Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jungle Is 101 - "The Shirt" Is Now On E-Bay

Salutations, Jungle-teers! 
We are pleased to announce that we have overcome enormous odds, technical difficulties, thick bogs and an angry herd of water buffalo in order to list the official Jungle Is "101" t-shirt on E-Bay at long last.
This is in response to the surprisingly large demand we had for the shirts---even here in this remote hut in the shadow of Schweitzer falls.
Over a quarter of our devoted readers ordered shirts!!
If you are still interested, you can head over to E-Bay and place your bid or your order.  Here is a link to the listing, or you can type "Jungle Cruise T-shirt" in the E-Bay item search box and you should find it.
These rare t-shirts make excellent gifts, conversation pieces or awkward paperweights and are suitable for framing.
Show your pride as a Jungle Is "101" reader---you know who you are
Amaze your friends! 
Stun your enemies! 
Reduce your risk of malaria!
You'll love the looks, the grins and comments you'll get sporting this beautiful t-shirt on your next excursion to the Park.
Face it, if you read this blog you are already a Disneyland "insider," whether or not you've ever been a cast member.  The skippers and dockhands on Jungle will look at you quzzically and then knowingly when they spy the front of your shirt and the "Jungle is 101" announcement on the back!

This design even works for our friends who work the Jungle in that other Disney park in Florida! 
Skippers of the world unite!! 

Please note that Trader Sam is willing to give three (3) of his shirts in exchange for that part of your anatomy located just above the neck. 
So get to Trader Sam's Wholesale Clothing Hut today! 
It's an economical place to be headed!

Thus endeth today's blatantly commercial post.

Have a fabulous day, my friends, no matter what shirt you choose to wear!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Disneyland - Main Gate Trash Run

My 1984 summer was spent on Main Street, for the most part.
When assigned trash duty on the Street, one of our responsibilities was emptying the cans outside the Main Gate.
For this job we were given access to a Disney vehicle.
It was a small Chevy S-10 pickup as I recall, with "Disneyland Custodial" imprinted on the sides of the doors.
Two of us sweeper-types were always put on "Main Street Trash," which made me think we were in a bad punk band when I saw it listed on the schedule.  As a team, we would work together to dump all the trash cans along Main Street.  Each metal can had a "secret" door that you popped open to reveal a plastic liner inside.  We would swap out the full liner for an empty one or dump the contents into one of the liners on our large trash cart.
The trash cart itself looked like something from Outdoor Vending.  It was closed on three sides and painted to fit the Main Street theme.  The one open side allowed us to slide in up to eight liners (four rows of two, as my feeble mind recollects).
In any event, most of the liners at the Main Gate and the picnic area were "bagged"---meaning we would tie a plastic Hefty garbage bag into them and replace the bags when the cans got full.
To do this, we would take two large wheeled carts in the back of the pickup truck, bungee-cord them in place, and head from the back area near the Inn-Between (behind Main Street), down "Herbie Hill," under the Disneyland R.R. trestle, past Harbor House and around the Kennel to the Main Entrance.  We would park the truck under the Monorail track and grab our large wheeled carts and boxes of trash bags.
We would split up, each taking a geographic area and a number of trash cans (starting first with the picnic area, as it was always the busiest and its cans the fullest), and begin our rounds.
I got pretty good at it.
Approach the can, slide my left hand through the trash flap and push on the door from inside to release the magnetic latch.  As the door swung outward, with my right hand I'd grab the plastic liner inside and pull it out of the can.  When it hit the ground I would already be undoing the bag from inside the liner and start removing the bag with my left hand.  By the time the bag hit the ground I would quickly tie the bag off in a knot and toss it into the large wheeled cart.  I'd yank a new bag off the roll, pop it open and tie it into the liner, kick the liner forward back into the can, slam the can's "secret" door and move on to the next one.
As you can imagine, there were quite a few trash cans out in front of the Park. 
Our wheeled cars would soon fill with trash bags.  In the end, we would wheel the carts over to our pickup truck and toss all the garbage bags into the bed, followed by the wheeled carts which we threw on top of the pile and secured again with bungee straps.  This helped to hold the load down as we jumped into the truck and raced back past Harbor House to the dumping area located back behind Small World.
I remember many a trip at Mr. Toad-like speeds along the Monorail pylons as we drove to the back area.  We had to be careful or Security would call us in, or worse, pull us over. 
There's nothing like the scene of a Security golf cart pulled alongside the Custodial truck with a Security cast member giving a lecture to a sweeper behind the wheel.
Think Thelma & Louise meet Disneyland.
One last recollection along these lines: Fireworks.
When working a closing shift, we would often plan our Main Gate trash run to coincide with the start of the evening fireworks show.  We would get to the back area in time to dump our trash bags and then pull to a safe spot where we could watch the fireworks mortars shoot off their rounds into the night sky. 
It was two shows in one!
Watching the mortars light off on the ground was its own spectacle of light and noise.
We'd bend back our heads as the rockets shot overhead and exploded into sparkling firework eruptions in the sky high above us.  The fireworks would illuminate the rows of mortars and pyrotechnic personnel responsible for the nightly onslaught.  Then the mortars would launch another round and the process would be repeated.
I've never seen or heard a louder "Grand Finale" than the ends of the shows we watched in the backstage area on those summer nights.
It was one of many "perks" of being a Cast Member.  We were not paid well from a money standpoint, but I earned more in fond memories during my stints at the original Magic Kingdom than I could ever hope to count.

So, I've got THAT going for me.
Which is nice.
(with apologies to Carl, the groundskeeper of "Caddyshack" fame).

Enjoy your day, my friends, wherever you may be!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Disneyland - The Diaper That Attacked Pinocchio's Village

Summer 1984.
Disneyland Day Custodial shift.
About 4:00 p.m.
The call came over my lead's radio.
"Custodial 3, 10-49 Storybook., Code-D."
"Code-D?"  The lead looked quizzically at his radio.
Storybook?  What sort of custodial incident could happen at the Storybook Land Canal Boats?
"10-4, I've got a sweeper en route."
He looked at me.
"Wait a second," I said, "I still have to hit the Dumbo and Toad bullpens (queues)."
He kept looking at me.
"O.K., O.K. I'm on my way.  I hope they didn't mean "Code-V."
Code-V was the dreaded radio term for a vomit "spill."
We sweepers were armed with "Pixie Dust" to deal with Code-Vs.  It was an absorbent compound that came in small bags and would be sprinkled over the mess, which would be absorbed and them swept up into our metal pan.  A final squirt down with some bottled cleanser and a sweep with a thick paper towel would finish the process.
Not sure what I'd be facing, I took a couple bags of Pixie Dust and a long-handled "grabber" from the Fantasyland area locker and set out apace to the Storybook Land dock.
Normally, a trip to this location was looked upon with anticipation bordering on delight by males of the sweeper species.  Storybook was a "girls only" attraction in 1984 and tended to be staffed with attractive young ladies in cute blue skirts and knee-high white stockings.
Most of the time, we would stop at Storybook to sweep through its bullpen at routine intervals.
This "Code D" run was a novelty.
As I arrived at the attraction, I made my way through the exit and over to the lead at the dock.
I do not recall her name, but let's use "Colleen," since she had strawberry blonde hair and freckles like an Irish lass.  The dock was lined with empty canal boats and the guests in the queue were looking impatient.
The attraction was "101."
"Glad you're here.  Go ahead and get on the Faline with Patty, she'll take you to the problem."
Without thinking, I stepped onto the boat, and Patty, with her shortly cropped brown bob and utterly Disney smile, told me to grab a seat and hang on.
We chugged forward at full speed, which is not all that fast in a canal boat.
As we entered Monstro's mouth I turned to Patty.
"Exactly what am I in for here?"
"A diaper?"
"Somebody tossed one out of Casey Junior, I guess.  It's kinda making for 'bad show.'"
"Nice.  Where is it?"
The boat slowed to a creep as we drifted through Monstro's missing tail.
Patty nodded to her right.
Nestled there along the bank was a tiny and quaint Tyrolian village.  Behind it loomed miniaturized Alpine mountains, eternally snow-capped.  Just beyond those mountains ran the tracks of the Casey Junior Circus Train---about a diaper's toss away from the heart of the little village.
"Pinocchio's Village," Patty announced.
I couldn't see anything from this vantage point.
"We have to go around to the front." And she throttled the boat forward, past the Village, past Peter Pan Park, Alice's rabbit hole and the Casey Junior station.  Indeed, we made our way through most of the attraction's canal until we were back at Pinocchio's Village.
Patty stopped the boat and tried to steady it.
"You're going to have to get up slowly and step across.  Be careful!"
Taking hold of my pistol-gripped "grabber" tool, I stood in the middle of the small boat and tried to figure a way to step from it without rocking it to the point of falling into the canal.  I gingerly planted my foot on a medium sized rock along the shoreline and then glanced about for another safe foothold.
I felt like Gulliver entering Lilliput and stood with both arms outstretched for balance like a tightrope walker.
Laid out before me was the curved and cobbled main street of the Village.
It was lined with charming structures fitted with shingled roofs and tiny windows and doors.  I gazed up the little avenue and saw it---The Diaper.
I pictured the little villagers in their homes, inns and taverns, huddled in mute horror, pinching their noses and gasping for air.  I was sure they had been through many trying times in the past: sparrow attacks, giant duck landings, and the occasional invasion of giants bringing new light bulbs to replace the old ones that lit the interiors of the small buildings.
But this, this was different.
There, in the middle of the street, and less than half a block from the woodcarver's toy shoppe along the canal's edge, lay a diaper almost half the size of a building.  It appeared to be a Pampers make and had been bundled in on itself, with one of its sticky tabs holding fast while the other splayed outward, unattached, leaving the diaper's contents treacherously close to spilling out.
It looked a bit like the boulder that Indiana Jones encountered in an ancient South American temple.  I imagined it rolling down the street---a massive, smelly ball of doom.
My thoughts raced.
Poor Gepetto!!  Cleo!  Figaro!!!
I could see them inside their little cottage, slumped and overcome by methane fumes from the enormous diaper, while a myriad of cuckoo clocks chimed about their motionless and diminutive bodies.
Oh the humanity.
I placed my right foot onto the cobbled street and prayed I would not lose my balance.  I leaned forward and, with my right hand, used the long "grabber" tool to pinch the diaper between its claws.
As I gently lifted it from the street, I twisted my upper body and deposited the diaper along the bow of the Faline, as Patty squirmed in disgust and made faces from her perch at the aft end of the boat.
Spinning on my left foot, I stepped with my right back to the edge of the boat and boarded.
Turning to Patty, in my best Gary Cooper voice, I announced:
"Ma'am, my work here is through.  The people of Pinocchio's Village have been ridden of their burden."
Rolling her eyes and not seeming very impressed by my heroism, she started to take us home to the dock.
As we pulled away, I could almost swear that I heard the sound of tiny voices raised in cheer coming from within the Village.  The jaunty music in Gepetto's Toy Shop seemed---jauntier.  From the corner of my eye I thought I spied tiny hands waving handkerchiefs from windows in salute to the man who saved the town from Pamper-geddon.
As Patty and I pulled alongside the dock on our return, the lead, Colleen, stepped onto the edge of the boat to steady it.  I then disembarked with a grabber-claw full of nasty diaper.  I deposited in one of the nearby trash cans---feeling a slight pang of pity for the sweeper on trash duty that day who would have to empty it later.
Goes with the territory.
If I may quote Super Chicken: "You knew this job was dangerous when you took it, Fred."
Anyway, as a child and as a guest for years at the Park, I often pictured myself being able to step off the canal boat and tiptoe through the miniature scenes, peering in windows and marveling at the tiny architectural details.
Never did I imagine my one opportunity would involve a diaper and Pinocchio's Village.
Talk about magic and imagination.

Have a great day all!  And to those parents who must deal with a diaper while on an attraction---there are trash cans at the exit, please deposit the diaper there!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Disneyland - A Cold Winter's Trip - Back in the Wheelhouse

We made it to the Park on January 8, 2011, which was a cold, gray day---perfect for taking in Disneyland.

It turned out to be a pretty nice trip.
We took along some friends of ours who recently got annual passes.
For the first time in a very long while, we sat down by the Rivers of America and took in the Fantasmic show, complete with its new dragon.
We stayed in place afterward and watched the new "Wishes" fireworks show, which combined the old "Wishes" show with some of the best parts of the 50th Anniversary display.
All in all, we were pretty impressed by the view of both shows from the edge of the Rivers of America.

What was best of all, we were able to take a nighttime cruise on the Mark Twain before it shut down for the night and the Fantasmic shows.
As we were preparing to board, I signaled from the dock up to the Captain in the wheelhouse and called to see if we could get my daughters and one of our friends to get a ride up there.
He waved back and called down to say that we couldn't and would have to check with the cast member at the entrance turnstile the next time if we wanted a ride up there.
As he said this, the cast member from the turnstile was walking up the stairs behind me on his way to take over for the Captain.
This cast member's name was Ryan, and he said, "How many of you would like to come up to the Wheelhouse?"
"Four," I answered without missing a beat.
"Four it is," said our tall Captain.
Ryan, for the record is 6 feet, 7 inches tall by his own telling.
(His capped head nearly banged against the low roof of the wheelhouse when we finally got up there!)
Pictured above is Ryan at the helm---many thanks to you, good man!
In any event, our friend, Maria, had never been in the Wheelhouse of the Mark Twain.
She was in for a treat.
Ryan led the way through the little door marked "Private."
We entered the "Captain's Quarters," which is a small room that has a bed, a night stand and a ladder that leads up to the vessel's helm---the Wheelhouse.

The ladder is narrow and as steep as you can imagine.
I remember in younger days, sliding down the railings with both hands on my way below.
My days as a steamboat captain on the Mark Twain have previously been mentioned here in my essay, Disneyland Musings - Volume 3 - Nights in the Wheelhouse.

When you get to the top of the ladder, you step through a gate (that has since been installed since my days on the Twain) and out toward the Mark Twain's massive wooden steering wheel---the helm.

You step to your right and there is a small writing desk with the Mark Twain's official guest book on it.
As is the custom, each visitor signs their name in the guest book.

Maria and the girls signed their name and I took the plumed pen (which is flimsy and very difficult to write with) and signed on the next page.
Okay, it's no "John Hancock," but it sufficed.
Captain Ryan grabbed the P.A. microphone and announced our departure.
He then directed the girls to do the whistles and bells as the Mark Twain pulled from the dock.
They froze.
They were not ringing or blowing.
Ryan looked nervous for a moment.
With the years fading in an instant, I was suddenly back in 1987, and I leaned past my youngest daughter and grabbed the wooden handle of the bell rope---the shortest of the two ropes pictured just above the little girl wearing pink in this photograph.
I pulled down on the handle briskly and then lifted my hand to get the ship's bell to rock back and forth.
Five bells!
Then - two whistles!
I grabbed the steam whistle's handle at the end of its rope and gave a strong downward pull.
The whistle bellowed long and loud.
Another, longer pull on the whistle announced our departure, followed quickly by five more bells.
We were off.
We rounded the bend at New Orleans Square.
We sounded two more whistles (as is customary) when we were passing Fowler's Harbor.
This time, my older daughter helped.  She pulled down on the handle of the steam whistle and gave the two blasts.
Nice work.
Runs in the family.
As she stood at the helm (on a two-step box to assist in getting her tall enough to see), I cautioned our youngest to be careful not to crash the boat.
Her small hands clutched the massive wheel as she stood on a stool and tried to see which way to turn next.
Her older sister helped.
"Dad!  Which way?!!" said the little one.
"Right!  Turn right!!  Watch the ducks!  Don't hit the canoe dock!"
She steered with concentration and determination.
Ryan was a gracious host.
Our friend Maria was enthralled.
The view was splendid.
The river calm.
It was dark outside and Ryan grabbed the handle of the vessel's spotlight and shone it on Indians and wildlife as we floated past.
"Here's our two moose---Mickey and Minnie," he noted as he lit up the large quadrupeds.
Groans filled the wheelhouse.
This ain't Jungle, Ryan!
He laughed.
The girls loved it.
Especially the one in the pink scarf and "Jungle is 101" t-shirt.
"Ryan," I announced, "I'm putting you on the blog."
He read the back of my shirt with the web address.
"Uh. Thanks," he said.
Okay, so, it isn't NBC News or Yahoo, but, come on, it isn't THAT bad!
We thanked him as we floated over the river.
As we began the final turn towards home and the landing, Ryan told the girls to ring the bells and sound the whistle once more.
They did.
Like professionals.
We pulled to the dock and the vessel came to a stop.
"Thanks, again!  We really enjoyed the trip, Ryan."
"No problem, you're welcome any time."
We climbed back down the ladder and out the Captain's door onto the deck.
Next it was down the stairs and off the boat.
We were the last ones off.
I turned and looked back at the Mark Twain, sparkling there in the cold evening darkness and felt quite satisfied.
The old girl and I have never lost our connection.
It felt great to take the helm again---if only for a little while.
Have a great day, all!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Disneyland - Boat Storage Breaks and Breakdowns

Many a time and oft, while a Jungle Skipper, would I take a boat off line and throttle gently, wakelessly, past the Tahitian Terrace and back through the bamboo gates into boat storage.

It never got old, driving a Jungle boat backwards.  Waving at the skipper who was waiting with his boatload of guests at Trader Sam while the track switch was engaged to allow my boat access from the main line to the "Spur Side" and into the back area.  The guests looked puzzled.  They seldom saw a Jungle boat move in reverse, much less "off stage."

"This one's no good!" I'd shout to them.  "The Skipper's broken!"

As the boat clunked along the rail, I would ease her into boat storage, taking care to close the gates behind me once far enough past them.  I would kill the engine and then make like a Venetian gondolier, pushing and pulling my vessel into position up against the back of boat storage---or the front of the boat (or boats) that were already in there.  There's a switch at boat storage that allows you to pull onto one of two tracks.  I always preferred the track nearest to the Jungle.  Usually there were boats on the track nearest Main Street, so if you were on the "inside" track, you were kind of sheltered from view.

Jungle boat cushions made excellent beds.

At night, a trip to boat storage usually meant your day was done.  After shutting off the engine, you would switch off the electrical power and break down your boat.
You would radio Jungle Control - "Jungle Control, this is the Hondo, shutting down, 10-7."
"O.K. Hondo, Good night!"
Your Public Address ("P.A.") microphone would then be unplugged and placed in your wooden "break down" box.
Your radio microphone (or in some cases the actual walkie talkie radio) would be unplugged and put in the box.
Your .38 pistol was next.  Undo the leather strap that tied it to the front cleat, break open the cylinder, empty out any spent or unspent blank rounds and put the gun into the break down box.
When we had cushions on the boats you would next lift them up and place them in their holders along the sides of the boat railings (so the night crew could come in and clean out the boat more easily).
A final flashlight check was made around the interior of the boat to make sure there were no leftover cameras, purses or small children.
You would then tie off the boat (so it did not float back toward the Jungle and derail!), grab your breakdown box and head back to the Jungle office on the dock to turn in your equipment.
Check your gun back in (each one had its own serial number) and dump your unused ammo into the ammo box.
"How much longer are you here?" you would taunt the skeleton crew of remaining skippers.
"Mike, didn't we get rid of you an hour ago?"
"Try not to bore your boats to death, guys.  Adios!  Hey, anyone going to Charley Brown's later?  I'll be deep into a Long Island Iced Tea (or two) before you even have your boats broken down."
Wily smile.
"Get outta here."
"You're gonna miss me!"
"I think Sam's coming."
"Oh, no.  He's going to stay and hang out with you fine gentlemen.  Bye, Sam!"
I wave in Trader Sam's general direction.
"Someone's looking for a Jungle dip."
Dockhands step menacingly closer.
"Well...I must be going.  I'll raise a drink in your absence."
"Get. Out."

And off I'd go.  Back to the locker room, back into civilian clothes, turn in my costume at Wardrobe/Costuming for a new one, lock it away, grab my wallet and keys and head down the stairs toward Harbor House.
Punch the old time card, wave happily to the rather expressionless security guard at the gate and bolt toward one's car in the Cast Member lot (now a Cast Member bus stop).
Then it was off into the night toward Charley Browns, to meet up with those fellow Cast Members who had your same shift or were already off the clock.
I could go for one of those nights right about now.

Until next time, stay thirsty my friends!


Monday, January 3, 2011

Disneyland - Turning 'Em Away

Things got so busy at the Park this week that they stopped selling tickets at 10:00 a.m.  Must've been everyone responding to my recent post about Christmas at Disneyland.  Sheesh!

Buy Disney stock everyone.

Even in the worst economy anyone can remember, Disneyland and California Adventure were clogged with guests to the point of overflowing. 
If you were stuck in the throng, my sincere condolences.  Hopefully you were able to enjoy your time in the Park elbow to elbow with your fellow guests.
What to do when the Park is at capacity??  This blog has offered several tips through the years about navigating through a busy day.
In a nutshell:
  • Get there early!
  • Get Fastpasses for two or three big rides before 11:00 a.m.
  • Adjust your expectations---you are in for a wait for pretty much everything from popcorn to Pirate of the Caribbean, from potties to Pinocchio's Adventures.
  • Eat at off times --- have lunch at 10:30 a.m. (or 10:00 a.m.), plan on a 3:00 p.m. dinner.
  • A busy day is a great day to take in things like Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the Main Street Cinema, Tom Sawyer's Island, Jungle Cruise (in the evening, after dark), the King Arthur Carousel and It's A Small World; also, don't be afraid to lollygag in the Emporium or in the shops in New Orleans Square.
  • Avoid: the Disneyland Railroad (the wait between trains at key times can be long), the Monorail (same problem), Finding Nemo, Splash Mountain, Autopia, Dumbo, Indiana Jones, Space Mountain (to name a few).
In any event, the Christmas/New Year's crush is quickly coming to an end.  Happy New Year to everyone.  Many happy returns to the Park!