The pandemic has taken T-Rex Cafe from me on my birthday.
It was a fledgling, two-year-run of a tradition but I honestly don’t give a shit. And not because I was ‘just’ there earlier this year for a much-needed dino/LEGO-themed catch-up with an out-of-town friend.
This would have been the year that the T-Rex Cafe tradition evolved into the Dinosaur World tradition (DID YOU SEE WHAT I JUST DID THERE?!)—Dinosaur World is an extraordinarily out-of-place Florida attraction found in a corner of the Sunshine State that’s closer to Tampa than Orlando. The Plant City (actual city name) location is great, because it might just be far enough outside the bubble of the Plastic City (not the actual city name) that it wouldn’t be suffocated to death by His Holy Mousiness.
Not that any of that matters.
Dinosaur World is an open-air attraction with paths that weave through a foliage-dense park. It’s home to a single animatronic set-piece tucked away in a sad-looking museum that’s not winning any awards (the animatronics or the museum).
Please don’t think I’m underselling it. Dinosaur World is glorious.
It’s clear that the animatronics aren’t the star of the attraction--that designation goes to the massive dinosaur sculptures that litter the jurassic park. These dense, solid constructs have been fabricated across decades and it’s a joy going from a modern, somewhat realistic representation of a dinosaur to an older, derpy sculpture that just so happens to be the exact, anantomically-incorrect image you conjure when you find yourself thinking the words ‘Dinosaur World’.
Again, I am not bullshitting you even in the slightest: it is glorious.
The best part, by any measure of bestness, is the gift shop--and this is speaking as a dude who lives in Orlando metro, the global epicenter of that other pandemic afflicting the globe: gift shops. It’s so bad here that new strains of gift shops have evolved that no longer require a host attraction. In the Orlando area, you can find gift shops that are located at the exit of other gift shops.
Again, I am not bullshitting you even the slightest: the Dinosaur World gift shop bests all other gift shops with its tiny, useless clappers-not-slappers arms tied behind its back.
Generally speaking, I stand immune to senseless purchases of molded plastic that, generally, serve to only collect dust.
But in the Dinosaur World gift shop? I laugh in the face of budgets.
I’ll take this massive Spinosaurus. And that ill-fitting Dinosaur World cap. And that ridiculously amazing piece of framed lenticular art where the T-Rex foot LITERALLY LEAPS OUT OF THE PICTURE. Oh, and a couple of plush. Okay, sure, a few more plush for the niece and nephew, too.
This gift shop is big, unreasonably so. It has all the staples: dinosaur toys of every stripe, t-shirts, decorations, books, and even jewelry.
It. Is. Glorious.
I’m not going to Dinosaur World or its gift shop for my birthday, but on the other hand, I’m not going anywhere for my birthday. And I honestly don’t give a shit.
I’m personally in Week 4 of The Great American Quarantine but Florida as a whole only officially went into lockdown last Friday. This has created a fascinating dichotomy in the state--people like me who are old hats at this thing (yes, I know others have been in quarantine for long) and those who are just now experiencing life-stuck-at-home.
Here’s the thing: I’ve never felt stuck. I bought my house for a reason and I’m more than happy to work from it and avoid leaving it. Don’t get me wrong, my new-to-quarantiners, there IS an adjustment period. And depending on your life and who you are, maybe you never get out of the adjustment period.
Me, I usually take about two-to-three weeks to adjust to anything.
So as newcomers reach ‘peak quarantine’, I find my emotional self mostly equalized to pre-pandemic levels of dyspeptic misery and abject hopelessness, occasionally sidelined by the pure undiluted joy of creating a cool video or losing myself in a cathartic piece of writing.
I am not a ‘happy person’ and the mere notion abhors me. Not in respect to your own happiness, of course--you should be whatever flavor of happy you want, rock your-goddamn-happy socks off and go nuts. But me? That’s not my baseline and never was in 35 years.
Life can be a miserable shit show and some people just needed a pandemic to see it.
Those moments of pure bliss I sometimes get to enjoy? Here’s what comes next: I finish project--which is a postpartum shit show in itself--and then I put that moment of bliss online where, generally speaking, no one seems to care.
Okay, look, I know it sounds like I’m sitting here on my 35th birthday complaining that nobody pays any attention to my creative work, but I’m not. I’m sitting here I’m on my 35th birthday complaining that nobody pays any attention to my creative work AND FOR SOME REASON THIS STILL SENDS ME IN A FUCKING SPIRAL DECADES INTO THIS GAME probably because the spiral was immediately preceded--as mentioned--by that fleeting moment of actual bliss, a genuine happy distraction for the professional unhappy person.
Really, I’m not complaining. Just sharing a little bit the depressed psychosis I call home.
It’s just me, myself, and my abyss. That’s the title to an unfinished song I was writing for the ukulele. I’ll get around to it.
But here’s the point: for me (and all those millions like me--you know who you are) the abyss (*cough* MY abyss) is always there. Always has been. Old buddy, old chum. I’m not always in it and most days it’s not even a passing consideration …. but I know it’s ALWAYS there.
Kinda how the abyss works.
So I don’t know whether to laugh at or feel bad for all those happy people in quarantine who are crashing down and just now getting a good glimpse at the dyspeptic misery and abject hopelessness of the world.
For a lot of us, this gets worse. Maybe emotionally. Maybe physically. Maybe economically.
For some of us, it’s always been this bad. Maybe emotionally. Maybe physically. Maybe economically.
The advice from this professional unhappy person: figure out what brings you bliss, that thing you can lose yourself in, even if briefly, and commit. Be unapologetic. For me, it’s dinosaurs, animation, video editing, technology, and LEGO. If I can combine all those things, that’s a pretty happy distraction from the looming abyss. At least for a little while.
On the other hand, if you still have positivity exploding out of your asshole right now …. um, okay? Good for you? I don’t know if you’re stubbornly blind to reality or if we’re just wired that differently, but whatever. You do you, just don’t expect us unhappy people to get on your level. There aren’t enough spoons in the world for that shit.
A few more bits of advice from your future depressed quarantine avatar: fix your personal relationships and be selfish as shit. I’m 35 and twice-divorced, which means I’m lucky enough to be stuck at home right now with someone who understands every single beat of this post. I’m trapped inside with someone who adds to those moments of creative bliss, as opposed to being indifferent to them or--worse still--detracting from them.
Whatever your relationship issues, rip the fucking bandaid and deal with your shit because if you don’t, well, you’ll be quarantined with it. So sayeth the 35-year-old twice-divorced, professional unhappy Krumbine.
Life’s good. Sometimes. Mostly it’s a shit sandwich. But that’s okay, too. Because dinosaurs. And LEGO. And creating cool shit.
Yes, I think today would be a good day for donuts.
Stay quarantined, my friends.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jordan Krumbine is a professional video editor, digital artist, and creative wizard currently quarantined in Kissimmee, Florida. When not producing content for the likes of Visit Orlando, Orlando Sentinel, or AAA National, Jordan is probably yelling at a stubbornly defective Macbook keyboard, tracking creative projects in Trello, and animating quirky videos with LEGO and other various toys.