We got up bright and early and headed down to the giant resort commissary. To Disney’s credit, they had plenty of food I could eat, with the glaring exception of the Magic Kingdom. I found myself some oatmeal, and engineered my own Disney depth charge, by procuring two shots of espresso from some very confused ladies behind the counter, then filling the rest of the cup up with their crappy coffee. But it was fine.
We took the shuttle to Epcot and got right on Spaceship Earth, Heather’s favorite ride, ever. Now, Heather and I have wildly different tastes in our choice of Disney entertainment. She likes the slower, educational rides, especially if they feature space or dinosaurs. I’d prefer to avoid Disney entertainment altogether, but if it’s my only option, I choose the fast, loud, mindless rides that make you wonder if you’re going to puke. Too much learning makes me fidget. So we compromised, and went on both types of rides.
Spaceship Earth stalled twice, but we managed to escape the giant silver golfball alive (after a bone-chilling brush with the AT&T promos at the end). According to Spaceship Earth, the future of humanity, the perfection of all our accomplishments, will be videoconferencing (via AT&T networks, of course). And here I was thinking it was world peace, or something. I’m a little ashamed.
After that, we rode the Test Track, which made us scream, and Mission to Mars, in which Heather almost vomited on takeoff. She’ll never be an astronaut. Then we went to the Universe of Energy, which I have always found really amusing, because it’s sponsored by Exxon. (BTW, doesn’t Disney bring in enough cash to pay for their own rides? What the hell?) This was one of those rides that annoys me: first, because it’s educational, and second, because they stall you by making you watch a too-long and unfunny film, in this case starring Ellen Degeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy. During these films, I mostly become irritated with the kids standing too near me and wonder whether their parents will notice if I elbow them in the head.
After the Exxon commercial we walked over to the countries in Epcot. I like this part, because it has shopping and food other than hamburgers, fries, and Mickey-shaped ice cream. Mexico was under construction. We got our picture taken with a giant troll in Norway. In China, Heather got bubble tea, while I searched for merchandise featuring the good chairman. In Germany, we bought two pretzels and a pop for $8. In Italy, we stopped.
That’s because Italy’s best feature was its boys. Since Disney is all about being authentic in an over-the-top way, the people in the countries are actually from the countries. When the boy handing me my cappuccino said ‘my pleasure’ with that accent, I almost fell over. When he said it a second time, I knew I had to sit down. Near the gelato boy, of course. Damn.
After coffee, we rushed through the United States and went on to Japan. The shops in Japan seemed to know I was there, because they had stocked everything I ever wanted to buy. I picked up and carried about half the contents of the store around with me, then put most of it back and still managed to spend almost $90. They had Hello Kitty stuff I’d never seen before, Totoro, and a million maneki neko. I’m pretty sure it was my favorite place at Disney World.
After Japan, we went to Morocco. We split the vegetarian platter, with hummus, tabouleh, and the best lentil salad I’d ever eaten. We shopped and checked out the henna tattoo artist. Then we wandered through the less-interesting countries of France, the UK, and Canada. I suppose Canada is interesting to some people, but it’s next door to me. I was unimpressed. Although I kind of dig all the maple leaf shirts; it’s a much better fashion choice than stars and stripes.
After more wandering and shopping, we stopped so Heather could have a cigarette. The smoking areas at Disney are really funny. At a few secret locations in each park, which can be located using the map and secret decoder ring, they have a garbage can with a big ashtray on top. This is the designated smoking area. The smokers huddle around it, looking guilty, and their non-smoking companions linger nearby, trying to look nonchalant. If you are caught smoking elsewhere on the property, you will be trampled by college students dressed as giant furry Disney characters.
We circled around back to Mexico so we could sit in the sun and share our nachos with the local wildlife. The herons picked bits of tomato from our fingers, and then made demanding honking noises when they felt neglected. My parents called to say they were nearby, so we walked over by the Imaginarium and waited. While Heather made phone calls, I laid on the bench next to her and dozed off in the sun. I didn’t care much about being at Disney, but I was loving having escaped the overcast weather in Minnesota, and meant to enjoy it as much as possible.
We finally found my family in the big freezer of a building where you can sample Coca-Cola products from around the universe, and get the soles of your shoes so gummy that you make weird sticky noises when you walk. We milled around near the fountain in front of Spaceship Earth while my mom tried to coordinate what seemed to be the most complicated photo-op ever. You would think it wouldn’t be a problem to get a group of eight people standing together and smiling long enough to take a picture, but you would be wrong. At least when it’s my family that’s concerned.
After we ditched the Ripleys, I went to the bathroom for the 18th time that day, and Heather got an ice cream. We went to The Living Seas, which turned out to be a really poor excuse for an aquarium, and then took a boat ride through The Land. It’s all about the future of farming, and turned out to be more interesting than it sounds, because it had giant mutant vegetables. It was like ‘It’s a Small World’, only the kids have been replaced by 50-lb zucchinis. That’s hard to beat.
We went on Spaceship Earth again, dodged AT&T, and picked up my Japan-stuff at the front gate on the way to the shuttle. On the bus, we eavesdropped on a conversation between a couple from New Hampshire, and an old couple from Minnesota (with embarrassingly ‘Fargo’ accents). NH-guy said, “I’ve never met a Minnesotan I didn’t like!” I whispered to Heather, “I bet I could give him a run for his money.”
We found the sexymobile back at Pop Century, and drove it to our new Orlando residence, the Celebration World Resort.
Resorts in Orlando are surreal. There don’t seem to be any regular hotels; they’re all located on these giant plantations with elaborate entry gates, guard-booths, and palm-lined drives. Even the ones that look like glorified apartment complexes, like ours. Celebration World was just down the way from Disney, and the way I remembered how to get there was as follows: take 192, which is easy to recall, because it’s one of those important octets in an IP address (duh), take a left at the giant inflatable Elvis, then a left just past A World of Orchids, which was featured in the movie Adaptation. We stopped there long enough to find our sleeper-sofa in the giant maze of rooms that made up our suite, changed clothes, and headed to Universal Citywalk.
Universal Citywalk is the Downtown Disney of Universal Studios, since theme parks are simply not allowed to do anything original. We pulled into the parking with our $8 in hand, and the girl in the booth said she’d give us VIP parking for $5, since she liked my purse. We were suspicious, figuring it was one of those traps they lure out-of-towners into in order to make them join a cult, or purchase a time-share or something. But, no, it was just VIP parking. We took about 7 miles of moving sidewalk into Citywalk, and looked at the map for a restaurant that might have something I could eat. We decided on Bob Marley’s, and fought our way through crowds of fratboys to get there. Citywalk had the same vibe as Pleasure Island – theme bars and clubs, Jello shots, drunk college students in the street. It also had the added attraction of girls flashing their tits in front of Pat O’Brien’s for Mardi Gras beads.
At Bob Marley’s, I freaked out over the awesome food. I had vegetable/sweet-potato patties (kind of like Jamaican empanadas), yuca fries, and bammy. It was so good, I was even able to completely ignore the ‘One Love’ singalong. After dinner, we headed to Pat O’Brien’s to meet Alina and her sheriff’s-department krew for her birthday party. When I showed the bouncer my ID, he told me that he had just been staying in Minneapolis over Christmas, about 10 blocks from where I live, because he was originally from here. He put on my wristband, stamped it, and told us to have a good time. When he stamped Heather’s hand, he pointed to it and said, “Minneapolis!” It wasn’t until we got to the entrance of the piano bar to pay cover that I even realized what he was doing. Minneapolis got us in for free.
We met Alina and her friends, and everybody was supercool and a lot of fun. Even though Alina’s only worked for the sheriff’s department for two months, it seemed like she had known everyone forever, and it was a really close group. I was a little psyched that two of the guys there worked in the morgue. And Robin was completely awesome. At one point, she was up in front of the stage, leading the whole room in a hand-motion rendition of ‘Joy to the World’ by Three Dog Night. And in my typical vacation style, I even managed to hear the hometown classic, ‘Purple Rain’.
Heather drank two cosmos and three vodka-tonics. I drink a lot of Diet Coke. I was sitting near the wall, and every time this drunk woman walked past me to go to the bathroom, she bumped into me. The last time, she leaned over and apologized drunkenly and profusely. I said it was fine and waved her away as she kept slobbering on me. The next time she passed, she smacked my shoulder deliberately.
I wanted to fight. Admire my restraint.
I figured her life was bad enough as it was, since, as Heather pointed out, her much-older and possibly even drunker date looked like a giant polish sausage. They made a depressing couple.
We wished Alina a happy birthday and left around 1am. We decided to get something to eat, and somehow wound up at Denny’s near our hotel (because, of the late-night dining options, Denny’s is the one that actually has a gardenburger). As I paid the check at the front counter, the manager kept knocking stuff over and making a mess. We laughed at him, and he said it was because I was making him nervous. I asked why, and he replied, “It’s that red hair and beautiful smile.” I didn’t quite know how to feel about being hit on by the Denny’s night manager, but I had completely forgotten about it by the time I passed out in the most uncomfortable sofa bed on the planet.