Notes on D-World 9-16-08 Tuesday

Jen has been attacked by mosquitoes or ants or something since last night, and is covered in very itchy bites. The thought that there might be something in the bed gets waylaid when we find that I don't have a single bite. I got several mosquito bites early in the trip, but they do not bother me like they do my girl, who loses a lot of sleep to the itchiness.

I arise after 6, write for a while and then shower in time to head up the Trading Post in the middle of Fort Wilderness, which is supposed to be one of two spots with WiFi service in the immediate area. The Outpost clerk last night told me that you were supposed to use the last ten digits of your room card to log in. In reality, it is the last 12, with the final two serving as a password. The clerks at the Trading Post aren't sure, and pull out a decrepit worker's manual in which is laid a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a surely tattered copy of an instruction sheet which states that you use the ten preceding those last two digits, but not that you use the last two at all. But the clerk says that I should -- even after the other clerk says "I'm not even sure we have it here anymore!" -- and directs me to the back porch which he says is the only place to use it.

On the way to the Trading Post, though, I take a tumble. Definitely not on my vacation plan, this... a mother and her child step onto the bike path where I am walking straight up the middle, and it causes me to politely move to the side. "To the side" means "step onto a large pinecone which turns your ankle and sends your toes off the path where you might right yourself and leaves you sprawled upon the gravel and grass in equal painful amounts." The lady offers a hand to help me up, which I take while still in shock from the fall, and also offers to get me some towels with which to clean up myself. My legs are covered in mud, grass, dirt and possibly blood beneath the mess, but I tell her "thanks, but I will clean up in the bathroom at the Trading Post," which was literally about 200 yards away. Righted, I find that I am in a small amount of pain in the ankle area, but I limp very little the rest of the way. Once I stop, though, I start to really feel it, and take a preemptive strike and purchase a bandage with which to wrap it later.

Setting up on the porch, it takes me three tries to log in before I find the proper combination of room card numbers. I check my Gmail account, answer numerous emails and then throw up my notes from the past few days. (Throw up might be the operative phrase, some may note...) Despite the trouncing of an appendage, the atmosphere is perfect here. Early morning, still not too hot (only the high 70s at that moment), families are strolling and biking along the surrounding paths, and the only other person around my immediate vicinity, a man reading a paper and drinking coffee in a nearby rocking chair, left a few minutes after I sat down. While writing, I heard the strangest sounds emanating from the Trading Post sound system (which also plays on the porch area). This atonal buzz and melange of sound effects. I had suspicions, and then they were confirmed, by the opening notes of a theme from A Fistful of Dollars, followed shortly by the, more familiar to most, them from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It was an Ennio Morricone collection, and after wishing for deafness after being subjected with scads of Miley Cyrus and Duff sisters songs in the buses and stores for the past few days (all of whom, my dear Grobanite, I also find "deplorable"), this nearly righted the boat for me. Morricone, my foot propped up on an opposing rocking chair, a Coke at my side... I didn't want to leave.

But leave I did, for we had adventuring to do. Upon my return to the cabin, the ladies and I headed to Epcot. The day would eventually prove to be mostly overcast but extremely humid, and our entrance into the park (our second in three days, owing to our dinner reservations earlier in the week) would find our view of the giant golf ball less blue-surrounded than we might have wished. Still an impressive site, even though I have now spent several days over the past two years in its presence. I don't think I could grow tired of it, but the one thing I was tired of regarding the ball was not going inside it. Closed last year for a massive refurbishment, Spaceship Earth is now open once more, and we dove straight into a rather long line to check it out at last. Jen and Sande had ridden upon it in the past, but they immediately noticed a big change: computer screens in the ride cars which ask you a variety of questions (they are touch-sensitive screens) and a camera that you pass which takes your picture for use later in the ride. I have never known a single thing about this ride, so it was absolutely a surprise to me. A very slow-moving stroll through the history of human communication, with cameos by some Greek who might be Aristotle, Johannes Gutenberg, Michelangelo and a great many others, all brought to life through the usual Disney animatronics, and as always, a combination of cool and creepy. At journey's end, new to the ride, your time machine determines (via your answers) a custom-fitted future for you... but, man, I screwed up the ride for myself.

There being three of us, I chose the back seat of the time machine and sat in the middle of the seat, while the girls sat in the front row and sat properly as needed for the ride to work right. Their pictures were taken, and then used in the animated futures that follow. Since my picture was not taken -- and thus, some might say, the ride not broken -- my future was enacted by default heads on the cartoon characters instead of my own. Disappointed, I paid more attention to the wacky antics on the girls' screen instead of mine. At the end of the ride, as you walk through a game center which elaborates on that which preceded it, Jen and Sande's faces leaped briefly, along with the heads of those that rode at the same time as we, to the big screen surrounding the game center. A cool experience, but I want to try it again the right way. (P.S. Dame Judi Dench is the narrator of the ride now...)

We opt for checking out the area called The Land because we missed doing it last year. First, we took in a showing of The Circle of Life, a not-uninteresting propaganda film in which Timon and Pumbaa are shown the error of their ways in damming up a river via Simba's history of how man has fucked up the planet through the years and then how he is supposedly turning things around. Find and good, but we get great mileage the rest of the day by mocking the hypocrisy inherent in a theme park pointing a finger at human greed and not taking more than we need, and then selling dolls, trinkets and only partially recyclable goods from The Lion King in the lobby. Next, we take, ironically, a boat ride through The Land, a history of how mankind has worked and farmed the land throughout history, which ends up in a warm spin through a series of greenhouses where Frankenstein-like science experiments with various plants, fruits and vegetables (9-lb. lemons are awesome, and apparently can yield a gallon of lemonade, though I wonder at how the quality is) which are leading the way to future farming techniques which will hopefully lead to less abuse of our natural resources, including the land and water.

Off to the World Showcase for lunch, and after much deliberation over where to take a repast, we center on Japan. Our dinner at Tokyo Dining, next door to Teppan Edo, is very relaxing and enjoyable, and our waitress Akane is very quiet and sweet. Jen and Sande go for sushi -- only vegetarian options for Jen -- and after downing some excellent miso, I dive into a platter of tempura shrimp, chicken and vegetables. The dessert for me is completely a surprise: a tin toy exhibit which features a very detailed history of Japanese toys, not all of them, but the bulk of them, made of tin. An entire wall of robots and spacemen, all of them with the capability of being winded up. I start snapping photos like crazy, and especially when I turn the corner and there is a huge exhibit with Astro Boy, Gigantor and Godzilla tin toys. (It is such a highlight for me, that I return to it later in the day on my own, so I can take some time at it.) Sadly, finding a replica of any of these toys in the massive gift shop next door proves to be a fruitless affair. Many Transformers, Evangelion, Monchichi, Pokemon, Bleach and Naruto toys, but none of the old guard.

We take a boat across the waters of the World Showcase (another first for us), but the ride proves to be hotter than expected, and by the time we hit the shore again in Mexico, the girls are pooped. They decide a return to the cabin to relax is in order (it is around 4 pm), but I decide to stay. My ankle is throbbing as I step into the Three Caballeros' Gran Fiesta ride, a trip through Mexico with Donald, Panchito and Joe Carioca, and as I noticed last year, while the ride is fun and colorful, the sound and animation are just a little bit off when brought up to the movements of the boats. I try to get on the Norway section ride, The Maelstrom, next, but the 10 minute wait sign is incorrect, as there are a couple hundred of people jammed into its small loading room, and the noise is too much for my crowd-sensitive head. I wander over to China and finally watch the 360 degree Circle-Vision film which serves as its centerpiece. A gorgeous film, with ten screens surrounding the viewer, and no seats, so that one can turn about properly to view it. However, a good deal of the sheep in the crowd stand straight forward, even while I and couple of others watch the film correctly. I start to make exaggerated movements as I take in the scenes behind them to see if I can get them to stop staring straight ahead. It works for a few people, but many do not notice me or are resolute in their unwavering blindness. I decide they must be Republicans and leave it at that.

I wander through the gift stores of China, Africa, Italy and Germany before going to France to check out the bakery. However, the time is too close for dinner to grab a baguette, so I wander down to England, where I discover a Beatles-replica band called the British Invasion. They are engaged in a set of tunes leading up through Revolver, and announce they will return at 7 with longer hair and Sgt. Pepper-style uniforms for another set, and then at 8 for songs off Let It Be, Abbey Road and the White Album, along with Lennon covers. Their harmonies are OK, and I like the way they seek to replicate the sound effects on Yellow Submarine. The guitar player also seems to have studied Harrison's guitar licks rather precisely. I go back to France for their centerpiece film, Visions of France, only a 180-degree, 5-screen affair, but very gorgeous scenery and locations, and with a more poetic, less historical narration than the Chinese film. The hostess is a delight, and the crowd really gets into her routine.

Jen calls with a minute to spare in the film, and they are back at the entrance and on their way over for dinner. We decide between Italy and Morocco, and end up in line at the Trattoria without reservations. Luckily, they have a table for only three, and so we skip the line and sit right down in the courtyard. The waiter, Alessandro, is delighted once Sande starts divulging the history of her family's Italian side, and wins him over from the start. Bucatini something-or-other for me, a baked dish with linguini and italian sausage and ham in a very heavy cream sauce. Very delicious, but I wish I had gotten a side of something else to mix up the tastes, as it grew weary after a while. It will take weeks to wear this one off me. The girls eat half of their meals, but don't box them as we are staying for our first full glimpse of the Epcot fireworks show, and the humidity will surely turn the food negatively before we get back to the cabin.

We catch a boat across the waters that lie in the middle of the World Showcase over to Mexico. We imagine the ride will be nice and breezy, but the interior is nearly as insufferable as the outdoors. The humidity is nearly 97 percent, and the only respite is to dive indoors here and there as every shop is wonderfully air-conditioned. Our respite on this end of the Showcase surely must include one very certain place: The Maelstrom.

We have spent a good deal of time mocking the Maelstrom the last couple of years, calling it the best ride at Epcot, and then snickering for minutes on end. The girls teased me with it last year before we went, and I had no idea what they were talking about. As I went to bed the other night, I was restless, and I told Jen "How am I expected to sleep when I am facing the fury of the Maelstrom tomorrow?" The only way to truly know the Maelstrom is to ride the Maelstrom. An attraction built around Norwegian fable, it traverses their culture from Vikings to trolls to offshore oil rigs. You figure it out. It builds up like its going to be thrilling, and the ride certainly thinks it's thrilling... and then it just sort of ends. You were attacked by trolls, and then you end up passing a replica of an oil-rig. Then, as the capper, a five-minute film about Norway, in which the narrator bellows at the audience and practically threatens you if you don't visit their wonderful country. It almost seems like a ride built on a dare.

Jen grabs desserts at a shop in Norway, and we find a fence spot for the fireworks show, which is visually interesting, but lacks the overall flare of the Wishes show at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. The globe that shoots across the lake, shows film images across its continents, and then flares open as it spins faster and faster, eventually emitting flames is a nice touch. We have to linger in the park after the show to let a large portion of the crowd to disperse so the walking is a tad easier, and after fifteen minutes of this, we head out to the shuttles for our return to our nice, cool cabin.

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