Tag Archives: vacation

Best of 2009: Trip

Note: I’m participating in Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. Read more about it here.

For today’s entry in the Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, I’m describing the best trip I took in 2009. I haven’t traveled a lot this year, so I’m including in-town excursions such as…

Post-Valentine’s Day “Staycation” (February 15 — February 17): Okay, so I only got as far as downtown. But what a lovely, low key escape at the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago on Michigan Avenue. Mainly I ordered room service, surfed the web, and watched a lot of basic cable on my flatscreen tv. I may have nipped out a few times for jaunts through nearby Millennium Park. And for sure I had sushi at Oysy, my favorite sushi joint downtown. Continue reading


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vacation from vacation

I am attending a baby shower and, hopefully, the 54th Annual Ginza Festival today. Expect pictures.

I haven’t been home the last three weekends so it was nice being lazy and sleeping in my own bed last night. Considering the amount of time I spent away from work in July — for my staycation during the week of July 4th, the trip to Ohio for Christine and Marshall’s wedding, BlogHer ’09, or to see Olivia and Emmanuel get married last week — I don’t feel rested at all.

Which must mean I am in need of another vacation, post-haste.

I have this idea that I want to take Megabus to Minneapolis, so I can check out the state fair (butter sculptures! baby animals! food on sticks!), for Labor Day Weekend. Or maybe Amtrak to Memphis (barbecue! music! warm weather!) to visit Graceland? But more importantly, can I interest anybody in coming with?

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424: stop me if you think you've heard this one before, pt. 2 (or, "Let us frolic in my totally dope blanket fort")

I wait. I’m a waiter. I wait for things to happen to me. Which is interesting considering how much I dislike surprises. What I’ve been waiting for these past few months, and all my life, it feels like, is inspiration to strike. Or someone like Albus Dumbledore to explain life and stuff to me. Also to explain the popularity of Crocs, “The Closer” on TNT, and the tofu scramble.

I like to say that the reason there was no flip front for six months was because I had writer’s block. Words failed me when I tried to conjure them. In truth, it wasn’t the words. It was me. I got lazy. I got sad. I got bored. I got distracted. I got busy. I got fat(ter). Incidentally, I wasn’t going to the gym, either. So I got more sad.

And then I was thinking about that stupid question from “Office Space”, the one where whatever you say you’ll do if you had $1,000,000, that’s what you should be doing for a job. The problem with that question is that I have no decent answer to that. I could invest it and live (if a bit modestly) off the interest. Open a business. Get it changed into $1 bills and roll around in it. None of these answers provoke a real passionate answer.

I think what I prefer is that bit from High Fidelity where Rob and Laura are discussing Rob’s five dream jobs:

  1. New Musical Express journalist, 1976-1979
  2. Producer, Atlantic Records, 1964-1971 (approx.)
  3. Any kind of musician (apart from classical or rap)
  4. Film director
  5. Architect

I have a list, which I’m not sharing, because I don’t want to jinx it. Which is stupid, but then again, I can be pretty stupid sometimes. Okay, most times, but whatever.

I thought about writing a poem to sum up the missing months, but decided instead that because I’m a crappy poet, I thought I’d write notes on photographs I’ve uploaded to my Flickr stream instead.

Note: the below only gets us through June 6. Which still leaves the whole summer to recap. Which I will most likely do some time this weekend. Which is appropriate, as to me Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer. Oh boo hoo.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/424888949: Rozi’s sister Miriam was in town for her birthday, so I joined them for a birthday dinner at Japonais. This is only the second time I’ve been there. Not a cheap meal, but totally worth it for the food, the company, and, dare I say it, the ambiance. The room is full of 40-something ladies sporting gigantic acrylic nails and enormous breast implants. I’m pretty bad at subtly checking people out, so the table next to us was on to me once I got started. I suppose I deserved the dirty looks but I’m like a kid when it comes to obvious non-artful fakery — I cannot look away and I cannot shut up.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/428775419: Maria beaming. I don’t know anyone else who beams so often or so well.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/434681980: I should have spent that last weekend in the Oakley apartment packing and cleaning but instead I watched television and had brunch at Reza’s. Afterwards, people came over to hang out. In the back of my mind, I was freaking out about two things: not packing in time for my flight on Thursday, and throwing out stuff I didn’t mean to. As it was, the packing went fine, though I felt bad that Molly, her boyfriend, her sister and sister’s husband had to throw out so much of my stuff for me. Those Ohioans — so generous. And a belated thanks to those of you who offered boxes, advice, etc. Those last days where a stressful blur.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/439394778: I stayed up until midnight boxing up the last of my shit. Those boxes were arranged in a circle around my bed, which was still in my room. I wasn’t coming back to Chicago until after the owners of the newly condo-ized apartment began demolition. They’d be knocking down everything in the apartment around my room, so as long as my shit was covered by a tarp, and was out as soon as I returned, I could keep it there after April 1. So I left for LA with my fingers crossed that my stuff would survive mallets and debris. I kept my fingers crossed that the movers I hired to move stuff to my new studio in Lakeview would up on time. I kept my fingers crossed that the studio wasn’t a bad idea, and that Lakeview with its amenities would be enough to make up for the fact that I am no longer within walking distance of Honey #1 BBQ, Margie’s Candies, Arturo’s, the fancy new library on Milwaukee, Danny’s market (best guacamole), and Irazu. I stopped panicking as soon as I got to the airport and decided to spend 15,000 frequent flier miles on upgrading to first class. Which is not a bad idea for a 4 hour long flight. There was breakfast, and wide leather seats. The guy next to me was travelling with his wife and three young daughters who were kept quiet by the family laptop playing a DVD of “Finding Nemo”. I watched “The Office” on my own MacBook and watched the landscape. At LAX, Amanda got me and drove us to her parents’ house. The parents were lovely, taking us to lunch at this delicious taco stand near their house. We couldn’t take very long, as Amanda and I had to get back to Amanda’s house in Silver Lake before an afternoon taping of “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”. At Amanda’s, I dropped off my bag, Amanda and I applied fresh lip gloss. I admired the view and the lighting in the purple bathroom before we drove to to CBS Television City for the taping. At Television City, there are long benches where audience members wait before being admitted to tapings of shows like “The Price Is right” and “The Tyra Banks Show”. Tyra’s show had all manner of young ladies in short skirts and high heels jiggling slowly towards the studio. One of the ladies was even on stilts. The audience of “The Late Late Show” was not as colorful, though we did seem to have an inordinately high number of Norwegian tourists in our midst. Ice Cube was the guest, there was a skit, and candy thrown to us during set-ups. The day ended with dinner at the Electric Lotus, a delicious Indian restaurant, and making plans for Saturday with Celi, who would not be able to join us for our trip to Disneyland the next day.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/440964989: This is Amanda. Isn’t she cute? Amanda is the angel who let me sleep in her guest bedroom, went to Disneyland with me, and spoke in a Scottish accent to crack me up while we waited on lines for rides and stuff. Speaking of rides and stuff, this is a list of what we rode and the order in which we rode them:

  • Matterhorn
  • tea cups (“Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”)
  • lunch at the Village Haus
  • Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • The Haunted Mansion
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • It’s A Small World
  • Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
  • snack — churros near the King Arthur Carousel
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats
  • Autopia
  • Pirates again
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Snow White’s Scary Adventures


  1. The Matterhorn was fucking awesome, and more than made up for the fact that we tried (and failed) to ride Space Mountain. The fastpass line was broken all day, and we weren’t willing to spend 90 minutes on line, not even for Space Mountain. Also, I was amused by the well-behaved though energetic children on line in front of us. Their parents, which included a man who appeared to stand 7′ tall (and got a bobsled all to himself), looked to be having fun as well.
  2. Regarding Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, I have none but Kathy Stell to provide a comment, made a few years ago in a similar trip recap: “Still do not understand Sartre-ian undertones of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (careen thru English countryside on runaway car, have head-on collision with oncoming locomotive, end up in Hell).”
  3. Clearly, I like the kiddie shit, as I spent a lot of time in Fantasyland. Again, though, I point out that I was dying to get on Space Mountain, but timing and lines conspired against Amanda and me. And it’s not like we didn’t have other rides to consider. Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin was *hilarious* — a great deal of fun. You might think it’s for babies because it’s located in Mickey’s Toontown, but you would be wrong.
  4. The second time we rode Pirates, we were behind a family with two teenage boys and a teenage girl. It wasn’t clear if the girl was the girlfriend of one of the boys, but it seemed like the boys were trying to impress the girl, who didn’t appear to be having it. The boys were excited when their parents were seated in a different boat from them, and they in turn were seated in the first row of our boat. Apparently, they’d been waiting for such a seating situation to arise all day. Also, they excited told us about how Alice in Wonderland had all these, you know, “mushrooms”, bwahahahaha. Amanda and I nearly died from laughter.
  5. Also, it’s official: I love Autopia. I love the slowness and the concrete ridge on the route so you can’t veer around and hit other motorists.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/441568432: Amanda had morning docent training at Hollyhock House, so I had the house to myself. I had Electric Lotus leftovers for breakfast. I read news on the web. I showered and invited Celi over to hang out and wait for Amanda. When Amanda returned, we drove to Spitz for doner kebabs. Amanda tried on Celi’s ginormous bamboo doorknocker earrings while we ate our lunch in the sun. Refilling our cups with soda, we headed to Pasadena to window shop at Macy’s. It’s not like there aren’t other Macy’s in LA, but this was the good one. And it was, even though none of us ended up buying anything. I thought Amanda got close with some cute dresses, but we all walked away empty-handed. We met Beto and his girlfriend at The Grove for dinner, sitting down for steak and other kinds of roast beast at the Wood Rance BBQ & Grill. I had the sirloin salad, which was as protein-tastic as the name implies. No carbs! Which was great, because I ended up getting ice cream at the farmer’s market next door. Driving home, the three of us ended up getting into a pretty intense talk about what else? boys before calling it a night.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/443042534: This is my perfect Sunday morning breakfast from Alcove, which is where Amanda took me after we got our nails done. No celebs were spotted at Alcove (or the nail place for that matter, though it was a lovely spot in Silver Lake), but plenty of young couples with parents in tow. And a Scientology center across the street. We spent the afternoon checking out the Saul Bass exhibit at the Skirball before Amanda dropped me off at Nate and Celi’s for the rest of my vacation.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/444339417: With Celi off to work and Nate running errands, I had a key to the house and directions towards the Pier, the Third Street Promenade, and Venice Beach, each a short walk away. At the end of Nate and Celi’s street, I found Cha Cha Chicken, which featured a cheap, delicious jerk chicken meal, and a mural of nudists on the wall behind the juice bar. Alrighty. Hit the Pier afterwards, where I had a vanilla latte from the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf stand. I stared at the ocean and ran away from seagulls. I bought a postcard. I thought about riding the carousel, but there’s something about being the lone adult on a carousel that struck me as being so “Strangers On A Train”, so I made for Third Street where I had a snack on the curb, watched people walk by, and flipped through magazines before going to a late afternoon showing of “Blades Of Glory”. Dinner that night was chicken escabeche and kale, made by Nate.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/445301586: This hidden space invader greeted me at the end of a long day spent walking down the beach towards Venice. Venice was a bit grotty, though it probably won’t be for long, as there were many “upscale” condo buildings under construction. Somewhat disgusted, I made it back to Nate and Celi’s in time for Christina to pick me up. We drove up to the Getty, supposedly to look at art though we ended up having a snack and talking about boys. Dinner that night was sushi at a neighborhood joint, followed by a “yogurt” from the Pinkberry in Marina Del Rey. It was kind of a cold night, as the skinny girl in the sundress standing on line behind us kept yelling, more to herself than to her friends. Oh, and as if that wasn’t annoying already, she kept doing it in this fake-sounding Australian accent.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/446586987: Jesus, my thighs look huge. Nate drove me to the airport in the morning. I was able to buy a box of See’s before my flight back to ORD. No chance of an upgrade to first, as the plane was on a long-haul to CDG, and first was full of important looking entertainment types and their bored-looking children. I landed in Chicago that afternoon, with no home to go to. My stuff back at the old apartment, and my new place was empty. Thankfully, I’d gotten a cheap hotel room through Hotwire, so I at least had someplace to sleep for a couple of nights before me and my stuff could move in for good. The hotel was near Oysy, and featured room service from the Weber Grill, but I still ended up snagging dinner from the Jewel across the street before falling fast asleep.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/451185994: The first weekend of April was a blur. After moving into my new place on Holy Thursday (thanks, Starving Artists Moving Company, for another quick and inexpensive move), I spent Good Friday unpacking and napping. I missed the Seven Last Words service at Trinity, but I saw a bunch of people for dinner the following day. Barbecue at Fat Willie’s followed by “Blades of Glory” (yes, again) at the movie theater across the street. I spent the night at Kathy’s, so we could get up early Easter Morning for:

  1. dawn service at Trinity
  2. breakfast at the Original Pancake House in Beverly
  3. Body Worlds 2 at the MSI

Easter tends to be a remarkable day. Resurrection, life, and then there are eggs! Eggs at breakfast, hatching chicks at the MSI. The Body Worlds exhibit is strange but engrossing (emphasis on the word “gross”).

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/460956673: Iggy and the Stooges with Jeff and his friend whose name I forget. I forgot my camera, which is a shame because my cameraphone didn’t get a good shot of the guy who wore a chainmail shirt. Bwahahahahahahaha.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/476325594: Michelle was in town visiting her mom, so we got to hang out. Naturally, I don’t have any pictures of us at my apartment, or eating fish and chips at the Duke of Perth, but doesn’t my waffle from Baladoche look amazing?


http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/489390412: Chris and Sarah eloped in April. Being as none of us were there, they had a dinner for their friends at Cyrano’s Bistrot. It was delicious, and I nearly made myself sick, I was laughing so hard.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/489416229: Went to Christine’s to make dinner (fettucine carbonara — see recipe at http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Fettuccini-Carbonara/Detail.aspx) and watch “The Motel”. Both were excellent.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/495251317: Looptopia had me and Kathy scrambling all over the loop for free performances and activities that kicked off at 5:00 pm Friday and would not end until 10:00 am the following Saturday morning. It was very cold and windy, so I had chapped knees as we looked for a place to warm up. We ended up at the Art Institute which had all manner of cool tours which we ended up missing.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/496748524: Mother’s Day. I got my mom a parasol and flowers. She loved both, and said that she’s been getting tons of compliments on the parasol.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/502663519: CWS over NYY, 4-1. A lovely way to spend a Thursday afternoon.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/514310704: Kathy and I hit the home opener of the Chicago Sky at UIC. They played the LA Sparks, which you may remember me telling you is owned by Kathy’s friend Kathy. It was a fun time — UIC Pavilion wasn’t sold out, but there looked to be a healthy amount of people. Too bad the Sky lost.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/514339599: Nick and Nadine came in to see their friend Jeremy, who was in the hospital (read all about it here: http://jeremylawrence.blogspot.com). They went straight to the airport after landing, and wound up at my place late. We had some Thai food before falling asleep. While they spent that Saturday at the hospital, Joe and I joined Kathy at Tasneem’s for a picnic that was driven indoors by the rain. We played Apples and Oranges, which is my new favorite board game which is not Scrabble. I made it home in time to let Nick and Nadine in after an afternoon with Jeremy, then scampered off to Sing-A-Long “Grease” at the Music Box with Christine, Gail, and a bunch of Gail’s friends.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/518269531: Jacinda spent Memorial Day house-sitting in Lincoln Park, so I went to visit her. The house was beautiful and, most importantly, very comfortable. Also, there were dogs — Lola, an insane Yorkie puppy, and Rita, the sweetest dog in the world. When I wasn’t cracking up over the dogs, Jacinda and I had takeout and watched a season 1 “Hex” marathon on BBC America. It was brilliant.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/sets/72157600302705914/: Alumni Weekend! Not my 10th, but Kevin and Joe’s. Sean was in town for this, so we made the trek to Hyde Park, arriving in time for Convocation. The address was given by James Watson, who was… interesting. I didn’t go to any of the afternoon sessions, as my long lunch at Jimmy’s turned somewhat boozy. Which is what happens with a pitcher of Leinenkugel Red, two large orders of fries, and no air conditioning. Sean went off to an afternoon lecture while I, along with Joe, Jacinda, Kevin, and Gabe, ended up wandering campus:

  • Jimmy’s: get there at 11:30, right after convocation. We spend about 3 hours drinking, eating, and bullshitting with Kevin and Gabe, Jacinda and Joe.
  • bookstore: sweatshirts! t-shirts! other alumni buying sweatshirts and t-shirts! Will bikes from home to meet up with us.
  • the quads: we hang out on the C-Bench while two different wedding parties sneer at us for accidentally stumbling into their pictures. But seriously, who gets their pictures taken in front of Cobb?
  • the Pub: We get in, even though I don’t have an Alumni Weekend badge. We demolish a total of 60 wings, a pile of nachos, and beer. Lots of beer. Actually, I had diet coke, but whatever. I felt drunk from the heat.
  • Seven Ten lanes: the pub/bowling alley on 55th & Ellis. Kevin and Gabe left us to hit the big alumni party at the Ratner, so it was just me, Joe, Jacinda, and Sean to eat and eavesdrop on the huge table of co-eds next to us. They were all tarted up, though I don’t see the point of pairing your knockoff Prada heels with your genuine Louis Vuitton Pochette if you know you’re ending the night at Jimmy’s or in the lap of some Pike.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasmine/534099218: “Sixteen Candles” at the Chicago History Museum. I, of course, brought the fried chicken.


“Oh, I’m so nervous. If I’m not funny, I won’t be able to live with myself.”
“Well, then you’ll have to get another apartment, won’t you?”

Depeche Mode – Route 66; Maxwell – This Woman’s Work; Al Green – I Want to Hold Your Hand; Rahzel – Seven Nation Army; Me’Shell Ndegeocello – Who Is He (And What Is He To You); The Rolling Stones – Moonlight Mile

Verisimilitude Test: Is This Really the City You Know?
Let us frolic in my totally dope blanket fort
BILLY SUNDAY’s Easy Guide To Meeting A Summer Jumpoff…
Scary Scadshows: Can You Tell That A Woman Is Single And Unlaid Just From Her Apartment?
America’s next top mohel
‘Glamour’ Editor To Lady Lawyers: Being Black Is Kinda A Corporate “Don’t”
My friend Joe is selling his condo. It’s in Lincoln Square! It looks cute! Check it out!

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miss them already

on the waterfront
Originally uploaded by missjasmine.

Patrick and Anna came to visit for a few days. My sister and her boyfriend Phillip visited, too, though they stayed at my uncle’s in Oak Park. It was lovely to have them all in town.

Read all about it at Patrick’s blog: http://commanderrobot.blogspot.com/2007/07/7507-awakened-ones.html.

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159: the good, the bad, and the disney part 2

Yeah, we’re still in Florida. No I haven’t finished recapping my trip. And no, you won’t hear anything about what I thought about the new Lars van Trier movie, Italian for Beginners, until I’m done.

IV. C’est un petit monde après tous

Kathy and I got up early Sunday morning. After two days of steady rain (we slept in Saturday, then watched “The Antiques Road Show”, ate delicious Cuban food, and saw Gosford Park), we were ready to tackle the Magic Kingdom. Us and everybody else in the Orlando-Kissimmee area. We got to the parking lot at 9am, but didn’t make it past the gates until close to 10:00. Which was fine. We took the ferry, avoiding the crowded monorail in favor of a smooth ride over the lagoon. There was a chill in the air, and a great deal of British tourists who insisted on throwing pennies at the pilings. I ridiculed them, and that was great fun.

We started the day in Tomorrowland, riding Space Mountain. I love Space Mountain, as I tend to close my eyes on rollercoasters and a rollercoaster that operates in almost total darkness saves me that extra step. I’m fairly certain that Kathy and I were the only people screaming “Holy shit!” and “Aw fuck!” as we dipped, rolled, and barreled through the dark. We emerged refreshed, and needing to visit the ladies room. I’ve discovered that riding a roller coaster or a vigorous simulator can be enhanced if you need to go to the bathroom. But we’re talking a little trickle instead of a waterfall — if you’re doing the pee dance, then leave the line and relieve yourself. Or use the plastic bottle you keep in your fannypack for just such an emergency.

You can rent a stroller if you come to Disney World without one, or a wheelchair, too. I saw a group of people who had rented a motorized wheelchair, and they took turns riding it depending on the attraction. The heavyset father wearing multiple goldchains and tattoos of the names of his children at Alien Encounter would be replaced by his jailbait daughter at Splash Mountain, and so on. I guess I’d be pissed off if Kathy and I didn’t exploit the FastPass system like we did. Taking passes for the popular rides, we’d get a snack or ride a less-popular attraction while we waited for Splash Mountain. While waiting for The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, we bought a few small gifts and rode “it’s a small world”. Unbelieveably, I missed my opportunity to take a picture of the one Filipino-looking doll in “it’s a small world” but at least that gives me something to look forward to on my next trip.

Now, it is at this point that my memory gets all blurry. I can remember which attractions we experienced, but not in which order. So here are the highlights.

  • Country Bear Jamboree — Audio-Animatronic bears perform in a musical revue. This is where I spotted the man who inspired my obsession with “hot French dads”. You know the type — dignified looking men who wore their fannypacks with Continental flair, a certain je ne sais quois. There weren’t too many of them at the Magic Kingdom, and not all of them were actually French, but ooh la la.
  • The Enchanted Tiki Room — singing Audio-Animatronic birds in a room now managed by Zazu from The Lion King and Iago from Aladdin. A scary Tiki goddess with red eyes pops out of the faux floral arrangement in the center of the room, but it wasn’t that bad. There weren’t any screaming kids like there were at “It’s Tough To Be A Bug”.
  • The Hall of Presidents — I’m pretty certain that if a sitting US president were to die in office, Disney could cover by sending up one of the Presidents from this attraction. The scary bit? When nearly everybody in the auditorium clapped for the George W. Bush robot. Ew.
  • The Haunted Mansion — the cast members were surly, hissing “Move the bodies forward” as we clamored onto the elevator to begin to ride. It always rocks when the cast members are in the mood — like Ralph the driver on the safari at Animal Kingdom, and Princess Jasmine at Epcot’s World Showcase.
  • Mad Tea Party — Kathy didn’t want to do this. She came with me, though, and didn’t complain when I started spinning our teacup. Fortunately, she did not throw up on me.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean — I still don’t know the words to the song that the pirates sing. Oh, and the pirates no longer chase women around — the Imagineers changed the ride so that the women chase off the pirates with brooms.
  • Snow White’s Scary Adventures — not as dark as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Kathy and I rode in a car named “Grumpy”, my favorite of the seven Dwarves.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad — when Kathy and I were coming up the FastPass line for this rollercoaster, I happened to overhear some catty comments from a group of girls who were on the regular line. Yeah, I might have a fat ass, but at least I didn’t wait for 75 minutes unlike some people, bwa ha ha.
  • Splash Mountain — it’s all about the suspense. There are a few false alarms before the real drop into the briar patch. And a super-long wait after — I suspect that you spend a lot of time after the drop waiting to get out so your picture has time to develop. And our picture came out wonderfully — isn’t it interesting that the only two persons of color in the log are me and Kathy, and we are sitting at the back? Hmm.
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin — way fun. You’re in a two-person car that you can spin around as you shoot at aliens. You get points for every target you hit successfully which, in my case, was not a lot.

The only low point of the day was the 3:00 parade. While Kathy and I were eating delicious ice cream sandwiches made with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, hordes of people clustered in front of us, blocking our view. And the parade was only 15 minutes long. Gross. I thought things would settle down later that evening, and they did. After the evening fireworks, Kathy and I settled down with some popcorn by Cinderella’s castle. We watched the crowds thin, and they did, but not by much. I, of course, finally decided that I needed to get myself some Mickey Mouse ears with my name embroidered on the cap. I could have gotten the ears earlier in the day, and not at the end when everyone and their mama was in The Chapeau (the only shop in all four of the parks) that embroier the caps. It was worse than Christmas Eve at Macy’s — mild-mannered Southern grandmothers screamed obscenities at the biker dads who cut in line. I made the best of things while bonding with Alex, a 20-something Long Island native who was buying ears for his infant son.

Kathy and I ended our magical day at the always magical Chili’s, where I inhaled a strawberry-mango frozen margarita. This was enough to get me yakking about God-knows-what and if Kathy would be so kind to remind me, that would be lovely. I think we talked about boys. Which is all I ever seem to talk about anymore. Boo hoo.

V. Il n’y a aucun rat ici

We decided not to hit a Disney park when Monday came. Kathy and I went to Universal Studios instead. I took not-so-secret delight in listening to the morning traffic reports, as we were commuting to a theme park and not to our jobs back in Chicago. After parking (section Kong, aisle 1
-12), we cut through Universal Citywalk (shops, restaurants including The Motown Cafe and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville) and pretty much opened Universal Studios. It was bright and early, and I was armed with the beginnings of a lovely tan. It was at this point that my love for Disney was almost eclipsed by a secret lust for Universal. The settings — replicas of locations for some of their best known films — were outstanding. The town of Amity served as a perfect backdrop for the Jaws ride, and flowed almost seamlessly into San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. These things didn’t come to my attention until after Kathy and I had ridden Back to the Future, Men in Black, and Jaws in quick succession.

  • Back to the Future The Ride — fortunately, we didn’t have to listen to Huey Lewis and The News’ “The Power of Love” too much, as the wait was, as with everything else, incredibly short. Simulator in a faux-DeLorean that flies through time.
  • Earthquake — Narrated by Charlton Heston (!), this attraction starts with a demonstration of how they used special effects to make the film of the same name. The audience is then herded onto a fake subway train that is stuck in a subway station in the middle of, yes, an earthquake. Lots of fire, water, and trucks falling through the ceiling.
  • Men in Black Alien Attack — Much like Buzz Lightyear at the Magic Kingdom, only in this case the aliens shoot back. There is, of course, a picture taken at a rather inopportune moment. I looked all sweaty, though Kathy pointed out that my grip looked very convincing.
  • Terminator 2: 3-D — Totally rocked my ass. 3-D combined with live stage show. The actor playing Eddie Furlong looked nothing like the real thing, though we had a curtain of hair across his brow to hide this fact.
  • Twister — Narrated by Bill Paxton or Pullman, and Helen Hunt. Effects show with a flying cow, it let us out straight into a gift shop, just like every other attraction at the park with the exception of the older rides like Back to The Future.
  • Jaws — Boat comes. You get in. Boat sails. Mechanical shark pops in unlikely spots. Your guide shoots mechanical shark. You drool appreciatively over your guide’s boyish good looks. You try to ignore the ducks cheerily feeding themselves as mechanical shark bursts out of flaming water.
  • Kongfrontation — I don’t think I’ll ever ride the Roosevelt Island tram again without looking over my shoulder for a gorilla.

So we had lunch at Margaritaville before heading to Islands of Adventure. The conch fritters were tasty, but they didn’t make up for the fact that I really don’t like Jimmy Buffett. What is a parrothead? How did Jimmy lose his salt shaker and, if he’s so torn up about it being lost, why doesn’t he just go out and get a new one? The restaurant projected Jimmy Buffett concert footage onto sails that were hanging from the ceiling. His fans are either middle-aged White dudes or young sorority girls. Both groups were sunburned — I guess a general disregard for sunscreen is a requirement for any Jimmy Buffett fan.

Kathy and I worked our way around Universal’s Islands of Adventure, where I had my socks knocked off by the Spiderman ride which was all about fire, sprays of water, and lots of vigorous shaking. The ride was sponsored by Toyota, so all of the vehicles looked like Toyota Previa minivans. Because Kathy was not wanting to spend the day walking around in wet pants, we did not do Dudley Do-Right’s Rip Saw Falls. Probably because we did the flume ride in Jurassic Park and those seats were wet. Kathy joined me on The Flying Unicorn rollercoaster, which was more “Whee!” than “Aaaaaaaaaaagggggggggggggggghhhhhh!”

Seuss Landing was beautiful, an area of the park devoted to rides and attractions based on books by Dr. Seuss. One Fish Two Fish is like the Dumbo ride in the Magic Kingdom — you maneuver your fish up and down, trying (not) to get spit on by goldfish. I didn’t mind the water on such a hot day but Kathy did. The Cat in The Hat ride was pretty sedate — riding through the book’s story, gasping at Thing One and Thing Two from our couch behind a smelly German couple who spent the entire ride laughing hysterically or screaming at their awkward pubescent daughter. Poor thing.

There is nothing like retail therapy to ease the frazzled soul, so Kathy and I hit the outlet stores on I-4. I scored a gorgeous turquoise leather tote bag — $40 at the Barney’s outlet. Who knew Barney’s had an outlet? The Barney’s outlet store wasn’t crowded, as most of the women at the mall were crowding into stores that sold fluorescent mini-skirts and really ugly Skechers shoes. Kathy scored some lovely work-appropriate shirts at the Banana Republic store while I struggled valiantly into some cotton-lycra t-shirts with built-in bras. It was kind of scary.

We went to Giordano’s that night for dinner. Our waiter was a Minnesotan transplant named Ryan who was almost as wrinkled as his Guess shirt. I think he was high. He kept walking right into crucial points of our conversation which, by the way, I can’t remember anyway. Maybe Ryan’s obviously stoned state rubbed off on me? At least the pizza was tasty.

VI. Au revoir, Florida

We spent our last day at Disney-MGM Studios, starting with the Rock n’ Roller Coaster. Totally excellent indoor roller coaster with music by everybody’s favorite scary old man band, Aerosmith. Afterwards, Kathy rested while I braved the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror alone. I was strapped into a creaky car, moved upwards past amazing special effect (disappearing windows, melting clocks, ghosts), and then dropped 13 stories in total darkness. It was amazing.

The rest of the day was pretty sedate in comparison — it was all about sitting in darkness while things moved in front of me or I was moved past things. We saw a preview for the next Disney animated movie, “Lilo and Stitch”, and got to talk to an animator talk about the film-making process. The “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” game was fun — just like the tv show, you compete for points instead of money. 1,000,000 points gets you a trip for two to New York for a taping of the show. I didn’t make it to the hot seat, but I did make the top ten for the entire audience. Pretty good for someone who doesn’t watch the show.

The parade at Disney-MGM was pretty entertaining, and free of annoying tourists who got in my way. I got pictures of some of the characters, though I missed the preening queen who entertained the crowd with a steady stream of patter that would have made Paul Lynde proud. We headed straight to the airport that afternoon and everything made me sad — the signs pointing us to the airport, the pathetic offerings in the airport giftshops, hearing about weather conditions back in Chicago. I sat back for the flight to Chicago, plugged in my headphones, and immediately started plotting my return trip.

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