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March 23rd, 2021

Sometimes It’s The Little Things Nobody Notices That Make You Fall In Love With A Place

I’m old and decrepit I reckon, but I’ve done the rides, I’ve done the parks and still love them, I’ve done the cute little miniature golf spots, and it’s all okay. But what really enchants me about my Disney World vacations are the walking paths around the DVC resorts. It’s like a walker’s paradise here. I do a slow morning walk every day, coffee mug in hand, when the weather allows, which is usually. You get up early enough and you have the pathways pretty much to yourself.

When I’m staying at Boardwalk my morning routine used to be a walk down the canal path to Hollywood Studios and straight to The Writer’s Stop for my morning coffee and danish. But when Starbucks opened there they closed The Writer’s Stop because I guess Starbucks couldn’t endure even the competition of a little coffee snack and bookshop. So now it’s I make my own coffee in the room and just do the stroll along that lovely canal.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Sometimes It’s The Little Things Nobody Notices That Make You Fall In Love With A Place

Budgeting For The End Of Maintenance Phase

Took a brief walk to Disney Springs (formerly Pleasure Island…) to look for a good glass or mug to drink out of, instead of the cheap foam (but plastic wrapped for your safety!) cups we’ve been supplied here in the luxury villas (NOT hotels) since and I suppose because of COVID. Because…I dunno…I think I should be putting Night Train Express into a disposable cup over ice not Grand Marnier. Plus, I had dinner reservations at the Edison then, and I wanted to scope out how they were letting guests in who just walk over from Saratoga Springs. The Edison has a very large interior multi-level eatery with good air circulation. And it’s themed as a 1930s Los Angeles speakeasy that was hidden in an old abandoned Edison electric power plant. I love it.

So they’re funneling us all into a temperature check, but access by foot is still very easy from this hotel (Villa!) and they gave me a room in a really good location for walking to Disney Springs…possibly because I told them on a previous trip that that’s what I wanted for the express purpose of walking over.

I went over looking for a nice Disney souvenir glass or mug. I came back with three. Because I found three I liked and the wallet only started complaining when I kept looking after three. Whenever I go vacationing the first thing is I set a ceiling on expenditures not related to travel (hotels…fuel…food…that stuff is budgeted for before I set out). So I have here what you might call a pot of discretionary money. It’s for shiny things I see that I want to take home with me and all I have to think about is how good is that money pot just then. I keep my register chits and look them over nightly and re-adjust my pot of money to buy shiny things. When I retire that kind of casual spending will have to stop completely because I’m taking a fifty percent income cut.

I’ve already built a pretty extensive budget spreadsheet and run a few scenarios and it all looks good, if not fabulous. I was raised by a single divorced mother and we got along very well on her limited income. It won’t be like I know the drill so much as it got pretty well ingrained into me at a young age how to live within your means. (That Baptist waste not want not thing also helps. At least it helps me be diligent about recycling.) But from that point on I’ll have to think about Everything I spend. I’ve always done that with the big ticket items, but I do a lot of casual spending…within a monthly pot of money I put aside just for that. From retirement onward that pot of money is gone, or at the very least it’s a hell of a lot smaller, and it’ll be I have to think about Everything.

I can do it. Plus, an amazingly Dumb article on CNBC about how folks making 400k a year are only just scraping by gives me some encouragement. (Hey…these families only drive Toyotas, not “Lambos”, have some sympathy. Yes…the writer actually used “Lambo” for Lamborghini…that tells us something about where he’s coming from…) Even allowing for the fact that the writer uses the most expensive locals in the nation as a cost of living baseline, there’s still an ocean of expenditures this man thinks of as necessities that the rest of us could only dream about. As one commenter put it, the people the writer is talking about are measuring their wealth by looking at the people above them who Do drive “Lambos” and thinking themselves middle class because they don’t…the rest of us are ants.

So much so obvious. Fred Clark observed years ago how it is that big city newspapers might have a Business section, but no newspaper has a Labor section. And it’s gotten worse since. Commercial news media is populated, at least at the management level if not totally at the worker bee level, by very wealthy people who live in that world exclusively, believe themselves to be middle class, and just don’t get how the vast numbers of their fellow Americans live. Trips to the country diner to talk with people wearing MAGA hats notwithstanding.

So it was gratifying to read the ants responding to that CNBC article, point by point some of them. Some were struggling on 20k a year or less. Others saying they were comfortable living on 40-50k a year, just not somewhere homes were selling for 5 or 6 million bucks.

I’ll be doing a bit better than that. I’ve a lot going for me when I retire…chief among them the house I bought for less than ninety grand. Yeah it’s worth lots more than that now, but the point is that my monthly mortgage payments will still be well within the week’s take home pay amount I stood firm on back when I started my home search years ago. Plus, the neighborhood is such that I could live a carless life if I had to without any difficulty. Everything I need on a day to day basis is within walking distance of the house. Which is probably a big reason why its value has soared over the years.

I’m treating this Disney vacation as possibly the last one I’ll take for a long, long time…because there won’t be any such thing as a discretionary vacation at Disney World from then on, let alone the discretionary money to pay for it. On the other had I’ll be retired so the entire concept of “vacation” is moot.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Budgeting For The End Of Maintenance Phase

March 25th, 2019

Coincidence? I Think Not…

I subscribe to MeUndies. I like the fit and the material, and it’s one less thing I have to buy at the store. But mostly what I like about MeUndies is the fun, colorful new patterns they come up with every month. Raised in a gloomy Yankee Baptist household where disapproval at anything smacking of personal vanity was always in the air, nearly all my life since I left the nest I’ve been trying to give myself permission to…well…just be myself. I like color in my wardrobe, even the parts not generally visible in public. Well…except for my blue jeans. Blue jeans must be blue. It’s tradition. But I want color everywhere else. Ask me about the electric blue streak I sat in the chair for three and a half hours to get in my hair. Lately I’ve taken to wearing a bandanna hanging out a back pocket again, like I used to when I was a younger guy, only now I get ti-dyed bandannas, partly to confuse anyone who thinks I might be signalling something (ask me how much I Hate that damn hankie code!) , but mostly because I like the idea of tie-dyed bandannas. Next winter I swear I’m going to buy some new flannel shirts like I do every winter, but this time I’m going to bleach them white and then tie-dye them.

So…anyway…the Very Day before I got on my train to Florida and Walt Disney World, MeUndies sends me a new pair with their latest pattern… 

Llamas. They sent me Llama underwear. Well of course I wore it to my Biergarten dinner reservation.



Dude, it’s hilarious. You’re hilarious. Good thing you’re not reading my blog or this post might piss you off.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Coincidence? I Think Not…

April 7th, 2018

Boardwalk! Finally!

Woohoo! Just now bought points at Disney’s Boardwalk. It’s a big deal for me because this is the spot I want to have when I go to Walt Disney World. It’s perfect in so many ways. At least to me.

I’ve been going down to WDW at least twice a year ever since a certain someone coaxed me into a visit. It’s one of my favorite stories…the German classmate telling me over the phone after I expressed skepticism about theme parks, Come on man…it’s your heritage! Baseball, Mom, Apple Pie and Mickey Mouse. What’s wrong with you? So I went, mostly to see him again after 30+ years of searching for him, but also to finally get a taste of the Disney park thing. I was born in California, half my family tree is there, and I’ve never visited Disneyland. My thing was the cross country road trip. I had no time for theme parks. But I figured a drive down I-95 to Walt Disney World was do-able.

But I’m old enough to remember watching TV when Walt Disney was still alive, and I’d forgotten what a Mouseketeer I was. I decided to get a room at a middle tier park hotel, and chose Caribbean Beach since it was closest to Epcot where my classmate worked, and which I thought I’d like better than Magic Kingdom, which was as I understood it, just a restatement of Disneyland in California. I thought maybe I could just walk across the street and there would be a conveniently located park gate near the hotel…but no…not that hotel. I wrote about that first ever check in to a Disney Hotel here. It was ten years ago this November. What I missed jotting down was the experience of walking into Epcot for the first time, and that Disney kid I once was all coming back to me in an instant. I was hooked. From that moment on, WDW became a thing I had to have in my life.

Luckily I’m at a point in my life where I’m earning enough to do that. Disney is anything but cheap. That said, if you do the backstage tour you will come away from it wondering why the tickets aren’t twice as expensive. It is a massive operation to make it all work. Soon I got an annual pass, which made the visits less costly per day, and came with some useful spiffs like free parking at the parks and merchandise discounts. I’ve written before about how the annual pass keeps sucking you into renewing it every year Here. The dollar figures are from 2012 so ignor those…it’s way more expensive now, but if you go there regularly you are nuts if you just buy your tickets at the walk up counters. The annual pass saves you tons, especially on the renewals.

A co worker asked me on one of my trips to get one of the Christmas limited edition DVC (Disney Vacation Club) pins at Boardwalk, which is one of their upscale hotels, located around a small lake next to Epcot. There was a second guest entrance to the park that I’d thought only guests staying at those hotels (there are three…Boardwalk, Beach Club and Yacht Club) could use that entrance, but it turns out anyone can, and if they want go enjoy all the restaurants and shops along the early 20th century themed boardwalk. So I got my co worker their pins and did a little exploring and discovered there was a pathway that wound alongside a canal that led to Hollywood Studios, which was by then my second favorite WDW park. But those hotels were the top tier and horrifically expensive. Well out of reach so I thought, which was disheartening because what I was seeing was that staying at one of them meant I’d have walking distance to my two favorite WDW parks…Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

But Boardwalk and Beach Club were DVC which by then I knew was their thing for buying into staying at the upscale hotels on a regular basis. Digging into it a little further I discovered that the DVC rooms, unlike the regular hotel rooms, had complete kitchens…or in the case of the little studio rooms, nearly complete, but still much better than your usual hotel room. It looked very attractive, but I was skeptical about getting locked into something like that. The middle tier hotels like Caribbean Beach were just fine, and about as much as I could afford on a regular basis. 

One year a co worker who was already DVC offered to let me tag along on a DVC presentation for one of their new hotels, Bay Lake Towers which was being built next to the first hotel they built at WDW, the Contemporary. The Contemporary is the one the monorail goes right through and I’ve always found it’s futuristic architecture beautiful. I ran that by that certain someone who coaxed me into my first WDW visit and he told me never to go to a DVC presentation without first breaking both my hands so I couldn’t sign anything. But I pretty much had decided not to join. Too much money and I didn’t want to get locked in.

Then one year I discovered there are web sites that let you buy a stay at one of the DVC hotels using “points” that DVC members were willing to sell for that year. The DVC point system makes it different from what I understood your usual timeshare is. Instead of buying a slice of time at a particular hotel, you buy points you can use at any DVC resort in a given year. The more points you buy, the more time you can reserve. You buy into a “home” resort, but you can use your points at all of them; the only difference being you can reserve up to eleven months out at your home resort, but only seven at the others. You can bank up to two years worth of points, and borrow points from the next year. 

Apparently some DVC members were willing to sell points for a year they could not stay, and Disney is fine with that. I looked at the cost and saw that it was about the same as staying at a middle tier hotel, the only drawback being once you reserved on those second hand points you couldn’t back out of it if something suddenly came up and you had to make a sudden change of plans. I decided to try it anyway, and queried one of the sites dealing in other people’s DVC points about buying a stay at either Beach Club (my preference then since it seemed to be nicer) or Boardwalk. Either one would get me walking distance to Epcot and Hollywood Studios which was what I wanted most. Luckily as it turned out, there were no Beach Club points available for the days I wanted to stay (my birthday week in September). But there were Boardwalk points.

Boardwalk, as it turned out, was ideal. It seriously felt as if they’d built and themed it just for me. When I was a kid and mom had a couple weeks vacation we went to various beach towns along the Atlantic coast, so strolling a boardwalk tapped deep into childhood feelings of joy. And mom, being a depression/WWII era kid, grew up on big band music and so naturally so did I and Boardwalk was piping that stuff all through its in house music system. There was a 30s themed bar with the old leather chairs and radios playing the music and radio shows of the times and at the end of my day I’d take a book I was reading there, sit in one of the comfy leather chairs next to a radio, have a cocktail and read until I was ready for bed and then I’d just go to my room. In the mornings I would walk the path to Hollywood Studios and make a beeline for The Writers Stop and get my morning coffee and danish (alas The Writer’s Stop was taken down when Starbucks moved in. Foo!).

It was all too perfect. So before I left I stopped into the DVC kiosk and asked to talk about buying into the thing. I’m sure they saw me coming. Up to that point I’d been visiting WDW at least twice yearly, spending money with the Disney card my co workers talked me into, and using my hotel keys, and later the Magic Bands to buy things. They must have had my profile down pat because the offering they made me was for fewer points than I was told was the minimum to buy in, but right dead in the middle of my spending comfort zone. I looked at the numbers and they made sense if I was planning on visiting WDW at least once a year. If I did that my costs would end up being about what they would have been if I’d stayed at a middle tier hotel every year, but this was getting me a room at one of the top level hotels.

Preferably Boardwalk, which I asked for. But I was told they weren’t selling Boardwalk points just then and anyway I could use my points at Boardwalk if I wanted to. So I relented and bought what they were selling: Grand Floridian points. It was a mistake. Granted, being DVC gave me a bunch of handy new spiffs, the best of which was I could now renew my annual pass on the Florida resident discount since now that I have property in Florida (the state of Florida taxes me on it as if it’s actual feet on the ground property), plus, unless the republicans really did kill this, I get a tax break on the Florida state tax and the mortgage interest. I’ll find out if I still have those next year I reckon.

But I didn’t really want to stay at Grand Floridian. It was on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop and I wanted to be near Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Plus, I didn’t like it’s The Hotel In Death In Venice theming. It felt suffocating. But to get into Boardwalk with only a seven month window to reserve I discovered, was nearly impossible. By then so many of the rooms were already booked you could only get three or four days in a row. 

It was frustrating, and twice I took out that frustration on the poor DVC customer service folks. But eventually (I don’t know why this wasn’t made plain to me before) I was told I could be put on a waiting list for Boardwalk points, and it might only be a month or so I’d have to wait. It was what I should have done in the first place.

Just now they came through. I will sell the Grand Floridian points, either back to DVC (something else I was told before that I couldn’t do) or in the third party market. Then it’ll just be the Boardwalk points I’m paying off and I can easily sustain that. And with eleven months out that I can reserve it’ll be a snap to get my birthday week at Boardwalk every year now, though I did manage with lots of frustration, to get it this year too. As this post is already long enough I’ll go into that adventure some other time.

Right now I’m just…delighted.


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Boardwalk! Finally!

January 2nd, 2014

Fear Of Mickey

This came across my Facebook steam a while ago, via Towleroad

Disturbed by NSA Spying? Disney World’s New “Magic Bands” Track Guests.

Disney World’s new NSA-style “Magic Bands” track guest movements. “The MyMagic+ ‘vacation management system’ can track guests as they move throughout Walt Disney World and analyze their buying habits. If parents allow certain settings on the Magic Bands, employees playing characters will be able to see data with the use of hidden sensors — so a child might walk up to Mickey Mouse, who says, “Hi, Bobby! Happy birthday!” Some rides will be designed so that there’s interaction between the machines and people with Magic Bands in waiting areas, thus keeping guests entertained as they wait in line.

Yadda, yadda and so on…   I got mine just before my last trip down and I loved it.   It was simple, convenient, I could do everything I needed to do, get in my room, enter a park, get a fast pass, buy food, drinks, stuff, without having to mess with a bunch of different cards. Plus, though I didn’t use it in the water parks this trip (too cold this time of year) it’s waterproof, which is a really Big plus when you’re in the water parks and you want to buy a snack or a drink without having to trudge back to your locker, get your wallet, trudge back to the snack stand, then back to the locker, then back to whatever you were doing.

I appreciate they’re tracking you. That’s fine…anything that gives them insight into how to make my stay there as enjoyable as possible is a Good Thing, especially considering the money I’m spending.   If they want to track me around the parks and figure out how to make me want to keep coming back…fine!  It’s Disney World.   Just make it fun is all I ask.   Here’s the difference between a Magic Band and the NSA: When I leave the parks, the Magic Band comes off and goes back in its box.

NSA don’t go away, doesn’t ask permission, breaks the security on my personal devices, gets my money straight out of my paycheck whether I like their act or not and don’t care if I’m having fun.


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Fear Of Mickey

June 7th, 2013

Disney People

Renewed my Disney World annual pass the other day with no hesitation. Going back next month for a week of de-stressing. Here’s a blog post from Mad Magazine artist Tom Richmond about why he keeps going back with his family. Pay attention to point number 3 because that’s the critical difference. Disney is preternaturally good at hiring exactly their sort of person and it makes all the difference.

(Richmond, who has a severely handicapped daughter, also has a post worth reading about how some well-to-do people are hiring handicapped people to get them ahead of everyone else in the lines…)

Before I started going I thought all that relentless Have A Magical Day pixie dust they keep sprinkling on guests would get seriously on my nerves and it is just the opposite. Once you get inside it isn’t long before you realize that part of what the “Cast Members” are doing is keeping the stresses and troubles of the world outside the parks off your back while you are inside. And they’re not faking it, it’s the sort of people they are: cheerful, friendly, Disney people. So I actually didn’t get all the ostentatious forced cheerfulness I was afraid of getting soaked in. The sentimentality was genuine. But this was true of Walt Disney too.

You really begin to appreciate it very much. And then suddenly you are use to it and all the other tourist parks and recreation zones just don’t measure up. Yes you can have a good time in them, but not a Disney time.

There is a bar in Hollywood Studios, the Tune-In Lounge next to the 50s Prime Time Cafe’, I make a point of ending my day as often as practical in while I’m there. I could wish there was one of these here in Baltimore, but of course it wouldn’t be the same because Baltimore is definitely not Disney World. The sort of coarse rowdy drunken asshole you are likely to meet in most city bars don’t come to Disney World because they can’t stand all that Mickey Mouse stuff and so the bar is full of Disney people and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and cheerful and I love it.

There are other places I go to have a good time and de-stress. Key West being the other top destination on my list. But mostly all those other places are places I go to be alone. Walt Disney World is one of a very Very few places I go to be with other people. Other people who still believe somewhere deep down inside despite it all, that there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day. I know I can find them there.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Disney People

April 12th, 2013

A Wee Vacation

I’m just back from a brief, ad-hoc Disney World trip.   This week was going to be a stay-at-home vacation. I’m helping finance a place to live for my niece for her last semester at college, so until July I have no money for big vacation trips.   But pity me not.   I have no kids of my own so it isn’t like I’m mortgaging the house to put any through school.   I’m just helping out.   So this was going to be a staycation but I made the fatal mistake of checking the weather in Florida and then I was off. Spring was darn cold here in Charm City.

I had to do it on the cheap.   But I had some advantages.   First, I have an annual pass.   So I didn’t need to have spare cash for tickets into the parks.   Then, passholders get discount offers.   So I hit the Disney web site and looked in the passholder’s section to see if there were any specials.   There were.   I got a really nice price on one of their “value hotels” for three nights.   Then I had just over a hundred bucks worth of reward points on my Disney card, which paid for half my eats and drinks in the parks for two and a half days.   Then I had accumulated enough Holiday Inn reward points for one free night, so that helped out with motel charges on the trip down and back.

And then…there is my Mercedes diesel.   Here’s a few notes from my trip computer, plus fuel chits. This was from Baltimore City to Walt Disney World and back.

Miles: 1980
Hours (actually driving the car): 32.34
MPH (average): 61
MPG (average): 40.1

That’s a tad over forty miles per gallon in a mid-sized German luxury sedan, and this trip my trip computer registered the best mileage ever, on the stretch from Baltimore to Richmond, Virginia: 44.9. Once I got on the higher speed limit stretches of I-95 my mileage went down a tad. But still. Forty miles per gallon in a car as big and nice as a Mercedes-Benz ‘E’ class is not bad.

Total cost of diesel fuel: $195.57. That’s the highway trip plus farting around in Disney World. The annual pass gets you free parking at all the parks, so having the car with me means I can go when and where I want and it’s not an extra expense. I started out from Baltimore on a full tank. Just over the South Carolina border is Dillon. In Dillon they have the best prices on diesel on I-95 between Baltimore and Key West. Half a tank gets me from Baltimore to Dillon. Another 2/3 tank gets me to Disney World. There are reasonably priced Hess stations in the park, one of which (the one on the way out of Magic Kingdom) sells diesel. So I fill up before coming back, hit Dillon again, and that gets me home.

Even though you don’t have to stop as often for fuel, when it’s bug season you still have to pull up to the pumps just as often to clean off your windshield. But that’s fine because it’s good to take a break. I have a Flying-J loyalty card that gets me breaks on coffee and snacks. So whenever I have to make a Clean The Glass stop I refill my coffee mug and hit the bathrooms, which are usually cleaner at the Flying-J travel plazas than the highway rest stops are.

So a short trip to Walt Disney World was do-able.   And now that I’m back and all the housework I’d been planning to do with my stay-at-home vacation is still staring me in the face it was worth it.   Sometime later this summer, after my niece graduates, I’ll do a longer stay at a nicer in park hotel.   It’ll be dead of summer then…just right for fun in the water parks.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Wee Vacation

June 14th, 2012

Every Time I Try To Get Out, They Pull Me Back In.

I figured I wouldn’t, because I just don’t see myself going back to Disney World as often in the coming year as I have in recent years (Hi Tico!). But then I did the nefarious Disney math.

They say if you do a couple weeks or more you’ve paid for your annual pass. But tickets to the Disney Parks are on a sliding scale and that’s taking into account the longer stay tickets. Base single day single park ticket is $89. Lets say you do a week, seven days, which (as of my writing this) is $41.14 a day or $287.98. Twice in a year that’s $575.96. The annual pass is $611.31, but if you’re renewing it’s only $574.00 so that’s a break even for returning guests. But that’s the standard ticket price and there are options.

The base ticket gets you into one park for one day. But let’s say you want to visit one park in the morning, and a different one in the afternoon. Then you need the Park Hopper option, which for one day is $35.00 or (again the sliding scale) $8.14 a day for seven days. That brings you up to $344.96 for seven days and if you do that twice it’s $689.92 for that year. When I first bought my annual pass I could add the park hopper option for a little more, but it seems now you have to get the Premium Annual Pass to get that (which I upgraded to last year to get the water park option…I’ll go into that in a bit…). The Premium Annual Pass is $744.44 or $649 to renew. That’s still close to break even for new purchasers, better then break even for renewers. But then there is one more option. The water parks and Disney Quest.

Disney Quest is an arcade like thing located in Downtown Disney. I don’t bother with it because it seems more a kid thing. But I like doing the water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Water park tickets are $55.38 a day and there is no sliding scale for those I can find apart from being an option on the park tickets. Let’s say you want to do a water park some afternoons and wander one or more of the parks others. Three days out of seven if you buy the tickets separately and it’s $166.14 you add to the bill. Or you can just add the water park option to a seven day park ticket and it’s $8.14 a day which is only another $56.98…just a tad more then a single day ticket. Of course you want to add the water park option.

Dizzy yet? Oh but there’s more!

Transportation to the Disney Parks is very well organized along bus routes into and out of and within the parks, and there are monorail routes you can use depending on where you stay and where you go. In theory you won’t be needing a car once you enter Disney World. But if you bring a car along like I do, and you’d rather keep to your own schedule then the bus schedule, then you will need to pay for parking. Parking is free for all annual pass holders of all types. Otherwise that’s $14 a day but it gets you parking at all the parks for that one price for that one day. So seven days of parking is another $98. Parking at the water parks is free, so it’s possible to just do one day or more at a water park for $55.38 a day and get fewer days on the park tickets otherwise. But that sliding scale means fewer consecutive days cost more each. And you can’t get by with saving some of the days on your ticket for a later visit. The tickets expire unless you add the “No Expiration Date” option. I am not even here going to go into that one, but it isn’t cheap. In fact it’s the only ticket option that gets more expensive per day the more days you buy. Otherwise the tickets expire 14 days after first use. You buy a seven day ticket, you have two weeks to use it all.

Now…add it all up (not counting the “no expiration” option) and you are looking at something like $499.94 just for one week if you do the park hopper option, the water parks option and the parking fees. Twice in a year and it’s very nearly a thousand bucks you’ve spent and that’s not even getting you the hotel and your food. Now the premium annual pass seems like an outright bargain. Plus, annual pass holders get discounts on in park hotels.

Now let’s cost out one measly three day weekend shall we? The base three day ticket is $80.67 a day or $242.01 total (notice how close that is to the cost of the seven day ticket). Add the park hopper for three days at $19 a day and it’s another $57 which brings us to $299.01. Add the water parks, also at $19 a day for three days and it’s $356.01. Add parking for three days and it’s $398.01. Do that long three day weekend twice in a year and you’ve spent $796.02.

Verses $649 to simply renew my pass for an entire year.

Okay…whatever…I renewed the pass. It’s actually cheaper to get the pass even if you don’t go that often. And of course, having a year of access to the Disney World Parks means I might just go more often then not…and spend more once I’m there. If I didn’t so thoroughly enjoy being in Disney World so much I might get a tad pissed at how expertly they manage to get my wallet to open up. But I do love being there, so…

Bear in mind the ticket price gets you not just into the park but also onto all the park rides and attractions (some special seasonal attractions, like the Halloween party in Magic Kingdom for instance, are extra however). You don’t buy separate tickets per ride like in the old days. Once you’re inside you just go get on all the rides you want, as often as you can, if that’s your thing (I did the new Star Tours ride in Hollywood Studios about a dozen times in a row one night). Should you question the ticket prices in spite of that I strongly recommend taking the backstage tour. Trust me, when you get even a small glimpse of how much goes into the operation and maintenance of Disney World, and it is a massive operation, absolutely massive, you will wonder that the tickets aren’t lots more costly then they are.

[Edited a tad…the renew price on my Premium Annual Pass was $649…the price I originally quoted $691.19 was the price plus Maryland state sales tax. All other prices come directly off the Disney World ticket pages.]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Every Time I Try To Get Out, They Pull Me Back In.

January 13th, 2011

All Together Mouseketeers…You Too Tommy…You’re One Of Us Too…

This was a part of my childhood.   Not a huge one, but an important one…

I never became a member…even at that tender age I wasn’t much of a joiner…but I watched what Walt Disney put on my TV screen regularly.   Mostly it was for this…

And this…

His vision of the future was a big part of my kidhood dreams.   I wanted to be there, to grow up into that world where a great big beautiful tomorrow was shining at the end of every day.   Somewhere along the line I stopped dreaming it.   Somewhere past adolescence, somewhere after the country as a whole, tired of the war in Vietnam, tired of the race riots, fatigued by so much inter generational conflict, lost interest in the frontier of space, so terribly soon after we’d just put our footsteps on the moon.

Though I never stopped dreaming about it, I stopped believing in Disney’s great big beautiful tomorrow.   I put it down to fantasy…a beautiful story I was told as a kid that I wanted to believe in, but would never happen.   The world just didn’t work that way.   But I think there was something else that was missing from that dream.   Something that, had I seen it, might have made me hold onto it for a little longer…maybe even leave childhood behind with a vow to work a little harder to make it real.

That something, was me.   I was missing from that future.   And so were a lot of other kids just like me.

Disney Channel’s Strict ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy

In the original ‘The Flintstones’ series, the only characters of color to appear were natives of Africa who participated in a cave scout jamboree. Worse yet, far off into the distant future, on ‘The Jetsons,’ the universe seemed completely dominated by white people as well.

These were just signs of the times and while toon tones began changing in the 1970s, it’s almost blasphemous nowadays to have a television show that doesn’t include diversity, often to a point where it almost just seems forced.

So at four decades post-Stonewall and more than a decade into the age of ‘After Ellen,’ it wouldn’t be unnatural for one to wonder just where The Walt Disney Company draws the line at diversity. In all fairness, the company has teetered on the issue, having both progressive human resources policies for same-sex couples (which incited the infamous and rather seemingly innocuous Southern Baptist boycott) as well as just recently relenting on allowing same-sex commitment ceremonies at the theme park resorts under public pressure.

So where exactly does Disney draw the line when it comes to acceptance of gays in ‘everyday life’?

Well you already know the answer.   Yes, Disney has been very progressive when compared to other media and entertainment companies.   Behind the stage.   On it…well we’re all still in the closet.   And if we’re invisible on stage, we’re also invisible in the audience.   To each other.   To ourselves.

That’s a shame.   Disney wholesomeness isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and in fact it’s only mine provisionally.   I like it to be there, but a steady diet of it would suffocate me.   And it would have when I was a teenager too.   But that Disney-esq sensibility about life is more me then not. I like my visits to Key West, they relax and de-stress me nicely.   But my visits to Walt Disney World rekindle something inside of me that I had thought long dead.   That, it’s a small world after all attitude.   That idealized Main Street USA.   That Tomorrowland, where we would all live someday in a world where science and the pursuit of knowledge weren’t just good things, but a great adventure.   Sniff at it if you like, but there are worse visions to have become attached to as a kid, to keep close to your heart as an adult, to hand down now to the kids among us.

I should have been a part of that vision when I was a kid.   All of us gay kids should have.   We were there in the audience, but invisible…even to ourselves.   So instead of Disney’s future, we got told we were mentally ill.   Instead of Disney wholesomeness we were taught that our desires were a sickness best kept hidden away from decent people, and especially children.   Our friends got the happily ever after.   We got the gutter.   The great big beautiful tomorrow we could all look forward too would be a better place because we would not be in it.   You can’t tell me that didn’t make a difference in the adults we all eventually became.

One of these kids will later come out of the closet…

I like to think that if Disney was alive today (yeah…he’d be 110 now…But if…), we Would be a part of that vision of the future.   Walt Disney was a pioneer, who revered the old days and idealized them in his Disneyland.   But he also never let the past keep him from moving forward.   The caretakers of his vision today alas, aren’t the visionaries he was.   But this world doesn’t get very many of those…

So according to [Disney Channel Worldwide President of Entertainment, Gary Marsh], if a character hasn’t had a crush on someone, it’s okay for the viewer to assume they character is implicitly gay and that should simply be enough. At least until the character develops an attraction for the opposite sex anyway.

Perhaps the correct answer is “we just aren’t ready yet.”

“A man should never neglect his family for business.”
-Walt Disney

Gay kids need to be brought into the Disney “family” audience too because they are part of the family too and there are worse examples out there to set for them then Disney.   “Someday” should come sooner rather then later.

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
-Walt Disney

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on All Together Mouseketeers…You Too Tommy…You’re One Of Us Too…

April 16th, 2009

Nice Idea…But You Need To Think Bigger

Via Slashdot…

Florida To Build Solar-Powered City

Posted by samzenpus on Thursday April 16, @07:57AM
from the sunny-side-of-the-street dept.
Mike writes "The sunny state of Florida just announced that they will begin construction this year on the world’s first solar-powered city. A collaboration between Florida Power & Light and development firm Kitson & Partners, the 17,000 acre city will generate all of its electrical needs via a 75 megawatt, $300 million solar-powered generator. The city will also use smart grid technology to manage its power and allow all inhabitants of the community to monitor their energy consumption."

Nice idea.  Sounds…vaguely familiar…


It’s not just about how the energy is produced.  It’s about how it is used. 


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Nice Idea…But You Need To Think Bigger

April 1st, 2009

The Kid I Used To Be…Who I’d Forgotten About…

I was wandering through Disney-MGM Hollywood Studios yesterday when I saw him again for the first time in years. I almost didn’t recognize him.  Then I knelt down and gave him a great big hug and told him it was all okay…

The Hollywood Studios park entrance way is playfully similar to the Main Street U.S.A. walkway everyone must pass though on entrance to the Magic Kingdom…only this is Main Street Hollywood, circa 1930s and it is as if you’d traveled back in time to when everything was art deco.  For someone like me who adores the art deco style, in part I am sure because in my early childhood there were still a lot of buildings standing that were like that, it was like a kind of paradise.  For like, the upteenth time here in Disney World, I could only just wander around with my jaw hanging open.




There’s a plaque in central park that explains what they were trying to accomplish with Hollywood Studios, but by the time I had walked up to it, I already knew…


This is similar in kind to the poster for Tomorrowland which reads: The Future That Never Was Has Finally Arrived.

I entered a replica of Gorman’s Chinese Theater and took a ride through the movies.  You get on in a old sound stage set and a cast member dressed up as a 1940s stereotypical Hollywood talent scout hops on and informs you that you’ll not only be taking a tour through the great Hollywood films, but actually go inside them.  And then you’re off…first through a Busby Berkeley dance film and then into Hollywood gangster land where the talent scout is chased off the ride by a gangster who informs you that he’s taking over the ride and oh by the way, please had over all your valuables.  It goes on like that for a while and I won’t give it all away…there were the usual Disney animatronics, but of a better quality then the older Magic Kingdom rides…there was a trip through the Alien movie and for a moment you’re completely socked in a fog bank waiting for the beast to jump out at you.  Eventually you end up back at the soundstage where a voice yells "Cut…that’s a wrap…" and you get off the ride and go back out into Disney Hollywood…which is not all that different from Disney Tomorrowland.  It isn’t real.  And yet, for the moment anyway…it is.

I am not one to be easily amused, and yet the whole time I am thoroughly enjoying myself…and I find my whole attitude is different here.  I’m smiling at people.  I’m patient with idiots.  Small screaming children don’t irritate me.  Morons who block the road as if they own it don’t bother me (When did America get so goddamned fat?) I just walk around them and the happy little smile never leaves my face.  I’m living in a world that never was, that’s finally here. I can be a happy little nerdy kid here and It’s Okay.  In fact, it’s Expected of you.  All those relentlessly cheerful Disney cast members who are nowhere and everywhere with their perpetual smiles and earnest desire to make sure you "have a magical day" aren’t annoying me nearly as much as I was afraid they would.  In fact they are a blessing.  They’re my barrier between me and the world not two feet from the gates here, that voted last November to cut my ring finger off.  They’re here to keep it off me for a little while.  I wish I could give them all a great big hug.

And now the kid I used to be long ago, the one who smiled at everyone, the one with the big imagination, who wore his heart on his sleeve never thinking that people would take that as an invitation to cut it to ribbons, who trusted the world and in the goodness of people, has come back out of me.  At least for a while.  I thought he’d been beaten out of me in junior high school.


by Bruce | Link | React! (3)

March 30th, 2009

Lite To No Posting This Week…(Updated)

I’m in Orlando, visiting Disney World, and the damn Comfort Inn here charges for Internet which I refuse to pay (I’m posting this on my iPhone right now). So, expect very little posting here until I get back.

I’m already having a great time here in the park…but some journies are worth the trip, just to see someone smile.

[Update…] My bad…   There seems to be no charge for the Internet after all.  At any rate…I’m using the Motel wireless now and I didn’t have to plug in a credit card number like you usually do for Internet access when they’re charging.  Just for kicks and grins I plugged in to see what the charge was, and instead of being taken to a buy it now page I got my Internet right away.  Nice.

But posting will still be infrequent, because I am on vacation and I am trying to tune out the world for a while.  Also, Motel Internet is seldom reliable.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

March 28th, 2009

Off To Tomorrowland And Beyond…

It’s raining here in Charm City and I’m packing my car and heading for what would have been the Experimental Prototype City Of Tomorrow had Walt Disney not been a cigarette smoker.  But what’s there now is still very nice, and so is the rest of it.  Disney World is Huge, and the first time I went there last November I spent most of my time just gawking at the immensity of it.  Now I have a better idea of what I want to do, and more time to do it.  I also want to wave ‘hi’ to a certain someone, and maybe see him smile one more time.

I’m spending a week, but not in the park this time, which will make it harder to just tune out the entire world like I did last time.  But the hotels inside the park are way too expensive…even the so-called "value" hotels.  There are so many other nice hotels and motels crowding around the entrances to the park that it’s not hard to find something even nicer then the mid priced Disney hotels at, I kind you not, about a third of the cost.  But then you are not in the park the entire time, and being wrapped completely inside that park almost makes it worthwhile.  You really can just leave the world behind for a while, and live in a place where it really is a small world after all, and there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day, and find yourself believing that dreams really do come true.

Once upon a time I viewed all that as nothing more then cheap escapism.  But the world, and my life, just stresses me out too much now.  I’m single, I’m desperately lonely, and I’m living in a world that never seems to let any chance go by to tell me it hates my guts.  And there is still that sense in the land of Walt, of all those things I thought the world was, and the future would be.  You can see it slowly fading as Disney’s handiwork is overlaid with newer things, some of which I doubt he would have liked, and some which just don’t hit the mark he would have.  But even as it fades, it lifts the spirit.  At least in someone of my generation.

You have to experience the parks to realize, again if you’re my age and remember watching him on television, how wide Walt Disney’s imagination ranged.  People think of Disneyland and they think of the part of the park called Fantasyland.  But there was Tomorrowland and Frontierland and Adventureland.  There was the little Main Street where everyone entered the park.  There was the hall of presidents, and the river boat and the monorail and the people movers.  There was the ground breaking animation, but also tons of live action film, and nature series and documentaries. Look a little deeper, beyond all the eye candy and the rides and the exhibits, and you see, astonished, a park infrastructure that is still held in awe by architects.  This operation is Huge and yet it runs smoothly.  And Disney World in Orlando is several orders of magnitude bigger, and it Still runs smoothly.  Chuck Jones once told Disney he wanted his job (Disney told him that position was already filled), and Jones was himself an fantastically creative animator.  But there was no city of tomorrow in Chuck Jones, let alone a World.

Last time I walked through the parks down in Disney World, it all came back to me…that it’s a small world after all…that the search for knowledge is a great adventure…that tomorrow was something to look forward to with a smile.  People told me after I came back home last November, how much better I looked, how more at ease I seemed.  One person insisted I must have gotten laid.  I hadn’t of course…but it was almost like that in terms of how good life seemed again.  For a little while…

So now I’m packing the Mercedes for another trip south.  Before I leave I briefly scan the web.  I see Andrew Sullivan reporting the Rod Dreher has replied to Damon Linker, who has in turn replied back.  Linker, you may recall, asked Dreher if he had something, anything, besides The Bible Says So to justify his obsession with the Homosexual Menace.  Dreher gives the expected answer back…

If homosexuality is legitimized — as distinct from being tolerated, which I generally support — then it represents the culmination of the sexual revolution, the goal of which was to make individual desire the sole legitimate arbiter in defining sexual truth. It is to lock in, and, on a legal front, to codify, a purely contractual, nihilistic view of human sexuality. I believe this would be a profound distortion of what it means to be fully human. And I fully expect to lose this argument in the main, because even most conservatives today don’t fully grasp how the logic of what we’ve already conceded as a result of being modern leads to this end.

Note the hyperbole.  The horror of individual desire being seen as more legitimate then his cheapshit barstool prejudices.  The knee jerk slandering of that desire as essentially nihilistic.  But what Dreher is afraid of here isn’t that the human heart is nothing, but that he is.  In the end, the Homosexual Monster, like the Dangerous Black Man and The Greedy Jew represents nothing more then the abyss he stares into every morning in the bathroom mirror.

This is why I am going back to Disney World.  I want to spend some more time in a place where I can have that vision of the world and tomorrow I had as a kid back again.  Where it’s a small world after all.  Where I can return a stranger’s smile and not wonder if they want to cut my ring finger off and stick a knife in my heart, so they can go to heaven.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Off To Tomorrowland And Beyond…

March 23rd, 2009

Will My iPhone Kill My Blog?

Probably not.   But I haven’t been blogging as often as I have previously and it’s because I’m not sitting in front of a computer nearly as much.  As I said previously, I’m finding I get a lot more done around the house when I’m not sitting down at my computer.  But something else is happening.  Something I was sort-of hoping would happen, though I hadn’t taken into account what it might mean for my blogging patterns.  Slowly, but inevitably, my iPhone is becoming my all purpose communication – entertainment – information widget. 

When it first hit the streets, the iPhone was lacking a couple of really important items in my personal information management toolkit: a sync-able notepad and ToDo tracker.  But I have really great third party iPhone apps now that fill those slots.  And as I get more comfortable with using them, I use Mowgli, my main household computer, less and less. 

Last weekend, I had Mowgli off almost the entire time.  I ran Bagheera, the art room Mac, to finish a couple of photography projects that I’d left on my plate for far too long.  But Mowgli is slowly being relegated to finances and work related projects.  I am keeping in touch with the world, and with my daily life, more and more with just the iPhone now.   

And…there is this:  My little patch of the good earth is on the cusp of spring, and I don’t want to be angry all the time.  I read the news, in particular the continuing culture war on gay people, and I get angry.  So I am avoiding the news.

This Saturday, I’m going to Disney World again, for a week.  Mostly to just spend some more time in a place where it’s a small world after all, there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day, and dreams really do come true.  Better there, then driving across the mid-west and listening to hate radio the whole way.  My brother said they still have their YES ON 8 campaign signs planted in their front yards of houses all over Oceano, Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Will My iPhone Kill My Blog?

February 18th, 2009

The Strangeness Of Humans

Andrew Sullivan posts a YouTube under the heading, The Strangeness of Germans

You’d think he’s never seen Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari. There’s nought so queer as folk Andrew. We Americans have our own strange little ways too. Take a trip into Sid and Marty Kroft land sometime.

You want strange Andrew…? Try a little…Walt Disney? Oh yes. This clip is from Alice in Wonderland, and some of the best animation ever produced. The animator who did the character of Alice was a master…simply a master. But the entire film is a masterpiece of animation. The eye candy is everywhere and it all moves and flows perfectly. This clip from the film starts off being your usual Disney cartoon slapstick but the strange comes in at about 2:15 into it. Remember, Disney did Fantasia too…

I’ll bet if I poked around British movies and TV I could find myself some grade ‘A’ strange in there too. We humans are a funny lot. Strange makes the world go ’round Andrew…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Strangeness Of Humans

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