skate-togethers all over town. But really, like all the best entrepreneurs, she's simply an evangelist. There's no way you can look at her Instagram stories and not feel even a little itch to get out there yourself. Best news of all, after many, many pop-ups, WOW Rolling is about to have a little brick-and-mortar home of its own where you can get Vaziri's products, guidance, and high-octane enthusiasm all in one place. (wowrolling.com)

click to enlarge Custom skates by WOW Rolling - PHOTO BY MAURICIO MURILLO
Photo by Mauricio Murillo
Custom skates by WOW Rolling
Staff Pick — Best Quarantine Companions: Houseplants

Those who spent the long months of 2020/2021 locked down alone will forever be marked by it. Never before (or god willing, again) have we spent so much time in sheer, total solitude. It's no wonder pet adoptions went through the roof. And if you couldn't get a pet — forbidden by the landlord, allergies, whatever — the next best thing was a houseplant. Everybody knows that talking to them makes them grow, so you absolutely aren't a cabin-fever-riddled, demented old 49er spinning conspiracy theories to your leafy, green pack mule ... you're a caring steward of your little green friends! (No, not that kind.) And luckily, there are plenty of outdoors spaces in Orlando at which to acquire a new quarantine crew: Both Leu Gardens and Mead Botanical Garden hold periodic plant sales; Apenberry's (College Park) and Palmer's (Audubon Park) place stock largely out in the open air; and East End Market's Porch Therapy and Winter Park's the Heavy have kinda indoors/kinda outdoors plant bays, making it feel almost totally safe to dart in for a Pilea peperomioides and a few cute, tiny succulents. (Almost pettable!)