A place for family and friends to see what I'm up to. Visitors welcome here.

Hail Guest, we ask not what thou art.
If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
If Foe, our love will conquer thee.
-Old Welsh Door Verse

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Splendid People...

Splendid times.

I had SO MUCH FUN Friday night.

IN 2010 I took a Jack Grapes writing class.  It was - at the same time - one of the most frightening and most rewarding experiences I've had.  And, it was enhanced because I got to "keep" a few of my classmates as friends.  One of the men posted something on facebook that alerted me that he and I must have traveled the same path into weird since the last time I saw him (Tom Shadyac's coffee talks in 2012).  He posted something to me there, and it quickly developed into him traveling from downtown up  to meet at Cafe Nouveau in Ventura for dinner on Friday.

We got tucked in at a little table with the flowers along the wall (next to the heater).  As always happens with us, as soon as we got past the gosh-it's-been-a-long-time-since-we've-been-together awkwardness, we just jabbered away until the restaurant closed, then took the party to BJs in Oxnard, where we talked until that place closed.

I have few people in my life that I feel so comfortable with.  It is a relief and a joy to spend time with him.

A splendid, interesting man doing his best to know himself deeply while he explores this adventure that is life.  We'd make a fine couple if only he was about thirty years older.  (Straight would be a benefit, too, but not a requirement.)

After getting home to bed about one in the morning, I was up with the alarm at 5:30 AM to go get my mom for a postponed trip to Disneyland.  Again, splendid people helped make our day splendid.

Since I had been distracted on Friday and forgot to make reservations for breakfast at our favorite restaurant (which has sit-down service), we opted for breakfast at the Rancho del Zocalo in Frontierland.  It's a bit more difficult since Mom has to hold the full tray of food (and her purse) as we make our way through the drinks and payment aisles in this place.  A splendid young man let us go ahead of him in the register line since he was waiting for his friend to get their drinks.  Then his friend, another splendid young man, offered to carry our tray out for us when we got to our table.

I often eat here when I come by myself.  I love the patio area - one of the few peaceful places left at Disneyland - and it was much easier to maneuver Mom's wheelchair up to a table here.  The food was as good at Carnation Cafe - although the menu more limited as far as what I like (no potatoes, add fruit).  But we had a lovely breakfast.

HalloweenTime means candy corn bunting.  Someday I will make this for my house.

We got a little bit of a late start that morning, so spent extra time in the parking lines.  We always detour through the World of Disney store on our way in (much more pleasant than fighting the crowds on the way out) and actually found new stock to add to our various collections, which took some time.  Longer lines at security (first weekend of HalloweenTime), then had to walk all the way to the other side of the Esplanade to check in our purchases for pick-up at the end of the day, so we'd been later than usual getting into the park.  After breakfast, I asked Mom the time (since I don't wear a watch anymore) and she said "almost noon."  I suggested, since we were there, that we take in the first Laughing Stock show and "get it out of the way" (I didn't mean it that way) for the day.  She agreed, and when we got there we had a nice surprise.

The splendid Ragtime Michael was playing a set.  He is still my favorite entertainer in the park, although we rarely get to hear him play piano music anymore.  He played a bunch of my favorite arrangements, so  this was a real treat.

Then we waited for Laughing Stock to come on at 12:05.  After all, Mom had said it was nearly noon.  Instead, several minutes after Michael left the stage another favorite group took his place.  This combo is made up of members of the former Traditional Disneyland Band (Walt's Band, as their fans call it) so the music is fabulous.

I was confused about the time, though, and asked Mom to check her watch again.  My mom, at 84, is more clear-headed and on the ball than I am most of the time, but apparently still exhausted from some special events in her week prior to this visit, she made little mistakes all day including getting the time wrong when I asked earlier.  Sure enough, Laughing Stock took the stage after the cowboy combo (I know they have a formal name but I've forgotten it).

It's a cute show, more reminiscent of the old Golden Horseshoe Revue than their previous shows (but so far, not as funny as the previous Laughing Stock shows).

Once Laughing Stock was finished, we had to decide what to do next.  Mom was tired, I was tired, and neither of us had any desire to go wandering the park.  I looked at the daily schedule and noted that another of the old band pull-out groups, the Straw Hatters, was scheduled to perform at the "Mark Twain" in a few minutes so we headed over there.

The Mark Twain doesn't currently travel the Rivers of America.  Half the loop is closed for construction of the new Star Wars Land, so the riverboat is docked at the landing full time.  You can tour it, but it doesn't move until sometime next summer.

Mom and I tucked in at the landing, which is now one of our favorite resting places.  Shaded, quiet and great people watching.  We both "rested our eyes" for a few minutes until the combo arrived  Shortly after the music started Tiana arrived.  I couldn't see well, but well enough to enjoy the happy guests during this meet-and-greet.

Once upon a time we would spend the morning following the Disneyland Band around, then the early afternoon shopping and enjoying Billy Hill and the Hillbillies in the Golden Horseshoe (often treating ourselves to an ice cream sundae for lunch) and then finishing up our day in the late afternoon and into the evening with one of the piano players at Coke Corner.  I would walk over to the Pizza Port for our favorite dinner of Pizza Salad, which is no longer offered.

Things have changed and we've had to adjust.   Since the Disneyland Band (at least the one we liked) isn't there anymore, our morning entertainment is somewhat limited.  We finish our morning shopping rounds well before lunch, which means no ice cream.  The Billies used to entertain us for two or three sets, but Laughing Stock does not.  And we no longer spend more than a set at Coke Corner because we're not fond of the Saturday piano player's "style."  For the last year or so our new routine includes heading home before the afternoon parade to have an early dinner back at our favorite restaurant in my mom's home town.

Our plan for yesterday was somewhat different than usual. I've been following Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies (part of the Billy and the Hillbillies group) at their new venue, Knott's Berry Farm.  I suggested to Mom that we arrange our day so that we could see the only piano set we watch anymore (with our beloved Mad Hatter),  head to Knott's for a famous chicken dinner at their restaurant, then pay to get in for three Krazy Kirk sets.  At the time I suggested it, their sets were at 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00.  Last week I learned that their set times had changed to 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30.  Since Mad Hatter is there until after 4:00, we saw no way we could finish our day and have dinner in time to see more than one set so we crossed the theater off the list, still set on having dinner.

Meanwhile, Mom has been missing her Disneyland sundae.  So, after the Mark Twain, we headed to Coke Corner, where I would get her a sundae to kill time until the Hatter set.

We got there in time for the Dapper Dans set.  Our first happy surprise was that the "regular" piano guy wasn't there and Ragtime Robert was on the piano stool.   Ragtime Robert is a little too loud, too "pounding" for my preferences, but his arrangements are good and he keeps time well, so seeing him there was great.  The Dans arrived just before I got back with the ice cream, so I got to hear them while we indulged.

After a break, Hatter arrived. 

The Mad Hatter spots my mom.  "Hi, Ladies!"
"Anybody got a quarter?  Bring it up here!"
Alice wasn't with him on this day, so the Queen of Hearts accompanied him.

Her Highness seemed a little disgruntled at being trapped in the middle of the game.

I've seen this game dozens of times, but this was the most hilarious (and touching) ever. 

Touching because although the announcement had been made that the game was for people no taller than Alice in Wonderland, a large man joined the game.  It didn't take long to determine that he was mentally disabled.  Nobody blinked.  As far as I know, everyone from cast and audience accepted his rather large presence in the group.  When he lost his seat and had to get up on the stage to be declared an "unwinner!" he seemed genuinely surprised that he was, in his words, "too tall."

Hilarious in part because there were two little girls who had clearly played the game many times and were NOT putting up with Hatter's shenanigans.

When the game was over, Hatter stuck around for photos and autographs, then came to greet my mom.

Such a splendid man, and one of the best at making magic at Disneyland.

After the Hatter set I pointed out to Mom that it was almost time for the afternoon parade and I knew the sidewalks would be packed, so we decided to wait until after the parade to leave for dinner at Knott's.  After the between-sets break, Robert returned.  He came over to greet us and noted we were there for a third set.  I responded that we'd heard the Dans and watched the game and now would stay to hear him play.  I follow Robert on facebook and know he's had a rough year with physical issues, so I asked how he's doing.  I'm glad I asked, as he described his back problems and the upcoming procedure that he is optimistic will help him.  His back problem sounds like mine, so I tucked the procedure away in case I decide my developing issue is serious enough to pursue treatment.

Robert had just finished a marvelous arrangement of music from Phantom of the Opera (a request) when the Soundsational parade started.

A few minutes after the end of the parade, we started our process to leave the park.  Over to purchase pick-up to collect the stuff we'd left that morning, a stop back at World of Disney to get the stuff I had decided throughout the day that I wanted after all.  The tram ride and stop at the restroom, then the long walk to our car.

And then The Nightmare.

The last time I was at Knott's was almost thirty years ago.  Mom had only been there once, and that on a bus trip.  Neither of us had a clue how to get there, so I looked it up on Google maps.  We followed the directions, but were heading directly west most of the time and the sun was shining directly into my eyes.  Every street sign was backlighted and I couldn't read any of them.

We got lost.

I made my way into the hotel lot, where the splendid parking attendant gave me directions back, but I couldn't find a way into the park from her directions.  I finally ended up in the main parking area, where another splendid attendant gave me directions.  Finally, HER directions got us where we needed to be, but I missed the little hidden entrance to the marketplace parking lot, so had to complete the circle back for a second try.  This time I got into the parking lot, where there were no handicapped spots available.  As I was about to head into the nether-reaches of the lot, I repeated the loop just in time to be there when someone in a marvelous spot backed out and we nabbed it.

My 7.5 minute trip (ala Google Maps) ended up taking over an hour.  But we were there.

I had one more struggle getting Mom into the restaurant (where the doors open out; tough manipulating a wheelchair through a door opening out).  Again, splendid people - two of them - sprinted over.  They both said, "I got this!" which I found interesting.  One was an adult.  She advised me to turn the chair and back it in (advice which, now exhausted, hungry and more than a little grumpy, I was grateful to receive and follow) and the other was a child who slipped outside to hold the door open while out of our way.

At that point the story turned.

We decided, now that we knew how to do this, that we will do this every trip.  I5 to Beach (not Brookhurst, Google).  Straight down Beach to the well-marked entrance to Knott's Berry Farm (which you can't access from Beach off of Crescent, Google.)  If we leave right after Mad Hatter, five minutes there and we'll have a splendid dinner.

I couldn't believe how good this was. 
Neither Mom nor I eat large quantities of food anymore.  By the time we'd had our chicken noodle soup (more like chicken and dumplings) and a biscuit, neither of us ate more than one piece of chicken and a few bites of mashed potatoes.  Next time I will just tell them to keep the salad, but I did take a few bites of the corn (must have LOTS of butter as it was scrumptious).  Dessert comes with the meal, and we both ordered the apple pie.  I knew we had chocolate from the Candy Palace in the car, so we just packed up the apple pie for Mom's meals next week.

A seriously splendid way to finish a splendid couple of days.

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