Sunday, December 13, 2009

When Hopportunity Knocks

I watched "Confessions of a Shopaholic" this morning and learned a new word, which I love doing, learning new words, that is, not watching romantic comedies without Hugh Grant in them. The word was "hopportunity." Without so much as going to Urban Dictionary, I was able to surmise its meaning: the opportunity to have something you had hoped for. Or, for you grammarians, the opportunity to have something for which you had hoped. Or, for you urban hipsters, hope+opportunity. For you recent college graduates, (see nopportunity.)

I was recently asked by a columnist I admire tremendously to submit three as-if, trial, auditionary columns to her editor who is on the hunt for what you might call "new talent" if you could do so without hurling.

I had always kind of hoped for my own column, and now that hopportunity has presented itself, the wave of nausea accompanying it has brought up a new word, yeep. As much as I might have wanted to say "yes" I have found myself terrified, paralyzed, and able only to gasp for air. With the remnants of a vestigial 'yes' on my lips only one sound is able to emerge, the humble yeep. Picture it as a yes with a barf back.

While considering my choices--submit three columns, or Q-tip the baseboards--I administer my morning ritual. Not stretches, and yoga and sit ups. Oh my. No, I employ the long held tradition of many a writer, the brain-bath. I and my fellow wordisans (word+artisan) use coffee for this. There's something about coffee that transports me from a useless life form (a reality show star) to an alive and awake person (the star of The Lori Show, starring Lori!).

This "awakening" we'll call it, prepares me for the day's demanding duties. Standing. Walking. Sitting. Flushing. Pouring more coffee, and of course, the ritual morning toast, "To toast! May it hold the butter of the udder like no ot'er."

Back in the sack, I begin my mediatation. No need to adjust your dial, you read it right. The word is mediatation: the deep transformative state you reach when you gaze motionless at the television, not even turning your head when the ShamWow commercial comes on, not averting your eyes when the camera takes you through the magic of television under the human toenail, where you are introduced to the dancing fungus elves who dwell there. You, in your open-minded, suggestible state, offer nary a grimace aside from an almost imperceptible raised eyebrow when you consider if this toe elf would make a good match for the Mucinex snot demon.

As your mediatation deepens, you are able to ponder the greater mysteries of life. If I make the fifteen minute call can I save 15% or more on my car insurance? Must I be an actual diabetic to have diabetic supplies delivered free to my home? And, other than their propensity for performing certain bodily functions in the woods, why choose bears to sell toilet paper?

Oh, good, "Gilmore girls" is back on. I must have blacked out for a second. Wow, those commercials are almost hypnotic. Thank goodness the shows aren't trying to sell you something.

(Lori singing along) ~If you're out on the road, feelin' lonely and so cold, all you have to do is call my name and I'll be there...on the next train. Where you lead. I will follow. Anywhere that you tell me to. If you need, if you need me to be with you, I will follow where you lead I will follow, any anywhere that you tell me to, if you need, need me to be with you, I will follow where you lead.~


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Binge and Purge

I used to have a motto: "Buy them all." If I found something I really liked, or thought would make a great little gift, or was "a real find" I would buy all they had. I shop in places like Tuesday Morning where you really never know what kind of inventory they will have on any given day. It is a last chance depot for overstock, discontinueds, seconds, and out of season goods. And the prices are great. (Great means low.)

I would find something wonderful, like say, napkins embroidered with cherries. And I would buy ALL of them. Not the apples or the lemons...just the cherries. They might have two or three packages of the cherry ones, and if they fell within certain parameters I would buy them all. My parameters were simple enough: the item had to be a bargain, not perishable, it should have utility, and the design must be attractive to me. Under these rules it didn't really matter how many I bought, since I didn't really "need" any, so I'd invoke the motto and "buy them all."

Here's where it got weird. Let's say I found three packages of these cute cherry napkins, hunting to make sure I got them all, then I'd turn the corner and find a bin of them, like a dozen more. I would put the three back and get none, maaaybe one. The hunt, stalking the prey and capturing the ones that had strayed from the herd was the fun part, but to round the bend and find the whole damn herd wrecked it for me.

But really, explaining my "buy them all" motto isn't the point I want to make today. The point I want to make is I have abandoned my motto.

I'm looking for a new motto.

Last weekend my friend Francesca and I had the second of two HUGE yard sales. The first one was July 11 and we called it the 7-11 Yard Sale from Heaven. And it was an awesome bazaar of wonderfully organized, clean, well-maintained refugees from the buy them all motto days. This last--and I do mean LAST--yard sale was 11-7 Yard Sale from Heaven, The Sequel. It consisted of the rest of the stuff, the stuff that never made it to the first sale (too much stuff), and a bunch of stuff I wasn't sure I could live without.

It seems I can. Live without, that is.

I made many families happy. I made friends and neighbors happy. I made myself happy. And today I will make the local thrift store happy.
The taxman may suspect I padded my estimate of donated goods, but he'd be wrong as there is no conceivable way to put a precise value on all I've donated this year other than to say it was a monster crap load!

More important, there is no way to put a value on what I have gained this year. For one thing, we have gained a home gym! In the space that used to house the darlingest little Christmas plates, and the loveliest crystal goblets, and the cleverest kitchen gadgets there is now a nice collection of exercise equipment, weights, jump ropes, yoga mats, exercise videos and a tv to play them on.
Well sure, there is also a refrigerator full of beer and a freezer full of bacon, lasagnas, chicken thighs and butter, but c'mon, man doesn't live by (Oroweat Country White) bread alone!

And yes, that's in there, too, because we can never forget the Commutative Property of Addition and we must apply it here: Binge+Purge = Purge+Binge.

Oh my god, a new motto!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

I was just thinking about how wonderful Fall is. With all due respect to Christmas, I think Fall has earned claim to the song title, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." The wind makes cheery leaf piles dance. The sun is bright and fully ripened. The air carries the scent of a future snow. Everything is still alive.

Like me and my (literal) cronies, there is no new growth. But death couldn't spell 'nigh' if it had a mouthful of it.

Despite all this talk of "the universe is always listening-in on what you say" there are strong indications that speaking of one's own death really holds no sway with the universe. The universe may be listening-in, but (thank the gods) it is ignoring most of what it hears.

No. It's a man-made comfort to think someone is listening. It's a man-made ego to think someone is listening to him. It's man-made misery to discover the wheel he's been handed steers nothing. But! It is man-made joy to pretend to steer anyway!

Don't believe me? Next time you go on Autopia, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, or Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin just sit there. Don't so much as pretend to steer. And by doing so, you will have reclaimed your the expense of your joy.

Think about the joy of the changing seasons. Anticipate the joy in the change of your life path, just around the bend. If you have to, dig joy out from under the dirty fingernails of your worst day ever. And when you're done taking care of that ugly business, grab your little wheel and pretend to steer again! You can follow the signs that say, "Joy & Wonder, this a-way" and avoid the signs that say "Peril & Doom, that a-way" just realize it's quite possible someone has switched the signs.

Prime suspect: The universe.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Happy Outcome

Sometimes the world of business savvy and the world of doing the right thing butt heads. Today they shook hands.

I have been in an ongoing hassle with a company called Outdoor Rugs. Today they did the right thing and at the same time redeemed my faith in the possibility that commercialism, profit-making, and the bottom line can walk in peace with integrity.

People don't go into business to demonstrate their moral virtue, but that is no reason to abandon it entirely. Enter Customer Service.

Not a living soul on Earth today, at least not those who were also on Earth 40 years ago, can say customer service has improved over the years. Rather, we mourn its near demise. But a turnaround may be coming as businesses are forced to compete with each other with the slimmest of margins, and shipping costs continue to rise. The battlefield on which they must fight (with each other) is the field of exemplary customer service practices.

The Pebble Beach company has a motto, and Disney has a similar one, that goes something like this: "Exceed the expectation of every guest every time." Those companies have reached the pinnacles of success and own the respect of millions.

Every company should strive for that pinnacle.

So what happened to me was simple. I ordered a product that did not live up to any reasonable expectation and I complained about it. Skipping past the middle part, the company, in the end, did the right thing. All is well because they did the right thing.

If you had talked to me a week ago, I might have had nothing good to say about, but today I can say this company has found its own heart and there is hope for its survival.

But what put them in a position to make a simple transaction reversal so grueling? You. Well, not you personally, but you who would exploit them, thus putting them in a defensive posture.

To those "of you" who would exploit companies with no better reason than because you can get away with it I would ask you to stop it. If you buy a prom dress, tuck the tags in, wear it to the prom and then return it, you are the problem. If you buy a hair dryer and use it in the shower and get electrocuted and sue the company, you are the problem. If you blame someone else for your idiocy, misdeeds, or neglect, you are the problem. And you are costing the rest of us a lot of money and headache for your selfish actions.

My readers are not the "you" of which I speak. This blog isn't read by the "you's" who would do things like tuck in tags. In fact, the problem is they don't read. They don't read the directions, the rules, the terms of the agreement, the fine print, the warnings, or the labels.

The result is more (needless) injuries, causing more (mercenary) trial lawyers to sue more (innocent) companies so more (dumb) juries can award more (ridiculous) awards to more (undeserving) idiots who were injured because they didn't read the label on the toaster that said, "Do not use this product while swimming, showering, or bathing."

I'd like to thank for doing the right thing. I will definitely do business with them in the future because of this good final outcome. And if it had gone the other way, this blog might have been entitled A Grumpy Outcome. (That's a Snow White reference, there.)

Let's ALL do the right thing, how's that sound?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Castles in the Air

What does it mean when you are casually flipping through a catalog, and at the very moment your eyes land on an item, in this case a card game called "Storming the Castle" a character on tv says, at that very moment "...storming the castle...". What is that!?

The game is based on the movie, The Princess Bride, in which Billy Crystal and Carol Kane say farewell to the heroes, "Bye, boys! Have fun storming the castle!" The tv character was the ex-wife of Gary UnMarried. She was offering an exultant farewell to their Marine friend who had been called back to active duty.

It's not like I saw some dumb game in some dumb catalog and for some dumb reason it caught my eye. And then after a minute or so some dumb person says something kinda similar. Oh, no. My eyes and her voice were in perfect sync. I saw the words. She read them.

Yesterday, to add a bit more to this mysterious castles in the air confluence, I finished a little movie/slideshow for my upcoming art show. The title? "The Castle Builder." I know!

I was going to post it on YouTube, but I don't have permission from the guy who recorded the poem I used for my soundtrack, Longfellow's "The Castle Builder". When I do, I shall post it.

On October 30th a friend and I are going to a party at Eagle Castle Winery. I shall be magnificent in the Maleficent costume I purchased at the D23 Expo, although I don't "relish" the idea of green face paint. (Ha'yuck!)

Now that all this castle stuff has been happening, I'm sure I'll pick up on castle references everywhere. And oh my god, Tuesday we had a storm! Weird.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Disney Experience You Couldn't Imagineer, Part III

I really need to get a life going here, so I'll make this brief.

Go, just go, to the next D23 Expo. As good as this one was, the next one is bound to be even better.

Buy and trade useless pins. Wear lanyards and dorky mouse ears. Drink $3 water. Eat $9 hamburgers. Stand in line for hours. Willingly hand over your camera and cell phone. Meet wonderful people. See wonderful things. Have a magical experience.

See you next year. (Get in line early if you want to get a voucher.)

A Disney Experience You Couldn't Imagineer, Part II

Fair warning, I am forgetting lots of unforgettable folks who appeared at the D23 Expo. Without pictures (they confiscated our cell phones and cameras for arena presentations) I have no personal record. Funny story, this guy sitting next to me was "analog Twittering" throughout one presentation. He had a little notebook and he was recording his tweets in pen and ink, for later transcription into his Blackberry account. Now I'm kinda wishing I was following him. I could use his notes.

I'm kind of torn. As weird and disconnected as I felt without my phone and camera, it was actually kind of nice to experience things on a human sensory level. So often we miss what's happening when we are recording what's happening. In the panels and presentations where cameras were allowed, the flashes and motor drives were a huge annoyance. Despite the fact that Disney fans are the nicest, cleanest, most courteous fans on Earth, they can't be trusted to obey a request as simple as "Turn off your cell phones. No flash photography, please."

Witness the blog entry of Phil Johnson of Roadside Attraction, "Though I was able to sneak my camera in, I unfortunately wasn’t able to get any good pics. Too blurry." Phil, your "woe is me" emoticon irks me to the core. I say "razzberry" emoticon to you, you camera-sneaker-inner, you. And to demonstrate my ire, I'm stealing your pics.

The arena.....................Marty Sklar....................Darth and Friends

So, who was there, you are asking. Well, I was there for one. And I'm sitting in an arena with three or four thousand Disney fans like me, and by the way, less than one tenth of one percent of them were under age 20. I had no idea what to expect. A familiar Disney announcer-voice pierces air. Air thick with anticipation. A guy I didn't recognize comes onstage and as it happens he's one of the guys who has been mixing the vat of Kool-Aid I've been drinking all these years, but still don't know, or care about, his name. He welcomed us like we were individuls, each of us invited to a party at his home on Christmas morning.

He speaks, "Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm Disney welcome to [one or more of these celebrities you will recognize by face and by name]...
Betty White, Robin Williams, Johnny Depp (dressed in full Capt. Jack Sparrow regalia), John Travolta and Kelly Preston, Nicolas Cage, Donny Osmond (who danced with Cheryl Burke of DWTS), Courtney Cox...

...and [one or more of these people whose name OR face you will know, but not necessarily know both]...
Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love), Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond), Ed O'Neill (Married with Children), Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana), Tom Bergeron (Dancing With the Stars and America's Funniest Videos)...

...and [one or more of these people whose names you might recognize but couldn't pick them out of a lineup]...director of creepy movies, Tim Burton; director of wonderful movies, Bob Zemeckis; recently retired 54-year employee of Walt Disney Company and only person to attend opening of all the Disney theme parks, Marty Sklar; co-star in her big screen debut with her parents John Travolta and Kelly Preston, Ella Blue Travolta; soundtrack, score and song writer, Dick Sherman of the Sherman Brothers; Disney artists-of-much-acclaim, Noah and Robert Kincade...

...and [one or more of these beloved Disney characters]...Mickey Mouse; Minnie Mouse; Donald Duck (and the guy who does Donald's voice); Goofy (and the guy who does Goofy's voice); The Muppets...all of them, not just Kermit and Miss Piggy, aboard a miniature Mark Twain steam boat on stage; and Darth Vader accompanied by let's say, 23, Storm Troopers...

...and the newest (shockeroo alert, she's black) Disney princess...Princess Tiana from the bound to be a hit movie "The Princess and The Frog." This gal sang, like an angel, a song from the movie. I admit I held a preconceived, and ill, notion of this movie, because I can't bear to see one more race victimization story. I was pleasantly surprised, not only by the song, her singing, and the animation, but mostly the wonderful way the story is told. It pretty much follows the Soroptimist message, to "live your dream" leaving race out of it other than to demonstrate we ALL have dreams, and we ALL meet obstacles, and we all have to persevere. Plus now little black girls can wear a cute little costume to Disneyland and be a Disney princess like little blond girls, little brunette girls, little redheads, little Native American girls, little Middle Eastern girls, and little Asian girls. Tha's cool.

I'm telling you, the talent and creativity and celebrity and nostalgia they brought to this expo was above and beyond a Disney fans wildest imagination. Which says a lot.

At one of the presentations they did a fantastic, fast-paced, wide-screen, hi-def, video montage of Disney movies and television shows, both old and new, and the underlying soundtrack was LIVE. Singers and musicians performed in perfect sync with the video. It was unbelievable.

[Insert 'woe is me' emoticon here] I'm doing a horrible job of relating the Disney Magic to you. Picture it this way, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our special guest, former president and animatronic legend, Mr. Abraham Lincoln." Abe then introduces Barack Obama. And the president of the United States introduces Walt Disney, whose cryogenicly frozen body has been specially thawed for this first-ever D23 Expo.

And no, with the exception of Obama's animatronic figure, none of these guys were actually there (that I know of) but it was almost as amazing as that, and that's what I'm trying to convey.

Every time you sat in the arena, there was going to be an amazing personal appearance, or performance, sneak peak, or insider preview, most of which were a complete and utter surprise. Nothing about it was lame. I'll go so far as to say, even if you consider yourself a non-Disney person, who thinks of Walt Disney as a butt-obsessed drunken bastard, even you would have been impressed by the artful orchestration of this expo. It was that good.

For me, a Disney fan, words cannot describe the feeling you get when a corporation as big as Disney kneels down in front of you, takes your hand, looks into your eyes, and says, "We get you. We appreciate you. And we thank you. Without you, the well-heeled, middle-aged, nostalgia-dipped, Kool-Aid drinking Disney fan, we would be nothing."

What makes it EVEN BETTER is you're in a room with thousands of people who also get you, appreciate you, and without them, the pins would not be collectible, the lines would be short and boring, and ear hats would look just plain stupid.

Thank you, you people. You people like me.

A Disney Experience You Couldn't Imagineer, Part I

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, please keep your hands and arms inside the blog at all times.

Once upon a time, there was a Disney fan who traveled to a magical place and experienced adventures she could never have dreamed of. She walked among people of "her kind." She waited in line with them. She dined with them, in line. She shopped with them, in line. And she talked with them about all the things they had in common, all while waiting in line.

For those of you who are line-waiting averse, this might seem like your vision of hell. But for a Disney fan, lines are part of the experience. For me the line-wait adds something special to the experience. It puts the queue in quintessential. It's the best way to observe people, meet people, and talk to strangers...and to find stranger fans than these, you'll have to go to Comic-Con, where you're bound to see some of the same people, not coincidentally.

By now you might be thinking, "Hey, let's get on with the blog! We're tired of waiting to read about what the heck you waited in line for!" (~sorry~)

"C'mon everybody, here we go-o-o-o-o!" (That is a Peter Pan reference, by the way, for those of you who only read the book.)

Welcome to D23 and the D23 Expo.
What is D23? The D stands for Disney. The 23 stands for 1923, the year Walt Disney Studios opened. It's a fan club. But more than that, it's a Disney fan club. To be honest it is a Disney geek club. And I'm proud to say I'm a charter member. You can be a charter member, too, if you sign up in 2009.

The D23 Expo was billed as "The Ultimate Disney Fan Experience." Oh bo'ee, was it ever. I really had no idea what I was in for. It exceeded my expectation to such a degree that I'm almost afraid to go next year, for fear it can only disappoint, now that my expectation level has been raised so high.

The Anaheim Convention Center is across the street from the Happiest Place on Earth (Disneyland, for those of you who...oh never mind, just try to keep up.) This was the venue for the first-ever ultimate Disney fan experience. And even though I was this close to "The Park" I never set foot on the happiest hallowed ground on Earth. Didn't need to. Didn't have time. I was with my peeps and I was happy. Granted, I did get a little sleepy, grumpy and dopey by the end of the day. Goofy, maybe. Bashful, never. I made friends and had an absolutely amazing time.

Disney got it so right I will never underestimate the power of Disney Magic again. I'll even go so far as to suggest they administer the Obama health care plan--all the way from design, to marketing, to distribution, to fulfillment. As opposed as I am to SM (Socialized Medicine) I think the Imagineers could find a way to serve up this vat of Kool-Aid, and have America smacking their lips in gratitude. And now, back to our story.

I started ~gulp~ pin trading. I became a collector of Tinker Bell pins at this event. The whole pin trading thing kind of eluded me until the expo. Then I was surrounded by it, immersed in it, and swept away by it. I don't know what happened to me, but I suspect Pixie Dust. This morning I actually put my pins in a display case. Well, not my Tink pins. My Tink pins are on my Tink lanyard. I have a Tink lanyard, for Peter's sake! What the?!

I was able to resist the Vinylmation craze, thank god. If you don't know what I'm talking about here are a few pictures of these highly collectible rubber dolls, which until this expo I had never even heard of.

Left to right they are blank white, Kermit, Oopsey, Pick Me, and Ham and Eggs. They are 3 inches tall, but also come in 9 inch sizes. And a 5 footer painted by Disney artist-of-much-acclaim, Noah, sold at the D23 auction for $4400. People go nuts for these things. And not just Japanese folks who really go for this strange kind of animation that is, to me, weird, borderline creepy. So I bought just the one...which does not constitute a craze. In my defense I only bought the D23-Members-Only-Exclusive-Limited-Edition one that you can get today-only, but not unless you have the special-voucher-that-you-can-only-get-if-you-are-in-line-at-6-am, or, until-such-time-as-they-become-available-to-the-non-voucher-holding-public (which turned out to be at 4 pm that day), otherwise, you're going to have to wait until tomorrow, where you can buy-as-many-as-you-can-afford on eBay. I will never sell mine. Nor will I take it out of the Special-Edition-D23-Member-Exclusive tin. They're just too creepy. Kool-Aid anyone?

Enough about Vinylmation, Tink and pin trading. In my next post I will tell you who was there. It will blow your mind.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Answers to "The Ten Questions"

1. What is your favorite word?

2. What is your least favorite word?

3. What turns you on in life?
Air, water and sun.

4. What turns you off?
Lies, liars and lying.

5. What sound do you love?
A man's deep growl of appreciation.

6. What sound do you hate?

7. What is your favorite curse word?
Fahk. (sic)

8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Bread baker.

9. What profession would you not like to do?

10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
"Good, you made it. Thanks for coming. Your hair looks great. Have you lost weight? The martini bar is by the pool. The foot massages are just past the hammocks. Tonight we're having steak and lobster. The movie starts at 7:30. It's Red Vines and popcorn night. Charlie Sheen was asking about you. Something about what kind of lotion you prefer? Anyway, glad you're here. I really mean that. Your being here really makes my day. Next! Oh, look, it's the Mermaids. You missed Lori by, like, 2 seconds. Hurry up and you can catch her before she goes down the butter slide into the warm pudding tub."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Happiest Birthday on Earth, Part III

The day after my birthday was gray, wet, gloomy and almost cold, but under their plastic ponchos families were sweating and miserable.

Dads were grumpy. Big brothers were teasing little brothers about being scaredy cats. Sisters were punching sisters who tugged on their princess hat streamers and claiming "she started it!" Moms were questioning the wisdom of planning one's life around one's biological clock. And I was alone in a wet, gray sea of Disneyppointment. I had never experienced it. Not even when my kids were pains and my husband was as mute as Dopey.

Even a churro could not fix this day.

I realized I hadn't gone on the Jungle Cruise my last two visits, so I took the train from Tomorrowland planning to disembark at New Orleans Square, wind back around through Adventureland, cruise the Amazon, and head for home by 3, in time to beat the LA traffic. (you can stop laughing now)

At the Main Street Station, who should appear, but Vern! Our jovial, warm Disney Railway conductor who had given us a ride on the Lilly Belle. He remembered me and rode with me around the entire park, sharing trivia all along the way, and jumping down from his perch to do his job at the New Orleans, Toon Town and Tomorrowland stations, each time climbing back on his little outboard platform to ride with me.

He claimed he was scared of the dark, so we held hands as we rode through the Grand Canyon as we know it today, and then back in time, through the primordial era when dinosaurs roamed the earth. He pointed out that the only animation in the Grand Canyon is a fan that causes the Aspen leaves to move ever so slightly, and that the dinosaurs now sport a cool, new fog effect. He also challenged the accuracy of T-Rex having opposable thumbs. He was just the right blend of geek and sweet to make my last Disney experience a good one.

As it happens, Vern is a photographer as well, and now that we have so much in common it is going to be my pleasure to call ahead next time I plan a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth and I have been promised a very special guided tour with none other than Happy himself.

I never did cruise the jungle, but my train ride with Vern was, if not riddled with puns, something I would never trade. I was out of the park a little after 3 and on the road by 3:30 with hundreds of pictures...of puddles and shadows and 3's, oh my...and some really great memories of yet another wonderful world of Disney experience.

Thank you, Walt, Vern and all the rest of you who made me smile and be thankful and hopeful and happy about being 55 and alive.

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you.

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do.

Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing.

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true

Happiest Birthday on Earth, Part II

Walking through those gates is where the true Disney magic begins for me. Maybe it is because I have walked through those gates so many times over the years, at all ages, with all kinds of companions, at all times of year and that the energy of all those people with anticipation right on the tips of their hearts is palpable and shared--that makes this moment so special. Come to think of it, it's kind of like sex. There is that moment, at the gate, where the anticipation is almost as exciting as the culmination. Only Disneyland is cleaner, safer, and never a disappointment.

You can't see much from the entrance, except the train and the giant floral Mickey head on the lawn in front of Main Street Station. (Or is that the back?) But because you can't see much at all, except families clustered under Mickey's chin taking pictures with what have to be the slowest cameras in the world, there is time to gather a sense of the promises held...just around the bend. Or in this case, the "Pardon Our Pixie Dust" bedazzled construction barriers just around the bend.

Main Street is getting a new set of treads. In the classic Disney way, they have disguised the ugly mess of a construction site behind lovely barriers. And there are no sounds of jackhammers or sweaty hard hats making smooching sounds at the hot babes. They work at night. Disneyland is, after all, a 24 hour operation in some regards. Those wads of gum don't scrape off themselves.

I read that the pavement on Main Street is darkened in order to make it get hotter in the sun. Hot pavement keeps people walking, into the stores, or toward the castle. We keep moving because standing still is unpleasant. And at night, when the weather cools down, isn't the warm pavement a luxurious treat? It makes you want to linger longer as you exit down Main Street. The Main Street shops close an hour after the park closes! They say 80% of your health care costs are incurred in your last 8 days of life. I think it's safe to say your last 80 bucks find their way into Mickey's white gloves in your last 8 minutes on Main Street.

Main Street wasn't the only barricaded attraction. I'd like to say I'm sorry the Matterhorn Bobsleds were under repair, but to be honest, the last few times I've taken a ride down the icy slopes of Matterhorn Mountain I was thinking, "It's time this old gal got some lube." It used to be the smoothest, fastest ride in the park, but lately it's gotten rough and a tad bumpy--like the rest of us 55 year olds. I just hope, with this new makeover, the Yeti hasn't gone in for lip plumping. That trend HAS to end, and soon. I'm hoping the Ocotmom will do our nation some good and serve as the anti-lip-plump poster child and end this madness. Or maybe all those women at the Beach Club were simultaneously attacked by killer bees. How sad for them if that's the case.

Speaking of looking good, It's a Small World has been refurbished and looks great! And it is ever so slightly different. The boats are brand new and a huge improvement in design, although the colorful molded plastic hollow core design has a distinctive Little Tikes look and feel about it. The only other minor change is the Small World song now repeats five gajillion times instead of five bazillion, but you hardly notice the difference.

Innoventions. What can I say? It is fire-roasted corn salad served in grandma's "antique" Melamine bowl with balsamic vinegar and fat-free synthetic "salad oil." What does that mean? The Melamine bowl is the old Carousel of Progress in the back corner of Tomorrowland. It's not really antique, but you remember it from your childhood. It was at every family meal at Grandma's. Or in this case, Grandpa Walt's place. The "corn" is classic Disney corniness, with stupid puns and coined words like Innovention--Innovation and Invention. This attraction is hosted by Tom Morrow ~groan~ the robotic mutation of Billie Crystal, Robin Williams and Whoopie Goldberg, and he's as annoying as any ONE of them alone. He is the official greeter of the fake home of a fake family celebrating their fake son's fake soccer victory--zowie, they're going to the playoffs! But these fake folks have the coolest shit on the planet! And it's real. Which is how the corn came to be "fire-roasted" and the vinegar balsamic. The synthetic fat free salad oil represents the rich, luxurious, clean-livin' features of this home of--not tomorrow--but today, since all these tech toys are here now. You have to see it at least once. I've seen it twice and could have spent another hour roaming around on the second floor, but there are no bathrooms in the building, and arugula waits for no man. It used to be a great big beautiful tomorrow, but that day is today, in Tomorrowland.

Oh my goodness, look at the time. It's five o'clock! The tequila hour. A short Monorail ride away is Downtown Disney. Home of Tequila Joe's...I mean, Tortilla Joe's. Which is, in turn, home of The Wall of Tequila. A quick date with Sr. Patron and a boring lecture from Carlos the bartender who knows waaaay too much about tequila and tried to pry me out of the arms of my patron and throw me into the arms of some guy named Partido, sent me running for the Grand Californian. And who should be there, but Sr. Patron and Sr. Partido standing side by side. I invited each of them to sit with me, and we shared a plate of sliders and took a call from daughter Katie.

With the park about to close in one hour, I excused myself from the bar and spent the last hour in Frontierland, home of Big Thunder Mountain Railway. Note to my readers: when riding alone, sit either to the left, or to the right, but not in the middle using your thighs to keep you from sliding back and forth. What appear to be bruises today, might be an indication of underlying tissue death. You could end up a crabby prescription drug addict like House.

I remember riding Big Thunder in Disney World many times in a row, and the fireworks were visible from the train. This time was almost like that. Fantasmic was creating musical havoc and light behind me as we screamed, thundered and baaaaa'd our way through the mine shaft. (Ya see, there's this mountain goat up on a rock...oh never mind.)

I walked back to my hotel after buying a birthday (cup)cake on Main Street and counted my birthday wishes. All 55 of them.

Next, Part III

Happiest Birthday on Earth, Part I

You'd think turning 55 would make you feel the opposite of young. You'd think spending it alone would make you feel lonely, maybe even unloved. You'd think going to Disneyland would be potentially expensive undertaking. But you'd be three ways wrong.

On March 3, 2009 I turned 55 and I did it alone at Disneyland. Mr. Disney--he likes to be called Walt--treated me to free admission. He had one of his Cast Members give me a button with my name hand-written on it in Sharpie Marker. And he instructed the rest of his Cast Members to greet me by name and wish me a happy birthday every chance they got.

By the end of the day I had received 55 ~count 'em~ 55 birthday wishes from cast members, Disney guests, other March 3rd free-on-your-birthday folks, also more than a few friends and sisters called and sang various renditions of "Happy Birthday to You," and best of all BOTH my children called me on my birthday, how cool is that! (They don't know this, but that was the only thing I really wanted "for" my birthday--my children to remember, and to call.)

You might be thinking how does she know it was 55 people who wished her happy birthday? If you know me, you might be saying to yourself, "Oh my god, she wrote them down! What a geek!" You do know me. I did write them down. I am a geek. Every time a person said happy birthday I wrote it in the Notes application on my iPhone. I had a little bet going with myself, to see if I could get 33. Can't say I won or lost the bet, though, since I got 55.

I also gave myself a project. I photographed every number "3" I came across. I have been photographing strange things for years: manhole covers, puddles, shadows, crab signs, and Women's restroom signs. I must say Disneyland has the best Women's room signs anywhere.

Even though this was my most recent Best Disneyland Trip Ever, there's a reason I can't say this was Thee Best Disneyland Trip Ever. Recently I went to Club 33 with Allyson and Marilyn and THAT was pretty amazing and extraordinarily special. Like my birthday day we had perfect weather that day, and the crowd size was like a gift from Walt who art in heaven.

Before that I went with Allyson and her grandkids for their first visit and that was such a special way to see the park. You gain a whole new appreciation for Pooh Honey. And it makes you so thankful your kids are grown. And I'm not harkening back to the groaning wail of "I'm not tired!" I'm referring to the awesome grandma part.

Before that I went with Allyson, Marilyn...and Francesca...on her first trip to Disneyland (at age 46!) and that was pretty special considering we got to ride on the Lilly Belle, the special private train car of Walt and Lillian Disney. We met a Disney Cast Member and All Around Special Guy, Vern Smith, who made us feel like the princesses we are.

So I can't say I'm lacking in wonderful world of Disney experiences, but there is something about being able to sit in one spot for a half hour and not worry if you're holding anyone up. To be able to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railway three times in a row without asking, "Do you want to go again?" To be able to stop take a picture, or a hundred, without having to apologize for the wait, or worse, look up and find out they didn't wait.

My first stop was California Adventure. I thought it would be good idea to start my day by visiting my boyfriend, Patrick Warburton ~swoon~ and grabbing a whiff of orange groves and ocean surf whilst Soarin' (Over California), but it was a little early for my fellow soarers and their under-reaction kind of wrecked it for me. I like it when the crowd cheers when we fly over the aircraft carrier, and when they get tearful and cheerful when we fly down Main Street USA...alas this crowd was still waking up. Some of them didn't even lift their feet when we clipped the top of the Sierras!

Maybe I'd have better luck finding that Disney energy at California Screamin'. Yeah, baby! For the first time ever, I got to sit in front. The other front car rider, also a single, told me it was worth the wait. And, even though I had almost no wait, I can see where it is worth it. Ride in the front car whenever you can.

Speaking of single...Disney has a secret...some rides have a special line for single riders. Toy Story Mania is one. This new ride is a shooting gallery ride that is so much fun you'll want to go on it again and again. I rode three times consecutively, avoiding the stupid-long line for this "new ride on the block". Had I not been a little nauseous after the third time I might have gone again. Hmm...what is good for nausea? A churro! Sadly, or thankfully perhaps, the wait for churros was too long. I moved on.

Thank god the line at Corn Dog Castle was long and slow because after wasting a good ten minutes in that line, I decided a fancier lunch was a better idea for this birthday girl. (Although I do love a good corn dog.) I had lunch at the Wine Country Trattoria. One glass of sparkling wine and a chicken arugula panino later I was on my way from California Adventure to Disneyland. I thought.

I took a stroll into Hollywood Studios and that is where I spent a half hour just sitting, watching the entire series of animated movie shorts surround me overhead. I visited the Sorcerer's Workshop to see which Disney character I'm most like. (Tink) And I sat in with the Dudes and Dudettes at Turtle Talk with Crush. Cha! I skipped the learn to draw workshop because, to be honest, I didn't like the people I was in line with and the character of the day was Daisy Duck. No offense Daisy, but we just never hit it off.

On my way out of California Adventure I got a little sad because Allyson wasn't there to kick off the dance party when the Beach Boys' Surfin' USA came on, but then it happened. A big, muscle-armed kind of guy in a black T shirt started to do The Swim. Thank you, angels.

Hand stamped, smiling, well fed, relaxed and just a little bit tipsy I headed across the nearly empty plaza toward Main Street Station...all aboard!

Next, Part II

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Howdy, Stranger!

Sheesh! How long has it been since I've written! Can it be I have run out of opinions? Things to whine about? Innermost secrets to share? No, is the simplest answer. You want thingamabobs? I've got twenty. But who cares, no big deal, I want...less.

Thing is, I've run out of care. I have become an apathetic malaiser, as opposed to a pathetic loser (inside joke).

It's Recession depression. It's February gloom. It's obama-lama-ding-dong. It's all too much. Am I suicidal? In a half-baked way, yes. I absolutely have no worries, no fear, and no opposition to dying, but I also have no plans, no desire and no hope that anything other than a completely natural death is a minute or 50 years from now. I don't get to pick.

Before you start calling toll free numbers to report this, rest assured I am not, not, not going to kill myself or anyone else ever. What I suspect is some of you out there share this feeling of apathy. Let me interject here, with a true story. In my high school year book there is a picture of the Apathy Club. It's a blank, brick wall with a caption of all the names of the members "(not shown)". None of them showed up on picture day. Get it? Apathy? They didn't care enough to show up! The picture would not have made the yearbook unless the Apathy Club had consisted of mostly all the yearbook staff. And at Cleveland High School in Portland, Oregon being on the Legend Staff was cooler than being the quarterback. Me? I was on the Tomahawk (newspaper) staff. That's 30 on that.

So here we are, it's picture day in America. Some of us are on the front page, some of us are reading the front page, and some of us have canceled the paper entirely. Most of us are recycling the paper, after reading the classifieds, and praying there isn't another story about multiple births. And I'm wondering how long the newspapers will be in business now that I can read the New York Times from my cell phone...although, why would the New York Times, that is.

Do you feel an artist trying to emerge from your soul? Are you thinking about starting/finishing that novel or screenplay? Are you asking yourself if you could live in one of the states that don't start with CA if it meant you could afford to write and paint and garden by moving there? Are you asking yourself, "I wonder if I could handle the winters in Maine."? "How much work is a Bed and Breakfast, do you suppose?" "Should I write a scone cookbook?" "If I sold my house here and lived in a cottage in Vermont could I live off the interest?"

The reason I am asking these questions is simple. These are questions I am asking myself. And no matter how unique I like to think I am, and how special you-all make me feel, time and time again life has shown me that I am actually the mean, the median, and the mode in the range of life. Maybe this is how I can care so deeply about apathy, joke about suicide, and claim to know what you're thinking when I am perfectly capable of forgetting your name.

Standing here on the center divide of life's highway I can see who is merging on and who is exiting, who is speeding and who is stalled, who is on their way, and who is on their way back. This guy has engine trouble. That guy can't afford a car like that, who does he think he's kidding. She is texting while driving. Ouch, not any more. If I were IN the traffic with you I would see only your tail lights ahead of me, not all of this wonderful flow.

It is this vantage point that grants me a certain luxury, that is, to see what you-all are up to, but also it is my trap. I can't move from here because a) I would surely lose this great spot, and 2) I am not sure where I'd go if I left this great spot.

So maybe it's not so much that I don't care but rather that I don't care to change. And why would I?