Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A brief Summery

A brief summery (the weather is lovely) of the first three days of vacation. The family is spending time in lovely Orlando, FL at the beautiful vacation house of my brother-in-law and his wife and kids. So already that’s awesome. Kudos to you guys!

We packed (limiting ourselves to 1 checked bag) and got on to a Jet Blue flight. This is ordinarily more trauma than I can bear in an evening but I persevered and stayed on while the plane actually took flight. I didn't spring for headphones so I literally just watched the TV. When there isn't audio, it takes on a while new dimension of meaning. You can write your own dialogue!

We landed at about midnight in (relatively) balmy Orlando and found our way to the cab line. There was one cab there. We were one family there. Seemed like a good match. If only we spoke the same language, and she wanted to be there as much as we did. Well, 8 minutes and $22 dollars later we found our goal, in a swanky country club setting. We learned the house and spread our stuff out. And I fell asleep.

The next day we made a trip to the local Publix our central event. We had all sorts of other plans but by the time we got in and out of Publix (2 carts, $220 worth of groceries, and an interesting conversation with Alexa, or cashier. She’s a double major, math and physics, and was proposed to on the campus of Rollins college by her boyfriend of 3 years. Much mazel. I kvelled) and got home, we decided to sit back and just enjoy the rest of the day. The wife and I decided to take a long walk. Well, we decided to take a moderate walk to the club house. It became a long walk as we got completely lost on the way back. A golf course is big and it all looks the same. We were sure that each rise hid the one water trap next to our lodging but we ended up in Alabama. We had to flag down a passing billionaire to drive us back to our house in his golf cart. It was a learning experience. We are never taking a walk again. We later discovered how to use the pool. It is NOT intuitive. Our co-guests arrived later in the evening and we got everyone settled in.

Early the next morning, we made our way to Universal Studios. Though there was some difficulty finagling our way into the preferred parking area, my wife got the job done, so good on her! From the parking area, we hiked the 14 miles to the general entrance, and then the next 5 miles to the park entrance, clutching bags of food, drink and tickets. We got into the park and started looking around. I haven’t been to an amusement/theme park in a long time so I had to acclimate myself. Apparently, when laying out a park, one has a required “concession stand per square foot” requirement and a “souvenir store to patron” ratio of 1:1.5. The rides have been minimized – a couple of actual rides and a series of motion simulators which put up big 3-D movies while they shake the money out of your pockets and the food out of your system so you feel compelled to buy another turkey leg, ice cream sundae and 74 ounce soda. We walked around the park, waiting on all the lines for rides like the “waitenator” and “try your patience.” We really enjoyed the tie ins to movies but I found the Bridges of Madison County ride a bit slow and the one connected to Caligula disturbing to say the least. In between rides we saw the “shows.” They use the word “show” differently down here in Florida. In New Jersey it has something to do with entertainment. Here, not so much. The animal show had the requisite animals doing animal stuff, but mostly ignoring the trainers and freaking out the audience. I guess during the off-season they allow the oppositional animals to come out and chew the faces off of children who should be in school. The other show involved horror movie make up artistry. It was actually neat because the woman in it seemed as angry as every parent in the audience. Her comments were borderline offensive and therefore humorous.

I caught a magic show, ate way too much popcorn, sat on a replica of some Hollywood street, wore a series of 3-D glasses and eventually, braved the cool, windy nighttime weather to watch the “finale” – a movie reminding me of how much Universal is involved in movies, just in case I forgot after spending the whole day looking at movie tie ins. Fireworks and then the mass exodus to the parking lot. We had the benefit of an Express pass so we got to jump to the front of the lines and not wait. This was especially useful on the ride called "bathroom." I can’t understand how one goes to a park without this luxury item. With it, we were able to get around the whole park in one day. Without it, we would still be on line for the first event. I discovered through the day that I really don’t like amusement parks, but the saving grace was that with the pass, I could dislike them so much more efficiently.

This morning, we made our way to the other Universal park, Islands of Adventure. One of the adventures was paying $17 for a bottle of sun tan lotion. True fact. Seventeen dollars for a product which would otherwise cost 3-4 bucks at a CVS in suburbia. The markup approaches infinity. You pay them to park, to eat, to get wet and to dry off. Theme rides including roller coasters, spinning teacup type things, over head swings, river rafting and multiple motion simulators were there for me not to go on. Then it started raining. We put on ponchos and waited it out in the various stores, as did EVERYONE else. Sure, there was little else to do, but people just crammed into stores and stood there. Didn't they know that that was MY plan? We walked around, running into blind alleys and hidden concession stands, living off a constant flow of popcorn and second hand Spanish (the demographic of the park was 15% Jewish, 10% English speaking not-Jewish and the remainder spoke some other language. They might have been Jewish, speaking another language but I couldn't tell. Real Jews speak English.) We didn't stay as late and yet we still made it through the entire park with time to reflect on all we didn't enjoy. Again, those passes made it reasonable. But I guess if everyone used them, they wouldn't be as special, so don’t go using them. Save them for us.

I took a late night (9PM) trip to Publix to pick up some refreshments -- that place is open and spacious and the people are nice. I really want to buy everything and just chat with everyone. I hate it.

In other news, we are considering going to Disney tomorrow but we have not yet bought tickets. Also, there is apparently a snow storm raging in the northeast, blanketing our street in over a foot of snow. When I looked at the week-long forecast before we left, there was no mention of snow, so we left our car parked on the street and not in the driveway. We expect to come back to a ticket for not moving our car during a snow emergency. I will bill the weather channel. We will also come back to a house that is snowed it. I have yet to figure this one out.

Anyway, you can look up the rides online and feel free to ask specifics. Answers will cost you $17. I need more sun tan lotion.

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