It may sound like hell, but trust me: getting up at 5:17 AM for a day of flying is a-ok if you’ve been in a good place, and you’re heading home for Halloween. It’s almost midnight, and I’ve no idea why I am awake. Really. Since the flight left at 8:45, the Mouse insisted we catch the 6 AM bus to the airport, and that meant getting up at 5:17 so I could be ready to get out of the way of the wife and child, slated for a 5:30 awakening. Slept a little on the first leg; landed in Atlanta, spent two and a half hours waiting for the second flight. Slept a little. It was thin sleep, snapped in two when my head dropped or lolled, but there were dreams, and dreams mean REM, and REM means you’ve mainlined some Z time down to the marrow. I woke for good just as the beverage cart pulled past: coffee, my good man. Watched an episode of a British crime drama (Pascoe and Daziel, Ep 1, if you’re curious) and that took me right to the moment when you have to shut off everything because your solid-state iPad will scramble the plane’s electronics.
Dropped off the family, drove north to get the dog, who was confused. He’s always confused when I pick him up. It takes a while. But I give him the standard whistle – the primary means of communication we have these days – and he got the point, trotted over to the car. He recognized that. Home, with the standard strange feeling you get after a vacation: refamiliarity. When I pulled up in the driveway my wife was just returning from dropping things off for the Haunted Party down the street at the Haunted Triangle (land that was once part of Jasperwood, but severed in the 20s by civil edict) and now Jasper got it. He ran to my wife and sang and talked and arooo’d and everything else. I may be alpha, but she’s his best friend. I am law, but she is Indulgence. It’s always been that way. Someone has to be Law, especially with a dog like Jasper.
Grabbed another 20 minutes of sleep, then off to the Halloween Party. Took the kids around the neighborhood with two other parents. Had some chili that had been simmering since Friday. Came home with frozen toes and helped daughter sort the candy by genre and rank. Went back to the party to chat, then staggered home to . . . resize photos and prepare the Bleat! Excitement unparalleled, that. Now it’s almost 12, and I will head downstairs for the saddest moment of the month: extinguishing the pumpkin. That’s the moment when you stop and savor the silence and give the day its due, remember the shivering pleasures of your own childhood, and realize: November, the great dead weight of November, has rolled ‘round again. Gird ‘em up; here we go.
Ah, but this will be a different November. As we’ll see. For now: I hope you had a great Halloween. The recap of the Florida excursion, a two-entry Bleat event, follows below.
10.28.10 8:54 PM
SARATOGA SPRINGS, DISNEYWORD
I am waiting for my entire reservation to be rebooked. Why? Because I did not add the dining plan when I checked in. Now, this option was not presented when I checked in, I think. I recall saying I would take it up with the concierge after supper, because we had been traveling all day, were starving, and wanted to sit outside, consider our options, then wife and child would go to the room.
The room I had already changed. I’m so damned difficult. They put us in a part of the complex that was as far as possible from Downtown Disney, and since we wanted to end our evening with a stroll over to the bright lights and merry – I’m sorry, magical – excitement, I requested, and got, a closer room. Then we had a delicious dinner outside in the warm humid air, and I went to the concierge. Only be to be told they could not -
They just came outside to tell me that nothing could be done. Their hands are tied. The power to rebook has been taken away by the Main Office, and that’s that. Ah well. Probably just as well; I hate that whole points system anyway. Now to go see if I can still buy tickets for the Park, or if that has to be done a year in advance as well.
Well, that was an inauspicious start, but probably just as well. I hate the points system anyway. You get a snack and two drinks and a half-snack and a table service and a sit-down service and a slouch-in-your-chair service and a half-drink and a crouch-over-the-table with a snack and six-drink option, plus dessert. Or something like that. Never been able to figure it out, and you end up eating more than you want just to burn off the points. Here! Have some chips! I don’t want any. You might as well! It’s America! Eat your chips!
As is the tradition, we walked over to Downtown Disney, where a magical time can be had shopping for magical merchandise to remind you of the magic of your magical vacation. Since daughter is out of the phase that requires a plush animal to mark every trip or event, we were spared endless plush deliberation. But I still enjoy seeing them all together, either happy with magical joy or screaming at the approach of Zuul:
We hit Goofy’s kitchen for TEH GREATEST Rice Krispee treat ever (the special touch: a layer of solid frosting!) Control freak that I am, I made it last for three days. Same with the jelly beans. It’s the lesson of moderation – forbid little, but make portion control paramount. Yes, you can have some ice cream. No, you cannot have two or three bars a day. Yes, you can have a waffle. No, you cannot have dessert after lunch.Yes, you can have this, but we’re going to split it. And so on.
Back to the room. We had a view of one of the lagoons and the fountain. A long day – seven, eight hours of travel with a long layover in Atlanta – but any day that ends here is a good one.
FRIDAY, OCT. 29
So this morning I got up and went to the Artist’s Palette, as the restaurant is known. The menu never varies. Ever. As you’d expect for a place that serves people once a year, I guess, but you remember these things. And laugh: the Bounty Platter! Yes, sample the rich Bounty of the Artist’s Palette! I’ll have some braised cerulean and some hashed ochres, with a side of linseed oil. The Bounty Platter has one of everything, including the hard little crusty severed Mickey-heads in waffle form. They’re better in the large size. The omelette are delicious, the potatoes magnificently seasoned, and everything fills you up and prepares you for a hard day of walking around – and eating!
We went to Epcot the first day. I love Epcot. Don’t have the same reaction I did the first time, where newness and delight was tinged with a certain sort of sadness – seeing the 70s ideas of THE FUTURE! was nostalgic and bittersweet. The glass pyramid, the monorail, the enormous million-faceted sphere, the tinged concrete, and all the other details that made you feel like you were in a Gene Roddenberry pilot.
Now I enjoy it for what it is, and enjoy its curious conjoining of Science! and international comity. One half techno-theme-park, one half permanent Festival of Nations housed in exquisite sets.
Rides first, including Test Track, which consists of some mundane rumbling around a dark room before then car speeds up towards a wall at an alarming rate of acceleration – then the wall parts and you shoot outside and spin around the track. The free soda from other lands stand, daughter’s favorite; the adhesive properties of the room’s floor are remarkable, and make you wonder how many people are incapable of bringing a cup to their lips without dumping half on the ground. I shocked everyone by going straight to Beverly, the Italian tonic known for its peculiar, somewhat bitter flavor. I love it. I would bet I am not alone; there are many who step inside the gates of Epcot and think “Beverly awaits.” It’s an acquired taste, particularly if you’re used to drinks so sweet they they would induce diabetes in a steel girder, but after a bracing cup of Beverly everything else tastes like liquid candy. Which it is. Sat by the fountain for a while, because I am content to just sit and watch the world pass by on a sunny day, listen to the music, just be there. But. Wife went off to some cooking thing that involved goat cheese, and I took the daughter to Innoventions to play a landfill sim and test my knowledge of storm-resistant construction techniques. We also played “Where’s the Fire,” and led the Findwells to victory. It helps to have done it before, and have only two players; we kept getting bonus rounds.
We rejoined and set off to the International Area of Cultures Sanded Down to Agreeable Archetypes, and were instantly tempted by the food. Chile! Brazil! But you can’t have the first thing you see. No, you must walk 2/3rds of the way around until you realize that what you really want was . . . something from Chile and Brazil, and then you keep going. Along the way, pavilions.
China: we went to the 360 movie, “6,000 Years of Scenery, and Don’t Ask About the Despotism.” It was narrated by a poet in period clothes from the Tungsten Dynasty – I think that’s what he said – and it made me wonder if 500 years from now they’ll have a holographic show that features Carl Sandburg, poet of the Kennedy dynasty, walking around in a hamburg and a pinstripe suit and running shoes and a monocle. Who’d know? The movie showed the great cities, the marvelous scenery, and since it was 360 you could turn around and around and lose yourself in the illusion, a little. There wasn’t any history, except to note that Shanghai and Macau were influenced by the West. The former was the most attractive of the cities, to me. I have absolutely no fellow-feel for Asian aesthetics at all. The art, the architecture, the music – lands on my heart like a rock on an anvil.
But it was impressive, and the hosts delightful, and we enjoyed it. Natalie had some potstickers and pronounced them the best ever in the world, and I had a bite and agreed.
Off to another nation we hadn’t seen before. (You want to space them out so there’s always something new.) Japan. Natalie is a great enthusiast of all things Japanese, thanks to anime, and when we entered the enormous store she almost died. This is what heaven looks like, she said with mock seriousness, but she meant it. Everything was SO CUTE or SO COOL and they had REAL AUTHENTIC JAPANESE CANDY. She had a gift card to spend, and chose her items with great care while . . . well. My wife had wandered outside to hear some music, and when we joined her she waved us over to the PhotoPass spot for a family picture.
“You listened to Starship?” the photographer said.
My wife said she had. The photog looked at me. “You a Starship fan?”
“No sir,” I said.
“Really? Aw dude, c’mon, We Built This City!”
“They didn’t build anything,” I said. “The idea of Grace Slick singing ‘they’re always changing corporation names’ when the band had three names is just the start of my problems, and ‘Marconi does the Mambo’ is the other.”
“Yeah, you’re right, it was Jefferson Airplane, then Jefferson Starship, then just Starship.”
“I hated them all,” I said. “‘White Rabbit’ is the Bolero of rock.”
“Okay well I can see you got opinions!”
Family by now is cringing. Yes, Daddy has opinions.
So we took our pictures and moved along. I had something at the Italian booth – ravoli in a creamy bolognese sauce under a quilt of mozzarella, unbelievable – then I found myself in sudden need of coffee. Hard as hell to get jake in these places, but I know a cart by the English pavilion, so that’s where I went. Stood behind a nice family of Englishmen, who ordered cappuccinos. I wanted to say how disappointed I was: tea, for God’s sake! Crumpets! Bangers! Mash! Conform to the things I saw on TV growing up! But we moved along to the Canadian pavilion, which has an enormous castle (it’s probably only 1 1/2 stories tall, but it looks five stories high) and their own 360 degree show called “We Could Only Get Martin Short for This One.” The queueing area was interesting. (If you don’t spend time studying how they do things here, like setting moods in the queue, you’re wasting your time. You’re a cow on an abattoir chute!) It was dark as a mine-shaft, woody, 19th century. Felt honest and frontier-rough. I loved it, because it tied into the iconography and preconceptions of the Old West, and since that’s America, a bond was formed, and deep in your heart you remembered that Canada and America are brothers, and -
“I swallowed the cellophane wrapper from my rice cake candy,” daughter said.
“Did you mean too?”
She nodded. “It wouldn’t come off. I think you’re supposed to swallow it.”
After a little speech from a clean-cut, proud, but not boastful Canadian fellow, we saw the show. As I said, Martin Short. He’s very self-deprecating. It’s all very self-deprecating. “Hare are some cities that are bigger than you may have thought, and a few smaller ones. Now, snow. Now, trains. Here’s the Bay of Fundy. The tide is really low when it’s out and really high when it’s in. Snow! Flowers, we has them. Look at all our happy ethnic community-members turning to the camera and smiling! Hockey!”
And so on. What I loved about it: the fleeting shots of early 20th century Canadian architectural accomplishments. The magnificent things they built in the New World with pen and ink and strong arms and sharp minds. The way the vocabulary of the old world was brought over here and reinstalled, sober and decent and just. At least that’s the impression you get. Never was that entirely, of course. But better Victorian Regina than the latest Emperor with his soft arse on a silk cushion in the forbidden city. If you ask me.
When we got out it was time for more grazing. Chilean pork, something from Brazil, and the most amazing treat of them all: from New Zealand, a “Lamb Slider” with tomato chutney. Yes, it’s boring to hear what others eat – at least it always bores me to read it – but the idea that you’d spend a day at Epcot and rapturously reel off the things you ate is a testament to this festival. The weather? Perfect. Warm. Sunny. A light breeze. Early sunset, it being the end of October, and then a warm night in the park.
A perfect day. Tomorrow we try it again. More pictures? Yes: it’s Hollywood Studios. See you Tuesday!
By the way: Recession be damned. The place was packed.
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