Sunday, February 11, 2007

More of the Magic Kingdom

Yes, I know what you’re all thinking: “Enough already. We get it. You go to Disneyland a lot. You guys are a bunch of freaks.” Sure, fine, you may be right, but this round of Disneyland passes is nothing compared to how we used to be.

Picture our average weekend, Kara and I, long before we had kids or lived in this town or even had our current jobs, and even long before California Adventure, when that land was still a parking lot: We’d arrive at Disneyland around noon, maybe later (why wake up early when we didn’t have to?), walk around for a little while, sit and watch the people go by, realize it was too crowded for us and then leave. We’d take the Monorail over to the Disneyland Hotel (before Downtown Disney, before Paradise Pier was officially in the fold and before streets were moved—Magic Way was Cerritos and Disney Ave was West)… we’d go to the Disneyland Hotel, walk around in the off-the-beaten-trail quietness of the buildings, still ripe with the quaintness of the 70s décor, and then put our name in at Stromboli’s Restaurant (back before it became the more marketable Goofy’s Kitchen). Then we’d visit the gazebo, where Kara and I were married, just northwest of the Cactus Cooler Lounge and various gift shops (Doesn’t sound familiar? That’s okay, they’re no longer there. All the shops, by our best guess, is where ESPN Zone now stands and the gazebo was just behind it, where there is now a paved street of some sort). After dinner of Fettuccini Alfredo for me—and Kara always got the seafood pasta—but the bread and the tomato basil spread made the trip worth it, we go over to the waterfalls (which are still there) and watch the lights play off of the water… it’s where I proposed to Kara, and then we’d end up at the wine cellar, a smallish wine bar underneath what used to be known as Granville’s Steak House (now Hook’s Pointe).

Early favorites for us was Fess Parker’s 1997 Gewürztraminer—we’d always have a glass—a great wine and a wonderful year… and as it turned out, 1998 wasn’t as good, and but then again, maybe the 97 was fortified with sentimentality and probably tasted exactly like the 98. But it just wasn’t the same. The Wine Cellar only had six tables, and if you got there early enough, you could get one of the two barstool-height tables in front of the bar (which we usually did), and we’d spend the evening chatting with Zoe, Cheri or Lori—they gave us the candelabra for our wedding that now sits in the dining room.

That was 10 years ago.

My how much has changed.

We haven’t been to the wine cellar in years, and we only know that it is still there because we walked by it a few months back. I doubt the Zoe, Cheri or Lori still work there and it probably wouldn’t feel the same if we were to return. Nobody would yell “Norm” when we walked in, that’s for sure.

Disneyland these days is all about Fantasyland, as that is where we spend most of our time. Natalie’s new favorite is Peter Pan, which we’ve rolled into our repertoire on our visit last Wednesday afternoon. It was the perfect time to go. The weatherman forecasted rain, which meant that it wouldn’t rain at all, but just enough people were scared off to decimate the park’s attendance.

We’ve also discovered a new trick to our visit: Parking. Beautiful parking. The crowded parking structure, with its low ceilings, long lines for the elevator and how easily we lose our cars… for us, is a thing of the past. Thanks to the modest lift and big tires on my truck, they have been ushering us to the oversized parking, and it is like settling into a big cushiony overstuffed chair as we park in spaces plotted out for buses and motor homes. Clearance in the parking structure is 7’6”, while the top of my antenna is 7’4”, which means I’ve got plenty of clearance to the roof of the cab (nearly eight inches). In fact, I’ve only heard the antenna scrape the ceiling once while parking there… while I’m inside my truck stupidly ducking my head like an idiot and driving single-digit speeds, just waiting to wedge my truck between the floor and ceiling. So, we park in Chip and Dale, the oversized parking, walk 20 yards and jump right on the tram. Sweet!

We went over to Tom Sawyer's Island this time, taking the ferry, for the first time, for me, in probably 15 years, and it was lucky that we did. That was the last day it will be known as Tom Sawyer's Island. I guess they're converting it to Jack Sparrow's Island, or some such movie-related marketing ploy to get more visitors. Without going into detail about it's demise into the annals of the history books, check here for more about it (scroll down a bit). However, I cracked open my skull in one of those damn caves, as I was watching not to clunk Matty's head into the walls and wasn't watching out for my own. It was nice to walk around, but Natalie kept asking, "Can we go back to Disneyland now?" which we did... but not before bouncing on the barrel bridge or the suspension bridge just one last time.

We took the kids on Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time, which was nice, except for the fact that they’ve messed with the ride again. In addition to the bleeding hearts who thought it sexist that the men are chasing the women, so they added plates of food in the women’s arms (which is just silly if you think about it), they’ve put Jack Sparrow (a.k.a. Johnny Depp) into the ride as well. He turns up in a couple of unlikely places and several of the characters’ voices have been redubbed to include him in the ride. One of my favorite parts—at the end, where the two guys are pushing the giant chest of treasure draped in a pirate flag up the hill—now has Jack sitting there, smugly saying something or rather.

Well, the point here is that the kids went on the ride, their first time. Natalie didn’t want to go on it, something about not wanting to see pirates, or maybe she just wasn’t interested. At first, we were going to respect her wishes and not force her to go, but when there wasn’t a single soul in line, we changed our tune. Instead of asking her, we just told her it would be fun and that she’d have to trust us. Big gamble, but it paid off: Natalie loved it. Matthew, on the other hand… his reaction was what I expected: cute, albeit terrifying for him, but cute nonetheless. He was very interested in the Tia Dalma’s swamp, what with the fireflies and the quiet banjo music playing a slow-tempo “Oh! Susanna.” Then, all eyes were on the talking skull and crossbones as he issued his dire warning… “But keep a weather eye open mates, and hold on tight. With both hands, if you please. Thar be squalls ahead, and Davy Jones waiting for them that don't obey.”

Poor little Matthew, never knew what hit him. While he was keeping a weathered eye on old salty, the bottom of the boat dropped out from under him and down we plunged into the roaring waterfalls. He whipped around in my arms and buried his face in my chest, all the while pulling my shirt around him. Then the second dip into the grotto came and he just held on.

In the blue light, he caught site of his mother and quickly leaped from my lap to Kara’s, where he simply rode it out until it was over. I, on the other hand, enjoyed showing Natalie that there is such a song as “A Pirate’s Life for Me,” which I had been singing all day to her giggles, telling me, “Silly Daddy.”

Thank you, X Atencio, wherever you are. (okay, you’re right, odd reference, look here. You folks should know this stuff)

The park was closing and everyone was ready to head for home. It was a great day… the whole thing cost us negative money. How so? Disney owed me $11 for a parking overcharge, which I collected three months late, and we only spent a few dollars of it.

Good day was had by all… yes, even Matthew. Hey, he didn’t totally hate it.

No comments:


web site tracking
Sierra Trading Post