Thursday, May 30, 2002

BUSY DAYS
BlogApp has crashed on me twice so far while writing this, so I'm going to keep it as short as possible. It appears blogger.com has changed something preventing blogapp from publishing properly. Ca'mon folks, let's work together.

Sorry for not writing much lately. There was a week in NYC, followed by a few days with the family unit at DisneyWorld (again!) Yeah, we've got 4-day locals tickets and we're going to use every damn day, even if it kills us. This visit took us to Animal Kingdom and a couple of nights at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I myself enjoyed many fine hours of relaxation by the pool sipping fruity drinks. It's just not a vacation if I don't have fresh fruit and plastic monkeys hanging off my beverage glass.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge is quite a trip. All the rooms overlook some kind of savannah populated by giraffes, gazelles and assorted sedate little herds of leaf-eating African mammals. It sounds bogus, but really, waking up to find a giraffe chomping on leaves 50 feet from your window puts a smile on your face. If nothing else, the lack of Disney characters stuck in one's face 24/7 was refreshing.

Oddly, Disney has chosen South Africa as it's role model for the hotel. Hmmm...last time I checked, South Africa was best known for decades-long racial tensions, isolated black homelands and being on Little Steve VanZant's list of PLACES I WON'T PLAY (probably a much shorter than his list of PLACES THAT WON'T BOOK ME). Somehow, Disney stared into that national morass and came out with fancy wines, wildlife conservation and a smiling, mixed race work force that would make the folks at Benetton blush with pride.

The wildlife conservation angle was particularly heavy...and why not? Not only does it give Disney a PC seal of approval, but it also gets them off the hook from supplying straws and other plastic supplies that might endanger the animals. Each night, an earnest black African employee gave a presentation in the lobby on wildlife conservation efforts in his homeland. At the Animal Kingdom Theme Park, probably half the attractions involved conservation themes. The climax of a bumpy, sphincter-tightening (and surprisingly good) "Safari Ride" was when our vehicle helped catch rouge elephant poachers. The low point had to be "Pocahontas - Colors of the Wind", a 13-minute mini musical in which Pocahontas fears the impending destruction of the forest by loggers (or something causing a lot of chainsaw noises to appear in the soundtrack). She turns for advice to an old willow tree and a young sapling. Various woodland critters wander out on the stage and then vanish (having done absolutely nothing). Pocahontas sings several painful songs in the Andrew Lloyd Weber vein (actually, Steve Schwartz, but who cares?). Somehow - though I failed to understand - she resolves her issues with impending woodland destruction. Something about working together? I don't know, I can't recall. It was painful.

Whatever good will earned by all the park's conservation flack was undercut the moment one walked out the front gate and scanned the acres and acres of Florida swampland Disney cut back and black-topped to build a massive single level parking area - the same kind of single-level parking area which surrounds all DisneyWorld theme parks. Environmentalists have been begging Disney for years to spare the wetlands, build parking garages and not simple lay asphalt in every direction. But Disney, which owns miles and miles of property in this part of Florida, has shown no interest in multi-story parking garages, preferring to build outward rather than upward. Is it a matter of cost or not spoiling those pristine, no-visable-buildings sightlines from within the parks? Beats me.

Despite my bitching, this was a fairly enjoyable trip. I'm starting to enjoy Disney resorts much more than their theme parks. BTW - food at the Animal Kingdom Lodge rocks. The high end restaurant was excellent and the buffet was killer, offering dozens of offbeat and well-seasoned African dishes along with the usual assortment of Prime Rib, spaghetti and chicken for the kids and lamer tourists.

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