The progression goes something like this:
Year One: "Wow! Look at this place! It's amazing! We'll never see it all in 7 days!"
Year Two: "We know our way around this time! We'll spend a day at each park, go to Blizzard Beach, eat dinner at Rain Forest Cafe on Tuesday, Mexico in Epcot on Wednesday, and the House of Blues on Thursday."
Years 3-5: "How 'bout we just hit the roller coasters at each park and catch the fireworks at Epcot? Holy fuck. I just paid $20 for two pretzels and a couple of bottles of water."
By the third time you visit, you've pretty much resigned yourself to the fact that Mickey and Friends are going to give you a major ass-reaming every day you are there. You also realize that every store there sells the same over-priced shit, and traveling around by bus can get very old very quickly. It's ironic really - here you are with all this free bus transportation everywhere you want to go, but two mixed drinks will set you back $24. You can't afford to get drunk in Disney. It's a horrible state of affairs. Although for a second, I thought maybe I was drunk when we walked into a Disney store and the first thing I saw was this very un-disneylike shirt:
Speaking of un-Disneylike, what about that Minnie mouse? I learned a dirty little secret about her when eating Goofy's Gummies. I know that sounds dirty, but it's really not. These are gummy bears in the shape of Disney characters, and for some reason they are fresher and better tasting than gummies you can get elsewhere. My wife usually stocks up, buying some to eat when we're wandering around, and a bunch to bring home. As I was eating Minnie, (again, not dirty) I noticed something. Here's Minnie:
As I was marveling at her freshness and gummability, I happened to do this:
OK, now that's dirty.
Gummy fun notwithstanding, the only way to get the party started in earnest at Disney is to (1) be very, very rich, (2) leech off some big company's expense account, or (3) have an outside contact. Lucky for us, Shamus was down for the same conference, and he and his family were staying in a condo off the Disney campus. Therefore they had rented a car, and offered to get us out of the Goofy bin for little while. Ah, sweet freedom! They became our window to the outside world, where you could buy things like affordable food, chewing gum, Pepsi products and reasonably priced booze, all without pictures of Disney characters on them. We all decided to have dinner at their place on Saturday night, so we went to the supermarket and bought the fixin's for steak and chicken fajitas, and it was glorious.
Needless to say, we stocked up while we had the chance. Our room had a tiny little refrigerator and we filled every inch of it with munchies and cold drinks. We bought way too much booze, although we only ended up leaving behind an unopened bottle of wine and half a bottle of gin.
That's the thing about 5th time's the charm. After a while, you just decide that it's not so bad to get up at noon and then spend the rest of the day hanging out by the pool with a book and a rum drink. Although in retrospect, I think we could probably go somewhere tropical with way fewer screaming kids for about the same price. I realize Disney is primarily for children, so I can't bitch too much, but I've also noticed that a single kid in the "grown-up" swimming pool is a lot like a single motorboat on a wilderness pond. It has a tendency to wreck the mood, and sometimes you just want to shoot a hole in it and watch it sink.
The reason we were there for an entire week after the conference ended was, oddly enough, because of the state of the economy. We were already staying for an extra 3 days, and in an effort to drum up some business, Disney was offering a "buy four, get three free" deal. We figured that we would stay over one extra night to pick up the 3 extra freebies. Since the park tickets are tiered that same way, (the fourth and fifth days of a park hopper ticket are almost free) we picked up a couple of those too. We figured we wouldn't have to buy anything but food. That sounds good until you realize that the cheapest thing you can buy anywhere in Disney is a 6" miniature frozen pizza (cooked on a chain-driven conveyor belt) that will still set you back seven bucks plus tax. Speaking of taxes, if you go there, be prepared. There's "room tax" and "resort tax" and "late-night Tinkerbell visit" tax and these will add another $40 bucks a night to your room price. OK, I may or may not have volunteered to pay extra for that last one - but the other ones just automatically showed up on the bill.
We stayed at the "moderately priced" hotel -- Port Orleans Riverside -- quite a downgrade from the Swan/Dolphin I stayed at during the conference. The first room we were assigned was horrible. We walked in, and the room was so humid it felt like you couldn't breathe. There was condensation running down the window, and it smelled like a tropical rain forest, if a tropical rain forest could somehow grow bitter ass and dirty feet. It did have one redeeming quality -- it was on the top floor, which is great because then nobody is walking around above you. We called the front desk and got another room that was marginally better, but on the 2nd floor, with a family of 14 in the room above us. I never actually saw them, but I surmised that they were in some sort of horrific accident, and as a result had been fitted with prosthetic legs made of a newly-discovered metal I can only assume is called Stompium. Also, they had bladders the size of dwarf peanuts.
How do I know this? It's all because of the crazy toilets. When you flushed one, you feared for your life. In an effort to avoid plug-ups, the hotel installed jet-assisted flushing mechanisms that would practically pull your clothes off. I was more scared of that toilet than I am of my 3 horsepower table saw. They flushed so violently, and so loudly, that your ears popped if you had the bathroom door closed. Sadly, I am not even exaggerating. Because of the aforementioned peanut bladders, I got to hear this jet noise no less than 14 times a night. I can only hope that we were able to pay them back in some small measure by exposing their 12 children to the raucous sounds of late-night, drunken sex.
In very short intervals, separated by many hours of snoring.
What? I'm not a machine.
On Monday we went to Animal Kingdom with Shamus and the family. We met them there, and he had already thoughtfully grabbed some FastPass tickets for the Everest roller coaster, which is big on scenery and not so big on coaster. I remember the last time I rode it, a giant Yeti made a swipe at you when you went under him. Oddly, he was missing this time. Either he was out getting a fresh Sherpa for breakfast, or he was being repaired. I remember him being pretty close to the cars, so I have a feeling he's been the victim of more than his fair share of vandalism. They probably have to clean the gum out of his fur periodically.
It was a riot to hit the parks with Shamus' kids. At one point I noticed his son walking funny, like he had a load of crap in his pants and cramps in his arms. I asked Shammy's wife what he was doing, and she replied that he was "being a T-Rex" and that she has to periodically tell him to "be a boy" when they go out places. I watched him for a second, then said, "In a way, you're lucky. At least he picked something that walks on two legs." The funny thing is, once you realized what he was doing, I'll be damned if he didn't have it down cold. Their daughter is a year or two older, so as far as I could tell, she stayed a girl the whole time.
If you've been to Animal Kingdom, you know about the Tree of Life, a giant artificial tree that houses the "It's a Bugs Life" attraction. As we were walking around the jungle, we were watching these water birds, and suddenly they all started swimming toward this one tree stump in the middle of the small pond. Apparently, when I had glanced away, this stump spit out a sizable amount of food, and the birds were going nuts. We promptly dubbed it the "Stump of Life."
My wife likes to watch the Silverback Gorillas. I think if I didn't keep an eye on her, she'd climb right in there with them. God only knows what would happen then -- Gorilla queen or silverback sex slave would be my guess. It could go either way.
Me, I was partial to the fruit bats. Was. Now, not so much. If you've never seen a fruit bat, they look like full-sized Chihuahuas with giant, leathery wings. Apparently, along with a 4-6 foot wing span, they also have great eyesight and like to sunbathe. Who knew? Well, I'm sure lots of people knew, but I wasn't one of them.
I learned something else about them that I didn't know before. As Shamus and I were standing there watching them eat lettuce and groom each other, and our wives were standing well back from the open bars, one little guy was looking right at us:
He was really cute and cuddly, and I was about to comment on how I would love to have one as a pet when all those words just stuck in my throat. Why, you ask? Well, he showed us what was behind the curtain:
So it turns out fruit bats have major tackle. I, for one, had no idea. Apparently, they are the Ron Jeremys of the Animal Kingdom. Shamus looks at me and says, "That's some genitalia, right there." As a dozen women covered the eyes of a dozen children, the bat hung there (no pun intended) and gave us the inverted full monty. When finding some pictures for this post, I found out that their testicles are approximately 2% of their body weight. Holy shit. No wonder they have a 4-foot wingspan. They need it to get that thing off the ground.
I don't remember much after that. I may have been in shock. I think we just parted ways in the parking lot and my wife and I went back to the hotel and made some drinks. The alcohol helps me deal with the fact that a bat is hung better than I am.
We came back on the 29th, and it sucked. At 10:00 AM, I was sitting in the sun wearing a T-shirt, and at 10:00 PM I was on hour number three of trying to get the cars into the driveway.
Looking outside, it's like our vacation never happened. Well, except for the batcock. That part sticks with me.