Walt Disney World: Day Two

Three reasons drove our choosing of Magic Kingdom for our first proper day about. It was the day after Early Entry (aka Surprise Morning, a [periodically defunct] feature where resort guests are let in earlier than general admission), so theoretically the crowds would be smaller. Also, it was Superbowl Sunday, which we figured ought to shrink the touristing populace even further. But mostly it was because it just seemed right to make our glorious start with Magic Kingdom, the first park, the descendant of Walt’s Disneyland.

Up earlier than planned, Mike was in the shower when Mickey rang to say there was stuff going on that we needed to see. I was trying not to fret about the sprouting blister crop, making sad after-the-fact use of the Moleskin I had packed “just in case the unthinkable happens despite the wearing the most perfect shoes ever.” Our little sewing kit had a small pair of scissors that I was using to cut the flannel strips from the roll. Or tried to, before the puny blades came apart in my hands.

Mike volunteered to go to the gift shop to get decent scissors. He returned with a nice, sturdy pair, but they’d not come from Fulton’s. Fulton’s only sold sewing kit scissors like I’d just broken, and they wouldn’t lend him a pair of their own decent ones. The cast member told Mike I would have to lurch down there barefoot with my roll of Moleskin and cut the strips on the premises under their careful supervision. (Perhaps not in those exact words.)

Since Mike knew things had progressed to where I shouldn’t try walking anywhere without the Moleskin already on, he went to one of the guest services desks where they happily lent him some proper scissors. I cut up part of the roll so there would be strips for later, but since I wasn’t sure yet what size they would need to be I hoped we could buy some scissors of our own between now and when the pre-cut strips ran out.

The sticky backing of the Moleskin made the scissors gummy so there was some anxiety on my part that I had messed up borrowed property, borrowed sacred holy Disney property, but finally I got all the stickiness off and we were on our way to the bus stop, pausing in the lobby to return the scissors with genuine gratitude to the nice man. I had changed from Birks to street slippers with socks, so my feet were doing pretty well, considering, and I was more than ready for whatever the day might bring.

* * *

As we walk to the entrance of the Magic Kingdom, Mike points at our feet. “Look at the bricks!” I look down and see the Walk around the World bricks. Mike still doesn’t know we’re among the immortalized. He’s reading the bricks, and I make some sort of noise along the line of “that’s pretty neat, isn’t it?” Mike readily agrees, throwing in his own short word of approval for those so lucky to have such a thing. Success!

Through the turnstiles, under the railway station, and onto the plaza, I looked around for the castle but couldn’t see it. It was perhaps 8:30 a.m., and Main Street was available for walking around but none of the Lands had been opened yet. People strode past us as we pointed out hanging flowers and window displays, the day’s nudging already begun.

And then we walked out to the center of Main Street. “This is it,” I said before we reached the center, camera coming out of the pack.

The street quiet and still waking up, the sun clear overhead, we took our first look at Cinderella Castle. It was so pretty in the new morning sun. It was a million Sunday evenings of watching Tinkerbell wave her wand to start The Wonderful World of Disney. I still can’t remember the castle at Disneyland, but who could ever forget this? During the trip I would see hundreds of things that impressed me much more, but the Castle is the Castle. Seeing it was to feel as though we’d really arrived.

We took our time walking up Main Street, stopping every few paces to point out more detail. I showed Mike a window with a display of jellies and jams, belabouring the point that those in Australia who will tell you that “jelly” is an American word for “jam” are quite wrong. (“Jelly” is gelatin there. They just don't have jelly-jelly.)

Mike went into the bakery for something to eat. He wanted quick breakfast food from a counter service place, but I told him that there wasn’t any such thing available. He didn’t believe me, and I’d decided against carrying the Palm so therefore I couldn’t prove it. But by the time we were to the bakery I had him convinced that no bacon vendor with a little umbrella over their stand was going to roll up. It was a cultural difference to him the way Americans are willing to eat sweets for breakfast. Not that they don’t have doughnuts in Australia and so forth, but he found it unusual to not have a counter service place open at that hour selling something more savoury.

As I followed him into the bakery I smelled something really great, really familiar. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. When I walked closer to the counter, the smell dissipated quickly. A couple of times I walked back to the door, trying to figure out what it was, but it was too elusive. Nothing in the display looked like what I was smelling. I never did discover what it was. I wouldn’t put it past Disney to have some kind of scent generator near the door.

* * *

We decided Adventureland should begin our day; it appeared to our mutual Indiana Jones fantasies. We passed Crystal Palace, where we had priority seating arrangements for 11:30, and found a bench in the shady area to the right of the Adventureland entrance. A few dozen people milled as opening time drew near. We watched and listened to the mallards, looking for hidden speakers. The words “themeing” and “themey” will be popping up often in this trip report, for by this point they were being overused with gusto. Today’s Motto: “Look at that, look at that...”

We admired the cast members in their safari hats and khakis who welcomed us in to Adventureland as the park officially opened. We let the people rush past to keep up with the cast members who were “walking” the crowd to Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We were both eager to try out some ride, but were also determined to take our time. You could so easily just stand still at any point and spend ten minutes turning in a slow circle, gawking.

Shortly we were alone again, everyone up ahead and out of sight. I spied “Adventureland Piglet” at the stand. Piglet in safari gear! I knew I'd need one later to bring home. Mike played with plastic snakes. We made it another fifteen steps before having to stop and pose for photos in front of the flowers. A nice older couple paused and offered to take our picture together there, beaming at us. We beamed back. This is Disney World. No one’s unhappy at Disney World.

Without deliberation we agreed to skip the Swiss Family Treehouse for now. It’s funny the way we could be so involved with inspecting the themeing but pass up seeing those attractions known for being the very definition of theme. The vinyl leaves overhead certainly looked real to me. But I was being careful of my feet, and I’ll guiltily go ahead and admit that it just wasn’t appealing at the time. I was glad Mike felt the same.

Past the Treehouse we saw where they were constructing the new Dumboesque Magic Carpet ride. It was hard to imagine how an attraction would fit in there without making things very congested. I was surprised that the newly opened Agrabah Bazaar was just a Middle Eastern-styled shop and not a whole marketplace of knick-knacks. (On the scale of what we’d later see at Animal Kingdom.) More Adventureland Piglets filled a trunk there. I was besotted. Mike pointed out the jewels half-buried in the pavement. Praising murmurs of “the themeing, the themeing...” started to rise again.

I wanted to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, which I thought was just around the corner, but the construction messed with my head since you couldn’t walk all the way around it to where I thought Pirates would be. (Who needs a map when you have a gist?)

So we figured out that we needed to walk around the other way, which is how we came to the Jungle Cruise. I was so excited about getting to ride Pirates that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on the Cruise, but I quickly assumed the beatific position and poireminded myself there would be plenty of time for both and lots more, so I congenially agreed to Mike's suggestion that we ride, and we boarded our vessel with one other family.

The seat was wet, giving us the excuse to move back a bit and away from Captain James. (As I dragged the wetness back with me.) Not that there was anything wrong with Captain James, I think that was his name, in fact he was an excellent guide to the rivers of the world. We just like being a bit away from things when possible. You should realize that by now. We lurk. And then we spring.

The first few animatronics were nice but not too impressive. (We didn’t know then that the design was almost a half century old.) Things shaped up quickly, though, and we were laughing at the bad jokes and, yes, nudging each other (which can be done with the eyes, in case you’ve begun to worry about bruising) and grinning. My favourite part was where we saw the lions caring for the sleeping zebra. Very heartwarming. The temple would be the second best part. A much more convincing atmosphere than I was expecting for the Magic Kingdom.

* * *

We disembarked by stepping on the middle seat, too late for Captain James’ pained warning not to do that, but now we were square, what with his having rippled the magic earlier by mentioning that he was looking forward to leaving early so he could watch the Superbowl. It's not that he broke character, but that he mentioned the evil Superbowl. Not that there is anything wrong with the Superbowl; it’s just a symbolic thing for every time someone grunted at me because they couldn’t take their eyes off a football game. Mike has been warned that, as crazy as it may sound, my loathing of most sports is non-negotiable. He’s just lucky that he is Australian, so none of the sports he likes are things I’ve heard of, let alone learned to disdain.

Not that any of this was going through my mind for my than a millisecond, because we were walking off to the left, reliving the merits of the Jungle Cruise, when there it appeared before us: Pirates of the Caribbean.

Or: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN!

You can’t deny that Pirates is a must-do ride, if only because everyone knows about it. Mike quoted Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park: “Yeah, but John, if the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don't eat the tourists.”

See, everyone knows Pirates. And Mike and I both share a certain love of things piratey anyway. Sometimes I suspect that Mike doesn’t carry these feelings as I do. He never wanted to dress like Adam Ant, and he doesn’t ever spend Friday evenings with a spreadsheet trying to calculate the costs and benefits of becoming a maritime archaeologist. But he has played all of the pirate-based computer games, which is probably why he was named an Epinions.com game advisor while I just sit on the couch and watch Yellowbeard. Graham Chapman, there was a talent.

Hardly anyone was going into Pirates, so once again we had a queue to examine on our own terms. We walked on to our boat, taking seats up front.

Oh, the grins and excited nods began almost from the start, as we softly drifted into the cool darkness, a singing storm in the distance ahead, a crab scuttling to our left as we turned the corner to see the rough night upon us, a skeleton captain clinging to his wheel. The Jolly Roger flapped and spoke, “Arrrr... thar be rough waters ahead!.. keep yer ruddy hands inside the boat”

Everyone complains about Pirates being refurbished into something more politically correct, but I couldn’t tell. I guess you had to see the old version. Playing light at torturing, looting, and selling women into slavery was plenty for me, and I’m never one to approve of dumbing things down for the protection of sensibilities.

As with Spaceship Earth, we were ready to go on again as soon as we got off. I was especially taken with the last scene — the man bound to the chair was just a little too realistic for me. Hazy memories of Westworld and Stepford Wives started forming conspiracy theories in my brain. Mike pointed out how the audio was perfect; you never heard too much beforehand or after you passed through. We observed this with many attractions.

At this point, Pirates was “the best.” Hands-down fantastic, and how would we ever describe this powerful epic of song and fog and yo ho’ing to anyone else?

We spent more time in the gift shop than on the ride. I know everyone complains about being dumped into a gift shop after every attraction, but we never minded. Just that much more fun, or at least climate control. I guess it’s different when you have kids hanging on your arm wanting to buy the place up.

As it happens, we ended up looking at just about everything in there. We made our first pressed pennies, choosing the skeleton-oriented designs. Mike was taken with the postage-paid coconuts you could mail to people, but I burst his bubble by saying they probably wouldn’t ship to Australia without a hefty surcharge. I’m mean like that.

Outside we saw our first character — Captain Hook — with sidekick Smee. There were a few children around and I took a photo. I wasn’t up for standing up close and waiting a turn, but enjoyed watching. (Mike was in the restroom for part of this, anyway.)

* * *

We veered left, continuing our clockwise circle through the park and into Frontierland. Here we became a little turned around but fumbled our way to Splash Mountain, stopping to look at the drop, which didn’t look bad at all. I absentmindedly said something about ponchos, but who needed ponchos? Not us. It’s just a log ride, right?

It was a full boat that started us on our journey to the tales of Uncle Remus. How Splash Mountain is okay while Dixie Landings and Song of the South aren’t, I can’t imagine, other than to point a chubby finger at the usual marketing beanheads who eat the souls of those who eventually die in inevitable endless committee meetings devoted to posturing and pretend-time, but I’m thankful that Splash Mountain exists and surely, not to tempt fate, won’t ever be changed into something more palatable for those who see offense everywhere.

I wish we had a video of a trip through Splash Mountain. (Typing pauses while I run to see if anyone has auctioned such an item on eBay.) For our entire two weeks it fought Pirates for the Number One spot. Mike finally gave it the clear edge for the Best Attraction spot. I did the same, with a little more reluctance: it’s like comparing limes and pomegranates. (Not in any deep sense, just because I didn’t want to say “apples and oranges” again.)

I probably shouldn’t put this in a trip report that will be read by sensitive ears, but it’s a critical moment of fun. The first song you hear on Splash Mountain, as you come up around the bend and see the cabbage patch and the laundry and the birds in their tree, is a catchy piece singing “How do you do, la la-la la laa la” and so forth, until it comes to the unexpected line, “la-la la, show us your balls!”

What?!

Well, that’s what I heard. And the other pea in the pod, Mike, did too, because as soon as we got off I broached him with, “You know that first song...?” and he knew exactly where my question was leading. We knew those couldn’t be the right words, but it wasn’t until our third time through that we worked it out to be “...sure as you’re born” (“pretty good, sure as you’re born” in case you’re one of those retentive types who wants to know what the la-la la was too.)

Maybe we both have twisted minds, but I suspect the Imagineers knew what they were doing there. A search through Usenet shows we weren’t the first to boggle.

Before you board Splash Mountain there are several signs saying “You May Get Wet.” After the first small drop of no significance, as we came around the bend and were promptly doused by the water from the log behind us, we decided that was a big fat lie and there we all were, mildly shaking ourselves out like river dogs. Luckily this happened after the gentleman behind us took his wife’s loving but firm suggestion to put away the video camera. “That is a seven hundred dollar camera...” became another favourite quote.

It has been a long time since I read the story of the tar baby in the briar patch, but the Disney spin works regardless of whether you’ve read the stories or seen their movie. Over a year later and I still don’t know which was my favourite part of Splash Mountain. I didn’t expect it to zip like a roller coaster out of the water to the Laughing Place. Br’er Bear hanging from the tree was good, but so were the bees and the honey pot on his head. The vultures were scary, and so were the glittering orange eyes of the bats.

And the drop? Wet! So wet that we never, ever rode Splash Mountain without ponchos again. Really wet! And fast! And great! Of course that first ride was probably the most drenching of all the Splash Mountain journeys we took.

You’d think it would be over after the five story plunge, but as we recovered and grinned even wider we were treated to a Welcome Home party for Br’er Rabbit, complete with a Dixieland paddle-wheeler strung with lights and everyone singing Zip a Dee Doo Da. And like the painting on the wooden planks said as we came to the dock, “It’s the truth, it’s actual.” (Everything is satisfactual!)

* * *

From there we made the obvious choice of going next door to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I thought a good, swift, breeze from a runaway mine train would be just the thing for getting our soaked clothing dry.

Although this queue was (from what I could tell) shorter than Splash Mountain’s, it had a longer or at least more tiresome feel to it. Maybe because it was too narrow to let people pass, so I felt pressured to keep pace with the people ahead of us, since everyone behind was obviously eager to get on one of Disney’s few traditionally thrill-ish rides. That’s how we missed lingering at the view from the corner of the upper story. I guess another problem was the way it was roped off inside a wide, open space, and we were surrounded by row after row of plain, boring line-style queues, and I shuddered to think of how it must be in July.

It was a few minutes wait when we made it to the boarding area. The closeness of it all maybe makes things feel more cramped than they are, and the thrillseekers add a certain feeling of impatience.

We took our seats and rumbled off. It really feels like a runaway train and not a regular roller coaster with southwestern scenery. Definite thumbs up from me. I liked the theme of the spooks scaring the trains into running wild, but for the rest of the themeing we could hardly see it as we zipped past. It lasted much longer than I expected, and I was laughing my head off like I was spinning on a Tilt-a-Whirl at a carnival. (What is it about Tilt-a-Whirls?) I was also faked out by the ramp at the end. Cool!

We both liked it, although it would move steadily down the ranks as the trip passed. Mike argues that the ride itself isn’t as exciting as other things. I argue that the ride is great, but it’s offset by an unappealing queue and being a touch off the beaten path. Rest assured that if you offered to build it in my backyard, I’d hustle inside to start whipping up pitchers of lemonade for the construction workers.

* * *

From there we chose not to walk next to the shops in Frontierland, but to keep along the path by the water. Neither one of us wanted to ride on the Liberty Belle paddlewheeler just now, but we did admire it and take several photos. We stayed along our near-private path, and I realized that I wasn’t wearing my Mickey watch so we were going to start having to keep an eye on the time lest we miss our Crystal Palace seating. We were both hungry by this time, but not desperately so. Planning when to eat flies in the face of our usual routine, but we were definitely looking forward to lunch.

Walking past the river and the ferries to Tom Sawyer Island brought us to the Haunted Mansion, another “must-do,” at least on my list.

As with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, we were aware of the gradual increase in people around us, but it still wasn’t crowded by any definition and certainly not as crowded as we’d been bracing ourselves for.

I hate that describing our visit to the Haunted Mansion is coming right after Big Thunder Mountain  because it’s going to make me out to be more negative than I am. Let’s get one thing straight: I could ride either of the attractions over and over and over again and be delighted each time. Everything Disney does in this department is amazing. But the variety of the attractions means that some things are bound not to appeal as much as others. Haunted Mansion, surprisingly, was one of them.

Later, much later, after we’d had enough time to start forgetting that we’d done everything we wanted to do at the time, Mike and I both agreed that we needed to give Haunted Mansion another shake. There were times when we were riding something for the umpteenth time, and although we were having fun we’d comment that we were glad it wasn’t our first time through or else we’d have the wrong impression. (Our second safari at Animal Kingdom being an excellent example, but this tale comes later.) I think Haunted Mansion was like that and we just had an off moment.

It started in the Stretch Room. Our maid had a sort of “actory” thing going. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s when a person who is acting beams out signals saying, “I am an actor! I am thriving in the sphere of my craft!” (You have to picture Jon Lovitz’s voice for the full effect.) So when she was trying to be gloomy and stern, I was seeing a tired young woman with Goth aspirations going out to drink at Pleasure Island and getting off on discussing her job in those self-important tones that groups of young actors with more potential than current skill take on when they form huddles over Schnapps. But, hey, it’s Disney, it doesn’t bother me, it’s just an observation. In other words, things weren’t feeling very themey. There was themeing galore, but it didn’t feel charged with theme. Make sense?

Again, this wasn’t really any big deal. What spoiled the mood was when we were waiting to board, which was delayed by technical problems. The cast members were laughing, joking with those already seated in the vehicles, some of whom were shouting out at the cast members. All of the spooky house atmosphere was zapped. We weren’t being solemnly ushered to our doombuggies; we were hanging out at the fairgrounds with combs in the pockets of our tight jeans, applying another coat of lip gloss.

Still, nothing can break the good time at Disney World. But between the total abandonment of character, a few stops on the ride, audio that was coughing and hacking, and people in other buggies still chattering, instead of settling into an experience we were subconsciously holding our breath waiting for the next breakdown, the next shout, or the next audio-mangled sequence.

Just a bad hair day for Madame Leona, I suppose, because the effects really were wonderful. I thought the graveyard was amazing. (Unfortunately, it’s also where we had the most trouble.) I’d still advise anyone to keep it on the longer end of their “must-do” list at Magic Kingdom. None of the feel of the place is scary, despite the hearses and tombstones, and that was probably another problem we had: assuming it would at least be eerie. On an overcast day with the crowds sparse (or at least well-behaved), I’d very happily give it another go.

Surprisingly there wasn’t a gift shop for the Haunted Mansion, just a Halloweenish sort of stand outside, in the bright sunlight, looking out of place. We walked past it and towards the Castle, now making our way to the Crystal Palace for lunch.

But not without a stop for Snow White. Its wait appeared to be the least intimidating of the other Fantasyland lines we passed, and the advertised ten minutes was really less than five. We tried to guess which dwarf’s namesake would be our ride vehicle, with Mike joking that for me it would probably be Grumpy. So of course it was Grumpy, and he got an almost smug look out of that.

We sat in the back, behind another adult couple, where we witnessed... to tell you the truth, I don’t remember much of what we witnessed. Um. There was an Evil Queen, and some dwarves, and an apple, and Snow White, and also the mines. And it seems like it lasted about two minutes. (Pause to check notes) All right, my notes say it lasts two and a half minutes, so I wasn’t far off.

We knew it was a “kiddie” ride so our expectations were low, but it was so short that I wasn’t sure I could have enjoyed it as a child, unless I was very young and the line had been as short as it’d been for us. On the other hand, the guidebooks say the very young are the ones who tend to get scared, so who knows how it would have gone? Perhaps Mike and I have just lost touch with our Snow White’s Scary Adventures Inner Child, for I’m sure hundreds of children are enjoying the attraction with great pleasure every day, or it wouldn’t be there. It was what it was, let’s leave it pleasantly at that. I was glad to have tried an attraction designed for the younger set, and amused that doing so takes a deliberate effort at Disney World. The uninitiated seem to think it’s quite the opposite.

* * *

“We’ve come to see the tapestries!” Or something like that. I had to duck into the shop inside Cinderella’s hallowed walls to look at the pointy princessy hats with a flingy veil coming off the tip. I remember about ten years ago I was working at a Renaissance festival and wanted one. They were six dollars. My friend Robin said oh no, don’t get one, they’re so easy to make and not worth paying that much. So it was one of those cases where I was talked out of it because Plan B was more sensible, except it wasn’t taken into account that Plan A was far easier for me to accomplish. Like I can sew a conical hat?

On this day I discovered that I didn’t have the face for a pointy pink princess hat, and I shouldn’t wonder, since Mike and I both gravitated to the sword display as if we had small, powerful magnets velcroed to our sneakers. You just can’t be Guinevere and wield Excalibur.

There we were, each saying, “I want this sword,” and me being sensible and saying, “but what would we do with them?” and Mike saying back, “we’d have them, and...” not finishing his thought, because that seemed like a good enough reason, and I agreed. If they’d only been marked down 90%, we would’ve found out whether a sword counts as carry-on luggage. But there are better ways to spend five hundred or more dollars.

Before leaving we did stop to try on more hats, and Mike made a charming pose in faux-chain mail. We couldn’t have the swords, but we could have lunch.

* * *

Arriving at the Priority Seating window, I realized I didn’t have our PS number. The woman might have been disappointed by this, I couldn’t tell, one just hates to disappoint any part of the magic machine, but she said she could also look us up by surname so that’s how we did it. We were about fifteen minutes early, and we waited almost exactly that long before “Pooh and Friends have a table for the S*monds family.”

Since this was our first visit, as the hostess seated us she explained where the characters would enter and how they would make their way around the room. We were seated on the right side of the room at a table for two on the upper level, along the dividing edge towards the end.

Our server, Robert, appeared soon after and took our drink order, letting us know we could go up to the buffet at any time. He was really a most attentive gentleman, possibly my favourite server of all those we met during our holiday. Our drinks were refilled constantly, our plates cleared almost the moment we walked up to the table.

The food was wonderful. Mike found a few different kinds of chicken in which to revel. I enjoyed the five-cheese pasta, the Yukon Gold smashed potatoes, the portobello mushrooms with potato pancakes, and the unusual corn custard with jalapeños. The salad was so-so. The cold mixed salads weren’t vegetarian, and the tossed salad involved a bitter leaf. Mike and I are both unapologetic lovers of iceberg lettuce in our salads.

There were also cold cuts and cheese slices, and several kinds of rolls. The children’s setting offered cheese pizza, chicken tenders, and something else I no longer remember. I tried a few bites of the pizza and it was very bland, which I suppose is the point of children’s offerings.

We were of half a mind to bolt before the characters came. It felt a little awkward, self-conscious, to have enormous plush beings come pay us lots of attention in front of everyone. But we took the brave path and endured, meeting Eeyore, Tigger, and Pooh. To be honest, no one really looked at the characters except to see how much longer until they arrived, or unless they did something especially boisterous. We settled for photo poses and hugs.

There weren’t many people in the restaurant, but the family next to us had two children, and the daughter in her highchair was terribly afraid of the characters, hiding and howling accordingly. Luckily for their other child she eventually settled down enough to where the parents warned the characters not to acknowledge her, and it was mostly okay, although there was still the problem of her being terrified and in shock and seemingly scarred for life. But the rest of them were happy.

There were also three sorts of bread pudding, and we did as Robert advised and checked both dessert islands, since the contents sometimes differ. But by the time we reached the sweets stage, we were eating more out of duty than hunger, soon heaving our billowy bodies up and waddling out the door.

* * *

Now we could journey into Tomorrowland, where maybe we would discover some sort of futuristic pill that allows you to keep eating even after your pants explode.

As we stopped for the various photo opportunities along the bridge with the Astro Orbiter in the background, we kept trying to work out how Mom and Dad thought that Tomorrowland was closed (yes, closed) while they were there. Apparently they made it to the area around the Plaza Restaurant, but they couldn’t see a way to get into Tomorrowland. I really worry about them, sometimes. I fear they walked past the castle into Frontierland, rode the Liberty Belle, sat through the Hall of Presidents, then walked right back out again, stopping only for a Casey’s hot dog. That will teach them to visit the Magic Kingdom on a Saturday. I told them...

Our first stop in Tomorrowland was immediately to our left, for Alien Encounter. Or, as Mike doggedly insists, “Encounter with an Alien.” (He’s normally not so obstinate about genitives.)

Our wait here to enter the preshow was short. I took the time to explain, possibly more than once, about how I did not want to see Timekeeper because you have to stand for at least 22 minutes. Walking was fine, standing still was not. Which was too bad, because I really like Robin Williams and Mike has warmed up to him considerably since Patch Adams and Bicentennial Man, admitting that maybe his dislike had previously been based just on Good Morning Vietnam and Dead Poets Society. Mike agreed that standing for 22+ minutes was not appealing when there were so many other things to see.

I sat down for the Alien Encounter preshow. No one said I couldn’t. So there. We hung back and let others go ahead a bit, which is how we ended up on the fringes of the demonstration with Skippy, but we could still see fine. It’s not that there were too many people, just that everyone had gone to the same row. The robot in the second phase of the attraction looked suspiciously like the one we’d seen at Innoventions at Epcot.

For the final part of the presentation, as we prepared to witness firsthand the marvels of teleportation, we took seats in the back row and gulped as the harnesses lowered and the lights went down, down. Er, what exactly was going to happen here? Hundreds of trip reports skimmed don’t prepare you.

It was great. I really like Jeffrey Jones, anyway. I sure didn’t recognize Tim Curry’s voice as the robot, but now I know why he sounded familiar, another great choice in casting. The effects were brilliant. Sitting in restraints in utter darkness as a monster breathes wetly against your neck, rattles your harness, strokes your hair, and noisily crunches the bones of the person behind you is not for everyone. And that’s just what I can say without spoilers. I was squirming, so I could understand why this attraction is not advised for the little ones.

We walked into the Skippy-laden gift shop wide-eyed from our alien encounter, still impressed with the way the quality of the park showed no signs of letting up. Consciously avoiding the Timekeeper, we headed for Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

* * *

This was an attraction I assumed Mike and I would really like. The ride involves getting into vehicles fitted out with laser guns and a wheel to spin the cart. You are transported from room to room to shoot at targets, doing your part to battle the Evil Emperor Zorg. Is it Zorg? Something with a Z. Zurg. That’s it. Neither Mike nor myself had seen Toy Story at this point, but we felt game enough not to let Buzz down. (One could always be inspired by Tim Allen as the Galaxy Quest commander instead. "Never give up! Never surrender!")

I didn’t do so well. I alternated between firing and spinning, enjoying the spinning more than anything else. I thought sometimes my gun wasn’t going off, but that sounds like a lame excuse for someone who didn’t get a very high score.

Actually, I didn’t do too badly, especially considering my on-again off-again attention to shooting. Except now I can’t remember my rank. I know I was one or two above the bottom, and Mike was, I think, one below the top. Maybe a Planetary Pilot?

Well, I obviously don’t know. The ride didn’t make the impact on us which I was expecting. Not a let-down, and nice enough for one go, but not a jaw-dropping “wasn’t it great when...” attraction. Certainly worth doing once, with no objection to trying again.

Maybe it was the colour scheme. I guess that would fit in with the toy look of Toy Story, though. Maybe it was because we seemed to spend a bit too long in each room, and as I said I didn’t have much confidence that my gun was shooting reliably. I hear Universal’s Men in Black is a similar design but supposedly “better.” That may be, but since Men in Black had been the compelling reason to visit the Universal parks on this trip, I was glad we’d tossed out those plans and focused on Disney.

From here we took a different kind of spin, on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.

* * *

One detail I enjoyed about Tomorrowland was the theme that Tomorrowland was a real land, with a chamber of commerce and civic groups and an intercity transportation system. That was the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, which some people still know as the WEDWay PeopleMover. It’s a continuously loading ride that takes you all around and through the different attractions of Tomorrowland, including inside Space Mountain.

We arrived by way of bypassing the Astro Orbiter, an attraction Mike took one look at then indicated no pressing need to be a part of that experience. You know how they say people pick a partner who remind them of their mothers (if the significant other is female) or fathers (if male)? This must be what Mike and Dad have in common. Neither has much love of rides involving spinning in circles,  whereas Mom could probably hostess a Tilt-a-Whirl tournament.

We made one round on the TTA, enjoying the quiet and the coolness, for it had begun to get a bit warm outside. We started off sitting facing with me looking backwards, but I slid across, keeping my head down, and joined Mike before long. Surely that announcement about staying seated wasn’t for me? Nah.

* * *

Next we had to go on Space Mountain. You can’t go to Disney World or 'Land without a go on Space Mountain. This was one of the few attractions I remembered riding at Disneyland. I remembered how mild I thought it was, me being fifteen and fresh from a decade of summers at Cedar Point. So I prepared Mike for having low expectations, and to enjoy it because it’s a classic ride, and because everything Disney does is great on some level, and not to hope to be thrilled.

The nearly empty queue went for miles, and you could easily imagine what it would be like in the height and heat of summer, with time to take long looks at the impressions of nebulae in the cool dark. Even though there were few people around, we had to keep a brisk pace since there wasn’t room to let others pass gracefully.

Boarding was a bit of a shuffle. We were sent to a completely different platform from everyone else  and were sure we must have heard wrong because everyone after us was going to the other area to stand in rows. It was one of those cases where everyone seemed to know what they were doing, except us. We timidly shuffled back and asked if we were in the right spot, and were assured that we were, and so we were in the end, as our odd placement had something to do with being loaded with a couple where one used a wheelchair.

I was sitting in the last seat of the first rocket, and Mike was directly behind me in the first seat of the second rocket. Already things were different: I remembered Disneyland’s rockets were done so you sat next to people, like a traditional roller coaster. These zippy looking vehicles required near-squatting to take your seat.

Not thrilling? Hardly. And I had a very hard time believing that the beams I could make out weren’t so close they would decapitate the unwary, no matter what those who maintain the ride or who’ve seen it with the lights on say.

Maybe it’s the difference in the cars, maybe I’ve become less jaded, but being whipped around in the darkness, shooting past the stars, was a high time for me. I could have gone on again right afterward, but the thought of being herded up the long queue and the fact that we were beginning to feel the effects of yesterday and our early start as well as walking in the increasing sunniness prompted our path towards the park entrance, before we fell into doing things just because they were there.

* * *

It being only about 2:30 p.m., we weren’t ready to pack it in for the day, just change the scene and take a break from the midday warmth. I had passing thoughts of maybe ferrying over to one of the resorts, but that seemed too “aggressive” for our mellowing demeanors. Somewhere in this we saw the ferry stop for the Ticket and Transportation Center, and we decided to ferry that way instead then take a bus from the TTC to Downtown Disney.

When boarding the Admiral Joe Fowler we immediately trotted upstairs with ideas of cutting along, the breeze fresh on our faces, the lagoon a surrounding vision. But when we arrived to benchless surroundings we trotted back downstairs and plopped ourselves on a long bench, gazing out the windows as a few sticky-looking children ran around. I slipped off my Birks and rubbed each socked foot with vigour, sure that being downwind on a moving vessel would offset any inherent rudeness in such an activity.

While conducting my massage I remembered something. Our brick!

How could I have forgotten our brick? Especially after Mike’s comments this morning? This was going to be the perfect chance to go see it! Yipyip!

“The brick” was our “Walk around the World” brick, which I’d ordered a mere week or two before they discontinued the program. The bricks show names and sometimes dates and/or hometowns, and once-upon-a-time were meant to pave a path all the way around the Magic Kingdom. I forget the official reasoning for stopping the program. When I asked, they told me that they were out of bricks. (Ahem.) Speculation is that they ended it so more people would be interested in the Leave a Legacy monstrosity looming up the entrance of Epcot.

Sehlinger made fun of the $100 souvenir in his unofficial guide, but considering the World economy that’s not necessarily a frightening sum. And I’m not just defending it because I had bought a brick. Although, if you read the pre-trip portion of this report, you know that through mysterious circumstances and snafus the Disney computers declared that I had paid for brick when I had not, and even though I protested, Disney insisted on going by their records, and if that meant giving it to me for free, so be it.

That I protested this bonus at all shows the kind of feeling Disney World gives me: to not want to take a freebie when it isn’t deserved. Because you feel like if they had messed up in their favour, they’d be quick to make things right, so you should do the same. I know plenty of people could make lists of examples of where this has not occurred. But in matters concerning Disney World, I’m allowed to hang tightly to the rose-tinted spectacles they handed out when we stepped off the bus. Now if it had been Taco Bell, I would have grabbed the chalupa and ran. And I like Taco Bell, despite a solid 20% failure rate for delivering the correct item to this drive-thru customer.

So I’m on the bench of the Admiral Joe, swinging my cooling feet, trying to think of how I’m going to get Mike to the brick without him figuring out what’s going on. I don’t even know where the brick is. Disney had sent a map showing an arrow going towards the Polynesian, but at this point I have no idea how useful that will be. Should I tell him we’re looking for someone else’s brick?

We get off the ferry and everyone hustles to the monorails, within moments leaving us in a sunny ghost town, and we realize we’re parched. Mike decides to go to the restroom, after which he’ll get a soda from the machine. This is my chance! I start hotfooting it towards the Polynesian, looking for clues. Okay, I see where the path must be, but there's no time to check it out; Mike’s out and getting his soda. I call for him across the plaza, waving from the Polynesian side. What’s he doing? He’s just standing there, looking around. Okay, I’ll yell louder. There’s a man leaning against the wall nearby; he’s amused. “Mike?” “Miiiike?” “Miiiiike?!” “Miiiiike!!” “MIKE!”

Mike jumps and immediately puts on a surprised grin as he starts walking towards me. (Mike is the king of beaming smiles at you while walking.) He had thought I was in the restroom all this time. His soda is a Mello Yello, not a favourite of either of ours, but we’re hot and it will do.

I tell him to come this way; there’s apparently something good to look at down here. I quickly realize I don’t need an elaborate story. Mike has trusted me to have this trip planned inside-out, and if I say there’s something to see this way, he believes it to be true.

As we start on the shaded path to the Polynesian, I notice a pattern to the numbering of the bricks. I walk slowly, pretending to leisurely admire the bricks amongst the shady foliage of this quiet walkway to the Polynesian resort. Then I see it. Mike is looking down, too — I better move fast.

“Hey! What is this?!”

“What?”

This!

As soon as Mike looks down, I start grinning, which is what he sees when he looks up, also grinning. Then we gave over to a good ten minutes of admiring our brick, taking photos, brushing it lightly, and cooing over its position on the shaded edge of the lane, picturesque and surely less susceptible to wear and tear. I told Mike all about the procuring of the brick, and how lucky we were to get it right before they unexpectedly closed the program, and how we didn’t have to pay anything (he was concerned about the cost of such a wonder), and how, no, I did not choose the number (which I won’t get into here).

We joked, maybe half-joked, about how we’d want a caretaker to come by and make sure nothing ever happened to our brick. Some of those nearby showed excesses of leaves and dirt. We were smug that ours was the only one in its patch with the Mickey hands holding the heart, and Mike assured me of how superior and more fitting this was to the design with “2000" written on it. I took more photos of the brick, as well as the view in each direction when standing next to the brick, and from there we walked, hands held and arms swinging as usual, to the bus stop.

* * *

My pre-trip planning senses having gradually returned with the remembering of the brick, we stopped in a gift shop next to the bus stop to look at the postcards. None of the designs were grabbing us, nor were we feeling at all interested in writing about the moment instead of living it. (Which is why my three weeks of notes barely filled a pocket-size notebook.) Mike was wearing his Russell Athletic t-shirt this day, and the woman at the counter asked if his name was Russell. This was the second time since Mike arrived that this had happened, and Mike was becoming skeptical of my claim that Russell Athletic was a well-known brand here, no matter how much I praised their sweat pants.

We walked out of the shop, the place still mostly deserted, and within moments the bus for Downtown Disney arrived at the stop just ahead. “I am not going to run,” my injured feet told Mike, temporarily controlling my mouth. “I don’t want to undo the recovery they’ve had today.” So Mike ran ahead and I trotted as best as I could (not wanting to appear to be a perfectly healthy person lounging at everyone’s inconvenience), and the bus driver was gracious enough to hold the bus for the extra fifteen seconds it took for me to board.

* * *

The Mello-Yello just hadn’t done it for me, so after getting off at the Pleasure Island stop I marched almost directly to Forty Thirst Street to indulge in a smoothie. I went with the Flyin’ Hawaiian, a brain-icing mixture of coconut and... other ingredients, now forgotten. Mike had a Coke. (“Really, just a Coke?” “Yup.” Shrug. “Okay.”) We took an umbrella-covered table near the water, sipping and pausing now and again for me to hold my head and say, “ow... ow-ow...” from the cold.

We hadn’t quite made a beeline to the refreshment shop; first we had stopped at the theatre to see when Family Man was playing. We had about 45 minutes, but neither one of us was wearing a watch again. Several people over the years have claimed to admire me for almost never carrying a watch, but the truth is that I never need one so it’s easy to be so cavalier about time. Now we did need one, but kept forgetting we’d brought two or three with us just for this purpose.

From Forty Thirst we went into the Planet Hollywood shop, looking for a t-shirt for Emma. (Her requested souvenir on the phone the night before.) Mike knew she liked the baby-Ts but had no inkling as to her size or colour preferences. Which ended up being good, because it turns out that while Mike was in the States, Emma was whittling herself down to splinter-size. Our best guess would still have been huge.

After this we went into the theatre. I asked for popcorn with lots of butter and a Cherry Coke. Mike was very into the Cherry Cokes already. They aren’t as accessible in Australia, or at least not his part of the country. This led to me going on about the virtues of vanilla colas, which I haven’t seen in ages. The Kroger grocery chain used to have a house brand variety, but I haven’t lived near a Kroger in a long time. I wish Coca Cola would come out with a proper Vanilla Coke variety. Maybe even a sort of valu-pak gimmick of bottles of “exotically” flavoured Coke. There could be vanilla, pineapple, lime, berry, mango, and chocolate.

Those last five I just made up — I have no idea if they’d be any good, but they sound likely. I give this entire concept to the executives of the Coca Cola company, provided they give me some percentage of the profits if they should use it, as well as a lifetime supply of Smart Watermelon. But we can’t talk about Smart Watermelon yet, because this is only Day Two.

What I didn’t know when I ordered the popcorn was that in Australia buttered popcorn at the theatre is unusual. This would be Mike’s first time to try it. Or would have been, if they’d put any butter on it. Something I didn’t notice until we were seated and had been munching awhile. Later I saw the nozzle at the island where you’re supposed to put the butter on yourself. Oh. I’m not used to these sophisticated cinemas. That’s a good idea. But the girl should have told me, since I had asked for lots of butter. I told myself that she was an AMC employee, and a Disney cast member would never have been so negligent.

We were a little worse than our usual bad selves when it came to maintaining personal space in the theatre, although all in all it stayed fairly empty. We were in the back section, the rows behind the wheelchair space (kinda neat not to make the wheelchair people always sit in the very back), and we rested our feet on the seats in front of us to discourage people from sitting there instead of one of the next rows down. It wasn’t just anti-social, pulling my hooves out of the brogues and propping them up for kneading was very soothing and necessary. (I don’t have smelly feet, I promise. Mike would have told me. Really, he would! Maybe.) I know how theoretically uncouth this is, but it was dark and no one was near to see, and what are good manners without witnesses?

However, my technique did not sway a family who took their seats in the next row, a seat down from Mike so he couldn’t easily prop his feet up in good conscience. Not that he really minded; I was the foot-whinger, but he gave me the “drats, now we can’t be comfy whispering at our leisure” look. Which is really close to the “drats, now we can’t be all smoochy” look, but I’m sparing the reader some of these finer details.

This is important to note, because however selfish Mike and I may be about wanting to be secluded (even when traveling alone), once we have people around us we go to the other extreme of courtesy. We don’t whisper more than we have to, and even then we keep our voices so low we can barely hear each other. I don’t mean to be high and mighty about it — it’s just normal consideration for others. Except if you’ve been to the movies recently, you know that movie etiquette is in short stock and seemingly getting worse. During Mike’s stay we were treated to a girl behind us chatting on the cell phone for nearly twenty minutes while her friend sat next to her, nonplused.

Luckily this audience was in good form, except for the girl in the back row who, before the trailers began, was hanging her feet over the seat saying, “Do you think it’s a fungus? It looks like a boil, but it’s spreading. It’s on the other foot too.” It didn’t do any good. The people didn’t move, but I didn’t mind. I just figured it was worth a shot. (But couldn’t they move one more seat over?)

* * *

Family Man is something of a reworked It’s a Wonderful Life, and I always believe you can seldom go wrong with Nicolas Cage, so how could we lose?

As critical as I may sometimes seem, I really hate to criticize anything where I’d be pleased beyond belief if I could only create something with half the quality. I try to make disclaimers along these lines whenever I’m criticizing, but it gets tiresome to do so and is probably even more tiresome to have to keep reading them. So please keep in mind that I’m just throwing out opinions, while usually respecting the effort and talent that goes into making a movie even if it doesn’t happen to suit me.

Having said all that, I now say that just because I couldn’t have made it, myself, doesn’t mean I was awed enough to give it high marks. Definitely mediocre, that was our verdict.

I think my main issue was that I didn’t believe in the great and compelling love, so at the end of the movie I wasn’t really interested either way. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be looking at this from the viewpoint of two people being involved, maybe all the focus should have been on Nicolas Cage’s perspective, but I left thinking, “well, crap.”

(Beware, spoilers for the rest of this paragraph.) Were they going to get back together? Yeah, maybe, who cares? Maybe she’ll change like he did, because at the end it looks like she’s become the bitter, thin single woman archetype. (I don’t want to jump on the freshman feminist bandwagon, but you just knew this would happen: there are only selfless mothers with tender smiles and hard-nosed but secretly vulnerable power-breakfasting single women.)

Some of the laughs were great, and it was worth seeing once, but not again, at least not with both eyes on the HBO. Maybe someday life will throw me the sort of changes that allow me to appreciate people having great love affairs with very little apparent chemistry, but I hope not. Besides (here is another spoiler), if he was such a Family Man, wouldn’t he now be devastated that those kids were lost to him forever? Or is this movie deeper than it lets on: usually a second chance in Hollywood gives you a path for the chinks. Perhaps this movie should be commended for showing that in real life, a second chance is usually just that — a chance for something different, but not necessarily to recover all that you once lost.

* * *

After Family Man we walked the length of the theatre to the back entrance, so we might end up on the West Side, but not before we saw a poster for the remake of Planet of the Apes. We both wanted to see it. I remember being a kid and freaking out at the original. That’s the Statue of Liberty, for heaven sakes! Even though those Apes movies seemed to play on UHF constantly when I was growing up, I could go for a marathon now.

Speaking of UHF, while I have the floor, Mike and I give a solid, double-thumbs-up to Weird Al’s film of that name, may it rise with triumph from the muck of the Out Of Print cellar, and may there someday be some sort of formal apology from whoever caused it to be called The Vidiot from UHF in Australia. (And they think we dumb things down!) I note with a certain amount of pride that I actually saw UHF in the movie theatre.

(And soon I will see it at home on DVD, because since I typed the above it has been resurrected. A lesson in getting one’s trip report done in a more timely manner.)

In our next installment of Passionate Film Defense Theatre, I’ll plead the case of Undercover Blues, starring Kathleen Turner, Dennis Quaid, and Fiona Shaw. But now we’re going to Disney Quest.

* * *

DisneyQuest or Disney Quest? I think the latter. But ever since the consumer computer age, capitalization and word spacing has become more tricky. (WordPerfect has a lot to answer for.)

We should have known that we were in for trouble when the girl working the turnstile insisted on stamping our passes. “But these are annual passes; surely they aren’t supposed to get stamped each time?” She shook her head and insisted that this was the way, even though we knew it couldn’t be right. They’d be covered in little mouse-shaped squiggles in no time. Our lips were a little tight after this. Neither of us cares much for situations where we’d fight for our position, but we can’t because there’s no one to listen, and finding someone would be a large inconvenience. Besides, the damage was done, the time to fight for it had passed, and if it turned out that the ink held some special quality that would prevent the pass from being read correctly tomorrow, we’d deal with it when the time came.

Okay, so we didn’t like our very expensive and very papery and very vulnerable passes being dabbed with smeary ink, either, with the implication that it would happen each time we entered Disney Quest.

Nevertheless, we were over it within seconds, the moment forever filed away for those moments when we like to join together in a mutual bitching session on the boggles of the world.

We began with the ride on the elevator to the third floor, hosted by the Genie from Aladdin. I really like Aladdin. I regularly do aerobics to “Friend Like Me” and, what’s that other song? About being one step ahead of the bread line and so forth? That’s a good one, too. But I could see this deliberately slow trip to the third floor with the same jokes getting tiresome for regulars. Perhaps there should be a prominent “non-Genie” elevator option.

We ducked away from the friendly guide standing ready to assist the disembarkers since we knew what there was to do, but didn’t know what we wanted yet.

We started with Treasure of the Incas. It had sounded great on pixels. But something where you steer while your friend is, according to the sign, supposed to stand about 10 feet behind you and look into a pit to watch your jeep and tell you which direction to go didn’t turn out to be our kind of fun. We were also getting confused by the talk of credits and the buttons for activating the game. Most of these throughout Disney Quest were holdovers from when the Orlando branch was still on the “pay as you go” system. So when our jeep wouldn’t move, we were getting very frustrated with trying every which way to swipe our passes and press buttons. Then we found out that this and a few other terminals were broken. Oh. Best to put it out of our minds and move on.

* * *

Next was the River Cruise. We were instructed to each sit on a separate side of the boat and were told how to paddle. A cartoon played in front of us on a screen. Okay, I thought, this isn’t bad. I’m not much of a paddler, apparently, or else speed is not a merit here. I took a brief break from my industrious walloping.

“Hm. Mike, I don’t think we have to paddle.”

I stopped, and soon he stopped, and we seemed to be continuing along in much the same way we were going when paddling. Oh. We sat in the raft and talked, waiting for our time to run out, looking with mild curiosity at the screen from time to time.

The woman who came to “let us out” seemed as embarrassed to be associated with the attraction as we would have been if we’d kept paddling.

* * *

This wasn’t going well. But we stayed upbeat and looked forward to trying the next thing. Nearby was the Pirates virtual reality attraction, but it appeared to be roped off. Some others showed up and we all walked around, trying to figure it out. Someone asked the River Cruise gal when it would be open and she said someone would come and let us on.

By this time several minutes had passed, and our unfavourable initial experiences had mingled with the similarly all-around let-down attitude of the people who had joined us, so I started walking upstairs, motioning for Mike to follow. I knew I was really looking forward to the Pirates ride, now more than ever since being on the real thing in the Magic Kingdom, but I didn’t want to go on it when our luck was so bad and our optimism getting fuzzy.

We chose Aladdin’s magic carpet ride next. Here you saddle your head with oblong VR helmets designed to make you look like one of those guys out of MAD magazine’s Spy vs Spy. Then you hunker onto an Oz-monkey bikeframe and collect jewels and race others for...

I don’t remember what. Is fuath liom é. That’s Irish for “I hated it”, and something this yucky deserved a strong Gaelic oath.

The main problem was the helmet. No matter what I did, it bore down on my nose like lead spectacles. The “reality” was too cheap afterschool cartoon-style animation. The most exciting part was looking at the others and seeing them as monkeys. As with the River Cruise, I stopped playing eventually, and held the helmet off my nose with one hand as I bobbed up and down in one of the tunnels, waiting for it to end, hoping Mike was getting an armload of jewels, praying he wouldn’t want to ride it again.

No danger there. The helmet had given him a crushing headache, and we were ready to admit that our spirits were solidly dampened. Here we had two people who were normally “into” this stuff, who did backflips when the Premium Annual Pass was changed to include Disney Quest, who considered easy ferryboat access to Downtown Disney from the resort a perq because of DQ, and who, despite having critical eyes and tongues, tended to enjoy everything whether it sounds like it or not, and as the oppressive hiphop music pounded throughout the Disney Quest building, we could only turn to each other and say, “this sucks.”

* * *

But we weren’t going to give up. I looked at the Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam with some interest, but Mike apologetically shook his throbbing head, and I preferred to suffer with him. We cringed our way through the music to the Internet terminals, thinking we might as well check those out.

Heretofore I had been determined to avoid my email, but I decided a quick message to let everyone know we were here and having a great time (the last half hour aside) wouldn’t disrupt my senses. Luckily I wasn’t set on it, because everywhere I tried to go the connection would time out. Yahoo!, Epinions, our Web Mail interface, my own site...

Mike was having the same trouble on his terminal, but he switched to another machine and was able to get to his email. I’d had it, by then, and looked for the darkest, quietest corner in which to wait. I didn’t like Disney Quest and I didn’t like that I didn’t like Disney Quest. And I knew that even if we did find something fun, for there were still several things to try, it wouldn’t stand a chance unless someone turned the music down about four notches. Save it for a Friday night crowd of illegally drinking teenagers.

At some point we went by the video games and perked up a little. Until we saw that we’d have to buy credits, not that there was anyone around to sell them, and you couldn’t just stick a coin into the skeeball machine. Since Dixie Landings had skeeball in its arcade, for a mere quarter in your pocket a go, there wasn’t any point. We left. We did not dawdle in the gift shop, save for a lingering glance at the Pirates wares.

* * *

Eager to rid ourselves of the taint of dashed hopes, we walked down to the West Side ferry and stood there a bit, planning to try out a sail across the water instead of walking. But the ferry was taking its time, and we decided a waterside stroll would be just as fast, plus relaxing, and I could continue trying out 800 speed film in the little camera. It was my first time using such a fast film, and I knew I wouldn’t have a prayer with the nighttime lights with anything slower.

This is when we discovered that you could walk under Pleasure Island instead of through or around it. We stopped for several photo ops: Planet Hollywood, the billboard with Jessica Rabbit, the enormous pineapple iconizing Bongo’s Cuban Café.

Reaching the Marketplace, we stopped before the Lego store to talk to the mallards then took a foot-rest in a benched alcove before continuing. I popped into Ghiradelli’s for a chocolate sample. I don’t remember what it was, but it was delicious, and made me realize how I often forget that even though all chocolate is surely good, some is better.

We toured World of Disney, looking for the mouse ears I’d wanted since I was a child and used to stare at the back of the Mousekeeter LP jacket, with the big photo of Annette and Karen and Cubby and all the gang in their sweaters (and ears). But when I put them on, they didn’t seem to suit me. And I usually do surprisingly well with hats. Nearby I spied a set of muted-tone Pooh shirts spelling “Walt Disney World” in similarly muted but colourful floss. Something to note for down the road, perhaps. It was a little soon to be buying generic WDW t-shirts. We still had two parks to see and two weeks to take in what else was out there.

I looked at the night shirts, too, but they were all pink, girly things or something equally frivolous. We didn’t see scissors anywhere, not even in the home furnishing store. It made me think that Disney would do well to make a point of selling everything one could get at a Wal-Mart. If that means sticking Minnie Mouse on it and marking it to double price, so be it.

We hadn’t run across anything likely for dinner so far, but after looking at the Rainforest Café menu it appeared suitable for both of us. I know some people are critical of going to Disney World then eating at places you can find elsewhere. I understand that. But there isn’t a Rainforest Café near either one of us, and there’s something to be said for eating in an appetizing restaurant, even if it isn’t 100% Disney.

Not that anyone reading this today is making that criticism. Oh no, I’m sure Gentle Reader is still having words in the air with me over why we went to the movies while we were at Disney World. Well, it was what we wanted to do. Remember we had nudged each other and said wasn’t it great we’d be here for two weeks and were able to be so leisurely that we could take in a movie while in the World? Besides, some people take mid-afternoon naps as a trip relaxation strategy, we preferred the movies. Although at this point we couldn’t imagine what it would be like to go commando-mode from waking to flopping. Nearly six hours today at Magic Kingdom was exhilarating enough, and everything afterwards could surely be counted as full-on gravy.

We gave my surname at the booth, no real reason, although I’ve come to realize this is not the best plan because when the hostesses call for “Sherry” or “Simmons” there is always uncertainty while I have to figure out if they mean “Shari” or “S*monds,” which is what happened to us on this night, and it turned out they did. Mean us, that is.

(You may wonder why I keep asterisking out my name. It's because I'm a teacher now, and I try to make it just little bit more difficult for the kids to Google me. Obviously I didn't do this in the book.)

We took our places in line for the Elephant room. There were only a couple of folks in front of us, but there was still time to admire the large aquarium next to the entrance to the restaurant. (The line is to the side in the open-front gift shop.)

We were seated in the far left, at a cozy table for two behind tall foliage. We could peek around a bit and see the elephants, which began to snort and flap their ears soon after. Definitely Jungle Cruise-variety animatronics, but we enjoyed them.

Our server was pleasant enough. She gave Mike regular Coke instead of Cherry, but didn’t mind when he politely pointed it out as she took his glass for a refill. Of course, Mike was still pretty impressed with the free soft drink refills in the United States, so to him he was coming out ahead no matter what.

It made me ponder that more places don’t play up on offering any kind of refill. It might even make it easier on the server’s memory, if they were told to say, “What beverage would you like for this refill?” Although that sounds awkward, and it would probably be better to say, “Another Coke, or would you like to try something else?” So the idea is possibly a little harder on the server, but I think it would have a positive psychological impact on the customer. I can already see committees being formed and marketing-types appointed to study this. But I’ll wipe that foul corporate vision from my head and float back to Disney, days of Disney, when we ate dinner at the Rainforest Café, and the shortest storms in all the Earth flashed over our heads.

Tonight’s dinner was Pizza Margherita for me and Baby Back Ribs for Michael. So, yes, I was eating a cheese pizza, but I happen to very much like cheese pizza, and that is why I smiled as I chewed. I also had a salad, but the lettuce was bitter, and we’ve already established the wrongness of that. My pizza was square, thin, lightly seasoned. Definitely more upscale and delicate than your garden variety cheese pizza, but not quite as good as the best Pizza Margherita I’ve ever had, which was at a Johnny Carino’s, surprisingly enough. Heavy on the basil is the key there. Still, I was pleased.

Mike was not quite as satisfied, his ribs being on the pink side and in some parts on the seemingly uncooked side. It’s hard for me to be considerate, sometimes, because when I was a meat-eater I loved it all rare. Yet I was fine with meat cooked to well-done, so long as it wasn’t nearly burnt.

Therefore it was sometimes difficult for me to be sympathetic, having “meat is meat” memories, but when I thought about it I could see where it could be harder to go the other way, to be someone who likes it well-cooked then have your meat appear and taste more flesh-like.

Mike likes to claim it was my rawish meat consumption that drove me to vegetarianism, as surely no one could enjoy meat like that. I reply with putting up my nose and saying what’s the point of eating meat if you’re too picky to eat most dishes, and want those you’ll like to be nearly burnt? So I’m still in my second decade of vegetarianism, and Mike is still wanting his burgers cooked to look like flat rocks.

We took the ferry back to Dixie Landings. This involved some stumbling in the dark since we scarcely remembered where it landed. I commented that Port Orleans looked lovely at night, lit up along the river. A little bit of a bone throw on a beautiful chilly evening, as we sat in our cocoon of contentment which was in no small part based on being able to return to glorious Dixie, with its plantations and bayous, its sighing trees sweeping the turning paths, its bright flowers lazily nuzzling the shrubbery, and its buttload of mallards, right at our door.

Mike called Jamie for another gush, me occasionally doing my bit with the “don’t forget the...” hand gestures, and I checked the weather, more out of curiosity than need. Mike hung up and I set the wakeup call. Although I didn’t make a note of it, I’m guessing we were asleep by 11 p.m.

Expenses

$    4.46    Main Street Bakery
            croissant ($2.25)
            Orange Fanta ($1.95)
            tax ($0.26)
$  41.50    Crystal Palace (buffet for two plus $5.56 tip)
$    1.53    pressed pennies: Pirates of the Caribbean (3)
$    1.00    Ticket and Transportation Center vending machine: Mello Yello
$    7.42    Forty Thirst Street: Flyin’ Hawaiian Smoothie and Coke
$  15.50    AMC Theatres: Family Man tickets for two
$    8.00    AMC Theatres: popcorn and soft drink
$  43.00    Rainforest Café (details lost, but includes $5.88 tip)

$122.41    TOTAL

 


The above comes from the done-for-fun book version of our trip report, Pixie Dust in Your Eye. (Sorry about the pricetag -- that's the publisher's call. Even we can't afford copies...)

The book, weighing it an nearly 500 pages, has the full diaries of our trip to Walt Disney World and Las Vegas, my solo trip to WDW, the year-long "pre-trip" report (complete with numerous vacation planning anxiety attacks), several related Epinion reviews, and all of the original wording.

(For various reasons -- some grammatical, some rhetorical, some factual, and some litigational, which is not a word but should be -- the text of the Web version is slightly changed.)

You're welcome to support our hamster's sunflower seed habit by purchasing a copy somewhere, or -- if you're the patient sort -- I'll continue to put the two main trip report portions online (with hindsight modifications) as time permits.

--26 July 2005

29 January 2001 |



Hamsters

 WE BUILT A HOUSE 

 RABBITS TOLERATE US 

 RECENTLY PLAYED 
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 CRUISE REPORTS: 

Carnival Elation (2009)
Carnival Splendor (2009)
Carnival Spirit (2010)
Carnival Spirit (2011)
Carnival Splendor (2011)
Norwegian Pearl to Alaska (2012)