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