Friday, December 24, 2010

Disneyland - Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas to all our devoted readers.  The four (4) of you have made 2010 a fabulous year here in the Jungle.

To all my friends working in the Park this Christmas Eve, spread joy and hang in there!  I know it is crowded there today, but it is generally a happy crowd, filled with folks who have given themselves the gift of a special day at Disneyland.  Do your best to help them enjoy their visit!

My last Christmas Eve at the Park was in 2008.  It sure doesn't seem like two years. 
Of course, for followers of this blog, it must seem like two years since I last posted.  I'm tellin' ya, this Holiday Season of Thanksgiving and Christmas has kept me busy---but I've neglected my friends here.  For this, I beg of you patience and forgiveness.

I remember I worked a parade shift on Christmas Eve, bundled up in a warm Disney-issue pea coat, with flashlight and cone in hand.  "Merry Christmas! And stay to your right!  This is a walkway only!"

Raise a cup of cheer wherever you may be this blessed evening!  May the warmth and joy of this Holy season touch you, no matter the path you are traveling.

Pax vobiscum!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Disneyland - December 4, 2010 - A Photo Splash From Our Recent Trip - Seldom Seen Walkway

Well, that was a great Thanksgiving break!!  Sorry for the lack of posts, adventurers!  A little too much turkey and I was out like Rip Van Winkle.  But I'm back today and ready to share some shots from our latest venture into the Park.  We begin above with a friend of mine who hangs out at the south side of the main entrance to Adventureland.  He hooked up with Trader Sam for one of Sam's famous deals.  Looks like he came out on top.
Meanwhile, over at the Mansion, Jack Skellington and crew have moved in.  Wait time: 40 minutes without a FastPass.  Scary.

Wreaths and skulls.  Jack and Trader Sam have similar decorating taste when it comes to the holidays.  You should see Sam's hut---looks like Clark Griswold's house.

But now let me take you to a little seen walkway the runs from Fowler's Harbor over the bottom of the Splash Mountain drop and reconnects with the main walkway in "Critter Country."  I have to admit, I actually had not been in this area for many years.  In the photo below you can see part of the walkway.  Keep your eye on Santa's helper in the middle as a reference point for the next photo.

If you continue walking past the girl in the Santa hat, you will find the rest of the walkway, pictured below.

This walkway is never crowded and is quite easy to miss, unless you decide to grab a snack at the food service location at Fowler's Harbor.  Even then, you might not think to continue around the back and find the seating area and walkway pictured here.

The man in the blue shirt in the photograph below is standing at about the spot where I took the first photograph of the walkway shown above.  This shot is taken from a porch along Fowler's Harbor, where the Columbia is often seen docked near the railing to the right side of the picture.

Next, is the view from the eating area at Fowler's Harbor, looking eastward.  This was taken near sunset.  Looks like a pretty good crowd is on hand along the banks of the Rivers of America.  No doubt many were there for the famous Candlelight Procession that was to take place over on Main Street a little while later that evening.  This is an event that dates back to the late 50's and is a holiday tradition that is not to be missed.  The choirs that file down Main Street to the train station literally fill the avenue with song, robes and...candle light.  If you missed the Procession this past weekend...there's always next year.

Let us return to Adventureland for a few views of this area, which is so dear to our hearts here at Jungle Is "101." 

We will begin with Tropical Imports, as viewed from the steps located across from it near the Bazaar.

At Tropical Imports you will come across this fine fellow and may find yourself asking: Why the long face?

If you step around the corner, you will be heading into the unload area of the Jungle Cruise and might find yourself being stampeded by "escaping" guests exiting the attraction.

Where might we find these fabulous and ornate war shields show in the photograph below?

Why, at the back side of the Tiki Room, of course---just above the porch that serves as the attraction's exit.

In closing, allow me to share a couple of main entrance shots that capture the crystal clear skies we were fortunate to encounter during our visit.

Even that "other" park across the way looked amazing on such a clear day.  You can see that the Imagineers are busy with their billion dollar makeover at California Adventure.  Note the scaffolding and sheeting covering the building on the east side of the main entrance.

I certainly missed you all during my brief respite away from blogville and thank you for the kind e-mails making sure that I had not succumbed to malaria, piranhas or the vagaries of middle age.  Like a meatball sandwich during a bout of stomach flu, you just can't keep a good skipper down!

Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah (only one day left!) and Happy New Year!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Disneyland - Is It Just Me Or...? (Vol. III)

Is it just me or...
  • should the Plaza Pavilion be a place to eat rather than a spot to renew an annual pass?
  • are Disneyland ducks still among the luckiest on the planet?
  • can Toontown use a paint job?
  • should Davey Jones get out of the Pirates and go back to his locker? (Does anyone else miss the disembodied voice in the darkness: "Perhaps ye knows too much. Ye've seen the cursed treasure. Ye knows where it be 'id.")
  • is New Orleans Square simply gorgeous all decked out for the holidays?
  • has anyone else been jolted with surprise by a blast from the Monorail's horn as the elevated train rounds the bend into Fantasyland, headed for the Matterhorn?
  • was that the Wicked Queen peeking out of her window above Snow White's Adventures?
  • has the Dole Whip line gotten out of hand?
  • would anyone else just love to hop off the Storybookland Canal Boats and get an up close look at the miniatures? (I got to do it once---I was a sweeper; the incident involved a diaper tossed onto the streets of Pinocchio's Village; not pretty).
  • are the current Fantasyland costumes a little "poochy" in the pants? (and what's with the hats they give those poor cast members to wear?)
  • is this the window above the entrance to Club 33?
  • is a Plaza Inn pot roast dinner on a cool evening pretty darn good comfort food?
  • is an "edgier" Mickey Mouse about as good an idea as a gangsta rap album by Bambi and Flower? ("Yo! Ma homies an' me are gettin' wicked in tha thicket!")
  • does the fact that Disney had to put doors on its trams tell us the world has become far too risk averse and litigation conscious? Hundreds of millions of guests were able to safely and successfully board Disneyland parking lot trams for five decades without a need for doors.
  • do you bump the car ahead of you on the Autopia---even though it is forbidden?
  • does anyone else think the model of the Capitol in the Lincoln foyer is just too cool.
  • would you be worried if this guy tried to lead you deep into an untamed jungle?
  • is anyone else hungry for turkey, stuffing and all the fixin's?
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Disneyland - It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

We decided to hit the Park this past Friday, November 12, 2010 in an effort to kick start our Christmas Holiday season. I clicked a few cellphone camera shots, so you will have to excuse the quality. Nevertheless, they do give you a sense of the great decorations that have been carefully hung throughout the place.

We start, of all places, on Main Street, with the icy blue Sleeping Beauty Castle shining above the heads of the crowd. It was quite crowded, even though Southern California AP holders were blocked out. No matter, we were there to see the Park, not ride many attractions. There was a crowd around the Christmas tree on Main Street, near where this photograph was taken. The holiday music and sparkling lights had their desired and expected effect. To quote Paul McCartney: "Simply. Having. A wonderful Christmas time!"
Our dear friend Sleeping Beauty once again outdid herself with the Christmas lights over at the Castle. She could give Clark Griswold a run for his money. I took this shot at the west entrance to Fantasyland, along the little path from Plaza Gardens.
And in the courtyard of the Castle in Fantasyland, we have this cool blue view.It's A Small World was completely adorned in Christmas light finery once again. We made sure to jump on this attraction immediately after the fireworks and the "snowfall." It was great.
We weren't initially planning on watching the fireworks, but we ended up over by Small World at around 8:15 p.m. and the show was set to start at 8:40-ish, so we figured we would plant ourselves. We found a great spot along Small World way and were soon surrounded by a crowd of folks. My wife and I were there with our two daughters and two very dear friends, all of us ridiculously seasoned Disneyland veterans.

The lights went down and the show began. It was really well done, as you would expect.
But something else happened. As we stood there watching the glittering fireworks sprinkle against the black night sky and bounced to the holiday music of the show, we felt it.
I held my youngest daughter up so she could see, her small body nestling in my arms. My older daughter and her mom were beside us, along with our friends. The crowd was full of parents and children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, couples and acquaintances.

As the music died and the last flickers of glowing fireworks drifted down out of the sky, we felt the electric tingle of, what's the word I'm looking for?---magic. The kind that starts at your feet and rises up like a flood of water in a basement. The goosebumpy kind. The can't-quite-put-your-finger-on-it, but you know it's there, variety. It takes you by surprise, like an unexpected kiss from a first love. Especially when you are a veteran. Someone who feels they've "been there, done that." Not the type to buy into sappiness. Nope. You think you're immune. Over it. Cool, calm, collected. A smooth operator.

But it swells around you nonetheless. It starts in the silence as the cheers die off. The lights are out and the "snow" machines start to make their hissing noises above you. The eyes of everyone around you---even your own---look skyward. A hum of anticipation resounds in the crowd like an echo or the proverbial rings in pond.
The blue lights come up and there against the clear black sky are tiny clumps of soapy bubbles, your logical brain informs you. But the people there will have no such logic get in their way. As the familiar strains of White Christmas gently caress you, and as the "snow" machines kick into high gear, you eyes begin to truly see.
The children reach up and lift their faces skyward. The parents, too. Against the black sky and sparkling under the show lights, what at first were just dumb old soap bubble clumps have now morphed into flakes of drifting snow.
Time slows.
The moment overtakes us. A silence, a joy, folds over everyone like a blanket.
Standing together in the crowd, it seems as if each person is alive to the "first snowfall" of the season. The music lulls and the flakes drift and the faces glow. Kids become gleeful and adults seem to bask in it---reentering their own youthful selves in the moment, without even trying.
Dropping my youngest to the ground so she can stretch her arms and dance in the snow, I see my wife. Her eyes are rimmed with tears as she takes in the scene. So are the eyes of her best friend, standing near her. This is real joy, heart bursting love. It is togetherness, family, peace, anticipation, excitement and tingly "magic," all happening at once.
We never saw it coming.
I felt the emotion welling in me, as though it were riding the cresting wave that had begun rising somewhere around my feet but had now fully engulfed my chest. I saw my wife, my daughters, my friends, my fellow guests---all of us---caught up in this instant, happily playing in the "snow."
As the music died and the machines clicked off, the last flakes floated out of the air. The electric moment passed like a supremely satisfied sigh. We adults looked at each other. Shocked and a bit taken aback by what had just occurred. Hadn't we done this a hundred times before? What in heaven was THAT?! And we smiled with satisfaction. My wife and her friend dabbed at the corners of their eyes. A bunch of old salty Disney professionals had been hit by wonder. Smack dab in the middle of Small World Way!
Go figure.

It may be a bit early, but here's wishing you all a very, merry Christmas!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tower of Terror - Main Entrance Photos

Hello fellow adventurers and adventurettes. I have been a bit indisposed of late and apologize for the drop in daily posts. Hope to have the situation under control soon, but bear with me.

A great way to post quickly without having to engage in deep thought is to fire up some random park photographs.

Today we "drop in" on the Tower of Terror over at that other park across the way.

If you do not find the theming of this attraction to be on point and top notch, perhaps you have consumed a bit too much of Trader Sam's world famous Juju Juice (oh, my head!).

The fan window over the main entrance doors seems to imply some sort of "elevator" theme. I don't get it.

Next we find one of the tables in the lobby where a couple of guests left---apparently in mid-game and mid-drink. At least one was a smoker if the ash tray to the right is any indication.

The main lobby's ceiling is neatly detailed in the diamond square motif, betraying a Moorish influence and hearkening back to California in the 1920s.

We move to the main lobby fireplace and find comfortable club chairs. A doctor appears to have left his satchel behind, where it has been gathering dust and cobwebs like the rest of the place. The owl in the foreground is ominous, especially when set against the dead flowers around its base. It reminds me of one of Norman Bates' taxidermy specimens from the Bates Motel in Psycho. Someone left their trench coat draped over the check-in counter. These guests must have left in a hurry.

Next, a closer view of our owl friend, with the fireplace in the back ground. Looks like the grate of the fireplace is mirroring the elevator motif of the main entrance window. Love the Hollywood Tower Hotel monogram on the tapestry over the fireplace.

Finally, the front counter, with the hat, umbrella, trench coat and guest registry book left by someone in the middle of check-in. Love the fedora.

My youngest daughter loves this attraction. She has been riding it from the moment she met the height requirement. It is pretty funny to watch a tiny blonde girl boldly striding to her seat in the elevator while certain grown adults around her are looking more than slightly terrified.

When the TV set in the library bursts to life after the lightning strike and the lights have gone out, you are really pulled in to the "Twilight Zone." I sure do miss old Rod Serling. What a writer! It amazes me the acting talent that graced the Twilight Zone series, from a young Robert Redford, to Telly Zavalas, to Burgess Meredith, to Sebastian Cabot ("Jungle Book" fans will recognize his voice), to Sterling Holloway (the voice of "Winnie the Pooh"), to Andy Devine, to Carol Burnette (yes, THAT Carol Burnette), to Burt Reynolds.

Tower of Terror is one of the newer attractions at California Adventure that I can endorse without, pardon the pun, "reservation."

Have a great day, wherever you may be!


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Disneyland - Quick Tips

  • Arrive early, no matter what time of year you come to the Park---if you want to get a lot of attractions in.
  • When there are two lines into an attraction, always hop into the shorter one---especially if there is a large, empty gap where people think the other side is closed. Believe me, if a line is closed at Disneyland, you will know it. There will be ropes, chains, trash cans or other objects clearly blocking it off. If it's open and way shorter than the other side, take it!
  • With FastPass, like the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, choose wisely. Pick the two or three FastPass attractions you do not want to miss and get your FastPasses in the morning and around noon. Don't wait until the afternoon, as they may well be "sold out" by then for the more popular attractions.
  • If something should go wrong during your visit, be sure to bring it the attention of a cast member---they are there to help and make things right, especially if the issue is something that Disneyland caused or contributed to, even accidentally. Case in point: our son at age five went with us on the Storybookland Canal Boats and sat in duck poop. The attraction hostess sent us over to her lead, who promptly provided us with a special card that allowed us to go to a merchandise location and get him a new outfit---no charge. We never forgot that.
  • Eat when no one else does. Have an early lunch at 10:30 or 11:00 a.m., why wait until the noon hour when most everyone else in the place decides they are hungry, too? Just means longer lines. Try a 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. dinner---or 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. if you can hold out until later. You will be able to get better service and seating, with much less wait time.
  • Know the Park's flow. If you do arrive early, most folks march immediately toward Space Mountain, Indiana Jones and Fantasyland. Make your decision which direction you intend to go and head there immediately. If you do not get to Fantasyland within the first 30 to 40 minutes after rope drop, you will already be "too late" for rides like Dumbo and Peter Pan. The lines for these popular attractions fill up immediately and pretty much remain full for most of the rest of the day. Late, post-fireworks tip for folks with kids who can stay up late without turning into maniacal urchins: if you line up at the rope that is put up between the Carousel and Mr. Toad as the fireworks are starting, you will be among the first in line for Peter Pan and Mr. Toad when the rope is finally dropped after the fireworks show ends and the Disneyland Fire Department gives the "all clear" for entering back into this section of Fantasyland.
  • Ask for the back row on Big Thunder when you reach the cast member at the top of the stairs. It is the best seat in the house.
  • If you are a regular visitor, make friends with some cast members on attractions you like. Ask for them when you go back. It often pays to know someone! I had a few Jungle groupies who would get front row seats when I saw them waiting to board. Now, no one is going to give you a free pass to the front of the line, but they will give some insider tips and it never hurts to have a friend on the "inside."
  • Grab a seat at Village Haus on fireworks nights. There are plenty of open chairs and you get an up close view of the show. Sure, you will miss out on the portions of the display that occur at the front of the Castle, but you also avoid the maddening crowd on Main Street---and the show is still great (with a little added ooomph! to the booms as the fireworks ignite)!
  • The River Belle Terrace is usually not too crowded at the dinner hour (most folks either don't notice it or think it is an exclusively "breakfast" location).
  • Catch Billy Hill and the Hill Billies over at the Golden Horseshoe.
  • Ride Jungle Cruise at night!
  • If you are going to the park with a group---from school or from work or some other gathering or family reunion, then definitely ride the Jungle Cruise all together! The boat will hold 40 or so of your friends and family and, with the right skipper, a boat full of people who know each other can make things interesting!
  • Spend a night or two at the Grand Californian if you get the chance. Nice. And when you wake up, you're already at Disneyland!
  • Check with the Guest Relations cast member at the information post on the west side of the Hub near the entrance to the old Plaza Pavilion for questions about attraction breakdowns, wait times and upcoming shows or parades.
  • Talk to a Disneyland Railroad cast member about taking a ride on the Lilly Belle.
You Jungle readers a hip to the scene, but occasionally we get a few folks in here who can use some simple, helpful tips.

Many happy returns to the Park is my wish for each and every one of you!


Friday, November 5, 2010

Disneyland - Coyotes in the Break Area - Santa's Helpers

You Disneylanders know the large wooden gates that are on either side of the walkway where Thunder Trail connects to Fantasyland. The northern gates lead to an access tunnel under the berm and into the back area.

The southern set of gates lead to the back area behind Village Haus, Pinocchio, Snow White, Carnation Plaza Gardens, Rancho de Zocalo and Big Thunder. There is a makeshift break area back there, with a picnic table. Also, if you head into the Village Haus building, you can grab a snack at the employee window and then head downstairs to a break area deep under the building.

The open air break area is unique because your 15 minutes is spent with the howling coyotes of Big Thunder just to the other side of the fence, who set off in chorus each time a train rolls past. You can also hear them clearly as you walk along Thunder Trail near the Thunder Ranch Barbeque, but they are particularly noisy for the cast members on their break.

I remember an early morning Fantasyland opening shift in November when the night crew were still in full swing at the end of their shift. As I was coming on before Park opening, both sets of gates near the break area were open, and along came a chain of vehicles and lift trucks, parading through on their way from the backstage area north of the Park and off toward Fanstasyland and Main Street and regions beyond.

It is particularly awesome this time of year, as the Disney crews get ready to spruce up the place for the Holidays. You can imagine the small army of folks who scurry around after normal operating hours in order to hang miles of garland, strings of lights, thousands of wreaths and, of course, Main Street's massive Christmas tree on Town Square. We are about a week away from Disneyland's debut of its Christmas season decorations---which go up about 10 days before Thanksgiving and remain for the duration of the season.

I must say, modern Disneyland does an amazing job of decorating the Park, both for "Halloween Time" and for Christmas. If you have not made it here during either of these seasons, you must make it a priority to do so; you will not be disappointed. Annual Passholders and locals are well aware of this---which is why there are so many block out days during the Christmas season (as they'd pack the Park 'til the ground could no longer be seen). Christmas is actually as busy as, if not slightly busier than, the summer season. Well worth it.

Bundle up, grab some cocoa and hie thee hence to Disneyland for the decorations. Believe me, hundreds, if not thousands, of cast members are scurrying around as we speak to get the Park ready. You should see Disneyland's attic! Boxes and boxes of bulbs, ornaments, strings of lights, wreaths, etc., etc. It must be fun to have to drag that stuff down and begin the long process of decorating...

Allow me to be among the first to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas. Darn, looks like the malls already beat me to it!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Disneyland - Dead Head on a Slow Night

Despite the title, this is not an entry about Jerry Garcia or "Truckin'" through the Jungle.

Jungle develops its own cool vibe as night falls. The crowd thins and the queue empties to a trickle. The lights of the dock flicker gently while the sounds of the Jungle intensify. Drums, bird calls, flowing waters.

As the attraction slows into the end of its normal operating day, boat after boat is taken off line and sent back to storage or, more likely, to either the spur side or catwalk side of the unload dock. You will see empty boats along the catwalk in the middle of the river.

The few remaining skippers are able to take more leisurely cruises through the rivers of the world---without boats immediately ahead of or behind them. Between trips, empty boats form a mini traffic jam along the dock, with one sitting at "load" and two or three in line behind it.

This was a time I enjoyed. Nights on Jungle. Especially in the summer. The air was warm and alive, even if the guest count was down to near nil. When things got this slow the chances increased that you would hear two words that rang in your ears as sweetly as "Mark Twain!" sounded to Samuel Langhorne Clemens. To a steamboat captain, "Mark Twain!" was music because it meant your vessel was in navigable deep water. To a Jungle skipper, the two words would be called out to you from the lead in the Jungle office: "Dead Head!"

Dead Head.

Okay. These two words rhyme, Mike, but I'm not getting why they are so special.

Allow me to explain. A "dead head" is an empty Jungle boat that is dispatched from the load position, sending its skipper on a solo trip through the jungle. When more than a few minutes pass while a group of boats are lined up at the dock waiting for guests, the lead will occasionally send the lead boat out with no guests aboard.

If you are the skipper of that boat, you put down your P.A. mike, tilt back your hat, lean back against the bow railing and push the throttle handle forward ever so smoothly. The engine raises its voice a bit and soon you are watching the empty dock recede behind you as you and your boat embark on a tour of the Jungle alone, at night, mano-y-junglo.

The first thing you do is turn off the exterior lights along the boat's canopy. The inky, green darkness settles around you and the accent lighting glows dimly along the river's edge. The "ancient Cambodian shrine" glows silently before you, while the Bengal tiger's roar sounds as loud as you've ever heard it. With the engine throttled just above "idle," you chug up river like Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. The archway leading to the Sacred Bathing Pool of the Indian Elephants glides overhead and there you are, alone with your thoughts and a trumpeting elephant with its own "private shower." There are lights, but it is pretty dark for you and your boat. The trees along the shoreline form a dark canopy. You feel far from everything---smack dab in the heart of Orange County.

Pulling back on the throttle, you bring your boat to a crawl as the squirting elephant rises up and sprays your bow. Don't forget that guy! Many a rookie skipper (and even a veteran or two) has cruised along past the elephant in the waterfall---which magically triggers the squirter to start his routine---and forgotten to stop or slow their boat. The result is that your boat slips along beside the squirting elephant, which proceeds to douse you and the entire right side of your boat, with almost pinpoint precision. If you ever see a Jungle skipper come back to the dock with his or her shirt dripping wet---they forgot to stop after the bathing pool. Oops.

But not you. You're an old skipper. Been through this jungle thousands of times. As the elephant rises a second time, you push the throttle and chug ahead---quite dry, thank you---to the now extremely noisy gaggle of baboons off to your right. An explosion erupts in the waters ahead of you and there are our gorilla friends ransacking the safari camp. This scene looks really cool at night with all your boat lights off.

Derailing is a concern with an empty boat---or even a full one.

There are several spots along the river where it is important to throttle forward and avoid at all costs any slowing or dilly dallying. One of these spots is the stretch just after you turn past Schweitzer Falls. You remember to give the boat gas through this particularly dark section until you are just abreast or slightly past the first African Bull Elephant over to the left of your boat. His bellow is very loud when you are out there alone. And his mother-in-law's answer off to the right is even louder and longer.

Back in here, I would often open the door where my radio was located and bend down to take a listen. Sometimes you would catch some radio traffic, but usually not. Tonight? Nope. Nothing. Oh well, Hi Zebras! Hello Lions!! And there's that lost safari still caught in their embarrassing predicament, lo these almost 40 years. You wave to the poor guy on the bottom, have a snicker with the hyenas and prepare to throttle through the turn leading into the hippo pool (another spot ripe for a derail if you are not careful!).

Hippos surround you. It's too much to resist. You lift your .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver and hold it straight out, pointing just over their heads. You quickly cap off two rounds---which is very loud when there is no one on the boat---and when you are not holding the gun high above your head over the canopy, as you would normally do, but are pointing it straight out just below ear level. Ah. That felt good. Another vessel saved from sure hippo destruction.

Making the turn into headhunter country, you lean on the throttle again until you get to the skull canoe---which looks pretty realistic in the night. If you go too slow through this turn in the river, your boat's rear guide will slip off the rail and you will be stranded until help arrives to get you back on track. Sure, in the old days, most skippers had a pretty good sense of how their boat worked. They would stride back to the box where the guide sits and do their best to try and lift it back onto the rail by themselves. Sometimes it worked. Crisis avoided. You would never do this with guests on board though. For one thing, the boat is just too heavy to handle. For another, you never leave the controls!!!

Natives dance in the dark ahead of you like a Bruce Springsteen song. Soon you are attacked by an angry tribe to your left. They rise from the darkness and create quite a noisy scene. Unfazed, you stare them down until they crouch back into the bushes.

The backside of water. There's something you don't see every day. Here is another potential derail zone, so keep your boat moving until you get to the piranhas. After they attack, you round the bend to old Trader Sam. Your eyes glance up at the two green lights in the shield near Sam. All clear. If you saw red lights flashing there, you had better stop. That means the rail switch ahead of you has been thrown to allow a boat to be taken off or brought onto the main line. Should you fail to stop your boat and keep plugging around the bend toward the dock, your front guide would slip off the track and you would derail---in the pool right before the unload dock, as your lead looks on in horror and disgust from the track switch station at the end of the unload area. The radio would erupt: "Ops 1, this is Jungle Control: Jungle is 101." More sweet words to an old Jungle skipper's ears, "Jungle is 101." It would take at least 15 minutes to half an hour to get a repair team dispatched to address the derail and get the attraction back up and running. One or two of you would be sent to man the queue and advise guests that the attraction was down. The rest might earn a quick break.

Because you are not a rookie, you cruise past Sam and round the final bend leading to the unload dock. You wave at the skips standing at unload and bring the boat to a stop. While waiting there, you pop open your revolver, discharge the two spent rounds and reload for the next trip. Believe me, you will carry this rare dead head trip with you for a good long while.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Disneyland - Death in the Magic Kingdom - Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween Jungleteers!

For some reason, the holiday got me thinking about death - death as portrayed at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Sounds like a strange juxtaposition, but as I considered the subject I realized death lurks in almost every attraction in some direct or indirect manner.

The Haunted Mansion: the whole attraction devoted to death and the spirits of the afterlife. This is a no-brainer.

The Pirates of the Caribbean: guess who tells no tales? There's a skeleton around almost every corner and pirates are literally shooting guns and cannons at you trying to kill you.

The Jungle Cruise: my last crew did not laugh at my jokes---you can see them over there in the canoe to our right. From the way they're smiling, it looks like they finally got the joke.

Indiana Jones: skeletons, why did there have to be skeletons? The dead are omnipresent in the Temple of Mara.

Tarzan's Treehouse: what happened to Tarzan's parents??? Is that a skeleton by the old phonograph?

Splash Mountain: those vultures seem to be anticipating Brer Rabbit's demise---"If this is your laughing place, how come you're not laughing?"

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln: an entire attraction devoted to our most famous martyred President, who presided over America's bloodiest domestic conflict.

Snow White's Scary Adventures: remind me not to let the Wicked Queen make me a prisoner in her dungeon---great for weight loss, bad for longevity. Oh yeah, don't forget the whole "Sleeping Death" spell. Steer clear of apples.

Peter Pan: Skull Rock stands as a dark symbol of what awaits those who leave "Neverland."

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride: ouch! Hit by a train and we're off to...hell. Nice. Wait, not so nice!

Innoventions: somebody killed America Sings! Seriously, though, a cast member actually died on this attraction back when it was America Sings.

Sleeping Beauty Castle: more Sleeping Death---being a Disney princess can be such a drag. The hair, the make up, the shoes, the small rodents everywhere, the step-mom.

Pinocchio: we get swallowed by Monstro! Oh yeah, and getting turned into a donkey after a night on Pleasure Island can be considered the ultimate buzz-kill. Thank goodness for Blue Fairies.

Storybookland Canal Boats: Uh oh, eaten by Monstro again. Good thing he sneezed his tail off.

It's A Small World: believe it or not, you'll find the "Day of the Dead" and a skull or two---even in this realm of singing children.

Disneyland Railroad: millions of dinosaurs---extinct.

Thunder Mountain: another dead dinosaur.

The Shootin' Arcade: Boot Hill, skeletons, ghost riders in the sky.

Winnie the Pooh: heffalumps and woozles---not to mention the heads of Max, Buff and Melvin.

The Matterhorn: the remains of the Wells expedition---and a none-too-friendly Yeti.

Space Mountain: not so much---though at Halloween Time it has its ghosts.

The Columbia, the Peoplemover, Big Thunder, America Sings, the Matterhorn, the Rivers of America and the Monorail have each claimed real lives, unfortunately, over the course of time.

Like any good fairy tale, there is a dark and dangerous side to the fantasy.

Now, as they say, look alive.

Hope your Halloween was fabulous.

As for Jungle is "101," all I can say is...

...hurry baaa-aack!

...hurry ba---aaaaack!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Disneyland - CHOC Walk In The Park

This year, my wife and eldest daughter participated in the annual Children's Hospital of Orange County ("CHOC") "Walk In The Park," which is a fund raising event that takes participants on a walking tour through Disneyland, some of its back areas, and into California Adventure.

It must have been something, because they both came home very happy.
Perhaps they were happiest about the fact that: "We got to do something at Disneyland that YOU'VE NEVER DONE!"
They had a point.
Though they forgot to bring their camera (argh), I was able to debrief them and discover a little bit about the walking route they took during this event, which happens in the early morning hours before the Park opens.
They started out on Main Street, marched up Matterhorn Way toward Small World and Toontown. Then they went into the backstage area north of the Park by the TDA building and the steam train building. (Thanks to DRSEANG who posted the above photo and these over at

They came back out by the Small World gate, passed between the Matterhorn and Sub Lagoon and ended up in the backstage area behind East Main Street before funneling back out the Main Entrance and over to California Adventure.

Literally thousands of people and Disneyland Cast Members participate in this annual event. It raises money for sick children and the excellent CHOC facilities on top of giving folks yet another good reason to visit the Disneyland Resort.

From my own family's firsthand accounts, let me tell you, you are going to want to attend next year's "Walk In The Park." It happens in October. Check the CHOC website as to the details.

You KNOW I'll be there.
"We got to do something at Disneyland that you didn't," indeed.
Not for long, dear family. Not for long...


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Disneyland - Backstage Peeks from the Parking Structure

Another busy week, another photo filled post. Hope you are all doing well. As we hit the blog today, to your right you will see some shots I snapped the last time we were parked at the top of the parking structure. Too bad my mini-cam has a pretty pathetic telephoto zoom.

First, we see the back of the berm and one of the access tunnels through it (center right of the photo). On the other side of the berm from here, roughly, you will find the back turn of the Rivers of America---the stretch between Mike Fink's cabin and the Indian Village. If you look closely backstage, you'll see a Storybookland Canal boat ready for a rehab. To the left, I spy one of Main Street's horse-drawn trolley cars.

The next shot gives you another view of this area backstage---right under the noses of thousands of Disneyland guests who are ambling through the parking lot on their way to the trams!

Picture number 3 shows many things to the trained observer. Do you see the Disneyland Railroad train clicking by in the upper right, just below the curvy streetlamp? There's an Autopia car to the left of the photo and what appear to be cars from Big Thunder (look just above the trolley). Hey, next time you're on the train, grab a seat in the back and look over your shoulder. You'll get some neat back stage views (like this one) that most folks don't see because they are facing forward.

Finally, in Photo 4 we can see the Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) building (in its gaudy Eisner yellow) in the background.

You can also get a good glimpse of the back of Toon Town.

Smack dab in the center of the photo---where all that dirt is---you can see the stables where Disneyland's famous horses are kept (Circle D).

The gray buildings to the left house a variety of workshops and the parade floats.

Enough with that.
I gotta go.
Trader Sam's pot is boiling over and he left me here to watch it for him while he went shopping!
Man, is he gonna be steamed!

As a sage village shaman of the jungle once told me and my fellow skippers:

"Stay cool, monkey fools!"


Monday, October 25, 2010

Disneyland - A Cup of Coffee at the Station

Greetings, Jungleteers!
As I write this, it is a rainy morning here in Southern California and perfect for a hot cup of coffee.
This has me thinking about spots along the way where I've enjoyed a cup, including, of course, Disneyland.
One early morning trip to the Park, necessity pulled me into the Market House like a tractor beam.
"One large coffee, please."
"Room for cream?" asked Tom, the cast member at the counter.
"Yes, thank you."
"Save your receipt and bring it back for a free refill."
"I believe I will. Thanks for the hot tip. How's your morning so far?"
"It has been nice. I like the cool weather. It keeps us busy. It's not too crowded yet, though."
"I'll take it. I've had my share of crowds. Did you work last New Year's? I had guest control on the Hub, right at the Carnation bridge."
"Oh, wow. You had your hands full!"
"Well, have a good one!"
"You, too. Don't forget your refill!"
Taking the warm foam cup full of fog-lifting liquid from Tom, I headed over to the condiment bar and added the appropriate amount of cream, turning the black coffee a caramel color before replacing the lid and assessing where in the Park I would go to enjoy it.
Coke Corner?
Always a winner, but not the venue of choice for me this morning.
Plaza Inn?
No, it's not raining or hideously hot, and I'd rather be outside.
Stepping out onto Main Street and looking to my left, I had my answer.
Train Station.
Across Town Square, past the dedication plaque and flagpole, and up the steps.
One of those fabulous Main Street wooden benches sat there, empty and inviting.
Taking the lid off my cup so as to maximize the smell of the coffee, I tossed the lid in a nearby trash can and took a seat on the bench---on the right hand side of the elevated station platform as you face Town Square.
The area music lilted in the background as I look out over Main Street and up to Sleeping Beauty Castle. Holding my cup in front of me, the steam warmed my nose and face in the cool morning air. The coffee smelled exactly as it should. You coffee lovers are with me on this.
I watched the people coming into the Park and beginning their march up the Street.
The expectant energy of guests in the morning is contagious.
You can still see the bounce in the step of parents pushing strollers.
There is also the wide eyed look on the faces of the kids (the non-teenager types, mostly---though there are exceptions to every rule of nature).
Everything is forward-looking and positive. The day awaits.
The Park opens its arms.
I sip my coffee above this scene, slightly removed but very much a part of it.
Walt wanted a place where parents could have fun, too. Sitting here on the bench, a parent myself, I nodded in silent appreciation at Walt's sentiment.
Here is a place where I can find a bit of contentment, even doing nothing really, just sitting on a bench with some coffee.
Raising my cup in a solemn salute toward the flagpole, then toward the lamp in the window above the Fire Station, I toast Mr. Disney and the folks he gathered to help make Disneyland a reality.
His words from opening day---seared in my memory and emblazoned on the plaque at the foot of the flagpole---come to me on the bench:

"To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land..."

As I finish my coffee, I gather myself and stand up to leave.
Where to?
I realize it does not matter much.

It's all good.

Think I'll take the train...


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Disneyland - Alone on Tom Sawyer's Island (Part II)

The raft edged up to the Island dock and the operator secured it.
The foreman and I exited the raft along with a handful guests.
"Here's your break and lunch schedule," he said, handing me a slip of paper with times scribbled on it. "It's kind of slow today, so you should have no problems. Just circle your walkways, keep them clear and be sure to hit the restrooms and fill out your sign-in sheets. I'll be back in a couple of hours or so. If you need me, call Control and have them radio me. Looks like we have an issue over at Pirates, so I've got to take off. Have fun!"
He stepped back onto the empty raft with the operator and I watched them pull away from the dock and drift back across the river.
I turned to my right and started walking up the main pathway along the river's edge, toward Castle Rock and Fort Wilderness, my pan in my right hand and broom twirling in the left.
The river was to my left, with tall reeds growing between it and the path.
I walked along, "sweeper scanning" the ground ahead of me for scraps of paper, wayward twigs, popcorn bits, wrappers and other detritus.
It was a cold morning. A California rainstorm had swept through a day or so earlier and the ground was still damp. The cold front that inevitably swept in behind the storm made the air crisp, the clouds bright white and the sky an almost unreal blue.
Erratic winds blew across the Island, swaying the trees, bending the grassy reeds along shore and reaching the back of my neck where it was exposed above my jacket collar.
Ahead of me, the empty path stretched into the distance to where it bent at Castle Rock.
Behind me, not a guest could be seen between me and the raft landing.
I could hear the New Orleans area music in the distance, and the gentle, steady snoring of the "bear" asleep in the cave at the entrance to Bear Country. As I looked across the river at what is now Splash Mountain, I saw the old Trading Post with its grass covered roof and the row of buildings across from the entrance to the Hungry Bear Restaurant and Country Bear Jamboree.
Even Bear Country was almost deserted, with a few small groups of guests strolling the walkways.
Ah, slow days in the Park.
My face felt chilled and pink with the whipping breeze and frosty air.
I thought of the times I had come here as a child, dreaming of having the Island to myself as a personal playground---maybe one or two of my friends could come along, too.
Here I was, practically alone on the Island, with the whole day ahead of me.
I marched up the hill toward Fort Wilderness and stepped through its main gates.
There inside the fort I met "Bill," one of Disneyland Security's finest---looking every bit the part in his fine U.S. Cavalry costume and black boots.
"Good morning!" I greeted him.
"Morning back to you," he said warmly, "Where's Red?"
"He must've taken today off and I got his shift. I think you and I are about the only folks on the Island right now."
"Well, there are fifteen guests with us, which is darn close to empty."
"Where are they?"
"Back by the barrel bridge and the treehouse is where I left 'em. Pretty windy today."
"I'll say. Glad I remembered my jacket. Well, I'm sure I'll be seeing you."
"Yep. Stay outta trouble."
He smiled and nodded as we parted.
I headed out the rear gate of Fort Wilderness and took a right, following the path to the River over on the "Cascade Peak" side of the Island.
I stopped for a moment and peeked through the fence that blocked guest access to the northwestern tip of the Island (where a burning cabin, wildlife and evidence of Indian habitation could be found). Thinking better of taking a moment to explore this "off limits" area, I walked along the shore path.
Behind me I heard the huffing steam and steady paddle of the Mark Twain as it rounded the bend in the river just past the Indian Village. She looked startlingly white in the clear, crisp air against the blue sky and green, green trees.
White steam puffed from her stacks and I could see a family along the railing on the upper deck. The father was pointing at the Island and the children were waving down at me.
I returned the wave and stopped to face the steamboat as she glided past.
People along the bottom deck started to wave back at me---thinking my initial wave was meant for them.
I simply smiled all the more and began to wave with broad, happy gestures---to the whole boat!
I walked along with the Mark Twain, waving playfully and laughing to myself as I looked over and saw that by now every guest on every deck on the starboard side was looking at each of the other guests, and at me, and waving furiously to me in return.
As I stopped, near the back side of Castle Rock, the Mark Twain started to round the final bend at the barrel bridge.
My last image of her as she pulled toward the dock was of 20 or 30 guests, adults and kids alike, waving happily back at me. I waved to them slowly as I stood there and smiled to myself.
Sometimes, at Disneyland, even the sweepers are part of the Show.
I had only been on the Island for maybe 15 minutes and had experienced a great guest interaction, even though the Island itself was mostly deserted.
I felt energized and warmer inside as I continued my circuit of the pathways.
The barrel bridge bobbed up and down beside me and the trees cast speckled shadows over me as I approached the "treehouse" end of the Island.
I marched up the hill and took my time near the streamlets that flowed endlessly from the base of the tree. A family was coming down the steps of the treehouse, mom, dad and three small boys (all under the age of 6).
"Good morning!" I called.
"Good morning! Is it always this empty here?" said the mom.
"I wish. You folks picked a good time of year and a great day to come."
"The boys have been up and down this tree five times already!! We're getting worn out."
"Have you seen Injun Joe's cave?"
"Injun Joe's cave. It's not far. They say old Injun Joe's moans can be heard when the wind blows through it..."
The energetic boys stopped and looked up at me, eyes wide, sizing up whether my story could be believed.
"Where's the cave, mommy? Dad, we want to see the cave!!"
Looking at the parents, who were now clearly interested, I motioned for them to follow me.
I led everyone back down the hill to the entrance of the cave.
The parents read the sign to their boys.
The scary sounds echoed out from inside and the youngest of the three appeared to be having second thoughts.
"Oooh. It's too dark. I don't wanna go!"
"Listen," I knelt down and looked at him (feeling partially responsible, since I had suggested the cave in the first place), "This is Disneyland and I work here. I have a flashlight, see? How about if I take you guys through the cave---it comes out on the other side of the island and it's pretty neat in there!"
The boy eyed my yellow and black Disney-issue flashlight that dangled from my belt. I usually wouldn't wear it for a day shift, but the Island had caves, after all, and, during the winter months, working a closing shift meant it got dark early---so I knew I might need the flashlight to help with cleaning out flowerbeds at the end of the day.
I slipped it from its holster and held it out.
His small fingers wrapped around it.
He looked at me, to see if I was serious about providing them with an escort into the scary cave.
I looked back with a "I'm ready if you are" expression on my face.
He turned to his older brothers and parents and gave a little nod toward the cave.
"Can I hold your hand?" he asked as we approached.
Both parents smiled their assent to me, and I reached down and said, "Sure."
The little guy and I led the way into Injun Joe's cave.
I felt his grip tighten as we made our way into the chamber where the wind howled and the lighting was scary.
I clicked on my flashlight and said, "Come on, right this way."
We walked over the little wooden bridge and were soon winding our way through the tight nooks and crannies at the back end of the cave---the flashlight providing warmth and comfort to the smallest member of our exploring group.
As we rounded the final turn, the bright light of the day spilled around the corner and the little boy laughed and ran excitedly to the exit, like a prisoner who have been given an early release.
He glowed with pride as the rest of us made our way outside the cave.
"I did it! I did it! That cave was not scary!"
His brothers laughed and joined him.
"Let's go this way!" they exclaimed, running off down the path toward Castle Rock.
The parents started to follow and smiled to me.
Ahead of us, the littlest boy stopped mid-run.
He turned back and looked right at me, with his eyes glancing down to my flashlight and back to my face.
"Thank you, Mr. Disneyland man!" he rang out in a small and irresistibly cute voice.
I waved back to him.
He turned on his small heels and bolted down the path, in the direction his brothers were last seen heading.
His parents followed after them all.

I turned to my right and swept my way to the Old Mill.
Walking inside, I watched its wooden gears steadily turn the grist mill.
I smelled the dirt, the dampness, the Disneylandedness of it.
This Tom Sawyer's Island gig wasn't half bad, I had to admit.
The rest of my shift played out in similar fashion.
The population of guests on the Island waxed and waned over the course of the day, from almost nobody to perhaps a "high" of 30.
Bill and I would pass each other on our rounds. We would share a bit of conversation and then move on.
In between, I spent hours seemingly all by myself, touring the paths, walkways, caves and, of course, the restrooms (in Fort Wilderness and on the little dock across from the Mark Twain landing).
Just me and the Park.
Can you imagine?
I absolutely loved the feeling. I inhaled it deeply.
Nothing else I have experienced was quite like it.
It was a uniquely "Disneyland" thing that only a true Park admirer can fully understand.
I remember when my "lunch" time came around.
I stepped aboard the next raft and took it across to New Orleans Square.
Heading up the walkway past the little park between the Haunted Mansion and the French Market, I walked past the Mint Julep Bar and into the corridor near the restrooms. There, I stepped through a "Cast Members Only" door at the end of the hall.
I was in a concrete walled stairway that led down.
Down to the Pit, the Cast Member cafeteria located beneath New Orleans Square and the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance building.
It was windowless, but bright and warm---even with the fluorescent lighting.
After spending several hours outside on the cold and windy Island, I grabbed a cup of hot soup, a coffee and a turkey sandwich---which I can still taste.
Comfort food at Disneyland.
I saw a fellow sweeper I knew and we sat down to our lunch together.
"I see you're on Island today. Lucky dog."
"It's all who you know."
"Well, I must be doing something wrong, I pulled a restroom shift."
"Hey, at least you get to spend some time indoors. It's cold out there on the Island. And lonely."
"You're so full of it! I know darn well you're having the time of your life."
I guess it must've showed, because...I was.

And I was lucky.

Few people will ever get to experience what I was able to enjoy that chilly day in 1985.

Interestingly, perhaps the most unique part of that day came toward the end of my shift. The Island was about to close and Bill had walked all the guests back to the raft for the final ride back to New Orleans Square. At that point, I had gotten to know the raft operator, Tim, pretty well. "Tim, I think I left my flashlight back at Fort Wilderness." I had, but not by accident.
"I'm going to run and grab it. Can you come back and get me?"
Tim, whose shift was almost over, hesitated, but saw the determined look in my eyes.
"Okay, I'll be back for you, but don't miss me or I'm leaving you there!" Tim said with a glint in his eye as he pulled the raft with Bill and the last Island guests away from the dock.

There I was.
The last person on Tom Sawyer's Island.
For a blessed few minutes as I ran back to Fort Wilderness to retrieve my flashlight, I reveled in my good fortune of scoring a rare sweeper victory---to be alone on the Island. Unless you were crazy enough to try and steal a raft or a skiff, you weren't going to get many chances to be the only sweeper out there.
I knew my friends would be envious.
More importantly, as dusk was falling and the chill was getting even more pronounced, I got to enjoy a few moments out there all by myself.
I ambled back from Fort Wilderness and slowly approached the raft landing.
Tim was there, pointing to his watch and putting his hands on hips in a pantomime of mock impatience.
I waved.
I slowed my pace.
I looked out over my Island kingdom and took it all in.
Reluctantly, I picked up my stride and made my way onto the raft.
Tim smiled knowingly.
Raft guides had a unique advantage.
They could be the last ones on the Island any time they chose.
I watched the landing recede into the distance as our raft, with only Tim and me aboard, made the final crossing of the day.
Tim pulled us in. I tossed the shoring rope around the cleat on the dock and he gently throttled the raft to a tight stop against the landing. He shut down the engine, tied off the rear of the raft to the dock, and the two of us walked back toward Frontierland.

Some days you just carry with you.
This was one of them.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Disneyland - Alone on Tom Sawyer's Island (Part I)

When I was a sweeper, there were a couple of times that I got to feel like Tom Sawyer.
Tom Sawyer's Island was a coveted shift in Adventure/Frontier Day Custodial, especially a closing shift---in the winter.
As a Casual Regular employee, with only a couple years' seniority, getting an Island assignment was pure luck.
It happened only if a highly senior person called in sick or took vacation (AND you had a buddy in Custodial Control doing the schedule).
For me, I can remember seeing my name on the schedule next to "Location 33J - Island" and feeling elated. A closing shift! Winter!
It was a brisk morning as I pulled into the cast member parking lot in my 1967 Mustang.
I can still see the condensation fogging my windshield.
The drive down Ball Road from the 57 had been easy. No traffic.
There were plenty of spaces available in the cast member lot when I arrived.
Grabbing my wallet and my yellow CR Disneyland ID car, I headed toward Harbor House.
Along the southern wall of Harbor House was a wild fantasy of time cards, organized by Department.
Bleary-eyed, I searched mine out and punched it in the time clock. Before the modern "swipe" cards, there were literally pieces of paper that cast members would use to record their time in and time out. There were a bunch of people whose main function was to sort thousands of time cards every day.
Mistakes were corrected with White Out.
It's amazing we ever got paid. But we did.
Next, I was out the west end of Harbor House and, after a quick left, was heading down the hill and under the train trestle. The underpass at this location was named "Herbie Hill" and I can recall a few times driving through here in a golf cart with a low battery. If you didn't get up enough speed on the downhill, you and your golf cart would never see the top of the other side (unless a friend or two jumped off and helped push).
As I crossed under the trestle, to my left was the wardrobe building. It was also the building that housed the "Primeval World" dinosaurs---whose dramatic theme music could be heard, muffled on the outside.
I marched up the hill and, at the top, turned to my right and crossed the street to the main locker building.
My assigned locker housed my fresh set of Custodial "whites," the starched shirt on a wire hanger, the cotton pants on a wire hanger with a cardboard tube along the bottom.
My black, leather upper, Red Wing work shoes and a pair of black above-the-calf-dress socks rounded out the ensemble, along with the famous Mickey Mouse name tag, proudly pinned over the left breast.
Beneath the name tag, and just above the left pocket of the shirt, in a small banner of embroidered yellow thread, was the word "Disneyland."
I pulled a fresh t-shirt from my backpack and over my head. I quickly changed from my civilian clothes into the Day Custodial "costume."
Even sitting here at a keyboard 25 years later, I can feel the electric energy that came with suiting up for a day of "work" at the Park.
Good days.
Bad days.
Rainy days.
Hot summer days.
Early starts.
Late closings.
It didn't matter. I always got the little boost of excitement and energy when I adjusted that name tag and did a last costume check in the mirror before heading out to my assigned area.
I wish everyone, everywhere could get that feeling when they head off to work---if only once in a while.
Hell, I wish I could!! But, then, how many jobs can truly compare to working at the Park??
Let me tell you, heading off for a day of depositions or drafting motions does not quite measure up to a day on the clock at Disneyland...not by a mile.
I left the locker room building and headed past the backside of America Sings, past the rear of Space Mountain, past the trailer in the middle of the backstage area and toward the Inn Between and Central First Aid ("CFA") gate that would take me onstage at the Plaza area of Main Street.
Oh. Coffee.
Quickly up the steps and into the In Between, a hello to the gal who always seemed to be working the register, and back out the door with my coffee I went.
The warm styrofoam, the steam from the cup and the hot coffee provided a defense to the cold morning air.
That and my blue Custodial jacket---with name tag affixed.
Disneyland jackets were amazingly well made. They kept you warm under almost any circumstance.
All that walking and sweeping and constant movement sure helped.
So did being in one's early 20s.
Trying not to spill my coffee as I walked, I gulped it down, tossed into the can inside the CFA gate. Through the gate and out onto Main Street I strode.
The Park was sparsely peppered with early morning guests.
I marched across the street and up toward the Hub, then over the bridge into Carnation Plaza Gardens. I waved at some bussers I knew there and a few of the folks behind the service windows.
I disappeared behind a door that led to the back area and Custodial Control.
I double checked the schedule there and headed over to my area locker in Adventure/Frontier---where my pan and broom were waiting for me.
I then checked in with the New Orleans/Bear Country foreman, who asked if I'd ever worked the Island before.
"Once," I told him.
"Come on," he said.
We marched to the landing where the Rafts to Tom Sawyer's Island loaded and wiggled past the guests to the roped loading area. We waited for the next raft to make its way over to us.
We boarded the raft with the guests, and stood by the operator making chit chat as he piloted us over to the Island.
My day of sweeping the Island was about to begin.
Obviously, my memories of this day still stick with me, despite all the terrible things I've done to my brain over the years since it happened!

Tomorrow, I will share with you the rest of the story...


Monday, October 18, 2010

Disneyland - The "Off the Beaten Path" Town Square Restroom revisited

In an earlier post I discussed a lesser known restroom location on Main Street and several of our readers requested photographs.

We aim to please. Click on these photographs to see them larger.

No. 1 to our right shows the little alleyway located just past the souvenir stand at the eastern tunnel entrance to Main Street's Town Square.

No. 2 shows the restroom and ATM signage at this location.

No. 3 is a shot of the alleyway (and the Men's restroom door), looking from east to west back toward Town Square.

I mentioned you could get pretty close to the famous Disneyland "Berm" at this location. You can see the base of the berm behind the railing on the left hand side of Photo No. 3.

Photograph No. 4 gives you a close up view of the berm---looking southeast from Town Square and back toward the Disneyland Kennel Club and the exit of the Primeval World tunnel of the Disneyland Railroad.

No. 5 shows a close up of the sign about halfway down this little alley, directing you to additional facilities across Town Square near City Hall.

Finally, No. 6 shows the Cast Member entrance/exit and old fashioned pay telephones located at the eastern end of the alley. Lots of Main Gate, Disneyland Railroad, Guided Tour, Mr. Lincoln and Emporium Cast Members use this as their pathway from backstage to their onstage locations.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jungle is "101" - The Shirt

Rumors were flying around the jungle during the past few weeks.
Sam heard them.
So did the Village People.
The leader of the Lost Expedition could sense it, looking down from high on his precarious perch.
Even a motley few sober and keen-eyed skippers (a truly rare breed) clued in.
Something is afoot.
Something's up.
There's something new in the wilds of Adventureland.
You can feel it when the birds and insects along the river suddenly silence their song.
When distant drums cease.
When the Amazon Belle lurches into idle and skulks along with the current.
When the crocodiles rise up to the surface and stare with glassy eyes.
When gazelles flick their ears and pivot their heads, searchingly sniffing the air for unseen approaching danger.
When the very breeze through the bamboo holds itself like a breath.

Guys, guys.

It's just me in a T-shirt!

Of course, it's a totally awesome, uniquely designed, very rare and exclusive T-shirt.
One, I might add, that only a select few may actually possess.
Woven of fine cotton by skilled native hands, this article of clothing is more like a second skin than merely a shirt.
Moreover, it is a status symbol here in the Jungle---or wherever it's worn, for that matter.
It says: "I'm an insider. I'm hip to the jungle scene."
It gives a wink to other insiders---we know who we are---while still sending a discernible message to the uninformed, the uninitiated.
Like all great art, it inspires and stirs within the viewer a call toward something larger than oneself; something ethereal, beautiful.
It calls attention to deep symbolism in the front, while announcing your allegiance to Jungle is "101" in the back.
And, it comes in variety of sizes and colors.

It is...

The Shirt.

Native tribal drum roll please...
Here is the front.
Above is a closer view of the front artwork and text.

And here is the back of the shirt.Finally, a closer view of the back.
You can tell by the high quality of the photographs that we are professionals around here.
Hey, you try silkscreening in 110% humidity, much less processing high quality color stills of T-shirts!
Lands' End we are not.

We're more "Humanity's End" or "Wits End," Sam says.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Disneyland - More Shots Of The Park, From Mike's Perspective

Recognize the lovely "D" above?
It's been there a while.
Where in Disneyland would you find this, Waldo?
It should be an easy question for true Park aficionados like yourselves.
Here's a hint:
Take a close look at the world famous Plaza Gardens bandstand stage above and you'll find your answer.

Let us speak again of Disneyland's byways...
...those paths less traveled.
A favorite one almost any time (but especially when Fantasmic lets out), is pictured below.The north entrance/exit to Frontierland is one of those places to go when you want to escape the crush of the crowd for a few moments.
Stepping through this gate you are on the little shady walkway that leads between the Frontierland moat, to the right, and Carnation Plaza Gardens, to the left.
And now, a closer view. (Be sure to click on these photographs, by the way, they get pretty large when you do).
Here is the same walkway looking from the Plaza Gardens side back into Frontierland.Ahh.

By the way, the Park looks fabulous all decked out for "Halloween Time."
The main entrance gives but a small hint of the fall-colored splendor inside.
And just like at that Disneyland blue sky! This is the week to go if you get a chance.
Temperatures are supposed to be in the 60s and 70s.
Do not expect slow days however.
Yesterday, both Disneyland and California Mis-Adventure were pretty busy.
You will definitely get a chance to spot costumes at the Park, as it is closing down at 7:00 p.m. on some Halloween-Time evenings in order to allow a special family event with trick-or-treating and kids and parents all decked out.
We saw a tiny, five-ish Bo Peep with a pack of five adults, all dressed as her sheep.
The dad of the group was dressed as the black sheep---go figure.
We also saw a group of Peter Pan fans---with a large man squeezed into a perfect Tinker Bell costume and another filling out Wendy's nightgown, while the women of the group took on the roles of Peter, Michael and John.
Also saw a pretty good young adult group dressed up convincingly as John and the Lost Boys.
You can catch them all during the next few weeks.

Next, here is a twilight shot of a certain pachyderm aerialist and his good friend Timothy
Not far from Timothy and Dumbo, the King Arthur Carousel sparkles like a crown jewel.
And, to revisit an earlier post of mine, here are a couple photographs of the Emporium mall exit at 102 West Center Street on Main Street---betcha never knew the address!
Here is the great, glass awning afire with its new-fangled, electric incandescent bulbs.
Well, there's the second cheat post of the week!
Sometimes you just have to throw the guests in the boat and hit the throttle.

Turn around and wave good-bye to all the beautiful people back on the dock!
(Now wave to your boat loaders, you know---they have feelings, too).