Monday dawned, with a light drizzle that continued past breakfast.
This was a bummer because we had thought to go to Kennedy Space Center that day and take a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour one of the two now-idle shuttle launch pads.
Because of the renovation going on to accommodate the Elon Musk Space Craft of The American Way Of Life Made Whole Again1 And Manifest In All Its Glory And Like That, one of the two pads was available for the public to walk around inside and make rumbling, whooshing noises2 as they conjure up a replay of the many launches that actually took place on this very hallowed ground. Breath deep. There's traces of oxidizer in that air.
Or maybe it's guano. This is a nature reserve after all.
But walking around a big wet scaffold in the rain getting dripped on by the run-off from the girders is nobody's idea of fun, so we canceled. We had a week, after all, and the sun would have to come out sometime4.
So, around mid-morning, it stopped raining and Mrs Stevie decided that "we" wanted to go to Epcot.
"You want to go to EPCOT, right?" she snapped.
"Doubt in my mind whatsoever that the Ever Popular Community Of the Future is exactly where I want to be on this fine day in Florida!"
"And no whining about your legs this time!"
"Can't promise that. The legs are old and mutinous."
"I said no whining!"
This would be a red letter day in that for the first time in ages we would have to buy tickets for a Disney Park5. We drove over at a leisurely speed, there being no need for haste, and in no time at all we were at the car park attendant's booth so we could rent a parking space.
I suggested that Mrs Stevie ask about preferred parking again as we were pulling up, which started an argument because the daft woman couldn't remember that we had done that same thing the last time. She rolled down the window to pay and we were engulfed in the usual cloud of radiator steam and tire smoke, which forestalled any more hurtful comments at my expense in the coughing fit that took her.
After parking, haunted by memories of that previous visit to EPCOT and the endless search for our vehicle among the hundred thousand others there in a World Gone Mad, I checked what the nearest pole said in terms of Disney Characters and numbers and repeated it one hundred times Or I would have but Mrs Stevie hit me at somewhere around twenty eight and told me to "shut up that stupid chanting". And so we went in search of "fun"
Two minutes inside the park we were engaged in a frank exchange of views on the subject of Dinner. I felt that we shouldn't eat at Germany again because I wanted to try something different for once6. Mrs Stevie vetoed England7. I voted against France because of the chance of snails. Mrs Stevie vehemently denounced the idea of Mexico, because of the chance of the Aztec Twostep - a canard I'm sure but there was no arguing. I suggested Japan and she went green and shouted about not wanting to eat anything raw that had tentacles8 - but I pointed out the strong possibility of Hibachi Cuisine and she subsided long enough for us to find out at the Guest Services office. Hibachi it was, at Eight Bells O' Clock PM in the Evening.
And we went forth to experience fun at all costs.
We stopped by various things we hadn't with the kids, such as the Sea pavilion, where we spent a lot of time gawking at various bits of marine life in tanks. The Manatee population has dropped since our first visit together, now numbering three (I think) where before they had six. Since they used to all be rescuees from power-boat collisions I guess that is good news. I dunno. The daft animals lie right where boats will pass over them and cut them with the prop, and you can't see 'em in the rivers to avoid them apparently.
In another smaller display I saw some very aggressive cuttlefish strobing at each other. These odd beasts would be stripey while asleep, then they'd wake up and realize there were six others in a comparatively huge space (the animals were about three inches long and the space about three feet in diameter) and they'd start threat displaying by rolling their dark stripes over their bodies from front to back like crazy. The grumpiest animals I've seen in a long while.
There's a huge aquarium at the back, in which sharks and other large fish swim. You can lose hours looking at the stuff in there. I went downstairs during a lull in the crowd and sat waiting for Mrs Stevie against one of the windows into the deep tank, and a manatee swam up and blew bubbles at me, which I think you'll agree was quite rude and entirely unnecessary behavior.
A little later it did the same thing to a small child who was delighted, which took me back to the years with the very young Stevieling who had a fascination for animals we thought would develop into some sort of career path, but didn't in the end. I sat watching the kid and smiling, then realized a parent was watching me and was not smiling.
I explained that I was remembering my own kid at that age and we traded parental talk for a bit and he left with his family to see what else was there. I turned to look through the glass and was startled into a shout by the manatee waiting in ambush to blow bubbles at me again.
Mrs Stevie fell in love with a T-Shirt in the gift shop depicting the seagulls from Finding Nemo with their "Mine" "Mine" "Mine" mantra daubed all over it, but wouldn't buy it there, which turned out to be a mistake since it transpired that that was the only place you could find the thing. She (and I) expected we would find it in the Disney Village shops too. Wrong!
If you have young kids and come to EPCOT you should bring them into the Sea pavillion and take them to the Finding Nemo-themed attraction. It is a clever use of technology and live voice-acting to allow the Stoner Turtle from the movie to interact with the kids in the front rows. Very clever and the young kids love it. I no longer feel that sound-synched chat avatars are a demonstration of just what a waste of space human beings can be. If it can be harnessed to entertain a child usefully, I'm for it10.
We rode the demented Soarin' ride, a sense-around simulation with unintended humor in the way it jump-cuts around the place. It shows you what it must be like to go hang-gliding on Demerol. We once again went for a spin on the high speed go-kart of g-forces, this time designing our own version of the Stevieling's laughable Yeastmobile, producing a design that the computer said beat the twin-turbo gas-guzzlers were up against on every test but one, and that was such an unimportant feature I've forgotten what it was.
So the Parent Green Annihilator joined the Parent Sport Annihilator in awesomeness - the Annihilator marque clearly has something to offer everyone and I'm quite surprised that no car manufacturer has approached Team Stevie about turning these futuristic designs into actual road-worrying vehicles. All I can say is that Detroit still lacks the vision it needs to take the world by storm and displace the Korean and Japanese manufacturers from their high horse(less carriage)s.
We took a ride on the spaceship simulator, which was still fun and made me feel sick as a dog. But we choose to ride the spaceship simulator...we choose to ride the spaceship simulator...we choose to ride the spaceship simulator, and to experience the Exxon World Of Energy11 and do the other rides, not because they are fun, but because they are required. Or something like that.
Mrs Stevie said "let's go see the Captain Eo 3D show" at one point and I laughed and told her it was closed down. But she insisted we go look even though I told her she'd look like a twit when she was staring at plywood and "coming soon" stickers.
Naturally, the show was open for business as though it had never been hurriedly covered in plywood and closed "pending renovation" during those interminable Michael Jackson vs A.N. Oblivious Parent trials that were such a blessing to the failing newspaper industry of the Early Oughties. Seriously, they boarded the thing up so fast that I had to wonder if they found any skeletons of workers who didn't get out when they pulled down the boards post M.J. mortality and announced the advent of a renovated print. I guess it is cool to like Michael Jackson again.
Captain Eo is a 3D movie from the dawn of the CGI-assisted 3D technology era. It is the story of a rag-tag band of, well, actually I don't know what they are supposed to be. Let's call them Space Rangers, who are sent to give a gift to the evil (naturally) queen but who lose it on the way and are forced to combat her rage and clone warriors with choreographed dance, which - against all expectations to the contrary - works like a charm and all is well.
George Lucas was involved, and one of the crew is that daft elephant that plays keyboards from Star Wars. There's a cute CGI cat with bat wings too, but boy does the movie steal from the early 80s SF zeitgeist. Every piece of scenery looks like it was lifted from the third deck of the Nostromo post-infestation, and the HM Eviltrix is a cross between the Alien and the Borg queen woman12. The dance numbers are pure Thriller and you just have to love that 80s big hair look13.
The print was nice and fresh though, so some work had been done.
We had coffee and dessert in France. We took a ride on the water taxi for no better reason than we couldn't remember ever having done that before. We wandered around Italy and Mrs Stevie bought jewelry for The Stevieling and was flirted with by the Italian zygote who sold it to her so I finally got to sit down and rest my aching legs without having my ear chewed off. We wandered into the museum in Morocco and I lost track of time looking at Berber and Tuareg jewelry and stuff, and marveling that stuff made in my lifetime was considered museum-worthy.
Then we wandered over to Japan and I bought each of us a cotton kimono to supplement the silk ones we already had which couldn't be reliably dry-cleaned and which were now collectors items apparently. I'm more than a little sure that the cute little saleschick14 was the same one who sold me the Stevieling's kimono six months before.
And then it was upstairs for a fine Hibachi dinner with six much younger people from the West Coast who were kind enough to speak English and not some sort of dialect of gibberish just to annoy the crumblies, and who were very interesting people to boot.
We got kicked out just as the firework display started, and although the World Showcase is carefully designed so that just about everywhere provides some sort of mass vantage point, I can recommend the balcony running around the Japanese restaurant complex as an especially fine place from which to do one's pyrotechnic observation.
And so we wandered out the long way round the lagoon, being some of the last out of the park as a result, which was sort of a funny feeling. I hadn't dawdled past closing time in a Disney Park since before The Stevieling had been born. It wasn't that I missed doing that, it just brought on a sense of how much water had flown under the bridge since then. In fact, the bridge in question was washed out long ago thanks to erosion of the abutments by the water flowing at breakneck pace under it, but I believed that if I squinted I could still see parts of the now submerged structure.
"Stop that sobbing!" snarled Mrs Stevie. "If you can't do anything useful, look for someone official so I can tell them when we parked and they can use their magic thingy to tell us where the car should be."
"No need", I said. "Our vehicle is in "Pluto, row 9, slot 115".
And, for a mercy, so it was.
- After those idiot
wbankers showed everyone just how unworkable it all was by turning he knobs up to 11 and blowing out the woofer↑
- People who just stand around looking at NASA infrastructure are shorting themselves on the experience, as I told Mrs Stevie3 during the misunderstanding at the Saturn V exhibit some years ago. You've paid 50 bux to stand next to the rocket, no-one, no-one can stop you re-enacting the magnificent launch sonics in all their glory, even if he is a real astronaut↑
- Who disapproves of rumbling, whooshing noises↑
- True, but irrelevant as it turned out. Watch this space↑
- For ourselves. Stripey Bill will remember that I had had the dubious pleasure of forking over funds for The Boyfriend's ticket last time we were in the area.↑
- Or as I put it at the time, I was sick to the back teeth of Wiener Schnitzel and stinky sauerkraut↑
- Just to be difficult. She likes English deserts more than I do↑
- A previous experience in which she and I were taken to a sushi house against our wishes9 had placed just such a dish in front of the person to her left↑
- Neither of us see the attraction of eating raw fish for fun↑
- Don't bother yapping at me about "how useful can it be?" You came to Disney for Walt's sake. Don't do that if you can't enjoy it on its own terms, 'cos you'll be wasting your money↑
- Sometimes. We missed it this day due to buggering around in other places↑
- Which means Paramount stole her from Lucas and Captain Eo I suppose↑
- Actually, I was only a partial fan of it myself, though when combined with the American Football Shoulder Pad Look and given a spritz of Nipponesque™ it could suddenly become the sexiest look in the world - see Rachel from Blade Runner for what I mean↑
- While I find just about all young Japanese women deliciously cute, this one was especially notable in the "don't let Mrs Stevie find out" stakes↑