Monday, June 18, 2007

Priceless Slide

Below is a little video I captured soon after assembling a new toy slide for the kids. It's mostly for Matthew, as that little monkey is climbing on everything and jumping off of anything, so we thought we'd direct his energy and daredevilness toward something a little more geared for that kind of activity.

All in all, they love it... but as it turns out, the box the slide came in is just as much fun.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hurry Up and Wait

I walk faster at Disneyland. Lots of people do. It’s probably the one place where I walk much faster than anywhere else. There seems to be some magnetic super-force that pulls me into the park and commands me to get going, something I’ve been conditioned into since I was a little kid. Next time you’re there, look around and notice that all of the kids are running from something and/or to something, and there’s very little time to stop and notice all of the minute details that Walt infused into his dreamland.

But then, show up on the premiere of a new ride and you’ll see all kinds of different and interesting things, especially when you’re moving about two feet a minute toward the front of the ride with a change of scenery as gentle and gradual as a glacier.

I thought it would be fun to be there on the opening day of a new ride, and I’ve got a schedule that allows it. Kara didn't want to go, as she didn't want to waste three hours of her life waiting in line; plus the kids would have gone bananas standing around for something like that...but… I knew just the guy that would go with me.

Last Monday, I met my friend Tris at Disneyland so we could be one of the first—well, the first couple of thousand as it turned out—to ride the new Finding Nemo ride at Disneyland, an attraction that finally utilizes the hibernating Submarine ride and the fleet which was pulled out of dry dock for the occasion.

They updated the look of the subs, giving them a nice coat of yellow paint...unlike the military grey of the originals.

I like Tris. I like him for a couple of reasons: One is that he knows a lot of useless information (next time you see him, tell him your birthday and he’ll tell you Billboard’s number one song for that day, or give him a year and he’ll tell you the Academy Award line up…stuff like that) and it is fun to talk with someone who knows a little bit about everything, who is neither pretentious nor conceited about it either. The other reason I like Tris is that he’s punctual and he rarely forgets things. We agreed to meet at 1pm in front of the Downtown Disney Monorail Station, and as I pulled into the parking lot at 12:58, I saw him already trudging toward Disneyland. And of course he remembered to bring me a disc full of mp3s I had asked for…which I forgot that I had asked for them.

This is a panoramic shot I snatched while we were waiting in line. There was only another hour to go, but at least we could finally see what we were aiming at.

Monday ended up being a day of waiting. For whatever asinine reason, they were only running one Monorail that day, so we waited for about 20 minutes for it to show up, and we though we were smart by standing next to one of the gates toward the end of the platform, when actually, they were only loading people from the first gate. Then again, the station announced this fact, but we, of course, were gabbing and not paying attention; plus, with the large open canopy covering the platform, any announcements sounds like a Burger King Drive-thru call-box shouting out your order underwater. But also, when do general announcements ever apply to me? Hardly ever because I’m not an idiot. Look around during your daily activities: Warning signs, safety signs, and general announcements are designed for idiots who have no idea what they’re doing or where they’re going.

This light is is under the awnings they erected back in the day when they had two Autopias...and I mean new in that they probably put it there 10 years ago, but Tris and I debated for a good half hour on what kind of lights were there before this one. We concluded ugly florescent. I have several pictures of this light from different angles if you want to see them.

The Monorail dumped us off in Tomorrowland, which is nice because the Nemo ride and the Tomorrowland Monorail Station share the same structure and we figured we could disembark the Monorail and immediately embark the Nemo ride.

That turned out to be wishful thinking. When we came down the ramp of the station, we were thrown into the throngs of humanity, as every Disney freak and out-of-towner was amassed in a very threaded, sinuous well organized queuing arrangement designed to accommodate the heaps of humans. We started to make our way to the back of the line, and we walked and we walked and we walked all the way out of Tomorrowland, across Fantasyland to the entrance of It’s a Small World. That was the end of the line, and that’s where we stood.

These guys entertained the line and passersby for a while, a pretty cool rhythm group disguised as a maintenance crew with trashcans and drum sticks. Here is a video clip of their performance.

Twenty minutes later, we were still there, but as the afternoon wore on, the line soon snaked its way around the corners, passed the Tea Cups, onto the platform where they old boat ride used to be, around the side of the Matterhorn, across the walkway and through a number of switchbacks—sun’s in our eyes, sun’s not in our eyes—until we finally dumped out onto the outskirts of Tomorrowland where we trekked through about 10 switchbacks, each time getting closer to our goal.

This brazen bird had no fear of people as he continued to land on the railing down where the old boat ride used to be. I don't know what it is, but I could have reached out and touched it if I didn't mind having my finger taken off.
Just your average crowd shot at Disneyland. This was part of the line that ran back and forth next to the Matterhorn.

Along the way, we met and saw some interesting characters: The guy in front of us with his two kids (we ended up knowing their kids’ names well. “Page stop that.” “Colton come here.” “Page don’t eat that!”)… anyway, the mother seemed nice and chatty but the father kept exclaiming how a couple of strippers would make the line more bearable and every other word from him was the f-word, which seemed surprisingly out of context of the Magic Kingdom, espeically when you're talking with strangers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for swearing, but not when there’s kids around. We saw this globe of a lady with an equally rotund kid in a stroller stuffing his moon-round face with some kind of Moon Pie (how come pudgy kids are always eating?), and every time I saw her, I wondered how she was going to make it into the sub. If I remembered right, the seats are tiny (and I was right; they’re about a foot wide…put a ruler up to your pants and tell me how many seats you’ll need… I could have used two, and this woman was twice the man that I am!).

Left: This is the only instance of graffiti that Tris or I have ever seen at Disneyland, but notice what it says... some idiot couldn't spell Huey or Louie so instead he came up with Thuy... morons.

Right: One of the staff photographers was there snapping pictures of people in line and he made us salute like fancy-pants sailors. Note in my expression the high level of reluctance to look like an ass of a tourist... and why Tris is saluting with his left hand is a mystery. Maybe he was just blocking the sun. When the photographer used my camera to take another picture, he again told us to salute, and I snapped: "We're not saluting!" Hey, we had been waiting for two hours at this point... I almost slapped a kid for looking at me crooked.

After three and a half hours of following the guy in front of me, we finally made it on the ride, and I won’t tell you anything about it for fear of ruining some of the effects, but I’ll tell you this: The ride itself wasn’t worth three and a half hours, but the fact that we got to be there on the first day was.

Right: Yeah, bubbles! The ride officially started and this the view out of my little porthole, which I'm glad to report didn't leak like the old ones used to.

The afternoon swept in and we decided to avoid traffic and stick around a little longer… and the best place to wait out gridlock is in the wine cellar, naturally! Tris and I were the only two people in there for a couple of hours, and we each had a couple glasses of wine. It was the first time—besides going on the ride—that we had sat down all day.

So, I took pictures of everything… but as you can see here, they're out of order... it'd be a pain to switch them all around for the sake of chronology so just do it in your head.

Right: My view inside the submarine, down the long line of squished people. Luckily for us, a party of four left after discovering there were only three seats remaining ("What, the guy can't count to three?" I heard one of them mutter), so we could spread out a little. I would hate to have to stand all day long operating the ride, and you'd think they would have built in a seat, after all it's been 47 years since this ride first opened.

Left: This was the final home stretch, about 10 switchbacks between the Tomorrowland Terese and the Submarine Lagoon. Notice the platform with the cameras and lights. No doubt they were filming for some kind of promotion or news event. There were cameras and lights everywhere. I waved at one so you may see me on "The Wonderful World of Disney" Yipee.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Holy Underwear, Batman!

I bought new underwear today. You probably didn’t care to know that, but part of me hopes that you’re intrigued enough to keep reading, delighted even. Maybe I should settle for glad. New underwear isn’t something you boast about unless you’re an underwear model or you invented a new kind of underwear... or you're buying it for the first time and you're 83. As much as I had to buy them, I hated it to do it too. There’s no more a waste of money than for a married man to buy underwear. Who sees them that I have to impress? Kara? That boat has long sailed. And if I'm worried that I won't be wearing clean underwear if I'm ever in an accident, believe me when I say that I'm more bothered by the fact that I'm in an accident than I am concerned what kind of underwear I'm wearing. I could have Kara's on, just get me to a hospital and I'll explain later. So who cares what condition my underwear is in, and if there are some structural flaws, say, a faulty waistband or the fabric has lost most of its integrity, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it—literally. Frankly, I don’t much care, which is why I’ve got quite a collection of underwear spilling over the top drawer of my dresser, in a variety of sizes, shapes and yes, colors (hey, neon green is the new white!). Because of the above, it had truly been a while since I had treated my guys to a new set of clothes.

When I wear a Size 36 pants and I’m trying to stuff my “leg-tops” into Size 34 briefs, it is time to change out the assortment. When “Hanes” is semi-permanently imprinted on my waist and in order to get them off, I need a illicit the help of a shoehorn, it is time for a purging. And when, because of the holes, I don’t have to bother to take them off to go the bathroom, it is time to seek out replacements.

But they sneak up on you too, like Indian underwear, coming in from behind, so much so that the mere act of putting them on has become a circus high-wire talent. You’ve got to make sure to keep enough on one side of the wire and enough on the other to feel balanced, and after you lose some up the Yazoo River, it is hardly a forgettable experience. Which is why I looked forward to thinning out the herd when I got home. There are some in there that, frankly, I just won't wear anymore; life is too short and I'm much too old and set in my ways to be bothered by underpants that won't keep up its end of the bargain. All I ask is a little support. Is that too much? Just make sure that what's there, stays there, and if I have to suddenly burst into a 50-yard dash for whatever reason, I want to know that they've got me covered. Some have lost most of their elastic so they’re more like a loincloth you’d find at a Paleolithic museum for Hominoid Man than something designed to cradle and comfort a precious area of my person. Some are so tight that I've got to reorganize my internal organs in order to yawn, and forget it if I have to sneeze. I could blow out a seam with a stifled cough. The more I think about it and the more I mentally inspect my vast cotton fleet (Who can't do that? Who can't rifle through their own underwear drawer in their mind?), the more problems surface: Namely holes, sometimes big gaping holes where there shouldn’t be any. But, where do they come from? How did I get holes in my underwear? It’s not like I climb a lot of barbed wire in my skivvies (well, in all fairness, there was that one time), and it isn’t as though they’re designer stone-washed and prone to easy wear. So, how is it possible to have unmentionables that resemble a cratered moon made of Swiss cheese?

Though I’m a lot more brazen than I used to be, there are still a few things that I find embarrassing. One of which is unceremoniously attracting the attention of everyone in the room by making some sudden loud noise that involves breaking a lot of things because you stumbled into them (and then the added embarrassment of having to clean up your mess while everyone gawks), and the other is walking down the aisle of a crowded store with a jumbo pack of white cotton briefs under your arm. No amount of nonchalant whistling nor averting your eyes from those of strangers can hide the fact that people are judging me by the size and style of my underwear, wondering why I’m only carrying a package of underwear and nothing else. It's weird and a little too personal for my tastes. Plus, I think I saw an old lady smirk under her breath, “Even I wear boxers.”

When I returned to the cart where the family had gathered to inspect my choice, Kara asked if I had picked up the boxer-briefs, an odd hybrid of shorts that is half tighty-whitey and half ballet tights. I think they were designed for Evander Holyfield by Mary Lou Retton. I told Kara I hadn’t, and she replied, joking, “So you got the ugly ones then?” And Natalie kept calling them panties, loudly, which didn't help, as in “Daddy, did you buy some new panties?” and “I like your new panties, Daddy.”


I bought Size 38 for that roomy feel, knowing full well that by the time these relax into that several-times-washed period of their tenure in my dresser, it’ll be like walking around with a bell tower between my legs. But oh how comfortable a new pair of underpants can feel, like velvet.

Of course, the next time you see me, please try to refrain from picturing me in my underwear, but if you must, know that they're brand new.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Brief History of Our Pools

The last inflatable pool we had nearly killed the children when it began to deflate around them, so we trekked down to the Mother Ship and requisitioned a new one. It isn’t the first hick-sized pool to darken our doorstep (and lighten my lawn) and I’m sure it won’t be the last, as our history of pools stretches back to the good old days, which is anytime before today I guess.

They seem to last on a year or so. Though it is normally hot all year long around here, we are brainwashed into the tradition of Summer Equals Swimming, so the other nine months of the year, the inflatable pool sits in a flaccid squashy plastic heap on the shelf in the garage… where evil forces go to work.

Somehow, some way, tiny holes magically appear, and by the time the following summer rolls around, the pool holds about as much air as someone with emphaziema. So, like good little consumer, we go buy a new one.

The first pool we had was one of those solid plastic ones that crack into little bits as soon as a few days' worth of sunshine crash into it. Plus, Elsa used it as an enormous water bowl every time we had it out. Natalie liked it, but I think it was missing that extra something babies enjoy looking at. Soon after that, we bought a cute one, a giant whale with big colorful teeth that made dog-toy-esque squeaky noises when you hit them. Natalie loved it. Plus it came with a big shade to protect her baby skin from the sun. Of course, that only meant one more thing to blow up, making me realize how out of shape I am if I can’t even inflate a kiddy pool. It didn’t hold a lot of water, but I’ll bet Natalie thought it was Olympian.

True to form, it died quietly in the garage, awaiting the first rays of the summer sun, but it lasted for two years, which was unusal. I was sad to see it go, but last summer, we replaced it with a much greater pool… the giant frog, alligator, turtle, reptile pool. I was never sure what it exactly was, but it was green and had a face. It’s selling feature was that it sprayed water out of these little nozzles, but I never attached the hose to give it that function. To me, that just says giant waste of water, and no sense in getting the kids hooked on such luxuries as spitting reptiles.

It was Matthew’s first experience in an inflatable pool and to say he liked it was an understatement. But alas, poor Yurik, I knew him well. It too met a similar fate in the garage this winter. It could barely hold enough air to keep the sides ridged enough to retain a few gallons of water. To the trash it went.

Kara scouted out a new pool for the family at Target, and it was time to graduate up to the big leagues. So we doubled our inflatable pool budget for the year and splurged on the $30 model (behold its glory!), a stately round pool with a surprisingly attractive family displayed on the box, each having a most wonderful time. Of course, how two blonde parents could progenate a black-haired Asian-looking kid is beyond me, but maybe they added him to the picture because he was the eight-year-old that assembled the pool in China.

When we brought home the pool, I thought it would be fun to blow it up in the house and let the kids run around in it for a while, like a miniature wrestling ring complete with rubberized sizes to: A) keep everyone inside; and B) keep everyone from bashing their heads on the furniture. Thankfully this time, we also shelled out $20 for the electric air pump, because I don’t think I would have survived the ordeal of pumping air into three valves, filling three separate chambers each holding as much air as the Hindenburg. It never occurred to me, of course until afterwards, that I would have trouble fitting a nine-foot inflated pool down an eight-foot-tall hallway and through a seven-foot door to the backyard.

I threw together a lengthy video of the kids terrorizing each other in the living room… in the pool. It is surprisingly long and none too exciting, so I won’t blame you for not finishing it. If my kids weren’t in it, I certainly couldn’t bare to waste the two minutes of my life. The Beethoven music helps a little, if you like the 9th. I originally planned to use Handel’s “Water Music” as apropos, but I didn’t think anyone would get it…and it’s boring enough without him.

At any rate, Natalie was very insistent that grown-ups swim in the pool too, referring to the box’s picture as proof of the hilarity that would ensue. So, that’s what Kara is doing right now… and if I’m real sneaky, I might be able to get a picture of it, so hold on a second. Nope, no luck, paparazzi are not allowed in the pool area today. I'll have to go upstairs and peer out of the window! However, plopped in the pool, all Kara needs is a can of Budweiser and she’d fit right into any Appalachian Hatfield/McCoy neighborhood.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Talking Trash

It seems that taking out the trash has become my job around here. Somehow, some way, when the trashcans fill up to capacity, it is my responsibility to make sure all the little trash cans around the house end up in the big trashcan outside, and then on Thursday morning, the three big trashcans outside are wheeled out to the curb. It is a never ending task, and as soon as I think that I'm on top of it, a new trashcan appears, seemingly out of nowhere, and it needs to be emptied.

I don’t know how I got this job, but it is mine, and I’m always looking for new ways to make it easier. Of course, it would be easier if I didn’t have to do it, but then the trash would pile up and spill over the sides and we’d soon be swimming in our own filth. Tantalizing option, for sure, but it doesn’t make for the most sanitary conditions to live in.

One of the trashcans upstairs is in the bathroom, a rather small trashcan, one of those oval ones that don’t hold very much but fit the overall décor of the room. I hate it because it seems to reject trash. Stand at the sink and toss something in the general direction of the trashcan and it will invariably end up on the floor…even if you’re really aiming. That wouldn’t be too bad if the trashcan wasn’t wedged between the toilet and the wall, so on trash days, I find myself on my knees fishing out little scraps of papers, Q-tips, cotton balls with black smudgy stains on them, empty toilet paper rolls, tissues, the occasional diaper, and some possible wadded up wipes from behind the toilet. Not my proudest moment, and I figured there has to be a better solution to this.

Then I got to thinking: I don’t normally use that trashcan. It’s not that I don’t produce trash, I do, but just not in the bathroom. One of the many benefits of being male is that we don’t have a lot of disposable toiletries to clutter up our lives. In fact, my whole morning routine revolves around a towel, a razor, some shaving cream, a toothbrush, a comb and one of those flossers. That it. The more I think about it, I’ve realized that I don’t even use that trashcan at all… so why not get rid of it?

A few weeks ago, I did just that. I tossed out the trashcan along with the trash one day and the problem was solved. No trashcan, no trash. No longer did I have to fish out icky trash from behind the toilet, and the bathroom seems so much cleaner.

But where did the trash go? Frankly, I don’t know, but I’m sure happy with the results. It doesn’t seem like there is any trash, because it isn’t piling up where the trashcan used to be…and nobody’s complained about it. The trash just disappeared.

So, the moral of the story is this: If you toss out the baby with the bath water, you don’t have to change diapers any more… and if there’s no trashcan to put trash in, there will no longer be any more trash.

Or something like that.

Return to the Wine Cellar

It had been a few years since we last visited the wine cellar. Recently, we usually longingly peer in through the windows while pushing a stroller load of kids on our way to somewhere that would illicit squeals of delight from the kids rather than squeals of delight from me.

Over the past few years, I’ve missed the wine cellar, and if there was anywhere in our lives “where everybody knows your name” and they called out “Norm!” when you walk in the room, it was the wine cellar. We had a regular table. We had a regular wine. We didn’t have to order anything because Lori, Zoe, and Cheri knew what we liked; we always started with Fess Parker’s Riesling and ended with a Delaforce Port or a Muscat. We knew about their lives, their kids, their ambitions. The three women sent up a bottle of our favorite wine to our room on our wedding night… and a wedding gift was waiting for us too (the candelabra that currently sits on our sideboard).

We had good times, and if we were sitting around on a weekend with nothing to do, inevitably we would gravitate to the wine cellar. And we would always meet interesting people there, as there is something about wine that attracts social people, especially those that are escaping the kitsch of The Mouse for something a little more refined.

Our interest in wine started in 1993, soon after I took a wines and spirits class at Cal Poly with a couple of fraternity brothers, and I learned that education equals appreciation. Wine was no longer a foreign territory left to the high-brows. Knowing more about wine was a far cry from the weekend Kara and I spent in Tombstone with a bottle of God remembers what, but it had a screw cap and came in some funky carafe. After the class (essentially four hours of on-campus wine tasting every Wednesday night) I knew what I liked and what I didn’t like. However, I don’t remember how we discovered the wine cellar at the Disneyland Hotel, but back then, it was almost an unknown entity. Hidden underneath a stuffy steak house that only execs in suits ate at after conventions, rarely was it crowded.

Years went by. We became fixtures there. They remodeled the whole wine cellar, removing the 70s dusty cellar look with the wine barrels for tables, the lacquered table-tops with antique labels underneath and the one corner that had a rock ceiling. After that, it looked posh, Italian and up-scale. Upstairs they changed the unDisney Granville’s steakhouse to a very Disney Hook’s Pointe… and the people came. Our regular table was sometimes taken by out-of-towners, and sometimes… egads, our wine was out of stock because people, fresh from Frontier Land, wanted to try a little bit of Dave Crockett’s wine.

Well, more years went by, and then children. We didn’t think it would be appropriate to bring a baby into a wine bar. We did it once and it was a disaster, so we vowed, never again.

So, as a result, we never went there until just the other night… on our second date in as many years. We haven’t been to the wine cellar in a couple of years, but the second we walked down the familiar stone steps and swung open the familiar heavy wooden door, Lori starts up a conversation with us as if we hadn’t been there in a week, much less a couple of years. She talked with us as if we never left, remembering our favorite wine...and even giving us a complementary taste, like the old days.

We settled into our usual table and began to chat. There’s a funny thing about the wine cellar, the people you meet. Everyone’s a little friendlier around wine, and that’s not just the wine talking. I think regular folks see it as an experience, to sit in a wine bar and have a glass of something you wouldn’t normally have, and they subconsciously want to share it with everyone, to make sure that everyone is having a nice a time as they are.

It was a good date, reminiscent of years long past.
Perhaps we’ll go again sometime, but until then, here is a photo montage of us over the years.

My, how we’ve changed.

The Most Expensive Vacations Ever

A bunch of years ago, back when our future was mostly unwritten (i.e., before kids, before stable careers, before the shackles of every day diapers, bottles, dog feedings, lawn waterings and other myriad responsibilities that cannot be procrastinated), Kara and I used to attend time share presentations for the sport of it. You know those overly excited productions put on by zealous salesmen bent on making a quota, no matter what the tactic.

We went for the prizes, the free stuff, the swag that gets you in the door, and the more you go to, the more you get to go to, as your name is carved on some list of potentials, those highly coveted members of the frequenters, those on the fence that just might need a little nudge. I’d say we did about 10 of them over the course of our young marriage, and each time, Kara and I would sail through the hard sell period with flying colors. We didn’t have the money. We didn’t want to vacation. We don’t like the system. Whatever they said, we had a comeback that was greater than the one before it.

And then they pair you off with a salesman, pull you aside in the little rooms and try to sweat it out of you, dig at your patience and sensibilities with half-truths, too-good-to-be-truisms and flat out lies. “Would you like something to drink? A Coke perhaps? Now, wouldn’t you like to vacation on an island resort anywhere in the world? Do you know how much gas costs? It’s expensive, dangerous, and uncertain to vacation in America… and tot travel on the roads like hobos, living in RV parks like vagabonds, eat food on paper plates over a table that will fold down into your bed… like turtles. Who travels like that? Certainly not a good, honest, hard working, intelligent couple such as yourselves, right? Only fools pack up their little campers and drive for hours and hours to get to some over crowded campground full of screaming kids and overpriced food to stare at overly commercialized tourist traps. You’re not a fool, are you?

Of course not… sign here.

We heard it all, from how much money a time share will save you on regular travel costs, to how wonderful the experience it is, to how, once you join, you’re part of a big family of time share owners…as if there is an annual picnic, or a fellow time sharer will stop to help you on the side of the road. “Oh, you own a time share? Let me get that tire changed for you. We time sharers gotta stick together you know.” Rubbish. They crammed down our throats exotic pictures of faraway places I'll probably never see and wonderfully happy people I'll probably never be—all teeth and big smiles—enjoying the splendorous vistas outside their spacious, lavishly appointed resort lodgings. Money was an afterthought, a mere number that we resort owners need not be bothered with.

No matter how they presented it, it seemed like they were trying to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge. No thanks. Now where’s my free Red Lobster dinner for two and my gift certificate to Nordstrom’s?

In 2000, we visited a timeshare near Disneyland, and for whatever reason, it made sense that day. It was near Disneyland, and we were told that trading it for any other resort anywhere in the world would be a snap; who doesn’t want to come to Disneyland? On top of which, it seemed like a logical way to spend a vacation and we were told that time shares appreciate, like regular real estate; on the façade, it actually appeared to be leisurely, a welcomed reward every year to be spent at a nice resort, doing absolutely nothing. The concept of which goes against every vacation I have ever taken in my life, and every urge to vacate I’ve ever had. I don’t vacation in resorts. I like museums. I don’t lay around by the pool. I like to explore battlefields and obscure nooks in time. I came from an RV background, those site-seeing, history-absorbing, educational treks into Americana. When I was younger, if we weren’t at a historical landmark somewhere in the middle of nowhere, we were headed to one or we just came from one, so the idea of a resort as a vacation seemed, this time, new and different. Let’s sit by the pool for a while and have a cocktail…hey, let’s do nothing at all.

And you know what they say: the grass is always greener on the other side, so why not? Let’s buy a time share and do things a little different for a change. It sounded like an adventure.

Well, six years later, nuts to all that, I say. Give me my RV back. Which way to the museum? What the hell is this cocktail doing in my hand… that was 10 bucks?!? You’ve got to be freaking kidding me? What? There’s an extra cost for freaking kidding me!?! You gotta be double freaking kidding me!! There's a cost for that too.

If you are considering buying a time share, gladly heed my uncomplicated advice: Do not. No matter what they tell you, whatever the wonders that will befall you when you sign on the dotted line and write out the check, walk away. Just walk away. They’re a scam perpetuated by some kind of secret society of time share realtors, and the only ones that are actually enjoying themselves are the ones that cash your checks.

The whole point of having a time share is that it should be simple. You own a week at a resort near Disneyland. That’s simple. I’ve got a week. I can stay there for a week every year with no problem, just call and set it up. But… that’s at Disneyland, which is maybe 25 miles from my house, hardly the vacation of my dreams and hardly that exotic resort feeling I signed up for. In fact, my home resort is the last place that I want to stay at. However, no problem again: Just bank your week. Merely call RCI—the bank for time shares—and say that you wish to “bank your week,” that is, toss your seven days into a giant pile of weeks and simply pick out a new week. There’s a thick book with thousands of places in it. If you want to go to Paris, just tell them: “Paris please.” Here you go. Here’s your week in the City of Lights; send us a card. How about a week by the beach? Sure, no problem, here you go, you can almost feel your toes in the sand.

The only problem…and this is a big problem…exchanging your week is a physical impossibility unless you plan it out years in advance. And that's the Catch-22. You can only deposit your week when your home resort assigns you a week, and that happens only after to pay your annual association fees (more on this later), which are due sometime around late November. Great, pay your fees, bank your week and put in for a search. You can’t just cherry pick a week from somewhere like they said you could; you’ve got to request it. In January, we put in a search for anywhere on Cape Cod; it didn't matter where, as long as we were on the curvy part that sticks out into the ocean and we can see the tops of the sailboats at least. Last year, we didn’t go anywhere, so for fear of having our week expire (no, you can’t save them up), we had to use it by February of this year… but no luck. Cape Cod, my friends, seems to be full up. Too many time sharers changing each other’s tires on the Cape, so you're not welcome.

But wait, to add to the fun, your week will expire if you don’t go anywhere by February… no, it won’t… just pay another fee and you’ll be fine; we can extend it for three months. Just pay the fee. Three months? That’s perfect. Kara’s off in June, we’ll stay local instead. We put in for a search for anywhere in California, on the beach or in the desert or in Arizona for the month of June. Who cares where. Let's just go somewhere, otherwise the cash we've been shoveling into the Money Pit will all be for naught.

We waited, and waited, and waited… Why then, we waited some more.

While I was waiting for them to call, the wool slipped from their fingertips and I saw the light. We were getting screwed, and the number one reason for owning a time share—to save money over conventional vacations—was a sham, a complete sham. I started to crunch the numbers and I came up with a startling revelation (hint: it involved me getting screwed).

Follow along:
1. We purchased the time share originally for $6250.00 in 2000. We’ve used it twice, which equals 14 days of resort time.
2. Every year, we pay approximately $700.00 association dues to our home resort. They don’t tell you about that in the sales pitches.
3. Every year, we pay approximately $50.00 in property taxes. They fail to mention this little tidbit too.
4. We pay approximately $50.00 a year for membership to RCI (remember, the big bank for time shares…well, they don’t do it for free apparently).
5. When we “bank” our week, we pay $120.00 to exchange it with another week…that is, we pay to begin a search. And don’t think for a second that we get it back if they fail to find something.
6. Our time expired this year, so we paid $60.00 to extend it until June. It's June and I'm still home...and there's no second extension.
7. Then they went and changed a policy without telling us: Usually, when you hold a reservation for a resort (to think about it), it automatically cancels itself by the end of the following day if you don't confirm it. Instead of that, now they do the opposite: They automatically book the trip if you don’t call back and cancel it at the end of the day. The cost for canceling it after it automatically books: $120.00 (the search fee).
8. If we were to go to Cape Cod this month, here is the breakdown of the associated costs: Flight for four: $1200. Rental car: $250. Boarding Elsa: $200. Parking at the airport: $200. Food and miscellaneous for the week: $750.00.

So, let’s just say that we did go to Cape Cod this month, adding another week to our impressive travel history of two weeks, giving us 21 days of time share usage in the last seven years. So, adding up everything we have spent in the last seven years, including the past two trips (with a rough estimate of $500.00 additional expenses during those trips), we will have spent… hold onto your hats: $15,290. To go on vacation… for three weeks.

That’s $728.09 a day. Un-freaking-believable.

Imagine the resort I could have stayed at for $728.09 a day. We could have taken a three week cruise around the world for $728.09 a day. I could have bought an impressive RV for $728.09 a day.

So, we’re selling it, with a vengeance, and with any luck, we’ll get all the money we spent back out of it so we can go on with our lives and forget that this little chapter ever happened. We’re not going to Cape Cod for all the financial reasons I mentioned above and I’m glad. However, we still have a week to spend, so now what? We decided to stay local, hey we’re going to lose it if we don’t use it…and I don’t mind staying anywhere but our home resort. So we figured it would be no problem to find a place within 500 miles of here. Right?


That was two months ago when we started a search and we haven’t heard from the since… at least, until yesterday that is. An overly cheery guy on the phone called to announce that they’ve located the perfect resort for us and that we will be forever grateful to RCI for matching us up with this most wonderful of wonderful places. The conversation was kind of weird. They're based in Indianapolis, as far away from the beach as one could get, but he spoke like he was a stereotypical stoner surfer. He probably thought that since I am from California and I'm looking to go to the beach that I too think everything is radical or bitchin' and that my life is spent riding the perfect wave, so it seemed that he geared his language to better associate with somone who uses the term tubular to describe something impressive. I hate those people, always trying to make a sale. In fact, he actually told me the resort will be, “a kick-ass party.”

Kick-ass indeed.

Guess where it is?

That’s right, Disneyland, my home resort.

Sigh. Anyone want to buy a time share? It's an inexpensive and exotic way to vacation. No really.

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