Awake happily late again, but no Indian buffet today. No, it was straight to the park!
No LED warning us that the parks would be busy. Good. But also no LED welcoming us to Disneyland. Hm.
Oh, what's the attendant handing us? A yellow slip? Darn it, that means no more room at Timon. Oh well. On to Mickey and Friends!
Simba again? What?!
I refused. After the previous day, Simba to me represented Disneyland at its worse. ("Oh, there's some room in the park next to a shrub on the back of Tom Sawyer Island? Go ahead and let in 500 more people, then. Just make sure they all have strollers!")
So, we slipped over to Mickey and Friends, uninvited. ("We'll just pretend we had to go back to the room for something. Then, when we came back, we decided to go in through the other entrance. And we'll also pretend our room is somewhere on the stretch of road between here and there. Maybe perched on top of that stoplight.")
It was no problem, except the attendant needed to see our slip from the last attendant, or else we would be charged $11 for parking. "That's why we always tell you to keep your slip."
Actually, we'd never been told to keep our slip. And plenty of times we had left the parks to get something and come right back. And when we are sent to Mickey and Friends, as we usually are, they just re-scan the annual pass and don't ask for the slip. And, by the way, if we pay extra for an annual pass with parking, we expect parking.
Also? Saying that we need the slip because it has my name on it is a little crazy because, er, the pass has my name on it and my picture. As does my driver's license. Just cancel out the old slip (like you always do when you almost always send us to another lot) and wish me a Disney day already. I have a deluxe AP with parking, and I don't want to be sent to the tramless lot beyond the hotels at the end of Downtown Disney where the non-park visitors go just because I chose one entrance over another, okay?
Despite the griping above, I wasn't too fussed about it at the time, even as Mike dug around the side pocket of the car door where he had Just Put the slip Not a Moment Ago, managing to find the slips for the past few days but not securing today's all-important slip. Many seconds passed, and the cast member said, "Okay, I'm going to help these other people now," like she'd had enough of being reasonable and, frankly, it looked to her like we needed to be digging for eleven crisp dollar bills, not the slip that we so clearly sold for cash to someone on the street. The slip that you must present with IDENTIFICATION anyway.
So now, yes, I'm cross, but then I was just happy to not have to park at Simba. Of course Mike found the slip as soon as she turned away, and when she came back she again showed me how my name was on the slip, thus making it so much more powerful than an annual pass. The name that was on the parking slip because they had swiped my annual pass.
(Just tell me from the get-go that I have to keep my slip because of the traffic monitoring and problems with scamming or whatever the deal is. I keep all slips and any other Disney ephemera - not a problem. But don't tell me that I've been told when I haven't. Don't threaten me with having to pay for parking when I'm holding an annual pass with the parking already paid. Don't be exasperated because I put the slip aside like I always do, already knowing where to find the structure and not needing to circle the letter and number printed on the slip to remember where I parked.)
Maybe that's where it all started going wrong. Not on the outside, because we had another great day in the parks, but maybe, when I later said that Disneyland wasn't Disney World and it never would be, and when I said I loved the park and the history but not enough to put up with the cast members, not when Disney's service is supposed to be what sets everything apart, maybe this incident added to the growing weight of dissatisfaction within.
I never wanted to make Disneyland the poor man's Disney World. I tried to enjoy it on its own. But the people... the locals with their spoilers and talking through attractions, the visitors with their double-wide strollers packed extra thick in all directions as they batter-ram their exhausted infants and eight-year-olds around the park at midnight, the cast members with their minds on the McJob, not the Magic(tm)... it's too sad to be so close to Disney and so far at the same time. Better to spare myself the four hour drive and instead go somewhere where the bar is simply low, not lowered.
But anyway. I didn't mean to type all that, and perhaps I'll chop it all out later. It really wasn't a big issue at the time. I wasn't even unhappy, just boggled. But now, as I autopsy the camel to figure out what broke its back...
Here we are, leaving the largest parking garage in the US, excited to be here again:
This time we got to see the Happiest Reindeer on Earth:
And also the Clauses, because Disney magic is so powerful that Christmas lasts an extra 12 days:
I thought we might decorate cookies, but it turned out to be six dollars for a rather generic kit. Some other time. Interesting elf, though.
Why is "Minute Maid" blanked out on this sign? Has Disney had an argument with the Village Haus host? Let's start a rumour that they have. Let's say the huffy fracas is over MM now calling its orange soda Orangeade. Isn't that a generic term for orange soda? Wikipedia has my back here.
A band from Burlington, Ontario, were in force. I like it when groups dress alike at the park. I turn it into my own private form of trainspotting. ("Oo, over by the tea cups, look, it's a Snodgrass Middle School Jazz Orchestra!)
We made our first visit to Toontown, which is very nicely themed. The only thing disturbing about it is that it's the opposite of what Walt wanted his park to be. He wanted a place where the adults weren't sitting on the bench, bored and eating peanuts, while the kids rode the rides. Toontown, though, has rides that only allow small people.
But, devil's advocate aside, I don't really mind Toontown. It looks neat and if it means we can use it as a bargaining chip to someday get Alien Encounter back at WDW (which I think was really too scary for kids), then woot. Also, there is so much for everyone to do at the parks, that it's not like Toontown really violates Walt's dream. I just like to cause trouble by considering it.
We looked for the leftover pylon from the near-indestructible Home of the Future without luck. Mighty Neptune laughed.
Lunch was at Rancho del Zocalo, another first for Mike. That's red chili and cheese enchiladas for both of us, and a cake neither of us could finish, but I swear we tried.
Mike looks satisfied here, and hopefully not just because he joined the train of people getting refills at the soda dispenser. I'm 96% sure that's not allowed, and it reminded me of something I said in a newsgroup a long time ago, back when we were planning the first trip to Walt Disney World. The topic may have even been drink refills. (See, the resorts sell these free refill cups and... actually, let me save that story for another time. Suffice to say that it's a flame war topic on rec.arts.disney.parks for the ages.)
I said that I wouldn't cheat Disney, even on something small that everyone else was doing and that the cast members would let slide, because I wouldn't want Disney to cheat me. I had faith in the balance.
But on this day, I told Mike he should try if he liked, and he could just plead ignorance and being foreign if caught, and look, there goes the sixth person or so getting a refill since we sat down. He went, and he felt weird about it, and I felt weird about it. I don't like that I cheated Disney. Even if they don't mind (and they have to know it's happening - it's so blatant) or even if it's allowed, the fact that I didn't even want to ask it was okay is bad. Something has changed in the relationship. Disneyland, as it stands today, just doesn't make me feel all "Disney."
Deep navel-gazing aside, we decided to leave the busy (not wall-to-wall busy but busy) park and go back to California Adventure. Before we could leave, though, we accidentally caught the parade at the top of Main Street. Neither of us likes parades enough to stake out a place an hour in advance like so many people, but when a good spot just happens to appear as the parade arrives, why not? Disney does put on a happy parade:
Don't these guys look a little like cybermen from Doctor Who?
Mike kept asking, "How can they see? How can they see?" Meaning the drivers of the floats. Well, on this one it seems a bit obvious. And you thought only the hills have eyes.
I really do mark the highlight of this year's Christmas as being the time we were in the car, listening to the all-carol station, and Mike asked me to explain "Frosty the Snowman" to him. (It's not a popular song in the land of forehead-sweltering Christmases.)
When done, he said, "So, Frosty's a... a snow golem?"
In California Adventure, we got FastPasses for Tower of Terror and enjoyed the scenery. Like, Kilt Man.
Then it was time one of our faves, It's Tough to Be a Bug, which was excellent as always. Put in on your Must See list; it's the best 3D show in any Disney park.
And then there was this brief but bad episode with a cast member when we started to use our FastPasses but then decided that, no, the line was too long even with FP, and we apologetically left. I had planned to bitch about it, but I went on for too long about the parking lot thing, which at least makes some sense (they need to carefully monitor available spaces) even if the sense-making was poorly executed. The ToT cast member was just... and it's not like it was really a huge deal at the time, not if you pretended you were at the DMV and not Disney, but these little things... I don't want to put myself on the Crankyville Express, so I'll stop there.
After, we went to the movies at Downtown Disney, saw National Treasure 2 (neat idea, but could've been tighter), took the monorail back to Tomorrowland (a rather cool ride), walked around Disneyland dodging strollers and hour-plus wait times and cast members yelling at people to move quickly-quickly-quickly while they wave-wave-wave their lightsticks so people have to walk around the whole park just to circumvent the throngs waiting an hour or two for the fireworks, and we kept this up until I realized that Disneyland and I are going to break up and we needed to leave.
Maybe it's a separation. Maybe it's a divorce. I don't know. I love the Disney way, but to me, Disneyland doesn't have it. And, once you've ridden everything and pressed all the pennies and taken all of the photos, you stop overlooking and excusing the non-Disney service. Put me on almost any attraction and my jaw still drops, but the work to get on the attraction? Forget it. The drive's too long, the crowds are too uncertain, and, unlike Disney World, when the parks are busy, there's not tons of stuff to look at. Disneyland is too small to see past the mobs and enjoy the scenery. Sit down on a park bench, and your foot is run over by strollers. Or cast members tell you they need to move the bench two feet to get it back into position after the parade, so you need to leave.
Still, I think Disneyland is a great place. Everyone who wants to play in a fantasy world should go. Many times. If I didn't know better, I'd have our room booked for Spring Break.
But, I do know better. I know Disney World. And now, with the newness of Disneyland gone, and the pictures taken, and (almost) every ride experienced, and (almost) every ride experienced again with Mike, and all the souvenirs collected (right down to the extraordinary Penny Arcade fudge), my shields of tolerance and are down. Frankly? Overall, Disneyland doesn't meet my standards. And if I, a Disney apologist to the point of publishing a 482-page trip report about how great Disney is, am not allowed to criticize Disneyland or expect mostly better-than-average service, then I don't want to be in that Mickey Mouse Club anyway.
Our last Disneyland photo, wearing the It's Tough to Be a Bug glasses, feeling very happy:
06 January 2008