Jun 012008

The most natural answer for me when people ask me “how was disneyland?” is that its much better with your own kid. Not that I’ve taken other’s kids, but that going with sal was the most fun I’ve had at disneyland – ever.

Now, it isn’t like I go every year and this was the best of 35 trips – I haven’t been there in over 20 years. But as a kid, I’m sure I had fun, though there aren’t any particularly wonderful memories around it. It was cool the night Apple rented it out and we got to go and it wasn’t so crowded, but the rides were rides – but it wasn’t magical to me (anymore?)…

Going with Sal and seeing it be magical for him was amazing. Castles! Cars! Spaceships! We weren’t just going around in circles while riding in little tubes – we were launching off into outer space to see the moon and space lions and aliens with 6 noses (references to a little skit in Blue’s Clues). Pure bliss..

“Daddy – have never been in a teacup!” and I knew we’d be going on a teacup. And I’m not sure I’ve been on it before. Probably, Perhaps. But no specific memory of riding in the teacups. Til now.

The bumper cars in the little kiddies area go pretty slow. Catherine took a movie, but it still looks like a 30 second picture with people moving their arms, but the cars staying still. They weren’t taking chances with safety. I don’t thing any energy was transfered during a collision. But Sal was driving. Estatic! When the power went off and we were getting out of the cars, he shouted over to the other car – We beat you! The mom in that car gave a little laugh. But inside, I think she cried a little. We did kick their butts.

Pre-wink.And the fairyland faire? I don’t know how high that would have been on my list of places to go when I was a kid, but with this boy, it seemed like there wasn’t ever a question of whether or not we’d be going? He had his hopes set on meeting Cinderella. But they had 3 princesses you get to meet and they work on shifts. When we got in line, Cinderella was working…would she still be around when it was our turn? The line was maybe 20-25 people long. And hour and 15 minutes later, Cinderella was back on shift. I’m not sure if it was the same Cinderella, but here’s where the magic comes in. To Sal, it was THE Cinderella.

It reminded me of the finale of our dog training classes. We had little dog races, where I would hold Chapo and Catherine would be on the other side of the room. She’d be calling for him to come. There was another pair with their dog next to us. The dog that got to their owner first won. Now, Chapo’s undersized in these competitions, but we used it to our advantage. It made it that much easier to “rev” him up and when it was time to go, his legs were already moving, while the other dogs were starting from a dead stop. Chapo faired well…when he went to Catherine. Other people in the class generally had more interesting treats.

I like pizza. With olives.So Sal’s there waiting his turn to see Cinderella. He’s trying to be a good boy, but his engine is revving. He sees the girl in front of him change positions and it must be his turn. He takes off. But they’re just getting a different angle for the photos. You might not be able to unfire a gun, but you can reload it. And. Salvador was amazingly easy to get back to the waiting area. Either he was on his best behavior in front of Cinderella or he wasn’t interested in sharing her – either way, he stood back next to us and waited his turn.

When it was his turn, he was a rocket – running over to her. She called him a handsome prince and she was awestruck and all that chatter and talk about Cinderella was replaced with an oh-my-gosh-I’m-sitting-next-to-cinderella look on his face and he was just smiles and giggles and a little “do you want to talk about superheroes?”

Big hugTurns out all the Princesses refer to all the boys as handsome, so I got a little jaded after our next Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Snow White, Jasmine, Sleeping Beauty, Pocahauntas encounters. But Sal didn’t. We got suckered into spending 16 bucks on a kids meal (which was a large spoonful of mac and cheese with half a hot dog on top of it and some carrot and celery sticks) so that Sal could lunch with the princesses. Best overpriced lunch ever.

He offered this Snow White a carrot stick. After he took a bite out of it. She declined politely enough. But it was terrific just watching him interact. Shy, confused, excited, all jumbled.

And Ariel – who is now sometimes referred to as his favorite? He got all huggy with her, would walk away, blow kisses, then ran back to hug her again. Then walked away, blew kisses…you see how she’s sitting on the floor like that? With the dress cleverly covering her legs, so you can’t tell if she’s got mermaid flippers or legs underneath? Well, it is kind of an awkward position no? So when Sal goes running back for his third set of hugs and he leaps into her arms, he catches her off balance and they go down. No pictures were taken – we all thought the experience was over a few hugs earlier. But the staff did comment to me that he’s the most enthusiastic kid they’ve seen in a long while. Enthusiastic seems like a nice way of putting it.

Ka-chow!He was too short for most of the rides, but only had one meltdown over the zip line ride that he was too short for. He took a good nap during day 1 at Disneyland. Day 2 was a little less running around at the California Adventures park so he lasted through the whole thing, which climaxed with a Pixar parade. That started with, yes, Lightning McQueen.

The parade is planned for the summer time, so they have random things squirting water out randomly off their floats. At least it seemed that way. Until the Buzz Lightyear float came around. Sal started screaming like there was another princess around. He’s never really seen Toy Story (brief bits here and there) and we don’t know why he’s into Buzz so much, but it was clear he was. The blonde mom in front of Sal in the photo there, she had to turn around to see if Sal was okay, the way he was screaming. But the screaming got Buzz’s attention and they exchanged a few finger guns and thumbs up signs, until a fish on the float shot Sal with a generous shot of water. This isn’t water gun type blasts of water. Imagine those fountains where you see the water streams being controlled – like about a dime sized column of water.

Sal takes it in the head. He’s laughing and squealing still and runs back to get out of the line of fire. Then another blast of water comes and I had assumed the timing was sporadic and that the squirters were fixed in direction. But the way this second shot tagged Sal again, I started to wonder. He’s still excited and runs over to Catherine and her parents. The float continues on its merry path. Sal is all grins, wiping his face trying to get the water off it when a 3rd blast from the float gets him again. I look back at the squirter and it does look fixed so maybe Sal’s defensive serpentine needs some help…still, he loved it.

Mater closed out the parade and the kid was pleased with the two day experience. Why wouldn’t he be? He’s into the Disney channel now, with the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse show – which I don’t quite get and doesn’t seem as pseudo educational as some other kids shows, but whatever. he’s into the characters now.  Even though Mickey did give him a little noogie. And we probably should get some princess anthology so he knows what ails them all. And now, we’re often asked by the little dude – “Hey, do you want to goto Dis-a-knee-land again?” I think we will. And thanks to his grandparents for helping me realize that this trip wasn’t just for him, but for us too.

Feb 242007

So I’ve been on a plane for some part of 5 of the last 6 days. And I have a flight back tomorrow too. It has been kind of interesting. Today’s/last night’s flight was the worst. Not quite sure why – the seats were cramped (delta 767) or maybe it was the moronic chatter going on behind us or could it be, possibly, perhaps, by chance, this hyper baby that was whining and moaning and crying in our laps?

He usually sleeps by takeoff. And thought with a 10:10pm flight that he’d be asleep for sure. But the new plane was a sensory buffet for him. Teaching him to use his “magic” and turn on the overhead light by saying “bing!” (Marco would turn the light on from his armrest) turned out to be not such a good idea once he was addicted to the ability. Of course, the one time he’s gonna be nutty is during a cross-country flight overnight. At least him and moms are sleeping right now. Westin had 1 room available at 7am. Another couple should open up soon.

Anyway, Chic-fil-a is in the little mall across the street, so we sampled some chicken and biscuits. And chicken minis. They were especially enjoyable given our sleep deprivation.

The parking structure we are in is best described as a crowded triangle. The ramps are one car wide, but have warnings all over reminding one that it is two way traffic. I’m not sure how we’ll get out.

But we’re here. Happy. And tired.

Jul 302006

For someone using your “taco” haircut as a mustache?

Or…for missing a turn on a bike ride, going a bit out of your way, up a pretty significant hill, while temperatures are rising?  

missed the turn a bit.

We had the chance this weekend to examine ourselves around that question and answer.

Catherine said to me that she was glad she was driving the “support” car, because the hill would have “broken” her (we’re down with the Tour de France lingo).  As it turned out, her car’s GPS system helped us realize where we needed to be (and carried a lot of extra Gatorade). And where we needed to be was on a street that was about 30 yards after the last winery we were at.

It was a completely honest mistake, where the sign notifying you of the street coming up was probaby before the winery. And we were focused on finding the winery. Instead of looking for the street sign for the next winery. I mean, who thinks two wineries ahead?

So when we were leaving that winery, there was no sign notifying us that the next street was indeed the street we wanted to turn on. So we just went on. As luck would have it, on meant up a little hill, which lead to a little bigger hill,  but gave way to a bit of a downhill, to get a nice breeze going (and which, on the way back, would surprise you at how it seems a much bigger uphill than a downhill) and then lead to another cute little hilly-hill-hill which levelled out and then turned the corner to a slightly larger hill, but that eased up and then transitioned into a serious hill. (There are little flickr notes on the image that show the where’s of this story a bit better…click on it.)

The car GPS bailed us out. I was about ready to crack and didn’t mind the stop to get our bearings. But I feared that we were going the right way and that I’d have to try and start pulling me and Sal up the hill again from a stop. Not that I was going that fast…I was really dreading the hill more than the “from a stop” idea.  But I was playing mind games with myself to make coping with the possible truth a bit easier.

Catherine said later that since she wasn’t on the bike ride and therefore didn’t get broken by the hill, she was able to joke about the incident with the trip leader. I asked if she was on the ride, would she be able to joke about it? Silence.  I waited. More silence. So I offered up – “Or would [the leader] be dead to you?”  Solemn nodding.  Then a big grin from her and she said “Good thing I wasn’t riding a bike!”

Out trip leader was a bit surprised at how pleasant people were about the little mistake. I think it might just be a genuinely polite crowd we were in. So – just to clear the air – and give a little better perspective on things – if you had this type of mistake made on a trip you were on, given that it was an honest mistake – but also that it was quite a bit of crazy exertion as the sun was busting through – how would you feel?

May 052006

I think we had the table on the right, just inside the building, at Nick’s Fishmarket in the Kea Lani Fairmont. There was a thunderstorm, so everyone was basically inside.

The food was pretty darn good – Catherine hassles me cause I ordered the fresh catch of the day, prepared “Island Boy Style”. She says “You think you’re hawaiian”.  Hey, I’ve always said, that Chinese-Mexican is the poor man’s hawaiian. Anyway, island boys have good style – I’m not a fan of seafood really, but I’d have this dish anytime.

But beyond the food being great (Sal’s french fries were also very good – and even better is that they aren’t part of his allowed diet – so pops got to enjoy most of them) was the service. It was probably my favorite service experience. I am impressed by the places that serve the entire table at once but that seems too formal and in some ways, easy.

This place, instead, was just always on the ball. I don’t know who our waiter was. Everyone played that role. Everyone played every role. Seamlessly. I think that’s less formal, but more impressive. We ordered a bottle of wine. While the guy who took that order from us was explaining other things about dinner, somehow (I wasn’t paying attention) he relayed the wine order to someone, and as he finished up the blurb on dinner, he brought out the bottle of wine from behind his back and transitioned into us tasting the wine.

Or – Sal was fussing, so we went to go watch the fish in the aquarium or the flames from the tiki torches and when we headed back in, someone (cause I’m not sure of titles here…) saw us coming from across the room and pulled my chair out for me. Waiting the few seconds for us to get there. It was pretty sweet treatment. Quite a team. Much harder to pull off than every dish served simultaneously. Here, everyone was willing to do every aspect of the job, at any moments notice – in fact, they seemed to be seeking out opportunities to perform every aspect.

Which made the whole dinner experience, that much better.

Full food disclosure: couldn’t pass up Burger King this morning – we were a bit early to the airport anyway. Part of Catherine hassling me about being a native is how I ordered the Portuguese Sausage Platter today. Delicious actually. Surprisingly so. BK does a nice job with rice even. Their cheesey tater tots though, were a bigger hit with Catherine than me.

May 052006

What better way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo than to be in Hawaii?  Maui Tacos is having a sale tomorrow – 5 island fish tacos for 5 bucks. Hard to pass that one up…maybe. Jury is still out on tonight’s dinner.  It is an odd situation, where we’re in a real nice resort because Catherine’s parents are nice enough to set us up with them, but yet, we don’t quite fit in. After spending $75 on lunch, we decided to get out of the resort land and get a more reasonable dinner – Maui Tacos!

Hung out at the pool today with Sal and his floating whale. The pool was a little chilly (overcast day, occasional storms) and Catherine’s offended that this place doesn’t heat their pools. But you get used to it really quickly. Salvador actually was the biggest man about the whole thing. Didn’t even flinch. And he doesn’t make a fuss (like some others I’m traveling with) about all my welts from paintball either (about 7 – the biggest one is on my chest in a location that Salvador is quite good at finding which came from an unknown shooter, the 2nd biggest on my back from EJ and the one shot I’m glad that didn’t create a welt was from Banjoman who shot me in the groin). I think paintball would be several times more fun if we had good goggles. The guns were plenty fine. The goggles ruined the experience for me. I think I’ve said that about something else, but don’t remember what. Vision is kind of important for these things.

Anyway – the plane ride out here was miserable for me. My knee got a bit more swelling from the cabin pressure or something, like mother in front of me who liked to keep on reclining the chair into my knee, then sitting up, then reclining back into my knee. Kink in my neck. Some chairs I just don’t fit in right. I tried to figure out how many cubic feet each seat is, so I could say how little space there was, but then I realized that I’d need to figure out how many cubic feet of meat I actually am, and that wasn’t going to lead anywhere good. So I just tried to sleep it off.

Salvador had other plans. The ride was the worst ride in recent memory for me. And I did even get to sleep for most of it (Catherine did a great job with Salvador.) But now that it is over and I’ve had a Kea Lani Cocktail to relieve the aches, it really does come down to the fact that it is all worth it – just because we’ll get to spend almost a week with Catherine’s parents. That cliche warning about how no one ever said “I wish I spent more time at work” on their deathbed gets to me every now and then. Because Salvador’s growing so freaking fast. Well, changing so freaking fast, if not growing.

Banjoman and I were chatting yesterday, about the soft sigh that the boys will give and then they’ll rest their head on you for a moment. It is probably the proudest moment for me as a father so far (yeah, even better than watching him steal binkies from other kids…but it’s close). Just because I interpret it as the moment when he trusts me enough to rest with me. He used to goto sleep, but now, most of the time, he’ll pop up and crawl up my face and grab my glasses.  Still, that moment of rest, contentment, safety, whatever – that moment together is bliss. My sister got Salvador to fall asleep in her arms for the first time in a while a few weeks back and I could recognize the pleasure in that. But as Sal grows, he’ll get less comfortable – physically first – just won’t fit in our arms – then, most likely emotionally. Keeping that comfort and trust will be a constant challenge and endeavor that isn’t very thrilling to look forward to.

So yeah,we’re incredibly fortunate to get to spend this kind of time together (they’re really just coming to see Salvador – we’re just lucky to be along for the ride) to help maintain and strengthen those bonds.  So fortunate, that 5 hours of being trapped in area that I’ll just say isn’t even double my own area…is a small price to pay when everything’s accounted for.

Emphatic mahalo.

And if it’s your birthday today, happy birthday. I just checked your burrito horoscope and it reads “Today is a good day for a burrito” – enjoy!

Jun 132005

Shawn talks a tough game, but doesn’t follow up. He said no more theater movies. Then bingo, next night he’s watching Madagascar. Horrible movie. Physically hurt to pay attention. Worse than the IU algorithms class I had where the Prof read to us from his book. And yes – that class is worse than it sounds. Really can’t do much to lessen the effects. Two showers later and still, no change.

I didn’t want to see the movie. But I felt, well, maybe a good little kids movie is good for the baby. Baby has been set back. I must work harder. Pay more attention. Cannot take these things lightly.

Decided to battle it mentally – going to happy place. Was thinking about movies with good dialog –Glengarry Glen Ross was on this weekend – absolutely fantastic dialog and delivery…ah…yes…there are some quality stories out there. Ed Harris says one 3 word sentence 3 times in rapid succession. Each time though, the sentence meant something different. Fantastic. It was that movie that got me going to see any movie that won a Tony in its original form. And I’m Not Rappaport was a decent movie – though I don’t remember much about it. Something about someone’s daughter and I’m not rappaport is the punchline to some joke I don’t remember. But the dialogue is great – I think plays rely on that much more than movies – that’s why I’ll go see any movie based on an award winning play. I don’t have time to waste with any old play. Or any old movie.

So now, I’m calm enough to check our normal mail and I find that the Mandarin Oriental in New York has sent us a coupon. Actually – we did think of the Mandarin during the movie, because they have a couple of scenes from central park and in the background they’ve got the hotels – Mandarin would have been off to the right somewhere. Somewhere behind the Trump International. I believe it was the Trump International blocking my view.

Anyway – coupon: $100 off the next stay – if booked between July 1 and Sept 5. Basically, my birthday to the day before Catherine’s birthday. I like how customized they’re making these offers, though I think it is a little unfair that they won’t give her a discount on her birthday night. But I digress.

We got a kid on the way and won’t be using the coupon; if anyone wants it – it is yours. It is a fantastic place to stay. We stayed there for one night – part of our 36 hour to NY trip – and it was a primo stay. I got to live out the movie fantasy scene where you wake up and peel open the drapes and look out on Central Park. Then I whistled a little ditty.

Quite a fantasy, I know. I did share the room with a couple of little asian girls too. That wasn’t too shabby either.

Oh – the brunch at the Mandarin’s top notch too. All these cute little dishes with different foods arranged on them. You get to mix and match. Waffles and noodles as brunch’s main course? No problem. Four little desserts – of course. Start with a little caviar? Naturally.

And the $41 once it’s all signed off and done with room service burger was practically worth it – it was that good. At $35 I would have said it was fair. For $30 – a steal. Or – if I had the burger to myself, it would have been much better too. Those asian gals were a bit early.

Has my happy place become a snooty place? I wish. The bill was horrendous. But if we just pretend that we were in New York for a week and average it all out – it was quite affordable after all. Anyway – like I said – I think anyone can use the coupon…and well, with what they charge, using it ain’t a bad idea.