Friday, August 17, 2012

A Curtain Call for Summer

It still feels like just yesterday was the first day of my five month long summer vacation.  It's strange to even say I've been off for five months; surely there's no way that I've been living at home since April 1st, I can barely even begin to fill the weeks with enough memories!  If anything it just goes to show how comfortable I got with living back at home with my family, with the home cooked meals and car keys up for grabs, but sitting on my bed in my new residence apartment feels just as familiar as if I pressed pause five months ago and only just hit resume.  Much like with last year the gravity of the independence and the move itself has yet to hit me; yeah, I had this strange knot in my stomach for the past week leading up to move-in day, today, and driving back toward campus with my mom had this surreal feeling hanging over it like a cloud, but it's as if my mind has settled for nothing less than immediate acceptance when it comes to the notion of hey, this is your life for the next eight months.  My mom getting a little teary eyed when saying goodbye (after a day-long mission back and forth first from the car to my room and then from my house to various stores to collect what I'd forgotten, no less) was a crack to my stone coldness to the situation, but knowing my parents need to come back here anyways to deliver two couches within the next two weeks makes the look ahead to my independent life a little less dreary.

And yet, at the same time, even just moving in to the empty unit (which will remain empty aside from me for the next two days, I believe) brought about this excitement that I never had last year.  Maybe it's because my two-person apartment style residence layout is simply huge, and it's exciting to know that this year I'll have couches an a TV and my PS3 so that I won't have to hole up in my room 24/7; maybe it's because the walls are actually painted blues and greens instead of the apathetic whites of last year, or that the carpeted floors will hide my grimy footprints a lot better than last year's hardwood; or maybe, definitely, and this is about as candid as I want to get, I know I'm not getting myself into a permanent situation with someone that yields no ounce of benefit.  I'm hoping this year will bring the possibility for open doors as opposed to locked ones, or the chance to steal the use of a common area away from dust, things I never had in what became like a prison, but that's that.  I know I have a huge undertaking with my new position of don up ahead, and that should keep me busy along with graduate school applications and classes and maintaining marks and gearing up for graduation and I don't want to think of any of these things anymore, not today.

What happened that was noteworthy this summer?  It was a good one, I know, at least in comparison to those of my memories.

Yeah, I broke my foot.  Yeah, I went to Florida.  No need to rehash that.  (horrible and amazing, respectively)

I racked up more hours at work this summer than I have in all the years I've worked there combined.  As a result, my feet hurt a lot more, my back from standing, my cheeks from pressing on the smile to serve customer after customer, but the influx of shifts brought two happy things: one, fat paychecks, and two, time enough to actually get to know the people I worked with and find a damn good time while working with them.  It's inherently human to complain about your job, but I can at least say mine wasn't the worst thing in the world.  I do wish I could've gone back to earn some extra money after my vacation, but the foot dictates what I can and cannot do so in the end I enjoyed my two weeks of nothing before moving, anyways.

Really, there was nothing else out of the ordinary.  As usual it was fantastic to be surrounded by your best friends again, and of course being with friends brought about the best nights out to bars, to the movies more times than any human should go within a set amount of months, to an empty laser tag arena or just to a familiar basement to knock back some drinks.  I'm stuck in a cliche rut when I go on about blah blah blah so happy I have great friends, but I am and I do, and I'm happy that friendships only got stronger and I got the chance to be around other people a lot more to get closer to them, too.  Maybe that's why I was almost reluctant to move back on campus so quickly - I did get comfortable with the people padding my social circle around me, and while it's sad to know that the distance between me and any given person will only get greater from here on out, I know I'm in for new friends and new experiences this year given the circumstances of my job.  And getting back into a groove with the friends here (on account of living on the same campus or close nearby) is a great thing, too.

The biggest thing I'll miss from the world's longest summer vacation will be the lack of stress.  Ahead of me comes all of those things I've already listed off that makes me sweat a little bit more, and I know the next few weeks of nonstop training for my job will be strenuous.  (as much as it's sure to be fun, though) What makes it a little worse is knowing that there's no time to breathe once training is up: I'm going to plunge right into going back to class and turning in assignments while I need to do my job as best as I can.  See, and summer's not like that - summer's waking up after noon and showering hours later before you sit around and do nothing until a friend asks you if you want to drink a lot and go someplace.  No deadlines.

Like I said, though, this move feels a lot different than last year's.  Maybe it's because I know this year will be amazing.  But for now, I'll say goodbye to my old friend summer.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Florida Trip: RUDE PEOPLE! & more rides

I've come to the end of my vacation!  It certainly doesn't feel like I've been away from home for nine days, or worse, that I've been without the use of my phone for nine days, but as I look at its useless self on the table before me I feel like I've been able to breathe now free of my constant dependency on it.  I've found my new permanent spot in the armchair to the left of the TV and I feel uncomfortable now not sitting in it; the third shelf down hasn't yet failed me in providing me my double stuffed Oreos; in short, I've adjusted to this home away from home, but I'm just about ready to return to the Canadian heat late tomorrow night to reconnect with my dearly missed friends, the Telus network, and HBO.  HBO most.  I miss True Blood.

I look down at my arms and am pleased with the tan I managed.  I look to the bruises and swelling at my foot and frown at my stupidity.  I can feel the fridge behind me looking at me, pleading for me to help finish eat all the leftover food and beer even though I've, uh, been not-so-sober every night this week.  Aside from my general exhaustion - we did four theme parks and two outlet malls, consecutively - I've been very pleased with my vacation!  The only thing that worries me about returning home is the very real fact that I move into residence on the 17th to start with my don training, and I'm not quite ready to let go of my summer vacation.

So I don't have to now!  Instead I'll live in the past - yesterday - and then launch into complaining about rude bastards.

Yesterday brought the grand tour of amusement parks to a close with the other side of Universal, Universal Studios Florida, which, like Disney's Hollywood Studios, was (duh) geared toward the movie angle of things, except Universal has (duh) a lot less smiling and fairydust and stupid, stupid children.  Again I was a fan of the New York City and San Francisco street facades that made up the themed atmosphere of the park.  Luckily for me, the park was a lot more compact than the others we'd visited, so the whole mobility issue was moreso tolerable.  It was like torture seeing Hogwarts Castle towering over me all day though in the adjacent park; while atop the roller coaster I tried my best to scope out a route for me to escape our side and re-enter the Wizarding World, but it was tough to do considering, oh I dunno, this roller coaster (called Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket) involved a 90 degree slope and an almost-as-violent drop.  Awesome ride made all the better by the option to choose a song to play throughout it, and No Doubt's Hella Good did not disappoint.  Given that only the three kids rode it I was stuck alone beside a single rider, some little girl by herself, and I swear to god I thought she was unconscious the entire time because she looked sickly and didn't open her eyes once.  She ruined my ride photo, the corpse did.

With respect to the other rides in the park - and luckily, we managed all but two, thanks to brisk line waits and a complimentary express pass for the aforementioned roller coaster (we were next to ride and then it was shut down; walked on and off within five minutes two hours later) - I was impressed.  The Mummy themed Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster was fantastic, indoors and pitch black complete with fire and corpses and scarabs blasting at you; Twister, an up-close special effects demonstration with a tornado and later a tornado of fire and - goddamnit - rain, which was largely what felt like a thrown bucket of water that hit me and only me directly; The Simpsons motion simulator and an E.T. ride which made me feel like weeping for the return of my childhood and an alien-blasting Men in Black laser game, it was all very good.  We sat in at a horror make-up effects show which was more comedy than intrigue but it was really enjoyable nonetheless, and our luck found us dead in the middle of a parade barreling toward us down the main street that was nothing more than kids' characters on floats.  That Dora the Explorer needs to pull down her shirt, the slut, I could see her midriff.

Honestly, even writing this has been a struggle - not because I don't care, but because I feel so exhausted, no doubt from hitting a massive halt today from the fast pace of everything we've done and instead just doing nothing.  Drinking beer is even a challenge, I feel like my body is trying to repel it because I've had so much this week.  But oh, I really must comment on the rude, rude people I've encountered this week - false advertising otherwise, considering I picked it as my subtitle.  Laziness.

It might be easy to go "Americans are rude!" but I can say that the Americans I encountered this week (largely restricted to any store clerks or waitresses for certain, because I don't always know where people are from) have been far nicer than some of the traveling visitors.  Actually, any store workers at the outlet malls specifically were so nice, it was almost annoying, but being a cashier who has been accused of being not genuine I can say that their helpfulness wasn't just restricted to their job.  No, the horrible characters I'll touch upon come in the form of park-goers, and I need to preface this by saying my inclusion of their nationality is not stemmed from a malicious place; how else might you describe a group of people speaking French who are horrid without saying that they were, in fact, French.

AND culprits number one: this horrible group of French people who attempted to cut us off in Disney on Pirates of the Caribbean.  The queue was slightly wider than normal leaving extra space for riders to fill.  So as the seven of us slowly advanced forward, this man with four or five I suppose youths began to run around us nonchalantly to get in front of us.  When we confronted them, they looked at us and shook their heads.  We quickly spread out across the width to hold the line from any other passers, so these people's response was to literally stand on our heels and obnoxiously sing on our necks.  People - we are all riding this ride, so what that we're gasp on one car ahead of you?  I don't understand why the idea of boarding a ride turns into a bloodbath; again, we will all get on the ride, so I don't really stand for this cutting business because if I'm to wait in line (which isn't a task to begin with), you should too.  Almost in a similar vein, a man got under my skin by, when passing me in the express line for Tower of Terror, whispered-but-really-did-not-whisper to his son "look at all these people who we pass" before looking me in the eye and adding "but we mustn't gloat in front of them.  That's rude."  Congrats, but my wallet has seventy more dollars in it than yours, for the cost of waiting fifteen minutes longer than your bought pass does.  Or the man in the Wizarding World - seriously, what is it about advancing in lines that makes people so intoxicated and horny with power and satisfaction - who quite literally stepped around my sister and stood in front of her in the gift shop line.  She confronted him with "you aren't allowed to do that, you were behind me" and he actually fought it as if he had an argument.  My least favourite, though, might've been this Spanish family who had two very small children who ran around like monkeys during a stunt performance, and the little boy was crawling around on our feet and all but sat and jumped on my cast.  We told the parents to stop them from doing that, but all they did was literally smile and shrug.  Put your rascal in a cage before I kick him.

The honest truth is that these situations seemed like a bigger deal when they happened considering these heat of the moment things really get you riled up.  (and it's not like I have a big fuse or anything) I just don't understand what makes people so inconsiderate of others, especially in a big chaotic setting such as an amusement park.  I always comment on how I'm never the one to walk straight in a line and have others move to avoid me; I'm always the one who needs to jump away from an oncoming stroller or hoard of people, and nothing changed even with my obvious limp and foot cast - half of my vacation was spent retracting my foot away from people who were absolutely oblivious to it.  Not that I expect this paved way or red carpet put in front of me: but seriously, if you even let yourself see that I have an injury, don't charge at me like a blind bull and make me shift all of my weight onto it in a jump away from your fat ass and fat children.  (okay, I'm sorry, but the kids down here are rotund)

Gah.  Anyways.  Really awesome trip; so concludes my coverage which I'd say far beats out the American-bias coverage of the Olympics I've been forced to sit through.  (really, they cut away from anything without an American and only show events with American gold winners - at least in Canada it's more rounded) I'm somewhat eager to return home!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Florida Trip: movie wonderland and the definition of magic

Very rarely do I write blogs so early in the morning!  Even though I fell asleep last night well past one a.m. I was forced awake two hours ago by the smell of bacon floating under my door and into my room.  Now I'm just bloated and the path to the backdoor seems too great a challenge to tackle so my favourite arm chair will be my home as I write again about what I've done in the past few days on vacation.

Admittedly, in comparison to my last entry, the past two days have been more low-key even though we went back to theme parks on both.  (hardly low-key, but considering Monday-Tuesday was a back-to-back visit of the Magic Kingdom and Universal's Islands of Adventure, it almost seemed like a much needed break) While I sweat my ass off those two days, Wednesday's visit to Disney's Hollywood Studios was largely overcast (complete with nonstop thunder); yesterday, though hot as hell again, was spent in avoidance at an outlet mall, but to my dismay the sweat poured from every pore of my body even at ten o'clock at night while watching the Electric Parade and fireworks show over Cinderella's Castle.

Now that was the epitome of magic.  I faintly remember seeing the Electric Parade thirteen years ago, but my memory doesn't extend past "floats with lights" which isn't general whatsoever.  No, as we stood packed on a street corner swimming in sweat even though the sun went down, I smiled like a kid when the brightly illuminated floats rounded the corner and passed in front of us.  Alice rode atop a giant mushroom; Cinderella in her pumpkin; Snow White dancing with her seven dwarves in tow and Mickey and Minnie atop a bright train.  Admittedly the music that they blasted on loop got on my nerves within minutes, and I'm almost positive that that is the music that plays for eternity in Hell, so I hope to never get there.  The moment the last float passed, the crowd turned into a chaotic frenzy, but thankfully a Disney worker had our backs and sent us off in a shortcut to rejoin the Main Street.  From there, we stayed for the fireworks display, a display that puts shame to every single other fireworks show I've ever seen.  You don't know spectacle until you see the gigantic explosions over top the grand castle, and I'm glad I'll have those images forever stuck in my head.  (for those of you who can't access my mind I might suggest lurking my sister's albums on Facebook as she is the resident photographer this trip) From there came probably the most efficient exit I've seen which lay my stresses to rest; we somehow skirted around the thousands in the crowds and made it home by eleven.

Somehow, I get upset when I think about my time in Disney being over.  For now.

Two days ago, Wednesday, we visited another Disney park, Hollywood Studios, which - if you might've guessed by its name - was geared more toward the movies.  A section stood devoted to the animation, and honestly, I was disappointed that there wasn't a greater focus on how these movies were made; instead this 'animation headquarters' was a place to get pictures with various characters.  Blah.  Not that the day was a bust, anyways!  The other only misstep was The Great Movie Ride which, in theory, sounded fantastic (you travel through iconic movie scenes), but instead it was a cheesy guided ride through animatronic settings.  Just like in It's a Small World, those robots are creepy.  The part where the cart travels through the Alien ship with Sigourney Weaver was awesome, though.  In a similar vein was the Studio Backlot Tour, where we were treated to a special effects display of explosions, gun fire, and a rushing tidal wave which stopped my heart momentarily as it crashed toward us even though I knew we were safe.  Safe, not dry.  The gift shop connected to the exit was my absolute dream: you walk through an archive of movie props and costumes and concept arts and set pieces, including the costumes from Pirates of the Caribbean, the Alien from Alien, and Morgan Freeman's AFI Lifetime Achievement Award.  That, mixed with the whole movie theme of the area, should've effectively put a stop to my heart due to happiness overdose, but I made it.  I might not be as lucky today.  (Universal Studios)

A Little Mermaid stage show was somewhat impressive, what with the glow in the dark puppetry to simulate the aquatic characters swimming around under the sea.  (sidenote: I can't imagine being an actor performing the exact same performances tens and tens of times on repeat over a full day) A Muppets 3D ride was just okay, but it was the Muppets, so it was fundamentally good.  My three favourite visits of the day were the rides: the Tower of Terror, the famous elevator drop ride which scared the living shit out of me; Aerosmith's Rocking Roller Coaster, something I was lucky enough to ride twice in a row, which is indescribably fun as it blasts through a dark building while 'Walk This Way' plays over your head; and hands down the best of the day, Toy Story Midway Mania 3D, an interactive ride-game where you fire cannons at targets on 3D screens to rack up points against the other people in your party who, for those four minutes, are your opponents.  That we played twice, too.  Laughed like a kid.  The set up of the park was cool, anyways: sections were made to look like studio sets, including an entire path as a mock New York City.

Later today we make our last stop on this wild theme park tour at the other end of Universal Studios, and given I survive the day on my foot (that, or if I don't die from seeing Hogwarts loom over me again even though I can't revisit), tomorrow brings about a final chill-out day by the pool before coming home on Sunday.  Yes, I'll write again tomorrow night, though I'll only have today to recap: rest assured, though, I've saved the topic of rude foreigners to rant about, and lord will I.  I've never encountered so many rude people in my life, but that's enough for now.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Florida Trip: beaches and Disney and wizards

It's good to finally sit down and stop moving.  What's not so good is that thanks to my mother I'm addicted to this game on Facebook called Slingo, so while my family (families) are out back swimming or watching something together I'm in my big armchair playing this damn game.  But if you're beginning to get concerned, no, I have not spent my entire Florida vacation inside on the internet.

Tonight I'm still finding sand all over my hands and between my swollen toes from being on the beach all day.  I can happily say that I succeeded in getting a nice looking tan, but ask me to turn around and you'll see that the backs of my arms are glaringly white.  I didn't set foot in the Atlantic - I was confined to my chair because walking over the uneven sand in my cast was troublesome and I was too scared to try without - but despite the mobility issues, the beach on the East Coast was beautiful nonetheless.  I'm not usually one for sitting around and doing nothing; the four hours we spent by the water was almost difficult for me to sit through because there's only so much I can do without moving and there's only so many times I can listen to No Doubt's Settle Down even though I adore the song.  In comparison to my last two days, though, it was nice to come to a screeching halt.

Two days ago, Sunday, we went to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World.  As I mentioned in my last post I've been once before in my life, though I can't remember much aside from what was the most terrifying experience of my entire existence: a staged alien ride where an alien breaks loose in a room and it is downright traumatizing.  Thankfully Disney smartened up and replaced the monstrous thing that breaks the power and runs around you in the dark with Stitch from Lilo & Stitch instead.

I can't explain the sort of feeling that came over me when we set foot off of the monorail - if you've never been, you take a monorail from the parking lot because this Disney property is freaking huge - and onto the Main Street with Cinderella's castle staring directly at you at the end.  No, I can explain it: I turned into a giddy kid.  Into Tomorrowland, where we sat through a Monster's Inc. live comedy show, rode Space Mountain, and competed in a laser game on the Buzz Lightyear ride; deeper into the park, where we took pictures with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger after riding a hunny pot through the 100 Acre Wood; through It's a Small World which was bloody torturous; over to the Haunted Mansion which gave me heart palpitations, and it's worth mentioning that I'm astounded by the production and detail of that ride; finally finishing on the Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster and with Pirates of the Caribbean which has since been redesigned to match the movies, complete with eerily realistic animatronics of Johnny Depp.  The highlight, though, came in the form of a 3D movie ride called Mickey's PhilharMagic, which involves a journey through some of the most iconic musical numbers from the classic cartoons, all redesigned from 2D to 3D.  What took the show to a higher level was that when a 3D pie was thrown through the screen at you (okay, not literally, obviously), the room filled with the scent of cinnamon and pie crust; when a wave engulfed the screen, you were sprayed with water.  Really awesome stuff.  Really was the happiest place on earth.

Oh, and I pulled the sword from the stone.

I'd never been to Universal Studios until yesterday.  The moment that I saw the Hogwarts Castle on the horizon I swear to god I think I almost started crying and sounds that I can't even begin to describe escaped my mouth.  We powered through the park straight toward the entrance to the Wizarding World, to Hogsmeade, and for the love of god, it was the most incredible place I have ever been in my entire life.  The honest truth is that I've spent about fifteen minutes attempting to put into words what being in the middle of that row of shops was like, but I've just given up completely.  The pictures we got hardly do the place justice; it was swimming with people as enamored with the detail and wonder as I was, and the fact that the soundtracks to the movies played on speakers everywhere you went just made everything infinitely better.  We walked straight onto the Dragon's Challenge roller coaster: its queue was themed entirely around the Triwizard Tournament, and walking through the line-up was almost as good (if not better) than the ride itself.  You pass by Hagrid's Hut, the crashed blue car, into the champions' tent, deep into some dungeons and around the freaking Goblet of Fire itself.

Walking up to the castle took my breath away.  The anchor of the themed area is the main ride within the castle, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but yet again the queue was as good as the ride itself: you first wind around the grounds and greenhouses before you enter the castle itself, and holy shit.  Dumbledore's office; the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom; the common room; past the Mirror of Erised, the Fat Lady, talking paintings, the Pensieve, I can't describe it.  (apparently neither could our camera - we had to leave it with our bag in the lockers) The ride itself is, without exaggeration, the most fun I have ever had.  You fly over the grounds, through the Quidditch pitch, through the Chamber of Secrets; you're attacked by a dragon, Aragog, spiders, and Dementors.  Again, I can't find the right way to properly describe with words how the ride actually worked, but I just know I screamed and laughed the entire time because goddamnit I had so much fun.  Strategically you can't exit the ride without passing through a gift shop; I came away with a Hippogrpyh stuffed animal, a Hogwarts mug, a Deathly Hallows keychain, and I later bought myself Sirius Black's wand from Ollivander's.  But that's all.  Oh, and a mug of Butterbeer, which was oddly delicious even though it was, really, disgusting.  I want to go back so bad and live there.  (we ended up deciding not to continue on in the park right away without riding the castle ride once more)

Wish you were as cool?
Unfortunately lightning in the skies derailed our plans for the rest of the park: they were forced to shut down any rides involving water, so we couldn't ride the Jurassic Park adventure that I was looking forward to.  We were lucky that everything else was eventually reopened, and I again ran around like a kid through the Marvel section of the park to Dr. Doom's Freefall ride and to the Incredible Hulk roller coaster, which was a blast.  I wish we had spent more time with Marvel, considering it was visually so cool: painted entirely in bright colours, the paths were set up like New York streets, and costumed superheroes like the X-Men (ahhh!) covered the buildings and roamed the streets themselves.  (I was restrained from getting a picture with Rogue and Storm - boooo) Had I not wasted away so much cash in the Wizarding World I would've gone as crazy with the superhero memorabilia, but by that late point in the day, we were eager to go home.

Tomorrow?  We revisit Disney, though this time we brave the Tower of Terror again in the Hollywood Studios park.