Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Disney snapshots

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Snow White and the seven of us

We’re back! Three and a half days. Four parks. Two kids. Five adults. We had fun, but we packed so much into our vacation that we were all more than ready to come home this morning. Here are a few highlights:

• Disney rocks. Except for the occasional rides that need to be dragged out of the ’80s. But for the most part, we had the most awesome family vacation with great weather and almost non-existent lines (the end of January is THE time to be there).

• I got a late Christmas present when we got to the hotel: A shirt that says “Hello! I am Uncle Jake.” I also got a bunch of hugs to go with it. Best. Present. Ever.
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• There is no better feeling than walking with your family through Disney World and having a little hand reach up and grab yours. It says I trust you to take care of me and I like spending time with you and You are my hero all in one little gesture. And it almost makes me tear up every time.

• On the flip side, there is no worse feeling than being repeatedly gored in the balls by little elbows and fists and knees and feet. My niece and nephew—but mostly my niece—have an uncanny sense of balldar as they swing their arms and climb on laps and throw things, and Uncle Jake's jewels took quite a beating on this trip.

• My nephew has discovered Star Wars with a vengeance. Which is so weird to me because Star Wars will always be a relic from my junior high days, and here’s this six-year-old in 2006 who can recite entire lines of dialogue from movies I haven’t seen in 20 years. In any case, we took him on the Star Wars ride at Disney-MGM, which he thought was pretty cool:
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• While we waited for the magic carpet ride in the Magic Kingdom, I taught him all the lyrics I know (all two phrases) to the “Prince Ali” song from Aladdin. He grew to love this song very quickly. My sister almost killed me over this.

• He also lost a tooth on our last day in the parks. Which we had to carry around so the Tooth Fairy could reward him for it the next morning. She gave him a collector set of pennies from around the world (she must have been at Epcot the same day we were—coincidence?) and a Florida quarter, though he had informed me he'd gotten $5 when he lost his tooth at his grandma's in California so he was expecting $10 for this tooth. He must know more about the California-Florida exchange rate than I do.

• My handsome friend Keith reserved us great seats for his show, Beauty and the Beast—Live on Stage, and even organized a meet-and-greet with Belle afterward for my niece. And my nephew. But mostly my niece, because my nephew is not gay. Unfortunately, our meet-and-greet photos came out kind of blurry:
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• Speaking of live stage shows: Tumble monkeys*. Mmm.

* Tumble monkeys are buff little gymnasts in orange monkey spandex who do all kinds of goofy stuff on trampolines and high bars and rings in the Festival of the Lion King show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. They’re … um … distracting.

• This little sign appears on any ride that moves faster than your average insurance refund for your dental work (three weeks and counting, guys … ahem). I’m not sure if it’s telling me to keep my hands and arms in the ride at all times or if there’s some sinister no-dancing-at-Disney movement afootloose:
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• This little sign appears over every sink in every Disney park bathroom. Seriously:
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• I’m pretty sure I was the only gay in the kingdom all week. Except for two lesbians in line ahead of us at the spectacular new Soarin’* ride that mimics a hang-gliding experience over California, complete with wind in your face and little squirts of pine and orange grove up your nose.

* Soarin’ is NOT to be confused with Søren, the hunky counselor at the Norwegian language camp I attended in junior high school. When I was going through puberty.

• I have seen the future of fashion, and it is filled with terrible hair. Big mounds of pre-Raphaelite, post-Loretta Lynn tendrils scooped like gloppy ice cream on what must be very warm heads and very sore necks. Booshy moostaches that jut out like well-worn push brooms, creating permanent frowns and—bonus!—catching wayward boogers and bits of oatmeal. Bowl cuts. Bangs. Pony tails sprouting from the tops of adult heads. Uneven streaks of color that say Hey, everyone! I just lost a bet!

• I have also seen the future of American excess, and it is filled with people so obese they have to drive around on scooters. Stock tip: Invest in those scooters. There is a lot of demand.

• Doing Disney with parents and grandparents and kids is way different from doing Disney with adult gay men. Gay men fill their pockets with mints, a wallet and a camera and they’re off to ride the rides. Adults with kids fill their pockets and backpacks and purses and fanny packs with snacks and schedules and band-aids and water bottles and lotion and anti-bacterial wipes … and they make sure they have room to stuff them further with princess sweatshirts and bulky Star Wars memorabilia and old teeth and any other souvenirs they acquire.

• Parents with kids also schedule us into princess breakfasts, where Belle and Jasmine and Cinderella and Snow White and a whole host of other nubile young ladies saddle up to your table and demand to have their pictures taken with your awestruck kids.

• I looked and looked, but I found no scheduled prince breakfasts. Handsome or otherwise.

• Two tips if you ever go to Disney World: Stay in one of the Disney hotels. They’re convenient, they’re filled with Disney magic, and there are free buses and boats and monorails that take you everywhere you want to go. And get the new Disney Dining Plan. For about $30 a day, it gives you a snack, a counter-service meal and a table-service meal—which is all you really need, and it will save you hundreds of dollars.

• It’s hard to ride the hardcore rides when you’re shepherding a 4- and 6-year-old through the parks. My niece is pretty fearless, though, and we got her to stand tall enough at those you-must-be-this-tall signs that we got her on Space, Splash and Big Thunder Mountains. Which she loved. My nephew inherited his uncle’s timidity regarding trying new things, but thanks to some selective descriptions from some unscrupulous adults, we tricked got him on most of the same rides. Which he loved as well.

• I read The Devil in the White City on the plane and in little fits and starts before bed every night. Coincidentally, it mentions that Elias Disney helped build the 1892 Chicago World’s Fair, which directly influenced his son Walt’s ideas about family entertainment. It also contains a lot of grisly, decidedly non-Disney murders. But I don’t think it lives up to all the hype I’d been hearing; I give it a B-.

• True to form, we ran into a friend of mine from junior high and high school in the bus line on our last night at Disney World. This happens to my family a lot when we go to Disney. The biggest unexpected run-in happened many years ago when my mom was there for a conference and ran into the girl who had been a foreign exchange student in our house years earlier. The girl was from Norway.

• We all made it home safely, though it bugged me greatly that the six most important people in my life were all on one plane together as they headed home to Iowa. Especially when their plane had to abort its takeoff because it was broken and they had to find a different plane.

• I didn’t buy any souvenirs, but I did come home with a pretty unpleasant case of the flu. But not the poopy kind; I have the achy, shivery, hot-to-the-touch kind that makes me a little goofy every time I stand up.


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