Notes on D-World 9-17-08 Wednesday

Sande has purchased tickets for us for the Cirque de Soleil show in Downtown Disney for later in the evening, so our entire schedule is based around making it to that show by 5:30 pm. We decide that the Animal Kingdom, which closes daily at 5:00, is perfect choice, especially since we haven't hit it yet. At the bus stop, we encounter a quartet of older people with various disabilities who are cared for by two extremely patient and kind helpers. The woman in Minnie ears who sits next to me while we wait for the bus points out all of the different colors on her striped shirt and tells us over and over just how much Todd, the male half of the helpers, well, helps her. A second woman keeps Sande and Jen busy pointing repeatedly to her purple Princess cap. She doesn't say as much as the other woman, but she laughs constantly. Todd gets very sheepish every time the first woman repeats his name. The other helper talks to us for a while, and you can see how tired both of them already are this early in the day. They are far better people than I, though I enjoy meeting the group, and while we are on the first shuttle, I play a waving game with one of the women in the pair of wheelchairs. I have no idea if she remembers playing the same game with me briefly two days before on another shuttlebus. She is extremely proud of her Donald hat, pointing at it, and smiling shyly at me.

The second direct shuttle to the Animal Kingdom finds us standing the entire way, as it is jammed completely full, and I end up standing at the driver's shoulder for several miles. He is carrying on a conversation with an obese couple from South Carolina who are telling a tale of how a shuttle they waited for the day before didn't show up for almost 40 minutes, forcing the lady in the couple to make a report on its lateness. Somehow, the talk turns to Southern cooking (the man specializes in "hambone and collared greens) and eventually, the economy and the upcoming election. The driver seems to have a lot of time to muse on his private thoughts, and while not revealing his preference in the election, says "no matter who wins in the election is going to have his hands full for the next few years." He then adds "one thing for sure... no matter who wins, the next 8 to 10 years is going to be family time. With people traveling less, this means they are going to be home more, and be able to get to better know the people they should get to know: their families." When I first hear this, I think about how nice an idea it seems. But then I think about the other side of it: what if their families are worth getting to know? What if the reason they stay away working or driving around so much is because they are in horrible situations? What if they married poorly and their spouses are assholes? Sure, some families will benefit from this development, but I wonder if divorce rates will go even higher, and also murder, infanticide, spousal abuse and alcoholism rates as well.

But back to Disney! By the time we arrive at Animal Kingdom, the day has blossomed into yet another frightfully humid one. We are already melting before we make it partway into the park. I decide to purchase a water and a Coke for the walkabout, but as I step forward as the next person in line, another larger Australian couple leap from the side and slap their money into the hands of the clerk before I can even say "Hello" to her. They purchase creamsicles and then slurp them loudly right there at the cart while I yet again am displaced by another someone buying a water from the side of the cart. I am openly pissed off about this, and say "What the hell..." and the larger Australian woman blankly says between slurps of her creamsicle, "Well, I guess you are invisible today!" "Fucking Aussie cunt..." is what I think, but politeness keeps me outwardly calm and I finally make my purchase and shuffle off angrily.

We decide the Safari shuttle ride will be the most relaxing, breeze-blessed one, so we get in line for it. Once we board the bus, our excitement is shattered by the couple who are placed in position behind us FOR THE NEXT BUS, who climb on after us and end up keeping us uncomfortably jammed together for the entire ride. There are numerous animals about on the safari, but my attempts to snap pictures of them is mostly thwarted by the driver's inability to stop the bus even briefly at the best points in which to shoot a picture. This includes stopping for a gorgeous giraffe laying down in the grass about ten feet from the bus. The driver actually speeds up once we reach it, and I barely get the camera to my eye in time. Not sure, since my camera is not a digital, if the picture came out or is just a blur. After a couple of other attempts, I decide that I just don't have the patience or eye to be a photographer of even amateur rank. Crocs, ostriches, elands, kudu and elephants go by without my turning on the camera.

Leaving the ride, all of us sweaty and frustrated, we watch a sleeping gorilla for a few minutes before moving to the train for Rafiki's Planet Watch, a section we did not hit last year. Every turtle or tortoise in the park moves faster than this ridiculous time-waster of a train, and it is horribly stuffy to boot, even though being completely open on one side of the train. After what seems like hours, even though it is only about 10 minutes, we arrive at the Planet Watch, which is comprised basically of a science center and a petting zoo. We skip the zoo part, but we wander about the science center, which concentrates on how important our care of the environment affects animal species. I climb into a booth to listen to the sounds of the rainforest, and look at numerous awesome species like a Surinam toad, an axolotl (which I have never seen live before), and a massive Goliath bird-eating spider, easily well past the span of my own hand. Jen doesn't even want to get near enough to look at the spider, but I have more than enough enthusiasm over the discovery for the entire population of the park.

The drive back on the train is equally monotonous and hot. Before we go any further, we decide that some food in an air-conditioned environment (which really plays counter to everything we learned at the science center) would be just what we need. We decide upon the Tusker House, another place which we missed on our last visit, and one which is greatly touted within the pages of the Vegetarian Guide to Walt Disney World which Sande got for Jen before our vacation. Sure enough, the selection for Jen possibly exceeds that of nearly any other buffet which she has previously visited, and she is in heaven. Naturally, I go for the chicken curry and spicy mustard pork dishes before reverting to veggie status and trying some of Jen's fare for my second plate. My dessert? A quartet of quite spicy samosas, skipping the mango chutney which would compliment them, as I am not much of a fan of sweetness. Which I why I normally don't do dessert. On this trip, I decided to rewrite the rules of what constitutes dessert.

While Sande is off at the restrooms, Jen and I stand outside of a gift shop in what little shade we can find. Weirdly, a store clerk sneaks up behind me and sprays my bare calves with a water mister. I jump, but am amused by his prank. I tell him thanks, and add "it's far easier than having to spray myself," because, after all, as Robyn Hitchcock says, "a happy bird is a filthy bird." The clerk is slightly shocked by this revelation, but then smiles and says "Are you trying to be adultish and childish at the same time?" to which Jen replies, "Always childish, never adultish." She is, sadly, right in most cases.

Which explains my behavior as we traverse the Asian area of the park to make our way to the Kali River Rapids ride, which we also missed out on doing last season. Even after just leaving the pleasant atmosphere of the Tusker House, we are already overtaken with sweat and humidity, sticking to every square inch of our clothing. I stop once more at a cart to purchase liquid refreshment, and once more, even though my two Coke bottles are already sitting on the counter in front of me, a fat, pushy guy with a teenage son attempt to squeeze their way in front of me. I hold my ground, and the guy openly says to his son, "We'll get something as soon as some people stop getting in our way." Since I had been standing there a full five minutes in line before fat boy and son appeared at the cart, I just turned to him and said directly into his face, "It's because I was here long before you, you fat fuck!" His face goes slack, and I walk off. I don't even turn for a reaction.

The wait for the Kali River Rapids ride is, surprisingly, rather swift given the conditions. But we are there long enough to watch a family in front of us push a decrepit old lady in a wheelchair (the immediate impression is that she must be the mate of Grandpa from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre), who is asleep and dragging one foot dangerously beneath the chair, through the lines. We cannot imagine they would take her on this ride, and wonder if they are just going to leave her behind while they all go rafting. Several other people wonder this as well, and eventually someone asks them about it. "Oh, no!" is the reply from the younger woman pushing the cart. "She's 96, and she can't go on any rides, but she refuses to sit in the hotel room because she hates the air-conditioning." Indeed, they leave her in the wheelchair and stroller section. I state to the girls that I think the ride is probably based directly on the Grizzly River Rapids at California Adventure, and while the concept is the same, the rides are remarkably different. For the Kali River Rapids, this is to its detriment, because while there is a similar giant plunge into the waters below, here it happens near the beginning of the ride, so that all that follows is a very disappointing anti-climax, where the California version happens at the tail end after several other smaller dips and plunges. We did, though, get completely soaked on that first and only plunge, and we will remain very wet until we get back to our cabin for a change of clothes.

We decide we should get back to prepare for our night out, but I have a great and fervent need to do my favorite ride in all four parks: Expedition Everest. Since the girls refuse to try this high-speed rollercoaster which even goes backward in circles for part of its circuit, I am able to use the wonderful single-rider line, which enables one to get onto the ride swiftly, as long as you don't care with whom you ride upon it. I don't, and I am seated next a cheerfully obese mother within about six minutes. I am through and off the ride before Jen and Sande even realize where I am, since I took off on my own. I meet them on the bridge just past Expedition Everest, which I wish I could stay and ride over and over like last year, but we have a schedule to meet. We go to the cabin, change and head to Downtown Disney.

I suppose that circuses had to change to this eventually. As a fan of old-school circuses, I have been reluctant to make the switch to the more modern influence of Cirque de Soleil, even though doing so would enable me to discard my torn emotions regarding the use of animals within them. Wow. I should have done this long ago. La Nouba, the show here at Downtown Disney, specifically created for their own theatre which lies at the far end of the shopping district, is quite simply one of the most amazing things I have ever seen on stage. I don't even know where to begin, since the eye is never allowed to relax during its 100-minute running time (no intermissions) and we probably had even a better turn at it since we ended up sitting in the sixth row, nearly center-stage. Speaking for myself, the fact that, at any second, something could go horribly awry and any number of the various apparatus used by the performers, or the performers themselves, could come flying into our heads probably added to the thrill. It has also been far too long since I have been taken in by the antics of truly professional clowning, so that was an added bonus -- I don't subscribe to the "creepy clown" stereotype that seems to have overtaken our society. Yes, there are creepy clowns -- I know a couple personally -- but to see the act done well is to understand how truly silly the act's denigrators really are. I also loved how the troupe made use of nearly every square inch of the space, and was even turned about on my opinion of the music within the show, a style which I have always found extremely annoying, but was completely moved by when it was paired with the actual performance for which it was created. (A tip to me: don't listen to this music by itself.) Outright, an incredible show, and I will not tarry in heading to Vegas in the future for the pair of other shows outfitted there.

Dinner at the Estefans' Bongos club, where Jen and I spent a memorable evening last year. Then, it was a place we desperately needed to be inside, with the winds howling and the rain sheeting down upon us, and the food and live Cuban music aspect was perfect for the moment. Now, I have reversed my mind on it, as my meal of steak, rice and plantains was exceedingly plain, with the plantains, mashed and fried into completely unchewable discs, being particularly disappointing. My mojito, though, was refreshing and alcoholic enough to make me get through it without really complaining much. I still love the atmosphere of the place, but I am reluctant to eat there again.

The night is still young enough to do a little shopping, and I had been itching to hit the gigantic Virgin Records store for the entire trip, staring longingly into its windows the other night. Now was my chance, and since Sande had nicely given me some birthday money on Friday, I decided to treat myself. However, I was only in the store for roughly five minutes before the unexpected happened: a power outage forced the lights out in the store for only a couple of seconds, but it caused screams to emit from those upon the escalators, and very confused looks from those surrounding me once the lights came back on. I was not aware of the extent of the damage caused by the outage. According to the girls, who went off in search of swimsuits, though the outage occurred while they were still paying the bill at Bongos, the power went completely out on Pleasure Island, the connecting area between both ends of the Downtown Disney. Police and security had to close down the bridges and not let anyone in or out until everything came up. They had to watch along the outside of the area to get to World of Disney at the other end.

Resuming my shopping, and after much deliberation and the replacing of various items back into bins, I purchased four items: the Criterion Collection version of (which comes complete with a paperback version of Walter Tevis' original novel), the two albums by the Cramps which I had yet to get on CD (have the LPs though), The Man Who Fell To EarthSongs the Lord Taught Us (File Under Sacred Music) and bad music for bad people, and a 5-disc box set called Zappa Plays Zappa, a 210-minute-plus film document of a Zappa tribute tour featuring son Dweezil, Steve Vai and Terry Bozzio, with 2 DVDs and 3 CDs. I can't friggin' wait to watch it. It will be a largely restless night until I get up in the morning to do so.

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