Diana and I were being slightly nostalgic about music the other day, relative to our first meeting. I made her a mix CD (that was a thing) around that time. Among the things on there, it included a track from Natasha Bedingfield. Around 2007-ish, she was pretty popular in the UK, and her song "Unwritten" was a fairly big deal in the US. I don't remember how I found her, but I bought her debut album, back in the day when iTunes still included DRM on purchased music. And that was fine back the day, when iPhone didn't exist and I had an iPod.
A few years after that, Apple finally let go of their DRM, sort of. Some of what you bought automatically became DRM-free, and what wasn't, you could give them a few bucks For what you already bought to convert to DRM-free files. I thought that was kind of bullshit, but I gave them money for a great many albums anyway, and those songs join the 8000+ songs in my personal music cloud.
But there were a few albums that they just never offered to convert. The most immediate concern was the Veronica Mars soundtrack, which I begrudgingly re-purchased because it was too good to not wait for some alternative. There were two others that didn't transfer though. The first was Jill Cunniff's solo album, City Beach (fans know her as the singer from Luscious Jackson). I bought that one too, but at least it had bonus tracks that I didn't have. But Natasha's album...
When I repurchased that, it had a different album cover, but I didn't think much of it. Well, that was a mistake. When I listened to it, the songs were in a different order, two were different, and the arrangements of those present were different. It was like listening to something completely different. It was all over-produced with useless embellishment, and that's unnecessary because I think Natasha's voice is unique, and she's a belter. I think she's had four albums total, and she's a little older at this point, but what they did to that first album was bad. Research shows there were several. variations on it. My DRM iTunes version was known as the "North American" version, which was surprising, because US versions of anything tend to be extra shitty. See also, one-hit-wonder Republica's "Ready To Go," the UK versus US versions.
But it gets back to a problem we've had in American pop music for a long time. Why does it have to be enshitified to be "viable." I'm not really a big pop music guy, but I recognized that first Natasha album as being something unique and special (and UK charts validate this). So I bought the album again, only it wasn't the same album. What I got this time had two different songs, and the others had different arrangements that were frankly obnoxious and not good. I'm enquiring about a refund, while Diana may have scored a CD version of what we're familiar with.
It begs the question, how did this even happen? From what I've read, Bedingfield has had a tough career beyond her first album (she's had four). She writes much of her stuff, and collaborates, but she's definitely a songwriter. So why did people who decide such things mess with the authenticity of her art? Her voice is different, and her lyrics are a little weird, in the way that Alanis is weird. I dig it.
Pop music in the general sense seems to have been going this way for years. A lot of "good" pop stars have been relegated to obscurity for not playing the game. Think Avril Lavigne, And at the other end of the spectrum, a talented vocalist like Beyonce has been turned into cold product that exploits her voice, but has no authenticity relative to her songwriting, because she's not writing her songs. It takes a hundred people to make her album. Meanwhile, really unique stuff like Imogen Heap has fallen into obscurity, and yet, people are sampling her music vocally ("Hide and Seek"), so at least she's getting paid.
You know who is winning? Taylor Swift. I vaguely know some of her music, and it's pretty good. Not my thing, but I recognize. That's why she's selling out stadiums. And she writes her own stuff, with trusted collaborators (not an army of people). It's deeply authentic and personal for her, and the kids dig that. They can smell a phony like a fart in a car.
The popular music machine is broken. It's worse in the age of streaming.
A couple of years ago I bought a GoPro, after many years of not having one. They always seemed kind of inelegant to me in terms of their engineering, especially the battery compartment. The thing that I've done the most with it is time lapse videos, for hurricanes coming through, and departing cruise ports and such. I have some looking underwater on a beach. I let Simon go nuts with it on a cruise last year, and was deeply disappointed with the results in low light. It might have been better if I turned off the image stabilization, which definitely made it worse.
I was really intrigued by the Insta360 GO and GO 2, because of the size. When the GO 3 came out last month, I was even more intrigued. Admittedly, some video people that I follow influenced me. It seems like it wouldn't be "as good" because it doesn't quite reach a 4K resolution, but the size and durability of the tiny camera is crazy. From an engineering standpoint, it's interesting and elegant and cool. It uses magnets and you can orient it in any direction, and the waterproof part of the camera snaps right out of the body and you can put it on your clothes or on a hat with included accessories.
Of course, the engineering is one thing, but it has to make good video. The outdoor video that the YouTuber's made looks pretty amazing. Low light isn't great, but it does appear to be better than the GoPro. I've done a little testing, and it definitely is better. But what's really encouraging is that it has a flat color profile, and the full manual control is solid with better menus. I can use the GoPro mounting accessories, too.
I'll admit, this is kind of an impulse buy. I'm guilty of getting dopamine hits from new gadgets. What I'm expecting is that, on our forthcoming trip, having a tiny camera is the camera that you have. We'll see.
As we get closer to our big summer vacation, I'm starting to feel a lot of anxiety over some of the travel implications. This has always been an issue for me. It's not the act of any of the movement. I'm find on a plane or any other vehicle, and have the ability to essentially turn my brain off for the duration (which I can't do lying in bed, oddly enough). But it's the issues around timing. Missed connecting flights, getting places later than expected, stuff like that keeps me on alert. I'm the guy who gets to the airport really, really early, because traffic and security and weather and chaos.
I'm sure that part of the issue is that this trip is going to be expensive. It also involves a cruise that you can't miss without ruining your week(s). I'm pretty zen about the shoulder activities before and after, and we've got about 24 hours of extra time at the start for calamities. I think what really triggered me is that there's a big rail strike in the UK, and that sucks for a lot of reasons. The biggest reason is that it means private transportation that costs six times as much, and every service has some negative reviews. But also, I think we were all looking forward to a genuine train ride through the English countryside. We don't have many meaningful trains here in the US.
But I'm rolling with it as best as I can. I think once we're in London, we're over the hardest part, really. We're 90 miles away from where we need to be, and at that point, and we've got six-ish hours of wiggle room the next morning. It'll be fine. 😬
My birthday wasn't the only milestone this month. Ten years ago today, I arrived in Orlando with three cats and enough clothes to last me two weeks. I was pretty exhausted after the two days of driving. I recall meeting Kara for dinner, but I couldn't even tell you where we went.
By the end of that first weekend, I had secured a rental house, which was expensive even then at a buck per square foot (it's at least 50% more now). About two weeks later, we put money down to build our first house. I started a year contracting at SeaWorld corporate. Less than four years after that, we started building another house. I worked for a bunch of different companies, mostly not Orlando-based. Simon became a product of the Orange County School District. Diana started a career at the Dr. Phillips Center (DPC), and later we became donors. We've been active cruisers. We put down a lot of roots.
There was a lot of thought that went into moving here. The move back from Seattle to Cleveland to live in my unsellable house came with almost instant regret, and Midwest winter was miserable. I won't tell that story for the millionth time, but in retrospect, I realize now that every place (probably) has pros and cons. Having just moved less than two years prior, and two years before that, we could at least make the case that no move was permanent. Whatever negatives we considered were not permanent.
For me at least, Orange County felt familiar very quickly, especially compared to Seattle. That shouldn't be a huge surprise, given the fact I had been coming down here two or three times a year for a long time. By October, and especially November, it was feeling pretty great, because I wasn't experiencing any of the seasonal dread of the Midwest. From then on, the years have come pretty fast.
The weather has been a huge factor in feeling good about living here, and staying here. It's made me wonder if I would have generally felt better about life had I moved sooner. I caught a little of it in Seattle, where the "down" feeling was mostly limited to November and December, and even then, at least things were still green. But having gone back to Cleveland a few times in the winter, the strong, negative association with the darkness and grayness of winter was intensely associated with most of my life. At some of the worst points in the last ten years, I could, at least, have lunch on some patio.
Having easy access to theme parks has been nice too, of course. That pretty quickly evolved into the kind of thing that Cedar Point had become. It's where we would meet people, and where our range of friends from all over would eventually come. Because of the Epcot festivals and music, it's often a solid time out to eat and be entertained. The attractions themselves only really play a big role when there's a new one, and we almost never spend an entire day at a park. We've had passes to all of the parks at one time or another, and they all have different strengths. The biggest reason to be consistent with the Disney passes is proximity. Epcot lunch is a real thing we do.
The thing that I did not anticipate is our deep appreciation for DPC. It started with a random construction tour in August 2014. I volunteered to shoot some video for them when the first phase opened in November, and Diana's inquiry into volunteering turned into employment. She's been working front-of-house ever since. We wanted to contribute financially, but didn't commit for seven years, near the end of the capital campaign to build Steinmetz Hall, which was not far from complete. It's a source of pride for us, to have such a great place where we live as a home to the performing arts, one of the core things we value.
It's not perfect here, obviously. July and August, September to a lesser degree, are not pleasant times to be outside. The state is run by a fascist, and we seem to be competing with Texas for the biggest joke state. "Florida Man" isn't just a meme, it's real. And the dipshit governor and legislature aren't doing anything to fix the insurance problem here, which is completely out of control. I fully expect that to increase at least 50% this year.
We could, in theory, be empty nesters in six years. Will we stay? I dunno. We do love the theater. I don't think we need this giant house at that point, but in the near term I don't think we'd leave. I dream of living on the beach, but I don't know if that's fiscally realistic. I suppose it's too impossible to guess what happens then. A dozen years ago, I couldn't have predicted that I would be here.
I don't imagine that I have ever been a "gamer" in the 21st century sense. I mean, I played my Super NES in college, had a PlayStation 1 and 2, Gamecube, Sega Dreamcast, Wii, original Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and even bought a Switch (and to date, only two games, only one of which I really played). On the computer side, I didn't really have a computer of my own until after college, so I only got to play the old stuff on PC's at places not my own. Even then, the 3D thing didn't really get started until the late 90's, and while the hardcore folks bought the 3dfx Voodoo cards, I bought the much cheaper, but lower performing, buggy drivers, Rendition cards.
I bring up that last part, because I was buying a new card basically once a year. And when I could see better frame rates, even a few higher, on Tomb Raider or Quake 2, it was really thrilling. Those were a few of the games, along with an Indy car racing game, that were coded specifically to support the Rendition cards. Then came S3, and eventually Nvidia, though by the mid-aughts, I had largely stopped playing games on the PC, in favor of the Xbox line. Then I switched to Intel Macs in 2006, and that was the end of it.
Then about four years ago, I built a computer, for the first time in over a decade. It replaced my iMac (which Simon still uses today), where I used Parallels to run Windows. Via Steam, we were playing Planet Coaster on the iMac, and it didn't run that great. It was the first computer game that I had played in a long time, and Simon enjoyed it too. So when I built the PC, I did what I couldn't afford in the aughts: I bought a better-than-midrange video card for it. I actually spent $460 on it, which would have been madness back in the day. And sure enough, I could play Planet Coaster in 4K with all of the settings cranked up, and it was glorious. With a Game Pass Ultimate subscription, I could also play Halo and some other favorites.
This year I went back to Mac for my laptop, because the M2 processors were too good to pass up, and Apple finally went back to having good keyboards and real ports. Plus, I could write code on Windows or Mac, doesn't matter. This made me realize how inadequate my desktop was for editing video, which even then I planned to do more of, but it wasn't clear if I should buy a Mac Mini or half-build a new PC. I thought about it a lot, and ended up buying the Mini, and I've kept my PC under the desk to play stuff now and then. I recently started playing Stray, and it's super weird but fun.
But as I said last month, I struggle with the arrangement. I bring up that fascination over frame rates because there's little question that the Apple hardware could be amazing if publishers didn't lean so hard into Direct3D, the Windows API. I'm annoyed that I have to switch computers to play certain things (switching inputs for the monitor, speakers and mouse is "hard"). The Apple silicon is untapped power in that sense, and I know this because of the stupid fast video rendering I see in DaVinci Resolve. There have been a few games that have been ported, including Planet Coaster, but you can't play the latest on a Mac.
And now I can't play the latest on the Xbox One, either. The new titles aren't being made for the One anymore, and I've resisted buying a Series X/S for a couple of years now. Even today it's still $500 (well, $10 off because Prime Day or whatever). I'm still thinking about getting a ROG Ally, because it plays all of the things that Windows can play, so Game Pass, Steam, GOG and others. Heck, you can even connect it to your TV. I guess I'm not sure about the portability part, seeing as how I barely used the Switch that way.
In the last week or so, I've found myself intermittently spending my free time binge watching The Newsroom (for the third time) and the new season of Jack Ryan, but also going back to that little curiosity lighting project with the codez. For reasons that I can't exactly describe, I love this (potentially stupid) idea of making software that controls lighting from a web browser and can do effects and programmed things. I've proof-of-concept-ed it to the point that I think it can absolutely work with a fair level of stability. Not sure if you could run a big rock show with the underlying engine, but you could easily do any standard theater show with a few more tweaks.
Cool, right? Maybe not to most people, and that's fine, but I'm into it, and I want to keep at it. But I keep feeling like, "Why am I not doing other things, like [list here] instead?" And then I get bad feelings about it. That's kinda bullshit, right? What difference does it make if I get really into something, even in a quasi-obsessed way? I can tell you where that feeling comes from. I've had a number of relationships over the years, familial, personal, romantic and professional, where I've been the subject of scorn for this sort of thing. The subject matter varies, from video games to photography to experimental coding at work to other stuff.
Here's the thing, I get keyed in and hyper-focused on things sometimes. The casual, non-professional may observe this to be obsessive behavior, but they're wrong. As I now understand, more than ever, autism and ADHD can often make this situation real, and for the person, it's a way to experience some level of joy, contentment and safety. It may be a little antisocial, too, but whatever. I can tell you that my brain feels better by having these intermittent bouts of focus on things no one else cares about. Why should I feel bad about that? I can't really explain what the outcome of these endeavors are, if there are any at all, but again, so what? I shouldn't feel weird about doing something that I enjoy if it doesn't hurt anyone else. As I said in one of those previous posts, some people make furniture, and good for them. This is the stuff that I do.
I'm very much exhausted for apologizing for who I am. I am tired of the cultural expectations that say what "normal" is and what I "should" be doing with my time. I like to do things that no one else does. So what? The things that I do, and the things that I truly believe, do not harm others.
Let me focus a little on that last part. Because there are some people who insist that they must be their "authentic, true selves." Here's the thing, if that means that you are actively causing harm or marginalizing other people, who you are is terrible. Let's stop pretending that authenticity is something that should be valued when it hurts others. It's not OK when it comes at the expense of others.
And I'm gonna blog more about my code project that no one will care about. That's fine.
Because Florida, where we've had to replace three windshields in ten years, Diana had a random driving encounter with a crow bar yesterday. The car in front of her swerved and missed it, but there was no time for her to react. She's pretty sure she ran over it with the front left wheel, but it managed to securely puncture the back left tire, stay there, and trash the inside of the wheel well, along with part of the bumper. I assumed that the damage was just cosmetic, that worst case, we'd have to replace the wheel. But the insurance adjuster had a look today and the initial estimate is at $12k of damage. If they get it on the stand and find suspension damage, it might end up in total territory.
We just put new shoes on that car, a Model 3, after 50k miles and five years, and given its general reliability and lack of necessary maintenance, I figured we could get another three or more years out of it easily. The truth is, at this point, that I would rather they do total it. It's all around easier that way. It'll take a month to get parts at best, and then we have a once-damaged car to sell. And as much as I don't want another car payment, with the enormous tax credit and far lower price, we could replace the same-spec car and have the odometer reset and have it paid off in pretty short order (assuming the math is right on the value of the old car).
I've come to hate cars. I used to be very practical with my cheap Toyotas, even with the Priuses, but I got sucked into the excitement of EV's. I still love EV's, and we'll never have a gas car again, but this sort of event brings me back from the place where I think those cool exotic German EV's are somehow worth it. Even if I could justify the fiscal implications, and I'd much rather travel, the idea that some random thing like this can trash the car makes me a realist again. Diana getting creamed two years ago, and the Christmas Eve crash a decade ago, plus the windshields, it's all exhausting.
I realized yesterday that I haven't really done anything to move the rum documentary forward in the last month, other than commissioning some animation for it. I don't like that feeling, and I don't want it to feel like a burden.
The thing is that I have to start doing some editing. That's hard, because I need to figure out how the material that I have becomes a cohesive narrative, allowing for gaps in that narrative. In fact, finding those gaps would help me determine what's next, and how I might fill in those gaps. At the very least, I have another interview I know I can do, and there's also another bar that I think I want to check out locally. I'm also wondering if there isn't a story in the keys, because that just feels natural when it comes to drinking anything in Florida.
I also want to go back to the distillery and have their store manager do her walk through of all the products, just for me, without a tour group in the room. What I got of that, in a tour, has a lot of technical problems with focus and audio. I don't feel comfortable putting that in the movie.
Editing the animation with the live person, and working with my family to do some sound effects, that should be fun. Then I can say I have two minutes finished. Only like 80 more to go after that!
What a weird time. I turned a half-century last weekend, and it's difficult for me to even use the actual number.
I have generally been OK with the inevitable end that we all face. I would even say that if I got hit by a bus today, I had a pretty good run. And yet, for some reason, this particular landmark really gets to me. If longevity is in my favor, sure, I could only be half done. Statistically, I'm more likely in the two to mid-four-ish decades left range. As I like to say to people, I'm closer to wearing diapers than I am to wearing diapers.
As my therapist and I have discussed, a "midlife crisis" is more a clinical thing than what people typically call it. It usually involves a lot of depression and reckless behavior. I mean, sure, in the last few years I got a couple of tattoos and electric cars, but no hookers, blow, or Porches. But midlife "adjustments?" Not even sure I've made any of those other than my more recent desire to log more hours moving around.
And as long-time readers know, I'm definitely not one to keep score. But if I were to do that, oh, I could win that game. I graduated from college, started a career, broadcasted my voice across the air, changed careers, coached dozens of young women and made them better athletes, started several online communities that had who knows how many positive outcomes (marriages, life-long friendships, careers, etc.), wrote an actual published (technical) book, leveled up across more jobs than I'm willing to admit, divorced and remarried, maintained more than one open source software project with thousands of downloads, kept a child alive for more than a decade, moved around the country six times in under a decade, built three houses, had some pretty great .com email addresses, did a radio show decades after leaving the business, built my own music cloud service, picked up video production decades after leaving it... it's a list. And in the moment, I'm in the middle of making a documentary film, and for reasons I can't explain, writing software to control theatrical/concert lighting.
By the way, all of that happened without even knowing that I had autism and ADHD. I think I deserve a little credit, even if that sentiment is in fact influences by said conditions.
I was never really one to have a plan. I spent too many years wandering aimlessly, too. But if I could have predicted that I would be where I am now, well, I couldn't have predicted it. My present isn't at all how I imagined it, partly because I didn't imagine it, and partly because I had some pretty dumb/naive ideas about how it may look.
With that in mind, it's slightly ridiculous to suggest that I have any idea about what things look like ten years from now. If there's any issue with that, it's that I am obsessed with living on the beach. I think about it constantly. The natural rhythm of the waves breaking on the shore is like crack to me. It calms my ever noisy brain and allows it to truly be peaceful, without any external chemical influence. (Lorazepam also gets me there, but I take that very, very rarely.) I feel like that situation is necessary to allow me to truly be present and peaceful. Over and over again, I think back to the time that we rented and AirBnB in 2001, and what that felt like. This causes anxiety itself.
The reality is that there are so many variables that I can not control. And maybe that's a good thing, because I've met a great many people in my life who are convinced that they can control everything, ignoring the chaos that they've endured to that point. I am not one of them. But maybe that illusion is a more peaceful way to live. I dunno.
So I hit another decade, and it's 50% more time as an adult than as a non-adult. So much math. I try to lean into the fact that I know a whole lot more than I used to. That's worth something, and payment for the years experienced.
In March, Disney alerted me to a room discount around the Walt Disney World Resort hotels. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention, but I couldn't recall one of these since prior to the pandemic. We like to do a little on-property resort experience every other year, because it certainly doesn't require airfare, and it is a different experience to visit without driving. The price promotion, as I've said for years, is an indication that the projected attendance is not likely as high as they would prefer. As I've always said, if you want to know how crowded the parks will be, look at the hotel rates. So I booked the weekend. The motive was overloaded. Living Colour was playing Epcot, and it also happened to be the weekend of my birthday. That birthday, a half-century in. I still can't say the number.
I took Friday off, and to my surprise, the electronic check-in meant that our room was ready before 9am. I wasn't awake then, but my do-not-disturb was over on a weekday, so I got the text and it woke me up. I slept for another hour, and did stuff. We all took our time packing and getting lunch, and finally got into the car around 12:45. Disney's no-check-in check-in is solid. You don't have to go to the front desk, you just see that your room is ready, and open the room either with the app or your MagicBand (which are no longer included, I should add). No sooner did we arrive than Simon realized that he didn't pack his swim clothes. This really frustrated me, because we're trying to delegate more responsibility to him, and it was no mystery that packing should include that stuff. But we were able to get home and back in about 30 minutes, so that's not the worst thing. It was still a bad omen.
Shortly after dropping off our stuff, we hopped on a Disney bus to Epcot. First order of business was to get Simon some lunch, since he didn't have anything at home. He likes to get a kid cheeseburger at Connections Cafe, which was also carrying an elderflower/St. Germaine beverage I like for the Flower & Garden Festival, so hardly a difficult stop. No sooner did I fetch Simon's lunch (can't understand why more people don't pre-order on mobile), but I discovered that Diana and Simon had rendezvoused with my buddy Ken from DC, who had secretly been planning to come down for my birthday since early this year. This is the same guy who acquired my Big Bad Wolf wheel from BGW back in the day. He even played the "wish I could be there" card on the socials. Well done! He joined me the last time that Living Colour played Epcot, pre-pandemic, and like me, was determined not to miss them this time.
Ken scored a virtual queue position for Guardians, as we did, and the guest services team had no problem aligning his time with ours. They also put him in our disability access pass. Simon still doesn't do well with queues, especially the noisy ones, so we still use this. With Guardians, he also doesn't care for the pre-show, with the flashing lights and noise, something that I can also empathize for. But he holds his ears, and closes his eyes and gets through it. And that was Ken's first ride on the best attraction at Walt Disney World. Song was "Disco Inferno," though we were hoping for "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," given our meetup in Cleveland last year to see Tears For Fears.
By the time that was done, it was already after 3, and the first Living Colour show was at 5:30. First we went to Remy, another first-time for Ken, then we stopped into Morocco, where the epic kabobs are now a part of every festival, and that little spot in the back sells sangria by the pair. I don't know what's going on with Morocco, but Restaurant Marrakesh has been closed for years, yet they still show it on the web site. The retail has been closed as well. But Tangierine Cafe, the counter service, and the band have been active still. They're also doing henna in the back, and there's always a line for it.
While Diana and Simon went to do other things, Ken and I landed in the first of three shows, and it was pretty well attended. The other two shows would be too. The first was a range of their material. The second was mostly stuff from Stain and Time's Up, while the third was almost entirely Vivid tracks. As Corey Glover, the singer, pointed out in the first set, they are "contractually obligated" to do "Cult of Personality" each set. But as the night went on, clearly they could lean into that, as it was the thing that got the crowd on their feet, making it less "weird," as he said almost every show. The highlight on this first night was a version of "Open Letter" that was a lesson in how to take the start of a hard rock song and make it sound like gospel. The album version does this to an extent, but they went further here. And if there was any doubt about how all-pro they were, Glover did his gospel runs while a roadie replaced his apparently failing monitors.
After all three shows ended, we first stopped at the UK fish-and-chips counter for just the chips, which are under five bucks and frankly an extraordinary value. From there, we went next door to the Rose & Crown, just before they closed, to score Pimm's & Ginger. It was incredibly delicious.
After that, we ducked out the back entrance to Boardwalk, where we would find uncrowded restrooms and a bus to Disney Springs. We landed in Jock's Hangar Bar, the Indiana Jones themed joint. The bartenders remarked that they had quite the day, given the debut of the new movie. Apparently, the cosplayers were out in force, which surprised me because I didn't know that Indiana Jones cosplay was even a thing! I had their take on a dark and stormy, and got a giant pretzel that was essentially a charcuterie board. Fortunately, I was going home to a darling wife that enjoys cured meats.
The night was a bit of a disaster, and frankly it would partially derail the next day. Our neighbors at Coronado were total assholes, playing loud music, dropping F-bombs, and more than anything upsetting Simon. Diana knocked on their door, and they appeared to be pretty high (they'll love the room charge for smoking in the room). They didn't adjust at all. I had already called security, but no corrective action had been taken. Adrenaline pumping and pissed off, I decided I was going to visit the front desk, which is no small trip at that resort, and ask that they move us. As soon as I exited the room, I found a security officer hanging out in front of our door. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he listened at the door and contacted his shift manager. So basically, he didn't do anything at all.
When I arrived at the desk, in the immaculate tower, I encountered two people hanging out, iPads in hand. Disney in the broad sense, including at the cruise line, has tried to get people out from behind counters, so this was normal. The long walk gave me a few moments to relax a bit, so I was not hostile toward them. They had already seen the communications "traffic" about my complaint, and almost simultaneously called the room about moving us, no doubt because of my dissatisfaction with the security officer's inaction. They were already putting us in another room, which was not a "water view" (read: obstructed by a wall where the pool is, but that's what the online offer was), which resulted in a credit given the change in room type. Although it was only for the second night, which I suppose I could have contested. By 1:30, we were in the new room, and they already put us on Lightning Lane entries for Guardians on Saturday and Ride of The Resistance at DHS on Sunday, plus additional any-ride Lightning Lanes for each day. The front desk folks were very kind, and committed to getting us back to bed quickly. I'm gonna come back to that though...
I didn't sleep well. I was so tired by the time I got up. Ken was already messing around at Epcot, and we were going to meet him later, but we had a 1:30 date at the Three Bridges venue for Sangria University. Simon went to the pool for a bit, and I got some counter service chicken tenders at the hotel. I actually quite enjoy Disney's tenders, which are at least of a uniform quality, and what they serve on cruise line.
Sangria University started largely as I expected... mixology only with a combination of wine, spirits, fruit juice and fruit. There are regulations in some places about what you can call sangria, but in the US, that's the general condition. The festivities started with a big wrought iron "tree" of glasses with four different combinations, that were delicious, if a little diluted from the melted ice. They also had a plate of tortilla chips and guac, and a plate of fruit. In the first half-hour, the "professor" explained the origins of sangria, and what we were drinking. The last part would involve getting our order to any custom combination of ingredients, and then a photo and certificate.
But 45-minutes after that initial bit, the bartender had yet to visit us to get an order of stuff we would dump into glasses and make ourselves. She wasn't anywhere near us, and we were frankly a little anxious about the time that had passed since we last saw our kid. For any bar activity, approaching an hour without a beverage was also not ideal. Diana approached the guy at the bar about a compromise, and he gave us a business card inviting us to come back that night for the last drink. This experience was a let down. I'm gonna come back to that though...
I was also getting anxious because Ken was pounding margaritas at Epcot solo, and he was in town in part to see me. We fetched Simon from the pool, got him dressed, and headed to Epcot. Even this was slightly difficult in terms of expectations, because while every other park showed next departure times, Epcot did not. Fifteen minutes later, an Epcot bus arrived.
We again stopped at Connections to get Simon some food, met up with Ken, and again the guest services folks helped us align our Guardians times so we could all ride together. Got "Disco Inferno" again, but still, it's such a great ride. For whatever reason, statistically unlikely as it is, we were further toward the back of the train again. I will assert that the ride is more aggressive back there, which I had not anticipated. There's a bunnyhop that you go over backwards in particular that has pretty hard float on it. It's so good, there's nothing like it, and I don't care what coaster enthusiasts think.
Again we were closing in on 5:30 for the first Living Colour show, and Ken was planning to see another friend in town that night, preferably with a shower (it was 93+ all weekend, with significant humidity). The first show was again fantastic, and this one also focused largely on Vivid songs. After the show, we wandered back to Morocco, where again I scored some sangria and a chicken kabob. Diana and Simon crossed the lagoon on the boat, and met up with us. We all said our goodbyes to Ken, and while Diana and Simon went to ride Remy, I went back for the second set.
The second set was intense, and the crowd was into it. They performed "Pride" and "Bi" back to back, which I imagine would cause our silly governor to lose his mind, especially at a Disney park. The highlight though was that Glover wandered out through the crowd during "Cult" and right into the midway. He got to the turkey leg stand and ordered one, and by the time he got back for the guitar solo, they had it ready backstage. He brought it out and finished the song. This time they went from "Cult" right into a cover of "Should I Stay Or Should I Go," the classic from The Clash. It was a very metal take, and another example of the crazy changes that the band executes flawlessly. I ducked into the American Adventure for some air conditioning between shows, as it was oppressively hot. The third show had the energy of a finale in an arena show. They again ended on "Should I Stay," but extended it with the kind of rock band noise that you expect in an arena. It was so loud compared to anything I've ever seen in that venue. And since we don't get a lot of great tours through here, I was happy to experience it.
The band came out to meet people after the show, and this time, the ushers seemed to not force people out as they had earlier, presumably since it was the last show. I however did not want to get caught up in the post-fireworks exodus, so I hauled ass all the way to the bus depot. For the record, it took me 20 minutes from the stage to the bus, which was pulling away as I got there, but I flagged it down and got on. Just a hair over a mile total.
After returning to my room, Diana and I headed back to Three Bridges to collect our final sangria. On that short walk, we encountered the obnoxious former neighbors who were partying the night before. Clearly, there had been no consequence for their behavior. This is deeply troubling to me. I'm wandering into some generalization, I'm sure, but it feels like bad behavior no longer has any consequences. It feels so gross that the best solution for the previous night's issue was to move my family and leave it at that, even though we certainly didn't do anything wrong.
Earlier, I emailed the food and beverage manager whose name was on the card, offering feedback about the timing of the Sangria University while praising the staff for what they provided, and he offered to refund the fee, which is not what I was fishing for, since we would end up getting all the drinks (if not the diploma). When we arrived, the night manager invited us to sit in some cozy chairs by the water and relax, and brought us our drinks. Unlike those from the class, these had not been sitting with the ice melting, and they were very generous pours. They were delicious. She came back shortly thereafter with two more, different recipes that she wanted us to try. They were very kind and I largely forgot about the earlier experience. This is the thing that Disney does pretty well if given the time and opportunity, and you're not a "Karen" about things. I know these folks work hard, and I appreciate that.
On Sunday, we committed to a short visit to Hollywood Studios, and it was the hottest of the three days. The first thing I wanted to do was have pizza at Pizzie Rizzo. I know that these frozen things are not exactly "good," but for some reason I like to have one, maybe once a year. You crave what you crave. Simon had recently sucked down a giant doughnut at the hotel, so he went about his business doing the bounty hunter stuff in the Star Wars area.
Rise of The Resistance was awesome as usual, despite the Kylo scene broken near the end (a video bit replaces the animatronic, so if you don't know, you wouldn't know anything was different). A little disappointed that they still haven't restored the movement of the big guns. I felt like that gave a huge sense of scale to it that you otherwise only get in the AT-AT room. We also did Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, which I always enjoy. We ended on Toy Story Mania, and called it a day.
Overall, it was a solid weekend, with good surprises, and some things that were not optimal. I think though, next time I decide we should do an on-property thing, it should not be in the middle of summer. I forgot how hot it gets. Granted, this was largely to facilitate the concert viewing, but it was hot.