Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
Speaking of green Jungle water, it brings to mind a tale of when I was a skipper. It involves the loading dock, a small child, quick reflexes and "verbal judo."
I had just dumped a load of guests at "Unload" and had throttled into position at "Load." I was giving my welcoming spiel to the boarders ("Step aboard, Adventurers...please don't mind your boat loaders, they are very affectionate and have a disturbing fascination with touching people by their elbows. Just smile as they do this and continue stepping into the boat. They usually let go of your elbow," or some such drivel). The boat loaded up about halfway, with most of the folks on the dock side (port for all you mariner types). At the rear load position, a child was about to step in when the Loader somehow missed the small boy's elbow or forearm. The boat simultaneously lurched away from the dock as folks entering from the rear walked along the starboard side.
As I spieled into my microphone, I caught a tuft of the boy's brown hair as it disappeared below the boat's railing on the dock side. A splash of gross, green water that erupted in the same location told me that we had a swimmer between the dock and the edge of my boat. The frantic scrambling of the read Load position Loader was also a tip off that something was terribly amiss in Adventureland. As this drama played out, the guests on board---being humans (mostly)---leaned toward the dock side of the boat to see what was happening. Experience in boating (and skippering the Cruise) told me that this was a "BAD" thing.
"EVERYBODY stand up and lean AWAY FROM THE DOCK!!!" I shouted to my vessel full of guests. I must've sounded pretty serious because (for perhaps the first time in Jungle Cruise history) the guests actually took a skipper seriously and followed orders. Cops call this type of authoritative affectation "verbal judo." It is meant to compel immediate compliance. Sometimes it actually works, because when I yelled "LEAN AWAY FROM THE DOCK!" again, everyone leapt to their feet and immediately leaned toward the center of the boat and away from the dock.
This action by my crew of guests shifted the weight in the boat so that the dock side of the vessel was tilted up and away from the edge of the dock---thus affording the small boy who had fallen between the boat and the dock a wonderful opportunity to NOT be crushed! The boat leaning away from the dock also allowed our frantic boat Loader to reach down and grab the soaking boy by the arm. He instantly pulled the boy up out of the gunky water in a single motion.
When the crying child was safely back on the dock, everyone in my boat sat down. A wave of relief rushed over all of us. Then the guests started clapping---for our heroic boat Loader and, oddly enough, for ME, since they all realized--at about the same moment---the reason why I had suddenly shouted at them to get AWAY FROM THE DOCK! If they had all kept leaning over to look, the boy would be crushed or at least stuck under the boat (which is not a good place to enjoy the attraction).
The kid never thanked me, but he's out there somewhere---uncrushed---walking with a memory of Disneyland and the Jungle Cruise that I don't think he'll soon forget. I don't blame him though, he was wet, scared and was shuffled away from the dock before he or his surprised parents had the opportunity to fully absorb what had just occurred.
As for you, dear Reader, just think about that green Jungle water. Now think about being in it over your head. You'd best step lively the next time you think of boarding a Jungle boat!
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The article to the left is from the Disneyland Line. In digging through my old stuff, I was surprised to see that there was actually an article on the event! I was there, along with some fellow sweepers. I was on the Plaza Gardens side of the photo in my white sweeper garb, waiving with my right hand over my head. I actually received a much larger copy of the photograph at the time, but it has been lost along the way. Anyway, the photograph ended up on the cover of the 1985 Disneyland Souvenir Guide Book.
I wasn't part of the lucky few who made up the "30," but I am just to the left of the top portion of the "3." Can't you tell? Anyways, I still remember that morning, because I was only about two months into working at the Park and it was all still new. It never stopped being fun. Down below I have blown up my copy of the 30th photograph. You can see me in the left hand side. I am looking back to my right (just my luck) and there is a red circle around me. It's got details kinda like the Zapruder film, but I promise---that's me. My friends Eric Grubb, Michelle Garden and John Toth are a bit more recognizable in their sweeper whites (at least to me they are).
I did get my Donald Duck birthday button for showing up at the crack of dawn to be part of the picture! I'll have to see if I can dig that up somewhere.
Hard to believe the Park celebrated its 50th just three years ago! My wife was there this past Wednesday with my daughter and my mother. She said Disneyland was looking very clean (quite a change from the Eisner days). It was also amazingly uncrowded, but don't tell anyone---we'd like to get over there before the crowds return.
One way to avoid crowds is to fly to Florida and hit Walt Disney World for nine days. That is where we're heading in just under three weeks. I'll be sure to post photographs of our trip.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
On some busy summer days before "The Bridge" was put in place, the line for Pirates would extend almost all the way down to the Rivers of America. It created quite a traffic jam on the West Side, especially if the attraction's hosts were "newbies" and hadn't quite yet mastered where the poles and chains were supposed to go.
I remember one hot day in July 1984 when the crowd was enormous. Somebody got the "bullpen" posts and chains out of whack and the Pirates line became a total mess. Another sweeper and I were trying to push a heavy trash cart through a sea of guests. When we reached the Pirates, things literally became impassable. Security had to clear a route for us and a small contingent of Pirates ride operators made fairly quick work of getting the guests back into a line that actually went somewhere. There's nothing like the combination of afternoon sun, heat, no breeze, thousands of guests, crying children and waiting in a serpentine line to make the Disney magic fade just a touch. Doh!
Fortunately, most folks are pretty good natured about such experiences---you have to expect them when you hit a popular theme park in California right around the 4th of July vacation peak. Here's an insider tip: stay home. Buy an annual passport and come back with your kids in February, March or late September/early October. If you don't like crowds, celebrate the 4th of July and Christmas in your own home. Otherwise, join forces with 64,000 of your friends and herd on into Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom (the original, of course). I'm sure you'll find, there's nothing quite like it.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Here's a Tahitian Terrace-related Jungle Cruise story. It is true.
As the boat approached the dock at the end of the ride, there were some stepping stones in the water along the back side of the Tahitian Terrace stage. These were part of the pathway that led from the Jungle Cruise to the "backstage" break area behind Main Street. You would walk along the stones on your way behind the Tahitian Terrace to the area where the Jungle boats were stored when they were taken off line.
This walkway was also used by the Samoan "fire dancers" who were Cast Members in the Tahitian Terrace dinner show. They would use the walkway to make their entrance from the rear of the stage, dressed in full Polynesian regalia. These guys were enormous and were not known for even tempers. One Jungle Cruise skipper found out the hard way why it is not good to anger large Samoans.
It seems that one such Samoan gentleman was making his way across the stepping stones as the skipper and his crew were passing by Trader Sam and heading toward the dock. The skipper pointed out the Samoan to his crew of guests. He told them over the microphone/speaker to enjoy their glimpse of the "Amazing Blackfooted Rockhopper on the port side." The Samoan gentleman hear this crack (as he was only a few feet from the boat) and became...shall we say...agitated. He leapt onto the dock and then onto the bow of the boat---in full Polynesian war regalia---and reached in and grabbed the frantic skipper by his shirt. He was about to unleash a torrent of physical pain on the poor guy when other nearby skippers (and Disney security) came to his rescue. The angry Samoan never got a clean shot as his prey, but sure scared the heck out of the guy. Mental note: don't refer to large Samoans as "Blackfooted Rock Hoppers" (especially when they are within striking distance).
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
It was there that we first met.
As I walked into the place, I was drawn to her.
She did not say a word.
Neither did I.
Our eyes locked for a moment and I found myself walking over to her. Something about her was mystical.
I stood before her searching for a way to connect. There are some people in this life you wouldn't drop a dime on.
We never spoke, but she left me with this.