Monday, September 19, 2005

We have returned from sunny Southern California, land of Disney and anniversary parties.

The 50th anniversary party went pretty smoothly. I learned, however, that if you take a room full of old pious people, the toasts are more likely to be rambling than clever:

"I remember this lovely couple from our college days. Oh, we had some good times. One day, after going out for ice cream sundaes, I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now! To take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. 'Give me five bees for a quarter,' you'd say. Now, where were we?"

Nobody rocks an anniversary party like Grandpa Simpson.

My lovely daughter Daisy took one look at the table where we were being sat, saw all the old people and said, "Can I go sit at the kids' table?" She was the lucky one. There was one couple at our table that had met the couple of honor back when they were attending Divinity school. These days the husband spends his time reading scripture to his wife while she does beading projects. They were as nice as can be, but after I made one failed evolution joke, I decided to keep my mouth shut the rest of the night.

We went to Disneyland the next day and that was more lively. My daughter, however, is still terrified of most things in that amusement park. In computer science, we have a concept called a "wildcard character". It allows you to easily search through many files, or create an expression that refers to multiple things at once. Often that character is an asterisk. This is a handy concept because it allows me to succinctly say: Daisy is afraid of *.

I knew we were in trouble within minutes of arriving at the park. We hopped on the train ride that slowly rides around the circumference of the park. It travels at around 5 miles per hour.

"Daddy? Are there going to be any tunnels?"

"Geez, I don't recall. Maybe, but not scary ones. It's just a train that gets us to the other side of the park."

Soon, the train entered a tunnel that allowed us to pass through a corner of Splash Mountain. My daughter shrieked with fear and ducked her head into my lap.

"Oh, sweet girl, this isn't a scary tunnel. Look at Splash Mountain! Look, there's dancing chickens! Look at the cute dancing chickens!"


And so it began. The dancing chickens were terrifying. The sluggish robots on the Buzz Lightyear ride were horror incarnate, and the Ursula float in the parade was a tear-inducing monstrosity.

Ahhh, the magic of Disney.

Meanwhile, the ride schedule we had constructed with RideMax was becoming less and less useful. First, we arrived at the park an hour later than I had anticipated. Then, we had to ignore nearly half of the rides on my list because they were nightmare-inducing. In the end, we just decided to wing it. We found more Daisy-friendly rides at the California Adventure park. Those rides tend to be more crappy and less thematic, and thus less scary.

Plus, they have the midway games where you can spend dozens of dollars to win cents worth of stuffed prizes. As always, my daughter dutifully launched skee balls in every possible direction, eventually garnering so much pity from the game operator, that she cheated on Daisy's behalf and gave her a prize. I could see skee balls shooting across the pavement from where I stood at the baseball-throwing game, vainly trying to knock over cardboard targets. The 4th time I plunked down my $2.00, I finally won my daughter a crappy little monkey, but by then she had already won her own prize and was not interested in my gift. I call him the $8.00 monkey. He mocks me.

My favorite Disney moment was standing in line waiting to get Pooh's autograph for my daughter. The 2 year-old girl in front of us was methodically licking the rope divider that ran along the line. She'd pounce on each new section, hoping it would be more delicious than the last, and apparently it would be. She'd eagerly wrap her lips around that rope like it was a ropecicle, while her parents obliviously stared into space. Man, she really went at it. I should be so enthusiastic. About anything!

That is all.

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