top of page

Aisle Seat: Bittersweet Florida Daze

Updated: May 28, 2023

By Naomi Serviss / New York City

Florida is a hand-grenade subject for me. Not just because Governor DeSantis seems hell-bent on dragging the Sunshine State back into the Dark Ages. DeSantis’s Disney debacle enrages me on a visceral level as well.

His incendiary book banning agenda (in schools and libraries) is just another splintery plank in his dangerous right-wing platform that derails pro-choice, gun control, gay rights and Mickey Mouse!

Mickey Mouse!

But DeSantis isn’t just versus the Magic Kingdom; he’s against “woke-ism,” progressives and liberal culture.

In March, Disney accused the governor of being “anti-business,” for his attempt to put a stranglehold on Disney’s expansion plans.

It wasn’t an overstatement.

As a result, Disney put the kibosh on an Orlando office complex, with construction scheduled at a cost of about $1 billion. Taxable!

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

The Lake Nona Town Center project would have brought in more than 2,000 jobs to the Orlando region, with $120,000 as the average salary, according to Florida’s Department

of Economic Opportunity.

The project called for the relocation of employees from Southern California. But with the blood feud between the governor and Disney, that plan is toast.

The animus began over a year ago when the company railed against a state education law that would limit classroom instruction concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. It was nicknamed by opponents the “Don’t Say Gay Law.”

DeSantis was not pleased and Florida legislators, (at his urging) targeted the state’s largest taxpayer with punishing measures.

They successfully ended Disney’s self-governing rights over Disney World, the 25,000-acre playground, giving DeSantis control over government services at the resort!

Talk about a personal vendetta!

Adding insult to injury, Florida’s healthcare industry is also under siege. After July 1st, doctors will be legally allowed to reject patients if they think they might not be heterosexual!

Pouring salt into the wound, doctors will be under no obligation to provide care or referrals.

That’s constitutional?


I grew up watching Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color with its technicolor cartoons and nature programs. I wished upon a star with Jiminy Cricket and cheered for Pollyanna when she melted the hearts of small-town curmudgeons.

What could possibly be threatening about an optimistic preadolescent?

But DeSantis’s vendetta against the Magic Kingdom rankles for myriad reasons.

For one, my husband Lew and I lived in Orlando for two years. We made the most of it. Disney World and EPCOT were practically in our backyard, and we loved showing visitors around. We even learned the proper pronunciation of “Kissimmee” (Kuh-Sim-Me).

Lew worked for the well-regarded Orlando Sentinel and I volunteered for literacy nonprofits, tutoring low-income students. Our good friends Sandy and Jim, Buffalo natives, brightened our Orlando stint with a kinship that endures to this day.

Lew and I grew homesick for the Northeast and good New York pizza.

Southern drawls were starting to grate. Enormous flying cockroaches (Palmetto bugs) freaked us out on many occasions with unexpected buzzing (yes, buzzing) and flybys.

Our feline dynamic duo Thumper and Motley weren’t crazy about the heat and humidity, either.

Motley did enjoy chasing tiny chameleons that inched into our townhouse.

Lew and I became reconciled to living in a swamp, more or less.

But our world was soon to shift, forever altered.

Lew and I welcomed our newborn Emily Anne on August 4, 1982, in Orlando Hospital.

To say the healthcare system in general, and this hospital in particular, was not up to par would be an understatement. The maternity ward lacked even one breast pump (!) and Lew had to scour nearby stores to procure one.

It quickly became even more urgent to hightail it out of there and back into a more familiar world. Six months (and one back surgery) later, we moved to Long Island, where Lew secured an editing job at Newsday.

Looking back to our Florida sojourn, Disney World will always loom large in my happy memory bank. It was glorious fun! Costumed characters kept the magic alive, with parades and fireworks to boot.

One special press appreciation day, the park was closed to the public and welcomed (gratis) credentialed journalists to frolic about giddily, feasting at the complimentary (!) food and beverage stands like hungry pirates.

It was a glorious perfect moment, shared by my best bud, Sandy.


Florida is on the verge of becoming the reddest state ever. Tied with Georgia and Texas,

subjectively speaking.

Just reading about DeSantis’s underhanded attempt to modify Florida’s law, allowing him to run for president while still governor, underscores his Machiavellian intentions.

This GOP star is not only meddling with Mickey Mouse, he’s dead set on overhauling Florida’s education policy as well.

DeSantis wants to reduce transparency over political spending and travel.

What’s he planning to hide? This new bill would impose tough new voting restrictions, making it harder for nonprofits to conduct voter registration drives.

To make things opaquer, he signed a bill exempting his past and future travel from public disclosure.

This is an honest politician? Or is that an oxymoron? Or just moronic?

A tough guy who wants to beat up Disney World, one of the state’s most popular tourist destination and money maker?

The way-right Republican governor is battling the Magic Kingdom for many reasons. Revenge may be one of them.

“Disney had clearly crossed a line in its support of indoctrinating very young school children in woke gender politics,” DeSantis claimed in his incendiary book, The Courage to be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Survival.

Republicans continue to grow in number in Florida. There are nearly 437,000 more registered Republican voters than Democrats.

How to reconcile my family’s mostly happy experience residing in Orlando for two years, with the city’s current depressing state of affairs?

By remembering the good times, augmented by close friendships and Technicolor dreams.


Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including

bottom of page