The nice thing about having a waterproof camera in Disneyland is that there are a few rides where you get really wet and 99% of the time you’ve stowed your delicate electronics into the waterproof pouches and you miss sharing moments like this, that look of combined horror and elation as you drop thirty feet down a ramp into a soft cushion of water.
a mash-up of mechanisms & talking
We visited Disneyland in California a couple weeks ago and while there I had an interesting moment of cognitive dissonance as we were sailing down the dark, faux-flame-lit waterways of The Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
For one who has never caught a ride on The Pirates of the Caribbean, it goes something like this: a flat-bottomed boat (of a theme-park attraction kind) seating about twenty-five passengers floats, meanders, dips, slides, and bumps along a carefully controlled path. Through increasingly haunting scenes of pirate-themed devastation, the boat descends into the deeps and dark of the ride, eerie sound effects lurking in the shadows and cool artificial winds chilling the air with a palpable atmosphere of creepiness.
In January 2015 we took yet another trip to California. Yes, it was Claire’s third time to Disneyland (and she’s only seven!) This time it was with cause, however: The Inaugural Run Disney Star Wars 10k and Half Marathon Weekend pulled us in with the promise of a great set of races and some Disney Geek fun. Five days of park-hopping pleasures glittered with memories & punctuated by lightsabers, snowmen and roller-coasters.
The Race Expo
For the most part when I race, I pick up my race kit a few days prior. It’s a number on a bib and maybe a new tech shirt. Disney, like any big race, makes their package pick-up an event in and of itself. The conference center in the Disneyland Hotel was our first stop on the vacation, zipping right past the front gates of the parks (much to Claire’s frustration) through Downtown Disney, and into a Star Wars themed event centre. We got there mid-afternoon on what was essentially the second day, after the five but before the ten, and slipped through the necessary queues with virtually no wait. A technical shirt, a race guide, and a chipped bib later, Karin spotted some RunDisney shoes and scored a pair of princess runners. Our arrival was fortuitously timed, and actor Sean Astin (marathon runner, Goonie, and hobbit rolled into motivational speaker for the day) was giving a session to a packed room: I sat in on that while Karin and Claire shopped in the themed merch area. I think I won that deal.
Of course when you go to Disneyland for a Star Wars event you’re going to encounter Star Wars. The line-up for Star Tours (the Star Wars themed motion simulator ride) was lined up for miles. I had figured: the other half of that Star Wars event was that twenty-five thousand Star Wars fans had descended on the park for the weekend for a minor re-enactment of ComicCon but with running and Mickey Mouse. Claire had been diligently marking off her piano practice sheet for three months in an attempt to earn a go at the “build your own lightsaber” table, so we eventually FastPass’d the ride and she got her shot at constructing a light-up custom blue “life saver.” And we were the tame ones. If you can believe it there is a Star Wars counterculture out there, and they mostly all showed up at Disneyland the same weekend as us. The costumes. Oh, the things people will buy and wear. I get it… yet, somehow I don’t.
There were three races. I don’t want to say the 5k didn’t count, because the folks who did it ran 5k further than those who didn’t. But when the 5k took place I was sitting on my couch at home, going over my packing list one more time, and eating a bowl of cereal. Twenty-four hours later we were in California cheering on Karin. Having ran the 5k in Florida, Karin decided she wanted a real medal (not the vinyl version she got last race) and so haphazardly worked up her distance over the past few months. Knee issues kept her from a more solid training plan, but in the end she finished, got her well-deserved bling, and was only slightly hobbled for about a day and a half following. We took it slow. Claire’s new lightsaber came in very handy for her and I in the cheering section, and we were lined up outside the gates at 530 am to secure a spot where we could watch Karin run by before hiking over to the finish line to watch that part.
A running joke on our recurring trips back to the Happiest Place on Earth (TM) is that Claire is not a fan of “scary” rides. Her definition of scary is unique to her, and goes something like this: if it’s a little dark or a little creepy… it’s scary. So, for all the simplicity of, say, “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” –a perfectly level, slow-paced, ride-along-a-rail with nothing but a nylon seatbelt– she quakes with fear at the mere mention of it. Sure, there are some red light that imply a fire and a few places where something (predictably) leaps out from a shadow, but most kids slough it off and get on with their day. We had to virtually threaten her to ride this one –and a couple others like it– and in the end I don’t know if we made the fear better or worse.
The Half Marathon
I had signed up to run the big one: the twenty-one-point-one kilometer Star Wars Half Marathon. My nerves were getting to me and –whileI wrote a whole other post about the event itself– I will mention that I was anticipating the race with a mix of excitement and dread. My last half marathon the August previous had ended in near disaster, and that’s something that haunts you until the moment you finish your next one.
Had I been diligent in my photography, I would have carried Claire’s new lightsaber on the day we queued up for our visit with Anna and Elsa of Frozen fame. Anna battling her sister with a blue Star Wars weapon would have neatly summed up our vacation in a single photograph. By that I mean that if we weren’t tripping over Star Wars, we were being pelted in the face with the frosty fun of Disney’s new fan favourite film. When we went to Florida last year, Frozen was so new (and so under-anticipated as a hit) you wouldn’t have known it even existed. This year? Multiple shows, merchandise, cameos, sing-alongs, characters, sketch-classes, a toboggan hill, skating rink, parade float, dress-up boutique, and a nightly ice-themed dance party… and I’m sure I’m forgetting something. If I was a Frozen-obsessed seven-year-old girl, I would have been in heaven. As a nearly-forty father with a mild Star Wars obsession, heaven doesn’t exactly describe it. I did my dad-duty however, and I stood in the ‘Meet Olaf’ line for nearly an hour one evening so that Claire could have her two minute encounter with a mute snowman. And we scored some photos and videos with the characters, a collection Claire will cherish for a few days or months, at least, or until the next movie comes out.
Disney food is largely mediocre. It’s theme park food: refined sugars and fried fats served up in colourful containers with the face of Mickey Mouse or other characters glued to the front. We had breakfast the day after the races on Main Street, Karin getting her Mickey waffle-fix. Later that night we ate in the faux Bayou beside the Pirates of the Caribbean docks as part of a dining package that got us great access to prime seats to a show (see the next photo) and fireworks. But, in the end, it was scavenging for something that wasn’t entirely too unhealthy, sharing meals, splitting snacks, and paying about ten dollars a day for bottled water because the stuff that comes out of the taps… uhhh.
Disney is part rides and part shows. Some folks go there just for the former, some just for the latter. We always tend to split our time pretty evenly: a ride here, a show there, and then more rides until we need a rest… so we take in another show. I don’t mind the sitting, and hey.. if you doze off for ten minutes and wake up in the middle, chances are you already know the story. It’s usually just a re-telling of a Disney film after all. As I mentioned in the last paragraph, we bought a dining package (a little over-priced but worth it in end) that secured us some prime seating for Fantasmic. Every park seems to have one epic show that runs at any given time. A few thousands of people queue up to grab a bit of ground space or railing to watch while they light up the entire water-course with fire and characters and fifty-foot dragons. We’d tried to watch this one three years ago on our visit (the one where we all got sick) and Claire had slept through the whole thing. So, as a do-over we spoiled ourselves one more time to much more success.
As it turns out while Claire doesn’t like “scary” rides, she is a bit of a thrill junkie. She loves fast. She loves upside down. I figure it’s going to bite me in the butt in ten years when she finds some boyfriend with a motorcycle or a fast car, but for now it just looks like I’m going to have to get used to riding roller coasters. We took numerous turns on Space Mountain in Disneyland and numerous spins on the California Screaming coaster in California Adventure. And after each time she was pumped and ready for another go… luckily the lines are pretty long, and I got a bit of a break.
But in the end, it actually is all about the rides. The characters are nice, the shows (as I mentioned already) are many and mildly amusing. But if there was no rides or thrills, there would be no parks. We tried to hit everything. A few things were closed (it was the post-holiday off-season, after all) and we got fairly close. We spun on the teacups, got drenched on the Grizzly run, and blasted our way through both Toy Story “video game” rides, Astro Blaster and Midway Mania. Karin was picked as the “rebel spy” on one of our seven trips through Star Tours, and we waited in line for our spin through Peter Pan, even though it’s a bit over-rated in my opinion. We drove cars, rode space ships, sailed boats, clung to speeding mine carts, flew zeppelins, swung, rocked, jostled, and accelerated… and loved every minute of it, too.
I can’t say when we’ll go back, but knowing us it won’t be too far off.
Read more vacation travel posts on my Random Travel Writing page!
Barely more than a year after completing my epic Dopey four-race challenge in Disney World in Florida, I found myself once again staring down the start line of a RunDisney event in the wee pre-dawn hours a few hundred meters from yet another a famous theme park Disneyland, ready to run twenty-one-point one klicks.
2015 Half Marathon Race #1
January 18, 2015
Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend
May the Course Be With You
On a completely different side of the continent, in the cool morning of a California January day, I laced up my shoes and trotted at a casual but brisk pace through the dimly lit corridor of the Disneyland Resort, past the security check, between the grand gates of California Adventure and the Magic Kingdom, along the mostly closed shoppes of Downtown Disney, and swooped South by the meters-tall Mickey Mouse sorcerer’s hat that greets visitors to the Disneyland Hotel. I had left the hotel with one or two other runners in my shadow, but by the time I reached my corral I was in the company of hundreds… soon to be thousands.
I arrived with thirty minutes to spare, and claimed a few square feet of asphalt and curbside calf-stretching zone while I watched the pre-race entertainment on the giant screen suspended from the pedestrian bridge nearby.
I hadn’t run a Half Marathon since my epic-fail showing at the Edmonton Half in August, and –shorter, highly successful races aside– I was feeling the nerves. Sure, I’d run a couple 10 klick races in darn-near PR times. And sure, my very recent 5k set the bar for my own personal record making quite high. But my calves had been acting up again (as I told no one) and having walked around the Disney Parks for two days of fun prior to the event, well, let’s just say I was more than a little anxious over the upcoming twenty-one klicks.
Fireworks. Spectacle. A thousand geeks in Star Wars costumes punching their way at lighspeed from the starting gate. Could one expect any less of a Disney event. If nothing else, Disney knows how to put on a show. Disney should probably be reserved for celebration events; huzzah-me-type end-of-season training rewards. But I was getting my fireworks before I’d even run a single step of my single half marathon on 2015.
After that what else is there to say? We ran. There were jedi and droids, wookies and yodas. I ran in the glow of a few thousand lightsabers as I weaved my way through the parks, up Main Street USA, along the neon aisle of Tomorrowland, past Darth Vader posing with fans and waving at Stormtroopers who were riding a carousel behind a pink fairty tale castle lit in the discotheque flash of a surreal dreamlike bit of insanity.
We ran and we ran some more. California Adventure was starting to glow with the slowly rising sun, but the faux rockscape of Radiator Springs was lit in a magestic orange hue that was spectacular to run nearly solo through as I neared the final twists of my in-park running.
The streets of Anaheim were a blur. A long suburban stretch through the SoCal flats was punctuated by cheering high schoolers and costumed spectators, music and water stops and the never-ending huffing-and-puffing of costumed runners finally realizing that dressing head-to-toe in a science-fiction flight suit or running with a black cape and plastic mask were not ideal race strategies.
I was getting a little achey by sixteen klicks. I had killed my time dawdling through the parks for the first six klicks, adding at least fifteen, but probably nearly twenty-five minutes to my overall time before the real race had begun. But through Anaheim the need to pose with stormtroopers or pause for jedi selfies had diminshed and I leveled out my pace to finish at a mediocre (but understandable) 2:23-ish, or thereabouts.
I ached. But I grabbed my finisher medal, a glorious replica of the Medal of Yavin from SW:ANH, and met up with my support crew, ready for another day of showing off my new bling as we wandered through the theme parks… and at least Princess Anna thought it was pretty shiny.
And we’re off… again. It’s time for another RunDisney running adventure. By the time this post goes live we’ll already be most of the way through our trip, done our races, and thinking about home. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t already had some fun.
So, here’s how things went so far…
02015-Jan-16 – 10:42 Edmonton Airport, Gate 76
Customs cleared, we’re at that pre-vacation state of place and mind when you just want it all to get started. And it almost is. A three hour flight that is due to leave in less than one, and everything seems calm with the weather and the schedule. The flight with whom we’re sharing the boarding area, at least for the next ten minutes, is bound for Vegas. So, the room is filled with kids anxious about Disney and both kids anxious for something more adult. The only thing forgotten thus far: a reminder that telling the teacher Claire was going on vacation didn’t necessarily translate into telling the school. They called. “Uhh… yeah, we’re about to get on a plane to Los Angeles. Sorry?”
02015-Jan-16 – 15:31 LAX Arrivals
Smooth flight, but our bag was literally the last one off the claim… No, really. There was a piece of paper taped to it that said “Last Bag.” And now we wait for our hotel shuttle…
02015-Jan-16 – 17:34 Disneyland Hotel
We checked in, got our race bibs, listened to Sean Astin talk about training for a marathon… the usual.
02015-Jan-16 – 19:29 Disneyland!
02015-Jan-16 – 20:01 La Brea Bakery
We pause for dinner after a frantic day of travel. We snuck in a few rides before eating, but next up… back to the park to fulfill Claire’s goal of riding It’s a Small World everyday..
02015-Jan-16 – 21:52 Disneyland
Teacups. Enough said. I’m dizzy now.
02015-Jan-17 – 09:17 Star Wars Disney Race Finish Line
Claire and I got up at 5 am to cheer on Karin for the 10k race. She was a little reluctant to wave the lightsaber around, but in the end we saw her pass twice and finish.
02015-Jan-17 – 10:17 In line for Peter Pan’s Flight
We did a quick change and went to the park for our early morning entry. It’s going to be a long day. Everyone is already tired. Oh, and I have a half marathon in the morning.
02015-Jan-17 – 11:21 Star Tours Queue
Of course, we had to do Star Tours again. There was virtually no line.
02015-Jan-17 – 12:39 Stranded on the Jungle Cruise
02015-Jan-17 – 17:34 Hotel
The park got busy. So, after being rescued from the broken down Jungle Cruise, we caught one more show and one more ride, and then left for a while. Lunch outside of the crazy and a few winks at the hotel, and were ready for round two. Now, back for a while.
02015-Jan-17 – 19:57 Toy Story Queue
We got a little overwhelmed in the Magic Kingdom, so we moved over to the California Adventure park for the rest of the evening, secured a FastPass for the rollercoaster and are now killing the time queuing for Karin’s favorite ride, Toy Story Mania… essentially a 3D video game. The line is long and slow. But we’re committed…
02015-Jan-17 – 20:06 Still in line….
02015-Jan-18 – 12:27 Going back to Disneyland
Race complete. Now for some fun.
02015-Jan-18 – 12:52 California Adventure, Monsters Inc queue
We’ve got ourselves some FastPasses for later and now we’re in full on Disney vacation mode. My legs are a little sore, Karin’s knee is still hurting a bit, so it’s going to be a slower day, but it’s busy and the longer queues might work in our favor.
02015-Jan-18 – 13:50 Radiator Springs Racers Queue
We took Karin’s super planning advice and picked up some passes for this Cars ride. Normal wait is currently 90 minutes. We’ll be through in 10 or so. I guess it’s kinda popular. I ran past the ride this morning and it was pretty amazing all lit up, the fake canyon walls in oranges and reds.
02015-Jan-18 – 17:56 Walking back to the hotel
Back to the hotel for a break. Been going steady for 12 hours straight. Currently my pedometer says 41k steps on the day, and that day is still young.
02015-Jan-18 – 19:41 Chilling at the Hotel
Some quiet time at the hotel included a dip in the pool and some take-out supper from the Cheesecake Factory. Since there are literally thousands of runners here this weekend, we have been making fast friends with whoever we meet, it seems and I’ve been scaring Americans with tales of my sub-zero running adventures when they comment to me that this morning’s run was a little on the chilly side. You think THAT’S cold????
02015-Jan-18 – 21:54 Frozen Dance Party
Runners and children in abundance! Play some Taylor Swift and you have some crazy times, at least for an old guy who was up at 4 am…
02015-Jan-18 – 22:49 California Adventure Park
Claire finally got her chance to meet Olaf (after her awesome dad stood in line for over an hour!) and now we’re just meandering around the park trying to figure out how we’re all not collapsed from exhaustion. Claire’s been going steady for sixteen hours, and she’s almost got as much mileage in as me today. What a trooper.
02015-Jan-19 – 09:58 Carnation Cafe, Disneyland
Breakfast on Main Street. The girls ordered Mickey Mouse shaped waffles. I’ve opted for a hearty eggs platter.
02015-Jan-19 – 11:40 Fantasyland
The crowds have been very light this morning, and we’ve got in a half dozen rides without too much waiting. Karin was the “rebel spy” on Star Tours, and Claire was dizzy with excitement about another spin on Space Mountain. Our submarine ride just ended, and now we’re waiting on a Storybook boat tour. From space to water…
02015-Jan-19 – 11:42 Earlier, at Star Command…
02015-Jan-19 – 12:58 Royal Theatre
Time for some sits? We’ve since got in a few more rides, and now have made a soft landing at the Royal Theatre where they do a cabaret-ish retelling of Frozen, in just a few minutes from now. And of course the princesses themselves well be making an appearance. Claire has ditched us for seats in the kiddie mosh pit, while we’ve got some quiet seats near the back. My poor feet and legs are feeling the effects of over 40km of foot travel yesterday, and a few minutes of sitting is already overdue.
02015-Jan-19 – 15:39 Grizzly River Run Queue
Soaking wet, and waiting back in line for a second run at the Grizzly River Run, a kind of watery roller coaster…
02015-Jan-19 – 19:14 Waiting to be seated…
Dinner reservations tonight are in the park, that restaurant overlooking the Pirates of the Caribbean ride has a kind of dinner and a show deal. Eat, and get prime seating for the Fantasmic show at 830.
02015-Jan-19 – 20:59 Dinner at Blue Bayou
02015-Jan-19 – 21:07 Tiki Room
Now we kill some time until the big show. Another round of Pirates, and then Karin gets her nostalgia fix with the Tiki Room. It’s a good place to sit and rest, of nothing else…
02015-Jan-19 – 23:51 On Our Way Back to the Hotel
Another day ends with a crazy show… and one more spin on Star Tours …before going back for sleep. I will say that Fantasmic was pretty awesome with prime seating and a daughter who stayed awake for it this year.
02015-Jan-20 – 10:27 Hotel
Tuesday, and the dust has settled. The local long weekend is over and the crowds are promising to be significantly lower today. The park doesn’t even open until 10am, so we’re hanging out at the hotel and relaxing before we get back into another day of Disney. Claire has her heart set on a few more rollercoasters, so hopefully her parents are up for the excitement.
02015-Jan-20 – 11:52 California Adventure
Claire and I wait for rope drop while mom stands in line for some FastPasses for Radiator Springs Racers.
02015-Jan-20 – 12:41 Toy Story Midway Mania
For the second time today already..
02015-Jan-20 – 14:22 Frozen Sing-a-long Theatre
One last item on our Frozen checklist was the sing-a-long show, and after a quick lunch we squeezed into the next performance by the skin of our icy teeth. Let it go, let it go..
02015-Jan-20 – 15:13 Frozen Theatre
Okay, I’m officially at peak Frozen. I can feel my sanity slowly seeping away.
02015-Jan-20 – 16:19 Space Mountain Queue
My little thrill junkie wanted to ride Space Mountain one more time.
02015-Jan-20 – 1927 California Adventure
We finally took a spin on Mickey’s Ferris Wheel, Karin cringing and Claire screaming at the top of her lungs the whole time (mostly because we chose a swinging car) and freaking out the two girls who got stuck riding with us. Then dinner, scoring seats next to the parade route while we ate… until the parade broke down. But only for about fifteen minutes. Ironically, it was the Mater float, a cartoon tow truck that caused all the problems. A couple more hours, though, and then it’s all over. Time for a couple more rides…
02015-Jan-20 – 21:46 Downtown Disney
Done. Well, except for some shopping. Karin is finishing up her souvenir collecting, while Claire and I wait out in the street and people-watch the evening clear out of the parks.
All I can do now is hydrate.
Star. Wars. Disney. Half. Marathon!
This is a bit of an experiment. The attached video (if one is still attached by the time you read this post) contains copyrighted music. If you like the music, you can buy it. You should buy it. Whatever. The fact is, though, that in remixing all our family video for the last year — mostly for our own personal enjoyment — I tend to string that video together with actual (copyrighted) songs. I dont usually share those videos, so… yeah.
But this video (again, if it is still attached when you read this) I thought I would share. I’m not endorsing you to anything but watching this video, a video for which I’ve admittedly not obtained permission to use the music. The only reason I am so adamantly stressing this point is because I earlier tried uploading it to Facebook and… well… Facebook took issue and removed it.
See, thing is, after years of Facebook making money from me, I unquestioningly sharing my content with them — photos, links, updates, blog posts — providing a whole swath of my friends something to look at and consequently generating a stack of new users for Facebook particularly early on, I was thanked with a form letter telling me essentially (a) my video was illegal, (b) that was my first of two strikes, and (c) they couldn’t be bothered to come up with a better strategy for dealing with ordinary users just sharing a movie with their friends apart from a vague threat of removing my account. As below:
We have removed your video entitled "Hello Disneyland" uploaded at 12:08pm March 11th, 2012. We did this because it appears to contain copyrighted material owned by a third party, such as a video clip or background audio. If you believe this material was removed by mistake, you may file a counter notice of alleged infringement by following the link below.
Please note that if you re-upload this video without filing a counter notice, or if you upload another video that infringes on the rights of a third party, we may remove the content. This could cause your access to the Facebook Video application, or your Facebook account itself, to be disabled.
To file a counter notice:
For any other questions, please view our Help page:
The Facebook team
This is contrast to the more reasonable — and demonstrating understanding that there may be some non-criminals among their customers who could make use of an alternate solution — Youtube notice of:
Your video “Disneyland Hello”, may have content that is owned or licensed by Teta Music Ltd, steve AATW, Kontor Records, Made in Etaly, Rebeat Digital GmbH, Kontor New Media, SME and Spinnin’ Records, but it\’s still available on YouTube! In some cases, ads may appear next to it.
This claim is not penalizing your account status. Visit your Copyright Notices page for more details on the policy applied to your video.
– The YouTube Team
So. Thanks a tonne, Facebook. If Google/Youtube can work out a compromise, why can’t you folks step it up and stop pinning crap on your users. I get this is a grey issue. I get that this is a tough issue. We all know copyright no longer works for the little guys. But at least pretend you’re not on a short corporate leash and remember most of your content — your existence — depends on fair play and sharing.
In the meantime… here is my sad excuse for a vacation video. Maybe. (And buy that song!)
And a PS: Thanks to the copyright owners for actually participating in a progressive program that tries to balance your deserved rights with other more draconian options. Credit where due.
Today marks twenty-five days of no-coffee for me and, ironically enough, I’m sitting in a cafe (on my Friday off) writing a blog post about it. Do I miss it? A little. But, I cope largely because I know it’s temporary. Most mornings I’ve compensated by drinking copious quantities of tea. While that doesn’t quite have the same kick as a solid cup of joe, it has sure been nice during this two week span of not-feeling-my-tops and down-to-below peak-operations with this quasi-flu to have an excuse to jump directly to the soothing hot liquids and cut out the middle step of a biologically-required caffeine dosage.
This morning I splurged and bought myself a london fog. Have you ever had one of those? It’s like a latte, but instead of the espresso they dunk in an earl grey teabag. It transforms into sweetish milk-like beverage infused with the smokey tang of earl grey whose taste ebbs and flows as you drink it and the ratio of milk to tea to time-spent-steeping fluxes the flavour from mild to tart to bitter and back to a cool but rich organic blur as your drain the dregs from your paper cup. Fairly awesome.
I don’t drink them often. It is a treat.
I was hoping, though, that I would discover some more conclusive evidence for the value of tea over coffee, compelling my unconscious mind (who unfortunately controls the bulk of my willpower) to tip the balance more favourably. Unfortunately the illness has been a bit of a jerk and has not returned the favour of any convenience back to the coffee-free effort. By that I mean that, all things being ideal, I would have assumed after twenty-five days to have observed some minor (if only anecdotal) benefits to my sleep or general health. But, like I said, the cold has not offered any ground on this. I’m not exactly operating under ideal circumstances, so my baseline for even the crudest of comparisons is completely shot. So, if you’ve Googled this looking for “reasons to give up coffee” or “why tea is better than coffee” or even “coffee is bad for your health” you’ll find little more here than some sad musings on the state of my inconclusive observations on account of some other more overwhelming symptoms.
Being coffee-free did have some payoff on holidays, actually. More than once I saw some frantic Disneyland park-goer bobbing from churro stall to popcorn stand, wide-eyed and urgently inquiring: “Just tell me where I can get a coffee!” Old Walt must have got his morning buzz off a “would you like a Coca-Cola Product with that” and snubbed the more refined tastes of the coffee crowd as (even counting the Kurig in our hotel room) the opportunity to acquire even the simplest paper cup full of brew was only matched in impossibility by the lack of availability of alcohol. I consumed neither on vacation — it was a family trip after all — and while I did eventually spot a few hot joe vendors scattered about the park, the disturbance to our already-disturbed routine in seeking these out each morning to satisfy any daily dosage requirements would have created additional daily pain in the ass whilst on vacation.
So, what of the effort? It’s all very silly, though, isn’t it? A blip inside of the blip of my life. An inconsequential bit of over-thought nonsense: wherein some introspective-neurons inside of a bag of biological goop (ie, me) opts not to strain some other biological goop (ie, coffee) through a nutrient absorbing hose that happens to be running through the bag of goop’s bag of goop, all for the sole purpose of discovering if in not doing so fires a satisfying collection of different neurons and generates a net positive (or net negative) experience for the bag of goop’s interaction with the rest of the multiverse. We’re doing this all the time, trying to figure out odd little ways to make our lives as organic blobs slightly more satisfying. Weird, the things we do, no?
Alas… an observation and a conclusion: All in all I would say it’s been a good experience. But as I’ve tried to carefully couch leading up to that: who can really say — and who really cares, actually. It’s just me doing this thing and — in a few reflective moments in a noisy cafe — reflecting on it all. I’ve learned a few things about myself. And I’ve recorded some very much cause-and-effect data points in the relationship between my brain and caffeine. But, if none of that is important or interesting in the long game, I have definitely discovered I really do like a good london fog.
This should be the last of the Disneyland posts for a while… I promise. But having spent the entire of last week in the so-called Happiest Place on Earth (TM) and returning with only a handful of memories in the form of videos, photos, tacky souvenirs, and mixed emotions, I thought I had better write one last post to sum up one of my own trademarked quirky observations.
On Saturday morning there was a false-alarm bomb scare at Disneyland.
This was our third trip to the resort, and each time we’ve gone it’s been a very different experience. And each time I come back from those trips feeling this mixed bag of odd emotions about the vacation as a whole. Fun. Frustration. Excitement. Thrill. And usually a bit of a vacant, hollow feeling in my skull. This time was no different, of course, though one particular event crystallized some of those thoughts on something I hadn’t considered before. Being witness to the “event” gave me some things to think about in the intervening days.
First? You know the event. It was the subject of my previous post. But a recap…
On Saturday morning there was a false-alarm bomb scare at Disneyland. This all occurred on the day we were flying out, so we were not even planning on going to the park. I just happened to be out for a stroll to waste some time before the taxi came to collect us. In other words, the event didn’t affect us so much as… well… it was happening right there and I was part of the milling crowd for a few minutes. But, see, at the end of it, it turns out that it wasn’t a bomb or anything physically dangerous at all. It turns out it was a geocache, one of those stash-able containers hidden as part of the treasure hunting game you play with your GPS. This one was rather foolishly hidden, foolishly designed, and foolishly played all-around, all against a fairly narrow set of guidelines for setting up geocaches… because anyone can hide them, and lots of people do, so there needs to be rules, right?
But then why would someone hide a geocache anyhow? I’ve done it, myself, but I never really considered why I’ve played. So, I mean, why put the effort into stashing some paper and a pencil in a secret place… even when you are following the rules? Why? Is it a thrill? Is it entertainment? What?
It seems to me that this is somehow connected to the nub of Disneyland’s role as the top dog of the intellectual property food chain? It seems to me that the fact that one guy trying to leave his own teeny-tiny little mark on Disneyland can cause such huge a ripple effect — a tidal wave — bringing out the cops, shutting down the park, and impacting thousands of people… it seems to me that’s why I get these mixed emotions from these sorts of trips: Disneyland is a one-way street when it comes to ideas.
Now, don’t misread here: Dude broke lots of rules and a few laws. I only mention the why-you-don’t-geocache-in-Disneyland anecdote because it is an extreme example of this one-way street. To answer my previous question — why hide a geocache anywhere — I think the reason one participates in this game is to create a bit of adventure for someone else. Key word: create. Sure, it’s just a technological game of hide-and-seek, but in placing a container one is creating entertainment for someone else. It’s a game. By hiding you are setting up a play for someone else. You are creating a hunt and creating a treasure to be found.
One problem: you can’t create in Disneyland. That is, unless you are part of Disney, paid by Disney, or you are Disney… well… simply, you don’t get to create inside Disneyland. If you visit Disneyland you are a consumer, plain and simple.
And that’s fine. Don’t get me wrong. Consuming quality media can be fun. Taking part in rides and interactive stories can be an amusing way to spend a day or even a week. But again: a one way street.
…if you are a creative person a week in Disneyland can be absolutely draining…
Yet of this brings me back to my initial bag of mixed emotions. One might guess from reading this blog, looking at my other websites, following my photo and video projects, or just knowing me in general that, frankly, I’d rather be on the creating side. I’m a creator. I don’t know if I’m creative, per se, but I like to be making things, building things, inventing things, imagining things. But a place like Disneyland — at least from the perspective that I witnessed it — is not built for people like me. Disneyland is built for consumers. The park, the decorations, the shows, and the rides — all of it — is built for people who like to open their brains and drink from a metaphorical fire hose of pop-culture and Disney-anna.
It is designed that way. It has been meticulously built, rebuilt, and refined to do one thing very well: deluge your brain to capacity and beyond with stuff created by Disney. It is a consumer’s paradise. If your ideal day is having your mind gushed with a million happily manufactured thoughts involving princesses and Mickey Mouse, you will love it there.
But if you are a creator? A week in Disneyland can be absolutely draining. Why? Because no matter what you do — how much fun you seem to have had — the only impression you leave behind is a few more dollars exchanged and a few more turnstile numbers increased. You have nothing to add to the story. You have nothing to contribute… at least nothing that Disney wants.
So, dude who wanted to leave his little mark on the park. I get him — I do not in any way agree with what he did, and I think he should have thought a little more deeply about the impacts beforehand — but I get him. He’s a creator-guy. He wanted to add to the so-called “magic” by leaving his own little nugget of entertainment inside the perimeter of Disney’s green fence. He wanted to create a tiny bit of non-Disney adventure for a few other people. He wanted to leave his mark. But it just isn’t an easy thing to do… because apparently they call the cops.
I figured I’d wrapped for the week and wasn’t really planning on writing again. Our tickets were basically used up, our shuttle arrives in about an hour to take us to the airport, and Claire has yet to climb out of bed — or she has just barely and is scarfing some Corn Pops while watching Nick Jr.
I thought I’d go for a stroll.
One of the things I ‘missed’ this week was Downtown Disney. We were always on the wrong side of it. It’s where you go to kill time between the parks, or where you go to eat if you’re staying in a Disney hotel. Lots of shopping. Lots of places to spend money. Lots of eye-candy. A Lego store! We just never made it there.
I had an hour, so I thought I’d go for a stroll.
But, then, it seemed a little odd. Just after nine in the morning there were a few to many people strolling away from the park. Hundreds of people just lingering. And the park was supposed to have opened at 8 AM. Well, correction. It did open at 8AM. Then… well, apparently it closed again.
I got down to the bus-loop gate and the doors were shut tight. No one in. No one out. And security and police everywhere. So I went for my stroll… just back to the hotel.
Turns out — at least according to the Twitter-verse — there was a suspicious package found somewhere inside. Turns out Disneyland is on lockdown this morning. Turns out the park probably won’t even open again until we’re somewhere thirty-nine-thousand feet over Idaho.
What a week… sigh.
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