Monday, October 9, 2006

My Big California Adventure

We celebrated Niall's eleventh birthday; the little hobbit went to Disneyland's southern annex-- my wife insisted that I would not find it as bad as anticipated. Well, the Downtown D-land part that divides the old park from the new stretches from the hotel across what was an immense parking lot and is now a promenade lined with chain stores akin to Universal City Walk. Nothing that exciting, but the cleanliness is quite noticeable when compared with the litter strewn and graffiti-scarred real-life counterparts of the California Adventure's inspirations. Unlike the week before, when I threw up at the gates of the same park necessitating a ride home and unrelenting guilt for ruining Niall's birthday. But, as I observed chipperly on Layne's MySpace blog, at least we saved the $11 parking fee. Whose lack may have barely covered the gas, being stuck on the 5 Northbound a couple of hours on the way home, nearly none of which I recall.

Back to Anaheim. Gay Days '06 in hundreds of red and pink tank-tops and t-shirts among as many more rubicund garments displayed by men of all ages and about three woman as far as I counted. Layne reminded me of Disney's historically early and generous encouragement of the gay community in its own creative and occupational endeavors. I recall her telling me long ago of the coke-fiend guys responsible for animating the Pink Elephants on Parade sequence from Dumbo. The other most common sighting in this habitat were Aussie migrants. I guess it's summer vacation for them; it seemed half of the pinker shades of the Caucasian persuasion we passed were declaiming with twangy brays. I told the kids how strange to think that once Disneyland had a strict dress code for entrance; the part-time punks and determinedly swishy strollers in their respective plumage did show how even the happiest place on earth had to let in those who wished to proclaim their own conforming non-conformity, to present a giddy or sullen demeanor befitting their sartorial choices. I thought of Enid in Ghost World on why she did not want the cool old 50s jalopy to drive: then you'd have to get the clothes, and match everything you did to the car.

We went on the Condor Rides, as if floating above various California beauty spots, nearly free of tract houses except the one over a golf tourney in Palm Springs. A classy ride, although Leo did not like it ending up flying over the Magic Kingdom as fireworks burst. Unfortunately, Tinkerbelle was not splattered on the windscreen of whatever craft soared over this climactic panorama, this Buena Vista.

The weather, not too hot but very sunny and no breeze and therefore an accumulation of exposure that does wear me down after a couple of hours outside unless I am in (missing Santa Cruz) a sylvan glade (is there any other type of glade? dell? lea?), did just that: wear me down. Still, frequent interior escapes and shady respites helped. Poor Niall was tuckered out after perhaps one too many rollercoasters, and lay on the concrete planter's buffer next to me (trying out the IPod I inherited from my generous and/or tech-challenged wife; those ear-buds are impossible to fit into the cavity and I have no idea who on earth has ears shaped so to invite such entry) as we waited for our Fast Pass time to enter the Tower of Terror, a fine re-creation of the Roosevelt Hotel in haunted Hollywood. The TT turned out to be a gravity-defying drop, that let you down just enough for a moment or two of g-force weightlessness in your seat. We even have the picture to prove it--my face looking so long that it makes Jay Leno's look round. Niall pulled himself together, and we all enjoyed the silly ride of a few seconds, so it seemed.

Speaking of round, at the Animation Academy we all took a cartoon quiz that matched our faces, personality preferences, and I suppose sheer randomness to find our appropriate character. They did fit well, Leo being madcap Timon from what in his innocent youth was his favorite flick, The Lion King. Niall found his mate in the dependable clockface Cogsworth in Beauty & the Beast. Layne proved to be Cinderella herself. I on the other hand became the doppelganger for the fearsome misanthrope Shere Khan from Jungle Book. Then, off to ESPN Zone where the Dodgers, down 2-zip in the division playoffs as the wildcard team set against the champion Mets, sought to stay alive. We had to wait an hour or so. Leo and I went to a tiny imitation of a Barnes & Noble simalacrum of an old-tyme indie bookstore. The latte vendors, it being an imitation and not the venerable merchant of tomes, wore a black apron with "Compass: the West's oldest independent bookstore since 1851." Wait: wasn't this the long-departed Hunter's motto? I guess some other indie bought out that indie.

The pickings slim, nowhere to sit inside and read. I bought Leo a latte and he thought that term meant it was cold. I explained that it meant milk in Italian and not a temperature. The chai was boiling hot; he got a cup of ice to put in it, but then the flavor dissolved into a mundane liquid faintly tasting of fake spice. Seeing his interest in a book, a rarity too long, I offered that he could pick out a title for a room of his own. He chose one of the guides to Lost, with my help as the two competing ones, while good, were more spiritually oriented--one by Orson Scott Card, the other on the religious and critical contexts behind the show. They actually made the series sound intellectual. Leo took the one that gave a more chronological account of each episode. Anything to get him to read.

The ESPN Zone set us center floor in front of a massive screen surrounded by eight smaller "feeds"; the game had just begun and already it was 3-0 Mets. Happy to find Fat Tire Amber ale on draft, the Big Daddy 25 ouncer was mine. Repeated, since it was a slow game. The bar food, chicken wings, sliders, and a surprisingly good pile of onion rings, did my regimen of watching my intake no good, but in the spirit of the evening as well as being plain hungry, I even added a rum carrot cake--a fine combo even if I could not finish the last few bites. Angered by the presence of Mets fans behind us and off to the side in the form of a snide young man who ostentatiously clapped and cheered at the enemy's victory, we managed to keep up hopes as the 3-0 became a 4-3, or was it 5-3, lead in the 5th or 6th. But, the Mets soon rallied and the 9-6 score sealed the Blue Crew into a doom of their own hapless making once again. Even our heroic Nomar Garciaparra, hobbling up for one at bat that was very key, failed to pull a Kirk Gibson miracle play with the bases loaded. Niall wept after he ate his dessert. We saw the bitter end upstairs as he pitched (37! 42 mph!) at a sheet in an ersatz batting cage, and Leo indifferent as ever used up Niall's game card on air hockey and some intense folderol.

The evening by then allowed me a so far rare chance to wear my own mighty fine b-day gift, a blue-gold letterman jacket vintage -- so old that it said made in the USA --with John O stitched on the front (almost my name, and the O is the start of the Irish, so) and San Francisco Conservation Corps on the reverse. It had aroused some cutting remarks when I put it on after a Dodger game last summer, but in Angels turf I suppose it was neutral ground. Layne liked her dessert of angel food cake and berry sorbet, Leo is keeping admirably to a non-four foot diet, and Niall, well, we tried our best to comfort the bereft boy who would not get to use his tickets for the playoff game the next day.

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