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The Mad Poller What Polls at Midnight
January 29th, 2008 
JOY
Not as quick and bullety as I initially intended:

Saturday:
  • Arrive in Orlando after silly tarmac delays and a threat of being bumped off our oversold flight, retrieve our rental car, and pull onto the highway just in time for a sudden torrential downpour featuring sheets of rain and other vision impairments one would rather not encounter while trying to interpret a Google map.

  • Spend evening in the house with Evan's mom, stepfather, her parents, his mother, brother (Nate), and brother's girlfriend (Shannon). Parent and Grandparent-types retire to bed early, thanks mostly to their 14-hour drive from Maryland in a minivan with 5 adults, two dogs, and all the suitcases that come along with them. Youngster-types spend evening bullshitting over beers and sitting in hot tub.

Sunday:
  • Wake up to Evan lodging small complaints of an upset stomach. Complaints rapidly deteriorate into loud, hostile vomiting. Evan's digestive system makes executive decision to keep him at the house for the day.

  • Make a trip with Shannon to the supermarket to buy Gatorade, Goldfish crackers and other stomach-settling items for Evan. During the ride, she and I talk about her and Nate's recent cross-country family-visit road trip, for which they had rented a car, due to a distrust of their own. When I made a side comment about the two of them being put on the rental agreement to both be allowed to drive the car, Shannon explained that since she and Nate share a car, she doesn't have her own car insurance, so the rental company wanted an extra $300 in order to put her on the agreement. But, she said, since it's free for married couples to both be on the insurance, they made a stop at the courthouse before they picked up the car. I laughed and asked if anyone else knew about this, and she casually said they didn't, nor did she think it mattered since she and Nate have already been together for so long.

  • The plan had been for the Parent- and Youngster-types to spend the day at Epcot while the Grandparents recuperated at the house. Evan apologetically encouraged me to go with them, and if he felt better he would come out and meet us. Sadly, Evan was sick for his favorite part of the trip: the tradition in their family is to bar crawl around the World Showcase at Epcot, stopping for a drink in (almost) every country. After putting in some time at the Future World section, we had a lager and some fish & chips in England, champagne and crepes in France, asti in Italy, and sake in Japan. Encroaching tired and dinner commitments with the Grandparents cut the beverage tour short of a few more stops, but it's a tradition to keep.

  • During a routine telephone check-in on the Grandparents while driving back to the house, it was reported that Evan's condition had worsened and he had vomited in his bed. I enter a full-blown panic as I envision his atrophied body glued to the sheets with his own sick, ala Sloth from Se7en. When we get back to the house, I run upstairs in tears as I begin spouting out apologies for leaving him behind sick while I drank around the world with his family. While he still didn't feel well, reports of his in-bed yam were grossly overexaggerated.

  • The rest of the clan went out to dinner while Evan and I stayed home, and after they returned, a benign football playoffs viewing devolved into political discussion loud enough to rouse Evan from our bedroom and to come downstairs to join us.

Monday:
  • A fully-recovered Evan and I are awoken to a loud "Holy Shit!" from the kitchen downstairs. Assuming this was his mother's reaction to Nate and Shannon's Marriage of Economic Advantage, I'm not roused out of bed. When we head downstairs for breakfast, I ask what the commotion was about, and they show us the framed ultrasound that Nate & Shannon had presented them with earlier, complete with a note that the baby should arrive in late July. Grandparents express joy at their promotion to Great-grandparents, parents (specifically, mother) expresses concern over the title change. Under my breath, I ask Shannon if they paired the baby announcement with one about the "rental car agreement", and she said no, it hadn't occurred to them to say so.

  • The day at Sea World was beautiful. The weather was perfect, the sky a crystal blue extension of the pools and lake, mottled with big puffy clouds.

  • There were many happy dolphins.

  • There are also ups and downs to having a wheelchair-bound member in your party: sure it takes a little longer to get from A to B, but once you get there, you get the best seats in the house and skip most of the lines.

  • The day at Sea World marked our first encounter with the Brazilians. Every day, in every park we went to, we found ourselves with at least one tour group made up of at least 200 Brazilian teenagers in matching neon tour uniforms. They often showered one another in encouraging chants, likely to provide some sort of morale bonus to enduring lines. Monday was Green Brazilian Day.

  • Evan and I presented our gnome to Phil and were allowed to return to the house for a mandatory 12-hour rest period.

  • The evening concluded with a trip to Fulton's Crab House at Downtown Disney to celebrate the coming child. Nate ordered the most curious item on the menu, a lobster stuffed with shrimp and scallops, or what one might call the Turducken of Shellfish.


More to come...
JOY
Tuesday:
  • The Parents took the Grandparents to Epcot that day so Evan and I were left to our own devices. We headed over to the Magic Kingdom. I was flooded with childhood memories as we boarded the monorail (the Contemporary even smelled the way I remember) and was vibrating with excitement as I bounded down the ramp to the entrance.

  • I admit, without shame, that I got a little misty as we stood in front of Cinderella's Castle and watched the little show that was going on as we walked in. I had been looking forward to that moment for almost 20 years, and found myself reflecting on everything that's happened in my life since then. You can be as cool and as cynical as you like; you can make jokes about the Disney Corporate Machine all day; but I dare you to not feel some wonderful spark in you while you stand there. If you don't, I'm truly sorry for your loss.

  • We rode, in no particular order: Big Thunder Mountain, The Haunted Mansion, the train around the park, Peter Pan's Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, and ran around the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.

  • We also took in a showing of The Country Bear Jamboree. It was everything you could want to make fun of in an animatronic robot bear show and more. The signs of the attraction's age were not merely in the lo-fi soundtrack and filmstrip interlude; you could tell the bears each were meant to be an homage to a real country singer from some time or another (one sorta looked like Johnny Cash), and had my understanding of Hee-Haw not come almost entirely from a 20-second bit on the Critic, I might have gotten more of the joke. The most vivid aspect of the show was the contrast between a time when a children's attraction would feature a set of 3 girl bears singing all the boys that turn me on turn me down, and today when after years of rampant PC and nannysim have nerfed our sensibilities to where even I felt a bit of shock at Big Al's There was blood on the saddle, blood all around, and a great big puddle of blood on the ground.

  • In an effort to prevent a tummyache relapse, we headed back to the house mid-afternoon for a break. Evan felt much better in time for us to make dinner plans, so we pulled out my trusty WDW Guidebook and managed to score a table at Citricos in the Grand Floridian hotel. For those of you who plan to go to Disney: do not overlook the restaurant options in the resort hotels. Our meal at Citricos was without question the finest of the week.

Wednesday:
  • Evan and I were on our own again, with the folks driving the grand-folks down to their Ft. Lauderdale winter home for the day. We went to the Disney Hollywood Studios, which for some reason the internet probably knows, is no longer affiliated with MGM.

  • Hollywood Studios is way less ride-y and more show-y than the other parks, but their headliner ride was awesome. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror takes place in the "Hollywood Hotel", made up to look like an abandoned hotel from the 1940's. You're taken into a room where Rod Serling comes on a black & white TV and explains how the hotel's service elevator is a corridor to the Twilight Zone. You get in seats in the elevator and are taken to a floor to witness a strange event, then are bounced up and down between floors in the dark with no indication of when or for how long, until the doors open to reveal the outside and you take a plunge back down to the first floor. Awesome.

  • We finished up with Hollywood Studios and park-hopped over to the Magic Kingdom in the hopes of finding a place to have dinner and watch the fireworks, which was a tall order to say the least. With no restaurants available at the MK, we went to an information desk to make reservations elsewhere on property, saying we didn't mind where it was, just that we could eat relatively soon. We got a table at a place in the Polynesian, and headed straight over. When we arrived, the restaurant was not what we hoped. It looked like a Denny's (with less atmosphere), and the menu was full of $30 entrees. We were going to just leave to eat at any of the other Denny's-like restaurants on the road back to the house when I remembered something else from my last trip. We went downstairs to Luau Cove and asked if there were any available seats for that night's dinner show, which was to start in about 15 minutes. She said we would have to go on the wait list, but since we were first on it and there were only two of us, our odds were good. We canceled our other reservation, sat on the shore of the lake sipping a glass of wine and watching the fireworks as we waited to be called, and enjoyed the good meal and excellent show at the Luau.
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