Friday, December 19, 2008

2008 Top Ten List

Howdy, y’all and a happy holiday season to all! I've stepped aside from publishing the late, great Mason-Maher Times and assigned Dr. D the task, so here it is...


DENNIS AND MELANIE’S 2008 TOP TEN
(not necessarily in any particular order)


10. Dr. D. goes international - LMDA



Even though he has been the Dramaturg at UT Arlington for many years, Dr. D joined the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, an international organization devoted to excellence in the area of Theatre dramaturgy. He is now the official "International Man of Mystery."


9. Buckleys part deux

The Mason-Mahers were asked to return as judges for Fort Worth Casa Manana's Betty Lynn Buckley Awards honoring excellence in musical theatre performance in the North Texas area. We are continually amazed at the shows we see - and mostly in a good way!

8. IPhones & Ipods away!


Mel joined the IPhone revolution with her latest communication gadget, and Dennis followed with his Ipod Touch. Mel is warming to her new toy (but Clarissa had to come home from OU to show her how to work it), while Dennis is seriously considering joining the Luddites.







7. Theatre Babies

On the high school front, Patrick was accepted to Emerson and Ashley has her sites set on UT. Amanda, Jill, O.T., Chase, Genisis, and Roger (who is currently working on a cruise ship) graduated from UTA. Grad school babies - Clarissa is at OU and David and Drew are about to graduate in the spring with MFA's from UW Madsion and Western Illinois respectively. Celi got certified and Anthony is working with 4 Day Weekend. Laura signed with an agent and Kayla just finished an internship with Cirque in Vegas. Eric is engaged and David and Tonya are married...and somewhere along the way we adopted an Hungarian ;). Forgive us if we missed you - comment and help our addled brains!

6. Dennis IS an Encyclopedia

Dennis was commissioned by the Brown Reference Group of London, UK, to write articles for an encyclopedia, The World and Its Peoples, scheduled to be released to secondary schools and colleges internationally. The Doctor wrote articles about The American Film Industry, Colonial Theatre and Music, Native American Theatre and Music, African-American Theatre and Music, and Nineteenth Century American Theatre and Music. Whew!


5. Violet Hour stops time

Dennis directed Richard Greenberg’s comedy-drama The Violet Hour in November, for a change getting to work with a small cast instead of the dramatic cavalry charges he’s been working on in recent years. It was not only a lovely show, but a lovely experience.
















4. Little Elementary DI Team goes the distanc
e


















Mel’s fourth graders won at the Regional Competition, also earning a coveted DaVinci Award for Creativity, and advanced to the Texas State Competition for the second year in a row! Bravo, kids!




3. Minister Dennis Marries Deana & Marc















Mel’s sisra Deana is now Deana Mason Tardif—she and new husband Marc were wed at the Trois Estate outside Fredericksburg, TX—by Ordained Clergy Person Dennis Maher, who got himself ordained especially for the occasion—Dr. Maher is available for your ceremonial needs (email him at www.dmmaher@uta.edu).
The wedding was an amazing event, complete with
Guy Forsyth as the entertainment for the rehearsal dinner. We are so proud to have Marc (and his family) be part of ours, especially since Mel and Deana also got a great new sister-in-law in the bargain!!














2. Disneyworld en masse/17th Anniversary


The Mason-Mahers celebrated their anniversary at Disney World for the fifth time—and this time they brought a small army with them. Sixteen alumni and alumnae and friends invaded the parks and were touched with Disney magic—Mel and Dennis liked staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge so much they’re going back—at the concierge level (would you like some Lesser Kudu with your Kenyan coffee, ma.am?)!

1b. Ms. Mel is M.S. Mel!

On December 12th Melanie walked across the stage at the University of North Texas Coliseum in Denton and received her Master of Science in Information Science. With a 4.0 - Phi Kappa Phi. Almost all the coursework was done online! Many, many thanks to everyone who supported both of us during the long haul.
















1a. Mel and Dennis go biker


Even though Dennis’ middle age craziness has long since passed, he and Mel got full body tattoos and bought a Harley Davidso. . .oh, get real—they dressed up as bikers for Halloween (Dennis taught classes and directed in full gear).











Here’s wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas and a joyous and prosperous 2009!

Much Love,

Dennis & Melanie

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Subzero MGM adventure - '04 WDW Vacation


Chapter 7.1
12/15/04


Just to recap –

We’re at The Studios and…

IT’S COLD!!!

…and Deanster, Dr. D and I have decided to tough out the night time temps.

As the sun was setting we thought we might shop a bit.

We have a great time at Tatooine Traders. Dr. D eyes the Sith Baseball Jersey with
VADER across the back. Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, his nickname at the University was Dr. Death. He has since mellowed – A LOT, but nevertheless, I think it would be terribly funny for him to get it. He starts looking for his size and then notices the price tag - $175. Once I pick him up off the floor and assure him that we can probably find in on Ebay, he feels a little better.

This is the same face he made when he saw the price tag

We still have some time to kill, so I take point position and start toward Hollywood Blvd. Fists jammed into pockets, scarf in a noose around my neck, head down and walking fast.

Dr. D says that I have a super hero attribute of being able to dematerialize at will. He relies on his cell phone at malls, Super Targets and Lowes to locate me on the radar when I do this. I was never aware of my superpower, so obviously I’m not very good at controlling it. It annoys the heck out of him when I disappear.

On a side note, it annoys the heck out of me when he gets LOST!

Well, plummeting temperatures seems to make me even more transparent. I swore that one minute I glanced over my shoulder and he and Dean were 5 feet behind me – and the next I looked, they were gone.

Great – now my plan of ducking into an interesting shop to thaw is now out of the question because then they REALLY couldn’t see me. Dr. D doesn’t have his magic cell phone and Deanster’s roams at about $172 a minute. (We had been warned to use it ONLY in an EMERGENCY! i.e. blood loss, hospitalization or Prince Eric sighting).

So I stand on the sidewalk and wait….

and cough….

and blow my nose…

(feel sorry for me yet? Yeah, nobody else did either.)

They finally show up and Dr. D has made a believer out of Deanster as to the validity of my powers.

I deliver an edict – we HAVE to stay together. I don’t want to wander around in the cold AND the dark looking for them. They vow to stay close and then look at each other and giggle.

Great.

They browse, I defrost and all is right with the world.


Deanster in front of her next camera acquisition

We decide we should do The Osborne Family lights as soon as it was turned on. Even though it had been a light attendance day, we could tell more people were arriving in order to see it and Fantasmic.

Well, let me just tell you about the pride that swelled in the heart of this native Arkansan. Deanster and I were both born in
Little Rock and there is nothing like a little Hillbilly excess.

Banjo music please


Dr. D is totally impressed. He believes outdoor Christmas lights and frippery to be an art form unto itself. His ultimate dream is to have a manger scene on the front yard with a motion detector that would activate a pop-up baby Jesus that waves at the passing cars.


That’s just the kinda guy he is.

This is the first and only time that we encounter any kind of crowd. It’s packed. We hug the right hand curb to stay out of the milling throng. Deanster weaves in and out, but does a good job of keeping up with us. (She’s afraid I’ll call her cell phone.) It snows - or rather foams.

You know, it just doesn’t have the same WOW impact in weather that is already conducive to that type of precipitation. On second thought, at what temperature does it foam?

Having had our Griswold Christmas experience fulfilled, we trek back. Deanster has become captivated by Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. She took, hmm… maybe, I dunno, A ZILLION pictures of it throughout the day.


One of my favorites

We are excited about seeing Fantasmic after all the hype and publicity. On the way, it’s time for some warm beverages and a little nosh for me. We grab some coffee, hot chocolate and a kid’s meal at one of the counter service areas on Sunset. It hits the spot – Mac and Cheese, coleslaw, grapes and juice for $3.00. Just right for my very non-discerning and cheap palate. Dr. D just shakes his head.

We do our best cattle impersonation and follow the herd to the theatre. I really didn’t quite know what to expect, but I must say it was worth the cold. Very inventive and imaginative. Can’t you just hear the imagineer that first came up with the idea pitching it to his boss?

“OK – first you build a lagoon that’s big enough for party barges and a steamboat to travel on…then you need, like, a mountain that’s at least 5 stories tall, and then, ok, maybe we can edit all the major Disney movies and project them onto the mountain, nooooo – wait a minute… we spray WATER and show them on that…”





Dr. D got all analytical and started discussing the acting styles and the historical significance of performing in an amphitheatre.

I got all schmoopsie when Snow White showed up and they played “
Someday my Prince Will Come.”

We’ve been married almost 18 years. Go figure.


Me and my prince

We now do what we have named the exit shuffle – walk until our teeth chatter, duck into a shop, thaw. Walk until I can’t feel my feet, duck into a shop, thaw. This southern girl just doesn’t handle cold well at all.

The best thing is that the Villains are well represented at MGM. I especially enjoy…





This is by far our favorite park. Dr. D is all about the attention to detail at Disney in general, but especially here.


We are glad that we toughed it out. Fantasmic was great and the park was just beautiful lit up with all the decorations at night. Dr. D and I are looking forward to returning on Friday for our lunch at the Brown Derby with an Imagineer.

On the way back to Coronado Springs, I start thinking about tomorrow. It’s my big day to do the Dolphin Encounter at the
Living Seas in Epcot.

Better take a double dose of Robitussin so I can sleep...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

MGM - The Day of the Ugly Pictures - '04 Disney Vacation

Chapter 7 - MGM Subzero Adventure

12/15/04

Ahhhhh, MGM Studios day. (There has been a name change since - it is now Disney Studios - MGM threatened a lawsuit - who knew?)

The park that I have most looked forward to visiting. The park that has all the attractions that I think Dr. D will enjoy. The park that is old Hollywood and can “make me a STAR…” (Perhaps I have seen 42nd Street one to many times.)


Well, I don’t want to go.

I want to take 2 doses of Robitussin, pull the covers over my head and be warm, quiet and still for 24 hours.

Dr. D reminds me we are on vacation. I HAVE to get up, get dressed, get on the bus, go to the park, walk around all day (and night) and have FUN!!! He punctuates this by walking out the door to go get breakfast. He also holds the door open for 3.2 seconds longer than he has to for effect.

An arctic wind blasts through the room.

This is what I’m feeling on the mood barometer.

I’m going to need an attitude adjustment. I add my Evil Queen ball cap to my wardrobe for the day. It is probably best for anyone who encounters me to have a visual warning.

It is cold (upper 30’s), but at least the sun is shining.

We pass through the front gates and it really is beautiful. I just have to stand and look for a minute. I have an affinity for Art Deco anything. We’ve been lucky enough to stay at the Waldorf Astoria and attend galas at Radio City Music Hall. Both are palaces devoted to Art Deco. Both are lovingly restored.

Both made me cry. (I’m a little overly dramatic and a little overly emotional, even on my best days…)

My best friend and I at Radio City


Dr. D puts his arm around me. I can tell he’s watching for a reaction – he knows I’m exhausted, sick and on drugs. And now there’s all this ART DECO!!

I want to live here! I’m too busy planning my move into a space above one of the shops to cry.

We stroll down the street. Well, at least we try to stroll down the street. Deanster has noticed my weakness and she has usurped all my tour guide power. She has a PLAN, but we need to HURRY! (Not a word in my vocabulary today!)

As we are walking through the large courtyard in front of Sorcerer Mickey’s Hat, I notice something on the ground in front of me. This is a very unusual site – there is NEVER anything on the ground that isn’t supposed to be there. Dr. D has often threatened to throw trash in the street just to time how fast it is disposed of by park personnel.

I have quietly discouraged this.

Upon closer inspection we discover it is a wallet. I look around for the candid camera. This can't be right. There isn’t anyone around me and no one seems to be concerned or looking for anything. I pick it up and Deanster joins me. (She has come to the back of our family convoy to see what the hold up is all about.) We open it up and can tell by the ID that it belongs to an international visitor. We check out his picture to see if he is standing around us somewhere. No such luck.

That would suck. You’re in a foreign country and you lose your wallet.

I’d have to be sedated.

I tell the family to hang here a bit and I’ll take it to lost and found. Someone directs me to Guest Services and I turn it in. Hopefully the guy was reunited with it with quickly. Isn’t it great how doing a little kindness for someone else can make you feel good. And I certainly needed all the “feel good” I could get.

As I was getting to where all the family was sitting, the characters made an appearance. I still hadn’t seen my childhood, absolute favorite.

THERE HE WAS AND I COULD BE SECOND IN LINE….


I was feeling MUCH better. A hug from Tigger is the best medicine of all.

We admired Gromann’s Chinese Theatre and rode “The Great Movie Ride.”We loved the attention to detail here. Mini Maureen and I have always been old movie hounds. Watched many, many together growing up. Dr. D did a lot of his Master’s work in Film.

This is our kinda place.

Beloved Mary


The Duke


We all really enjoyed “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.” (This attraction is gone now - makes us very sad) Got seated just before it started and once we figured out how everything worked, I made it to Number 2 and Dr. D made it to Number 8 on the top 10 board. (uh…I’m a little competitive, too!)

We visit “Walt Disney; One Man’s Dream.” Again, my family gets into the whole educational aspect of Disney. We are museum goers and this attraction really appealed to us. Thought the film was great, too.

Deanster has a pilgrimage to make at this park, too. Remember, she is a bit of an Ariel fan. (Well, really she is a Prince Eric fan, but figures if Eric has an available brother, the best way to get to meet him is through Ariel.) We see “Voyage of the Little Mermaid” which is good for all the bells and whistles effects, but really geared for the toddler set.

Lunch time is spent at the ABC Commissary. This certainly wasn’t my favorite, but I was thankful to be inside and warm. I was getting cranky again.

Dr. D passes me the Robitussin.

He says he figures if I’m sleepy, I’ll be more pleasant.

I tell him to recall the behavior we’ve noticed of children who need a nap.

He puts away the Robitussin and hands me a cough drop instead.

I decide that a little “alone time” would be beneficial for all involved so I send everyone else to Beauty and the Beast.

What I need is a little distraction. What I need is to go SHOPPING!!!! I’ve read that the shops will send your purchases back to your resort for you. What a convenience! (And what a partner in crime, Dr. D won’t see all the bags of stuff I purchase!) I was on a mission. I put on my best Blues’ Brother’s sun glasses and set off. I pick up some little gifts for friends and HAD THEM ALL SENT TO CORONADO SPRINGS.

Let’s see, do I choose a little apartment on Sunset or Hollywood Blvd?

I run by The Hollywood Brown Derby. Dr. D and I are scheduled to have lunch with an Imagineer on Friday and Dr. D is trying very hard to eat healthier. Because it is a special event, the menu we are served is different from their regular fare and I wanted to get an idea of what was on it. The Maitre d’ summons a chef (WOW) and she and I have a great conversation about the menu and all his options.

If I call the movers right now, my furniture could be here by Monday…

Crankies abated, I rendezvous with the family at The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.


Note to self – new MGM apartment must have unobstructed panorama of this sign. Look for listing on amenities noted as “hunkyview”.

I think it is one of my favorite live attractions. Now, to be fair, I have seen Raiders of the Lost Ark about a bazillion times, can debate the dark aspects of Temple of Doom with the best of them and have very strong opinions about Mr. Ford’s leading ladies in all three movies. (Now four!) I thought the whole concept here was just great. Audience participants, incredible sets, good actors, SFX’s. Just fun.

By now it’s getting late in the day. The sun is starting to go down, along with the temperature. Deanster has sustained us for a bit with hot chocolate, but baby, it’s cold outside.

Deanster doing her JAWA impersonation

We have a quick family conference – Big Cal and Mini Maureen decide to call it a day. The rest of us think we can last another 2 hours or so and visit the Osborn Family Lights and Fantasmic.

We wave bye-bye to the parents and gird our loins, which translated means, I pull out the polar fleece toboggan and lose any chance that I might look cute in any further pictures.


Next...

Chapter 7.1 - The Subzero MGM Adventure Continues.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Winter in the World Showcase - '04 Walt Disney World Showcase

Or “Freezing my butt off" in 7 different languages.

Chapter 6

Family Council -12/13/04

The Weather channel (which Mini Maureen and I have a direct uplink to at home – we lived in “Tornado Alley” in North Central Texas for way too long… it scarred us for life) has reported that a big COLD (read ARTIC) front is on its way.

This is not the first we have heard of this. It was forecast even before we left home. I encouraged the family to pack a little of everything including clothing that could be layered. We're prepared. We decide to go to EPCOT on Tuesday. More things to do inside.

Little has been said to this point about my Robitussin addiction and with good reason. I truly was feeling better, exhausted, but better. I was getting by with a dose before bed and one with breakfast. Couple that with some (sing it with me now) RiiiiccoLAAA cough drops during the day and Dr. D was beginning to think that I really didn’t have tuberculosis.

The weather had been so nice….

All this was about to change.

12/14/04

We hit EPCOT right at about 9:30 am. So did the jet stream.

If you could find a sunny spot, out of the wind, facing south, with your scarf around your head, it wasn’t too bad.

Characters were out in full force at the front. Deanster goes to Pinocchio. I see Gideon. Now for those of you not well versed in your Pinocchio, Gideon is the faithful sidekick to J. Worthington Foulfellow, a.k.a. Honest John. I always empathized with poor little Pinocchio. I would’ve gone with them, too. After all didn’t Honest John say “Come with us, we’ll make you a star!”?

Deanster says Gideon is creepy looking.


Hey diddle di dee, an actor’s life for me!

We work our way pretty quickly back to the World Showcase. We did stop to check out these guys (and gal) for a bit. They are called Kristos.


Amazing!

I think it is so cool for EPCOT to have all the different performing artists.

We take a left at the lake and start with Mexico. It’s still not quite 11 yet so Deanster and Mini check out some shops to get out of the wind. Dr. D is in heaven, having already shed his windbreaker. He loves the weather.

I should clarify that Dr. D lived several years in Wisconsin while attending UW at Madison (or UMAD as he refers to it.) He is part penguin. Has been known to stand outside in a snowstorm and eat ice cream.

I think he’s nuts.

I walk around our house, October through March, and occasionally in the summer months when he gets ahold of the thermostat, with a blanket wrapped around me. He calls me “Dances with Flannel.” I freeze about 90% of the time. Today is no different.

Big Cal and I are admiring the flora. Such an amazing array of plants. Next time I need to send him on one of the horticultural tours. I know he’d love it.

Deanster and Mini Mo motor by and we enter the pyramid.

Dr. D twitches….

“Feliz Na-vi-dad….”

Makes me laugh out loud.

We are some of the first to ride El Rio Del Tiempo. Mini Mo thinks this is cool – loves all things Aztec, Inca, etc. Since “It’s a Small World” is closed for refurbishment, I figure this ride is a good replacement.

Decide to grab some coffee in Norway. Dr. D begins a clandestine affair with one of the blonde, blue-eyed Cast Memeber lovelies in the bakery while Deanster and I ride Maelstrom and take pictures. Norway has become his FAVORITE country!!!


Germany is lovely. Tons of poinsettias.


Mini Maureen cheating by standing on the curb!

Our stomach clocks go off right about Italy. Dr. D and I decide to have lunch at Alfredo’s. Truthfully, I’m just looking for any port in the storm. I am COLD and my ears are beginning to hurt a bit from the wind. I can tell a case of the “crankies” are not too far behind if I don’t sit some place warm for a while and have some food.

We couldn’t have picked a better place. Cozy, warm, great food and a sweet, sweet waitress named Rosa Maria. Dr. D gets the Trittico di Pasta which is their sampler of Lasagna, Fettuccine Alfredo and Gnocchi Pomodoro and I get Spaghetti al Fiocco di Pomodoro Saraceno. Soooo good and perfectly “al dente.” We have a great little place by us at home that is run by an Italian family from Brooklyn. They have taught me the correct way to eat pasta and now I can hardly stand it if it is overcooked and mushy.

We get a Cast Member to take a picture of us in the lobby.


No Grumpy shirt today!

She is nearly 6 ft. tall, blond, blue-eyed and beautiful. ITALY is now Dr. D’s favorite country.

(Sadly, Alfredo's is now gone from Epcot - but here is a great website about the Italian section of Epcot, including pics of the restaurant. We mourn the loss of one of our favorite places to go into a food coma!)

As we are leaving, La Befana, the good witch who brings gifts to kiddos on the eve of Epiphany is storytelling. I’ve rarely seen kids sit that still. She was wonderful. Then we duck into a shop that has a mask maker – OMYWORD! Some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever seen. I will have one, one of these days.

We promised to meet the rest of the family in the UK at 2:30 for the “The British Invasion” concert.


We’ve dallied so long over lunch, it’s almost that time. We race through the US and France and find the parents already parked in a choice spot. Dr. D and I pull up some curb, when Deanster explodes out of a shop across the square and the hand signals start.

Camera in one hand, the other over her head making long, fluid “get your freezing butt over here now” gestures. I give Dr. D all travel paraphernalia and bolt.

I get about half way there and she mouths “MA – RY – POP – PINS!” She mouths it because there are very few people outside the shop that are aware of this news.

I hurdle a Japanese family.

I am the biggest Julie Andrews fan that ever lived.

Julie Andrews
Katharine Hepburn
Carol Burnett
Maureen O’Hara

My fantasy dinner party – girl’s night out – me and the other red heads.

I digress.

I want to be Mary Poppins. (I want to PLAY the Evil Queen, Maleficent and possibly Peter Pan, but I want to BE Mary Poppins.) Deanster knows this and lovingly has found her for me.
I’m tempted to ask her to say supercalifragilisticexpialidociuos backwards, but I don’t. (But I bet she could've.)

Pooh is also there, silly ole bear.


Notice we have our coats on inside the building

We walk outside and there is a 3 year old having a NUCLEAR melt down. Her mother is trying her best to calm her down. Deanster goes over and quietly tells the Mom that “Pooh is right inside.” The Mom looks at her and says is an incredulous voice “God must have sent you!”

Ah well, just spreading pixie dust however she can.

We listen to The Fab Four – WOW! All of us are singing along – what fun. Makes you just want to go out and get a bowl hair cut!




We all go back to France and catch "Impressions de France." Deanster tells Big Cal it’s a “200 degree airborne French travelogue set to classical music.” (She reads it out of the Passporter) I didn’t think I’d enjoy it that much, but it is very compelling and beautiful – you really feel like you are flying – Big C and Mini Maureen were still seated on their ECV’s and Big C kept trying to change course by moving his handle bars. I never realized scooters could fly!

We wander around France a bit and get to meet Aurora and Belle. Aurora starts to have a very serious talk with Dr. D about the Maleficent pin on his lanyard. He hastily explains that that particular lanyard belongs to me –so I get the lecture. (Thanks!)

I’m so impressed with these actors. They are so well versed in their characters and excellent in their improv skills. They are heroes to me, doing that job everyday (or whatever their shift is) and entertaining so many people, especially children. My hat goes off to them.

As we are walking out of France, MoRockin’ is performing in Morroco (get it?) and we go listen for a while. Dr. D and Big C are particularly intrigued by the belly dancer. I just kept thinking about how cold she must be.

Get to hear a bit of Off Kilter in Canada before we do a little of the Land and Living Seas Pavilions. It’s getting close to dinner time and we’re pooped. AND the temperature is steadily dropping. We ride SpaceShip Earth as a finale and then send the parents back to the buses.

Deanster has decided to stay solo and catch Illumniations and get some good night and fireworks shots.


Dr. D and I are meeting Wonder Boy at Wolfgang Pucks.

We shop for a bit and I get my black baseball cap with “Queen” embroidered on it and start for DownTown Disney.

We decide we’d like to see what the Saratoga Springs Resort looks like, so we hop a bus going there. We figure there should be a bus from there to DownTown Disney pretty quickly because it’s located so near by.

Boy, was I wrong. We sat in front of that Resort for 35 minutes in the freezing cold (temperature is now in the upper 30’s with winds of 15 – 20 mph) watching bus after bus go by. Well, at least Dr. D and I were out of the wind (mostly) and got to cuddle.

We finally get to Wolfgang Puck’s. I can’t begin to tell you how miserable I was (Dr. D was just mildly uncomfortable in his windbreaker.) We meet the guys, get seated and my tuberculosis reappears.

I impolitely drink everyone’s water at the table.

There was much laughter and great food. It is so nice to get to spend uninterrupted time with friends. Especially those you don’t get to see often.

"Uh-huh, I'm all choked up"

After we say our goodbyes, Dr. D and I start back towards the buses in a zigzag pattern. This isn’t difficult in that there is basically no one outside to get in our way. We run from one store front to another, warming up enough to brave the bitter cold for the next few feet. I’m trying to gauge just how long I’ll be able to wait outside for a bus before I come down with pneumonia. I figure about…mmmm…three minutes. And then I see it.

A yellow taxi.

Remember, we quite frequently vacation in Manhattan and I’m well versed in hand signals. There is however, only one cab.

Please, please God. Let us get that cab.

(You know I’m gonna run, don’t you….)

…Dr. D closes the door behind him and says “Coronado Springs, please.”

At this point I didn’t care where we went or how long it took us to get there. Just as long as the heater was working, I was doing just fine.

I tipped the cabbie $10 after Dr. D paid him. It was all I had. Good thing I didn’t have a $100. I just might have given it to him.

We stop at the gift shop and purchase Dr. D an honest-to-God coat to replace his windbreaker for the next day. It cost us $65 (which at Disney is a STEAL), but is a great quilted varsity jacket style. Even Doc thinks it has gotten chilly and is a good idea. I say another prayer of thanks that our room isn’t to far from the main building. I don’t become too much of a popsicle on the way there. Dr D. gets me settled, checked for frostbite and dosed with Robitussin. He then goes back to the Pepper Market for a Mug ‘o Coffee. Says he wants to break in his new coat. (I told you he was nuts!)

When he returns, he tells me of his encounter with the grounds crew.

Somewhere I saw that during the holidays Disney sets out over 40,000 poinsettias. I wouldn’t doubt it. They were all over our resort and the parks. And of course there are all the beautiful tropical plants and topiaries.

I had checked the weather channel when we got in and the temp was 34 degrees, with wind at 20 mph. (I don’t think we’re in Florida anymore, Toto.)

He said there was a mad dash happening outside to remove or cover all tender vegetation. Golf Carts whizzing by in all different directions. I’m sure that was happening all over Disney property.

We do a quick phone check to make sure Deanster hadn’t frozen to death. She was back safe and sound. I put head to pillow and slept the sleep of the drugged.

Tomorrow…

Chapter 7 - MGM and the day of the “ugly pictures.”

Thursday, August 21, 2008

With apologies to Rudyard Kipling - '04 WDW Vacation

Chapter 5.1

Remember where we are – Animal Kingdom, just off Safari…


We walk through the Pangani Forest Exploration trail and enjoy the flora and fauna, especially the Gorillas. While in the aviary my cell phone rings.

It’s WONDER BOY!

We have a wonderful friend who is one of the vocalists in the TARZAN ROCKS show. We’ve known him since he was 18 and fresh out of the high school for the performing arts. We’ve been able to follow his career from Six Flags over Texas to cruise lines to “Starlight Express” in Vegas to Disney. It’s been tremendous to watch him become the professional performer and incredible human being that he is…

I’m a little proud of him.

He’s doing the 3 o’clock show and will be at the park early so he and I can catch up a bit before we all see him in the show. Woo-hoo! I’m so excited.

We continue our stroll and turn a corner and there stands Baloo…(you know I’m gonna run don’t you.)

Jungle Book is one of my earliest Disney memories. Baloo is just so big and BLUE and cuddly. It makes me smile just to think about him. So I make a wild gyrating motion as I sprint towards Baloo. This should communicate to Doc and Deanster to get the cameras ready so they don’t miss capturing this VERY IMPORTANT moment.

Once I hip check a couple of smaller kids just to establish my place in line, I look around to find both scooters ABANDONED in the middle of the walkway. Pal Mickey, jackets, camera bags… all hanging out with a “free to a good home” look about them, and no one related to any of the above mentioned merchandise in site.

There is no sign of our parents.

I make the clenched teeth, tight necked, frowny “do something!” face at Deanster.

She makes the “what the heck do you want me to do? Take your picture or rescue our stuff and by the way, why am I in charge of the parents?!” face right back at me.

Isn’t it amazing the non-verbal communication one can have with a sibling?

We then locate Big Cal and Mini Mo.




I go into airport ground controller mode. Through a short series of hand signals, I position Dr. D at the scooters, get Deanster to snap some shots of Big C and Mini Maureen, just in time to get her back to me and Baloo.



I notice several parents moving their children slowly away from me.

I no doubt believe they think I have Turrets syndrome.

We ride out to Rafiki’s Conservation Station and back. Time for lunch. We decided on Flame Tree BBQ and were not disappointed. Found a lovely table by a fountain where we could see the lake and the construction on the new Mt. Everest attraction.

The party barge goes by playing "Felize Navidad." Dr. D twitches a little.

"What's up?"

"That's got to be the 147th time I've heard that song today," he replies.

Oh, great...that means now it's stuck in his head. This could be a problem of Pavlovian proportion. He claims his sister played "Rock A-Hula" from Blue Hawaii so much when they were young, that if he ever hears it again, he can't be responsible for his actions.

I make a mental note to keep him away The Polynesian Resort and Mexico in Epcot.

Deanster and the parents decide to go to the Maharajah Jungle Trek.





Dr. D checks out Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama.

I go and sit by “Petrifries...from the McDon of Time” to wait for WONDER BOY. (McDonald's sponsors that section of the park!) Those french fries smelled sooooo good.

I’m really proud that I don’t make too much of a scene when I see him. (What that means is that I don't tackle him to the ground.) We have enough time to find a shady spot to laugh and talk in. He is so happy at Disney.

Does my heart good.

After a bit, he has to run to get ready for the show. I round up the family and we find the venue. WONDER BOY has arranged for us to sit in the VIP section which is center just behind the tech booth. I sit, video taping, with a big goofy grin on my face, watching him interact with the audience, using that fabulous voice and truly loving his job.



The show is great. Amazing stunts, great rockin' band and vocals – everything I expect from a Disney produced show.

And after seeing Tarzan, well, shall we just say “hubba, hubba!”



We get to chat just a bit more with Wonder Boy after the show and make plans to meet for dinner the next night. Deanster and parents want to see “Lion King’ so they head towards Camp Minnie-Mickey.

Dr. D and I take a side trip through the Dino-Rama. He thinks it is the cleverest thing he’s ever seen! Loves the “kitschy-ness” of it. Has to show it to me.

(Side note – for a current discussion of the values of kitsch go here)

It makes him laugh out loud.

Dr. D does not often laugh out loud. He’ll smile. He might let out with a quiet “ha” but a belly laugh is usually reserved for George Carlin or something inept that a Dallas Cowboy football player is apt to do.

He poses for pictures.



He makes funny faces.



It’s official. He’s been DISNEYFIED!!!!

We make it into Lion King just as the doors are closing. Lovely show – fabulous performers – visually stunning.

As we leave Big Cal say’s “What’s next?”

I explain that Animal Kingdom closes earlier than the other parks and we’ve pretty much done what we’d come to do. He looks slightly disappointed. I think about the old theatre saying “always leave them wanting more.”

We take our time going back to the gates. Shop a little. Just enjoy being together.

As we leave some of the Fab 5 (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto) are at the front in all their holiday finery. Deanster has made it a personal mission to have her photo taken with Minnie. See, when she was 6, her entire birthday party was themed around Minnie, down to Deanster’s green and white plaid overalls with the Minnie face appliqu├ęd on the bib. Mini Maureen even drew a huge Minnie face on a piece of poster board and the girls played “pin the nose” on Minnie. (I also get a lot of my creativity from my mother!)

Deanster and Minnie are reunited.



We bid a fond farwell to Animal Kingdom.


Definitely a wonderful way to start our park experience.

Evening is spent relaxing and gearing up for tomorrow ‘cause….

…thar’s a blue northern a'comin!

Next - Chapter 6 - Winter in the World Showcase

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Call of the Wild - '04 WDW Vacation

Chapter 5

6:30 AM – Phone rings… Stitch yells “GET MOVING!”

How crazy is that? We are on vacation, why are we getting up at this ungodly hour?

Why, because we want to…..

M…O…U…S…EEEEEEE.

You know, it really is easier for us to get going earlier – have some leisurely getting ready time, enjoy our morning coffee, hot tea and breakfast du jour instead of flying out the door with our shirt tails hanging out.

This also gives Dr. D a chance to pull out the lap top and see what’s up in the ether world. His class has been able to access the dedicated web pages but assignments officially start today. Online classes are fabulous.

We are to meet the rest of the group at their room and be crossing the parking lot to the bus stop at 9 am.

I drink my hot tea and watch the sun come up over Lago Dorado.


looking from the Casitas towards the marina


I cannot begin to describe how peaceful the resort is. I realize that the week we are here is considered to be a lower attendance time and there are no major conventions in-house presently. I know there is great potential for this place to be absolutely packed and crazy, but at the moment we feel as if we have the place to ourselves. It is so QUIET. I understand there are a lot of people who do not prefer the Coronado Springs, but it has suited us beautifully and we would not hesitate to stay here again.

I pull out the battle plan for today and review. One of the things I promised myself as coordinator of this group was that I would always remember we were on VACATION. I would do the research, make some preliminary logistical decisions but always be open to the magic of the moment. Today would be the day to see if this would work.

Deanster was to instruct Big Cal and Mini Maureen in all things ECV. Big C had taken to his immediately. In fact, as I was gazing out my window around 7am, I see him zip (and I mean ZIP) by on his way to get morning coffee.

He has a big grin on his face.

Mini Maureen has used hers as a coat rack.

I was a bit concerned about our first encounter with Disney Transportation and the scooters. I knew that each bus was equipped to handle two ECV’s at a time. I hoped it would not be difficult or time consuming to load them. I didn’t want the parents to think it was bothersome to anyone to use them.

It was a little chilly, so we bundle up Mini Maureen with an extra scarf and set off to the bus stop. Very few people waiting. AK bus arrives and Deanster jumps into action. After a quick conversation with the Driver, amazing things begin to happen to the bus. It actually tips to the side and lowers a multi-jointed ramp. We are instructed to back the ECVs, one at a time onto the ramp. Mini Maureen decides that Deanster needs to be in charge of hers as that she hasn’t had a lot of practice going backwards yet (we hope she never does!) Truth be told, she hasn’t had a lot of practice going forwards yet. We are loaded and on our way in less than 8 minutes.

A big, big thank you to the Drivers of Disney Transportation. They did a lot to make our stay successful.

We unload and make our way to the gates. Have a last minute instruction session with group about how our room key is also our park tickets, etc. Have to stop and take a couple of pictures of the beautiful Christmas tree.


Animal Kingdom



Mini Mo and Big C on the ECVs (note Pal Mickey hitching a ride)


It has warmed up, so Deanster and I get a locker and store our jackets and we are set loose in Animal Kingdom.

We are animal people. Have always had multiple pets. Love going to zoos. I am glad that we decided to start here. We feel at home. Everything is so lush and beautiful.

Crowds are light and we just take our time on our way to the Kilamajaro Safari. Hang out at the tree of life. We are all amazed. Deanster has the big camera and lets the shutter fly.





Hope you brought some sunscreen for your head Dr. D!


We listen to a musical group on the way. Shop a bit. Very relaxing and wonderful. On to the Safari. Our first ride. Here we learn the in’s and out’s (and back and forth’s and back and forth’s) of queue travel, scooter navigation and protocol. I am just stunned at the accessibility and ease we have. Our party of 5 is always allowed to board together and is never rushed. This is truly a wonderful thing for us because of Dr. D’s balance issues and Big C’s hip problems. We are never made to feel “different” than any other park guest. I know that our group’s special needs are very small compared to others. This was our first foray in which accessibility demanded our attention. It will not, however, be our last and I am just thankful that it was with an organization that puts forth this kind of effort. I hope those with more serious issues are able to feel the same.

Big C and Dr. D’s comfort have been our big concern, however Deanster takes this opportunity to tell Mini Maureen that she is NOT to FALL DOWN under any circumstances. You see, Mini is sometimes (not often) prone to what I like to call “gravity gusts.” Once or twice a year (for as long as I can remember) she finds herself in much closer proximity to the ground than she was just moments before. We do not believe that there is any medical issues related to this – we just think she gets preoccupied (you know…shopping, reading, shopping, looking, shopping, shopping, shopping) and doesn’t look where she is going. Luckily, she has only injured herself badly once and we think this to be a fluke because there was a rather large pot hole involved. Normally these incidents occur on level ground with only one, maybe two obstacles in sight. (We trust she has some Tigger ancestry somewhere because of her bouncy nature.) Deanster is thinking that there will be plenty of distractions on this vacation and that her warning is warranted.

Mini Maureen is not amused.

We think it’s a riot.

I am happy to report that Mini Maureen did not have one gravity gust the entire trip.

The Safari is great. All the animals enjoying the temperate weather just as we were.


Deanster and Big C









Hakuna Matada


Next....

Chapter 5.1 - With Apologies to Rudyard Kipling