After a successful second day, this was the day that would make or break the trip. Either two out of three bad, or two out of three good. And despite the more than obvious Meatloaf reference, thereís no way in hell Iím going there.
Things werenít looking to good from the start. The sky was gray, and the place was pretty abandoned. Except of course, at the first attraction in the parkÖ Terminator 2: 3-D. I was looking forward to that, since I enjoy the movie, and have heard good things about it. However, this was apparently where 85% of the crowd had flocked, so we moved elsewhere.
We wandered around the back lot area for a bit, still amongst not too many other people. Certain areas of the park seemed like you shouldnít even be there, since no one else was around.
Finally we came upon some activity. This area drew some attention due to the easiest way to get the crowd pumped: costumed characters.
Iím not sure if there ever is a point in a personís life where they are completely comfortable around these characters. As a kid, youíre scared to death of them. The mascot is standing about three to four feet over you, looking at you from blank eyes. They never say anything, although thatís not really their fault. Instead of the chattering, loveable character a child sees on TV, they are greeted by a monstrous, silent beast.
Iím not sure what the scenario would be as an adult. Of course you would need kids to get anywhere within twenty feet of the characters, or you will be viciously glared at by the surrounding parents.
As for me, the situation is just as bad. I am old enough to know that thereís a person in the costume, but not old enough to think that the character isn't still cool. Actually, I probably am definitely old enough for that.
If I look uncomfortable in these pictures, I shouldnít. I should look really uncomfortable. When we saw the characters roaming around, I knew I had to get pictures. I wasnít sure how weird it would be, because I hadnít dealt with them in quite a while. Standing next to them feels ridiculous. Here is probably someone around my age, just trying to make some money. They donít get paid nearly enough to deal with this crap.
Even Dr. Doom of the previous day knew I was a geek who liked comic books. I donít know what Spongebob or the Man in the Yellow Hat thought of me. Iím sure I donít want to know, either. They probably figured I was some drug addict who watched cartoons while eating White Castle, which would be a fairly educated guess based on my clothing.
Iím sure the Man in the Yellow Hat loves his costume. Thereís nothing like walking around on stilts while children race around you, threatening to topple you at any moment.
I still donít know who could be inside the Curious George costume. Heís too small to be an adult, and hiring a child isnít allowed. In fact, there is only one person who possesses the skill to dress up in costume to entertain both children and losers like me. Thatís right, Kenny Baker has found work.
Soon we found ourselves at the Men In Black Ride. Itís pretty obvious that Universal has discovered the magic combination that kids love: aliens and drive-by shootings. The premise of the ride is something about aliens, and you have to shoot them. Granted, thatís not too specific, but I believe that is actually all the background information that is given. Another bit of information is that two cars leave at the same time, and go on different, but similar, tracks. After about three or so minutes of shooting aliens from your car, you find out if you beat the other car. What makes this good is that you find out the results from Will Smith. Listen closely when I tell you this. Being congratulated on my victory by the Fresh Prince himself was the best moment of my entire life. Now, that may make my life sound quite pathetic, and maybe it should. I donít care. Bagger Vance himself. Or was Matt Damon Bagger Vance? I didnít see the movie. I donít think they should have even dignified the losing car by having Will Smith even talk to them. That task should have been delegated to Carlton.
Apparently 24 hours is as long as you can go in Florida without pouring rain. Therefore, the previously gray sky was now still gray, except now it was unleashing furious rain. I wonder if these poncho salesmen make commission. If so, I might move down to Orlando and start quite a nice career. The poor guy didnít even have one of the ponchos on for the first 15 minutes he was walking around in the downpour. His management must have figured that itís not good salesmanship to insinuate that the product youíre selling isnít good enough to use yourself. Although I doubt the validity of that possibility, as I donít think anyone there cared what they were wearing so long as it blocked the rain. Kids were wearing garbage bags; apparently their parents spent all their money on turkey legs. Yes, they were everywhere here as well.
Ah, the beautiful Florida sky. WHAT THE HELL IS WITH THIS STATE?!? I used to go to Florida a lot as a kid, and I donít remember this kind of weather at ALL. I have a distinct picture in my mind of Florida as a sunny, warm, and beautiful place. And even if that vision is somewhat clouded (ugh, no pun intended) over time, itís still a long way off from being able to sum up Florida in two words: gray and wet. Has no one alerted Orlandoís Chamber of Commerce? Actually, I donít know what a Chamber of Commerce actually does, but I think itís important. I may be confusing it with the American Legion, but Iím pretty sure thatís just the place that gives out free hot dogs on the 4th of July.
This weather has to hurt tourism in some way, and something needs to be done. And donít go giving me any of that ďno one can control the weatherĒ nonsense, because that is just not true. Disney can. They certainly have the money to put a dome over their park. Sure, that would be a hideous and rather monstrous eyesore, but who would complain? No one dares meet with Disneyís disapproval. Universal could just take the tourists who donít need a domed park that day, such as the one day a month the sun can be spotted.
It might seem rather odd to be wearing sunglasses in this kind of weather. However there is perfectly good reasoning for it, going well beyond my Corey Hart fetish. They serve as a mini windshield for my eyes, so I can look up at the sky with scorn and disbelief, without stinging my corneas.
We grumpily trudged towards another attraction, next on the agenda being the ET ride. Iíll be perfectly honest; I hate ET. I hated the movie, it was boring. And did anyone see the cover of Entertainment Weekly that reunited ET, Elliot, Drew Barrymore (whatever her characterís name was,) and Steven Spielberg? Elliot looks exactly the same, just sort of bigger and stretched out. He has turned into some sort of overgrown Garbage Pail Kid.
Despite my disdain for the movie itself, and my memories of not liking the ride from when I was here as a kid, it was something to do; and this park was rapidly running out of new things to try. First problem with the ride: they ask you for your name, and input it into your ďpassport,Ē so ET can personally say goodbye to you. This part of the ride I was looking forward to, because the car held about eight people and I was looking forward to ET rattling names off like a Speak and Spell on crack. However, we went through the whole ride, no greetings. Maybe every other car gets greeted, I donít know, I felt scammed.
Iíve got to give it some credit; the line for the ride is quite atmospheric. You begin waiting outside, but then proceed inside into an indoor forest. I would go camping more often if the real forest was like this, air conditioned and incomplete. I guess they ran out of money in this rideís budget, as the trees stop halfway up.
Of course, itís easy to run out of money when you have to spend quite a bit licensing what must seems to be a thesis statement from Ben and Jerry.
The premise of the ride is that you need to save the aliens, because they are dying. I think. Who cares, really? I didnít pay much attention to the plea given by the president of the aliens, despite that he wielded a stick containing what appeared to be a novelty bowling ball with a rose inside. These aliens have a thing or two to learn about marketing.
Hereís a tip: if you want to ask for something, or want helpÖbe attractive. It works wonders. Thatís why I donít get any free stuff, I need a spokesperson. This old alien just doesnít have the panache any more. Glowing sticks and Christmas wreaths around your neck can only go so far. Actually very far, but stillÖ there is a limit.
The beginning of the ride is fairly dull, as you fly over scenes from the movie. Remember, dull movie = dull ride. Universal knew that, thatís why the last part of the ride makes up for its bad beginning. It makes up for any flaws in the entire park. It makes up for all of Floridaís faults. This is because the end of the ride, for no reason, is nothing but an absolute acid trip.
The entire last leg of the ride becomes ďLucy in the Sky With Diamonds,Ē or a live action version of the ďYellow SubmarineĒ movie. Not that Iím complaining, if youíre going to get ideas from the Beatles, these are two of the more interesting sources. It certainly beats ďYesterday: The Ride.Ē
Since neither ET nor the Beatles are likely to draw in the urban crowd, there are even appearances by ďFat AlbertĒ characters. Look, thereís Dumb Donald right over there.
After this, we sat outside for a little while, trying to come down from the massive contact high we obtained from the ride. From there, we meandered into a fairly quiet section of the park which turned out to be some sort of bizarre temple dedicated to Barney the Dinosaur.
Barney gets a lot of undeserved hatred. Iím a big fan of Barney. Well not anymore, but when I used to have to watch my brother when he was about five, it was a lot easier to leave him in front of the TV than to pay too much attention. Barney is a way better babysitter than I am. Heíd probably be a better parent, as well; Iím sure he has a much better sense of fiscal responsibility than I do. Probably the toughest question is whether he or I have a better chance of actually having kids.
From there we entered the land of Curious George. This area had a lot of potential, as I absolutely love monkeys. I am obsessed with them, they are my favorite animal. I probably like looking at pictures of monkeys more than I like hanging out with actual people. Anyway, as an obvious equation, if I like monkeys, I like Curious George.
I was going to write a whole paragraph about how I actually hated the Curious George books. However, I then realized that I really liked them. I was confusing them with Paddington Bear. I despised him. I might be looking back in anger because he has a much higher quality raincoat than my $6 poncho. I donít think thatís the only reason, I really do remember hating his books, even as an easily distracted child. Also, he likes marmalade, and marmalade is disgusting.
This sign spells trouble. If they have to go to the trouble of making a sign and a trail to tell you how to escape the rain, the weather must be horrible here all the time. I later realized that sign is there because on the days it is sunny, once every leap year, the area is something of a miniature water park.
Since we were indeed trying to stay dry, we followed the path. The path led us off to the side of this tiny town. It looks rather nice, doesnít it? Peaceful, happy, and somewhat English. Looks can be deceiving, mind you. In this case, they flat out lie. Inside this building, there is pure chaos.
Inside the building is a real time re-enactment of ďLord of the Flies,Ē except with adults present. The adults arenít there to supervise though, they are there to unleash hell on little children. The second floor consists of mounted guns, meant to fire at the people on the first floor. The first floor contains cannons to fight back. All of this weaponry fires balls from the ball pit, which may seem harmless, but as the saying goes: ďguns donít kill people, ball-firing mounted assault rifles kill people.Ē Or at least sting like crazy. I wasnít hit directly, but rather got mildly clipped on the way out. No one likes a quitter. Especially not the adults in the pictures, who are hurling balls at their offspring, or other peopleís offspring, letting out any tension from grudges built up over the span of their childrenís lives. I donít even think I am doing justice to describing what it was like in there. Unfortunately, the thesaurus contains only a limited amount of synonyms for ďinsane.Ē
We had reached our breaking point, and had tolerated enough of the rain. We decided to take the long way out of the park, revisiting out last spots we visited already. We went back to the Jaws area, because Adam and Mike had an inexplicable craving for funnel cakes. I guess itís understandable and all, funnel cakes are good, it just seems like a desire that would normally require at least a small intake of narcotics.
While they got their food, Josh and I checked out the fierce competition at the water gun booth. It would require something special to give us the courage to take on the high stakes challenge in exchange for valuable prizes and glory. Luckily for us, that something special was right under our noses. What we needed was a foot massage. However, would that be enough? I knew that the massage would have to come from someone special. Someone mischievous. Fortunately for us, upon closer inspection we discovered this was Woody Woodpeckers special chair. Only a quarter, such a deal! I was the first to try this device. I must say, calling it a ďfoot massageĒ might be leaving a little out. It seems to be missing the part about violently shaking your body to the point of pain. After enduring this, I convinced Josh to go on it using the ďwow this is horrible, you have to try thisĒ form of advertisement. He had a similar reaction to me: epileptic shaking and a hard time standing right after.
Our situation had taken a severe turn for the worse. In our current incapacitated condition, there was no way we could compete. Our minds were quickly changed when we saw the prizes: stuffed Spider Man dolls. I figured my odds would be increased if I had another person on my side, so I paid for Josh under the condition that if he won, I got the prize. I might look into a career as a politician. Never doubt my ability to cover all the bases. I lost miserably, I wasnít even close. However, who came out on top? Thatís right, Josh. The prize was all mine.
However, tainted victories deserve tainted prizes, and I received them in spades. My Spider Man was flawed.
Still, my motto has always been a dirty Spider Man is better than no Spider Man. To the victors go the spoils.
To the psychotic looking people go the temporary victory pictures. But no prizes.
On our way out, Josh and I tried nobly to convince the rest of the party to go back to Islands of Adventure so we could go on Spider Man again, but to no avail. Our walk out wasnít without any interest, as we happened upon the bus used in the Beatlesí ďMagical Mystery Tour.Ē
I donít know how it happened, but apparently my camera severely malfunctioned and took the wrong picture. Instead of a picture of Josh and I, somehow we were replaced by a terrorist and a Muppet.
We made our way out, and were on our way back to the car. During the trip one thing became very clear, people are lazy. The walk from point A to point B is about twenty yards, why does that have to be done for you? Universal spent thousands so people would have the privilege of traveling at a quarter the speed they would normally walk.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped off at one of the higher class markets in Orlando. Oh, what surprises awaited us in here!
They make sure to stock plenty of Vienna Sausages, as we all know people just canít get enough of that Vienna goodness. This brand even includes ďFree Bowling,Ē whatever that means. It is either a promotion with a very obtuse prize, or some sort of political rallying cry.
Hey, if they're good enough for Universal Studios, they're good enough for everybody.
Spent a little too much at the theme parks? No worries! You can buy ramen noodles for the low low price of just 50 cents. Or, upgrade to the special offer of two for a dollar! Jeez, if the product is going to be named after a slang term for drugs, at least donít make it seem like youíre actually under their influence while making the sign.
The rest of the day was rather calm, as we headed back to---
OH... MY... GOD!!!!
There it is! Itís Castle Grayskull! Of course the question of why it is in Orlando rather than Eternia is raised, but then that question is soon answered with the all purpose ďwho cares?Ē Itís CASTLE freaking GRAYSKULL. For some reason, and this will haunt me until the day I die, or return to Orlando, ...we didnít go in.
Everyone has their one major mistake that just stays with them. Bill Buckner has game six, Clint Eastwood has ďEvery Which Way But Loose.Ē I have Castle Grayskull.
Looking on the bright side, I now end the Orlando trip on a down note that is my own fault, rather than the weatherís. The eternal optimist, thatís me.