Sunday, April 29, 2018

A Wasted Vacation

The problem working with experienced folks is that over time, they've accrued a shit-ton of vacation time.  Among my boss, my grocery manager and my front end manager and me, there are 27 weeks of vacation to work into the 40-44 weeks out of the year that we're allowed to take them.

I had a week down for the third week, or so, of May.  The Cubs are coming to Atlanta that week, and i wanted to take a couple days to go seem them play live.

Well, a floor strip and a mandatory meeting popped up.  I had a few things going on this past week, so I went ahead and used the week I'd scheduled for May this past week.

Well, I got to do the things I wanted to do:  my buddy Barry's comic show; a WWE house show with my buddy Jeff; watching my nephew play ball yesterday and heading to a picnic/baseball game thrown by my Mom's retirement company at the Lookouts today.

Still, I wanted to get a couple things done this week...get some shelves up in the spare room; do some work in the yard;  maybe get out of town one day.

I guess I did get a few things done, so it's not a total loss.

Gotta go back to work tomorrow.  We'll see how things go....

Monday, April 23, 2018

To Infinity and Beyond

I ran across this photo on Twitter this week, and I've enjoyed it more than I'd have thought.

I like the idea, now, that the Infinity Stones are things we've seen across moviedom over the years.  Perhaps the Maltese Falcon, and Dorothy's Ruby Slippers....the Sankara Stones....the Heart of the Sea....the Baseball Diamond from Great Muppet Caper.

And perhaps it was the gauntlet itself that Vincent Vega was looking at in Marcellus Wallace's briefcase....

Monday, April 09, 2018

Disney and Whatnot

We wandered down to Orlando this week.  We wanted to take Thomas to Walt Disney World while he was young enough to truly appreciate it.  And while we all are young enough to get around.

If we had it to do again, I don't know that we'd pick Easter Week as it's one of the most crowded weeks of the year.  But, we didn't want to try in the summer, owing to that it's so busy for April and Thomas, and it's not a guarantee this year that I could get the week off (as things stand, I may be trying to cram four vacations into a 13 weeks span from Labor Day to the Week after Thanksgiving).

Anyway, here's a few pictures...

The drive down Monday was surprisingly easy.  We had a little slowness in Atlanta, but truly, a little slowness is abut the best you can hope for in that city.  It did rain on us a bit as we got close to Orlando.  The drive in from the Florida Turnpike to I-4 to 535 did take little longer for April, Thomas and their dog Duke, who drove separately.

Duke, after their ride

We had 4-day passes.  We decided to try one park a day.

Day one was a lesson in how to budget time.  The house we rented was just four or five miles from the park.  Getting to the park in the morning, though, was a logjam.  It became a running gag, and a bit of learning from what's become a career in customer service.  4 times out of 5 (at least) the biggest obstacle to quick customer service is the customer.  We probably spent 20 minutes in this logjam.  Our line, when we got in, was 15 cars long.  Our time at the booth to pay for parking was 15 seconds.  Get your crap together know you gotta pay...have your money or cards out.....

The further lesson in how to budget time was the use of the FastPass, Disney's program that allows you into a fast line for a limited number of rides.  These, we had to schedule in advance.  We chose Haunted Mansion, A Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean, as the Fastpass for Space Mountain were already booked up the Sunday we scheduled things.

The day of, however, we found that we'd put too much time in between our Fast Haunted Mansion, Small World and Pirates are all within stones' throws of one another.  The Haunted Mansion and Small World attendants were cool, as they let us in early for our rides.  We ran into a struggle, though, when Pirates of the Caribbean was down for a short time.  We were informed that we could use our fastpass on another ride.  Had we thought about it, we probably should have taken our time to walk across the park, and use that FastPass on Space Mountain.  Instead, we tried for Splash Mountain, which we couldn't because we were 5 minutes before our allotted time, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which also broke down for a short time.  We ended up using that particular Fast Pass on Jungle Cruise, as it was close and we were by then nearing the end of our 1-hour Fastpass Window.

Sam the Eagle is my Spirit Animal

Haunted Mansion is probably my favorite ride in the Magic Kingdom

I don't know, if we had things to do over, if we'd have picked Easter Week.  A lot of families are on vacation, and a lot pick Walt Disney World.  The Magic Kingdom was crowded.  And I know that it's almost always crowded, but we heard one employee (cast members, as they are called) remark that the Tuesday we attended was remarkably well attended (a choice of phrase I pondered for a while, given the nearly Universal upbeat nature of all cast members...I decided that the phrasing was such that it admitted the crowds without sounding like complaint).  We would deal with crowds all four days, but nothing like that Tuesday in the Magic Kingdom.

It can wear on a brother.

Happiest Place on Earth....
Each day, we'd go early, and ride rides and see shows until about 3, when we'd take the 10 minute drive back to the house (the 10-minute ride in the evening was usually a 20-minute ride on the way in...).  There, somehow Thomas would instantly re-energize when he'd remember the house had a pool to swim in.

And swim, we did.  Over the week, probably more than I've swam in three years combined.

Tuesday night, we wandered back over to the Magic Kingdom, with the express mission to ride Space Mountain.  Without FastPass, we had to wait in line a couple of hours.

This had better not end with a horrifying visit by Ric Flair
Space Mountain was probably the first roller coaster I've ridden since we visited Six Flags in college.  I just haven't visited many amusement parks since then.  In fact, now that I think about it, I may have visited Dollywood, just 90 minutes north of me, once or twice, but none others since then.

I'd forgotten something.  You can't wear glasses on Roller Coasters.  At least, I can't.  I forgot this, even after making a mental note to stow my glasses either in my cargo shorts pocket or my sister's bag.  I didn't, though.  After 2 hours of waiting, I spent my 2 minute ride on Space Mountain holding my glasses onto my face.  Disney's Magic Makers took my picture along the ride, and my hand is plastered to my face.

We wandered back to the house, fighting the sea of humanity who'd just finished watching the fireworks and were preparing for the light show at Cinderella's Castle.  I got a little wigged out in the crowd, trying to keep up with a 7-year-old and a 66-year-old....

Wednesday, we hit Epcot.  This was good, but also a small regret.  We spent so much time running in The Magic Kingdom that we never really got to enjoy it.  I've got an itch to go back, using a vacation week in late October or January or February to just take time to look around.  Enjoy how the place is put together, to watch how Disney manages several thousand moving parts in the form of cast members and, well, moving parts to get things done.  The engineering (civil and social) is interesting.  I've digressed a bit, only to say that I wish Thomas (and the rest of us) had gotten more time in The Magic Kingdom.

Anyway, Wednesday.

Epcot's cool.  I didn't want to sound like we didn't enjoy.  It's a great park, though I don't know that Thomas enjoyed as much as we did.  If I go back, I'd like to take a day just to wander around the Countries of the World, have a couple beers and enjoy the day.

The highlight of the day for me was lunch at the Biergarten in the German Pavilion.  Pretty good food, and a pretty good beer list.

We wandered back to the house afterward.  We swam.  We came back to watch the Firework show.  We took it in near the English and Canadian pavilions, where we got another tasty beverage or two.  Learning for me:  my nephew doesn't care for fireworks, which is kinda cool, since they've never really been my bag, either....

Thursday took us to Animal Kingdom

I wasn't sure what to expect.  A few reviews had been less than complimentary of Disney's newest park.   It was probably my favorite day, as it turns out.  The combination of weather and our better strategy when it comes to FastPass made for a lot less stress.  We hit the Dinosaur ride (which was great, though I underestimated its bounciness, and spent a great deal of time holding my glasses, though I was this time able to hold them in my hand, instead of plastering them to my face...), It's Tough to Be a Bug, and took a walk through of the African and Asian animal exhibits.  

We came back that night to wander through the Avatar/Pandora land, and then do the African Safari ride, which was very, very cool.  We had a white rhinoceros walk up to the riding craft.  No pictures turned out....unless you like this one:

Friday took us to Hollywood Studios, and I think it was the day my nephew looked forward to most.  We'd attempted to keep Disney a secret, but he'd figured it out, mostly.  Upon learning that we would indeed be heading for Disney, he wanted to do the Jedi Training.  It was the quickest we'd gotten him up all week.

As soon as we reached the Park, Thomas and April got in line to sign up.  There, Thomas had an encounter with Troopers from the New Order.

The last time I visited Disney was around 1993, not too long after the then Disney/MGM Studios had opened.  Several things had changed in the past 25 years.  Most regrettable was the lack of new foot and handprints at the Chinese Theatre replica.  The latest I could find was 1996.  I don't know why that bugged me.  It just seemed like something you should replace, if you're not gonna keep up with it.

Though I did like the juxtaposition of Bobcat Goldthwait and Audrey Hepburn.

One of my favorite bits at the Hollywood Studios was the Muppet 3-D show, which was still there.  A lot has changed at the park, in advance of the Toy Story and Star Wars areas opening up.  Mom was interested in the Backlot Tour, which was discontinued in the past few months, and I was interested in the Great Movie Ride, which is also a thing of the past.  Luckily, the Muppet 3-D show was still there.

It's a funny, well put together show.  Still one of my favorite things Disney has done with the Muppets since their acquisition.

Outside the Muppet Theater, Thomas and Mom got to meet Chip and Dale:

The day surrounded the Jedi training.  We had to rearrange a lunch reservation to make sure to accommodate it, but that worked out well.  We'd reserved lunch a the replica of the Hollywood Brown Derby, but we'd reserved it late, and we found ourselves hungry again around 11 AM.  We grabbed quick food at the Commissary, where Thomas made a friend in one of the employees.  Her name was Hasmita, and they traded stories about the Animal Kingdom.  Both enjoy the Safari ride.  Thomas drew her a giraffe.  Hasmita drew him an elephant

After lunch, we hit Star Tours, and the Indiana Jones Stunt Show (one of the extras was also visiting from Athens, Tennessee), and then waited for Thomas's time in the Jedi training.

The Jedi Training was a hit.  Thomas bought into the narrative completely.  He's at the perfect age where make-believe is strongest.  Several times during the rides or shows, he would be right there instantly and completely immersed in the narrative.  Suspension of Disbelief is one of his strong points.

The story involves a pair of Jedi, master and an apprentice, training younglings to face their fear at an ancient Jedi Temple.  They face down Darth Vader and Kylo Ren in a choreographed lightsaber battle. 

Several kids were completely overjoyed to be participating, but Thomas was one of three or four who hopped at the chance to face Vader.  He was the first to be chosen.  I tried to take video, but the video camera on the phone had gotten jenky with the number of videos I'd taken.  It did not decide to start recording until Thomas's encounter with Vader was done, and he was being led off stage.

I don't know what else to say about the Jedi Training, except that I think I was as happy to watch Thomas do it as Thomas was to participate.

We wandered back to the house to swim after that.  The only thing we hadn't done that I really wanted to do was ride the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which was being built when we visited last in 1993.

We decided to leave it.  We'll come back in a couple or three years to visit Star Wars Land, and perhaps go over to Universal to do the Harry Potter stuff there.  

Friday, I woke up missing Dad quite badly.  I had been off and on all week, but something hit me hard Friday morning.  I never took the time to take a big family trip with Thomas when Dad was still alive.  I regret that.  He would have enjoyed the trip.  Given the number of dimes I found over the week, though, I kinda think he may have been around.

We drove back to Tennessee.  The trip down took us about 9 hours, with relatively few traffic holdups that day.  The trip back up took us 12.5, with multiple hangups around the Florida Georgia Line, and then again between Macon and Atlanta.

We got back, tired, but all pleased we'd gone.  I don't get to see my family enough.  I'm glad we took this opportunity.