Reunite

So, have some catching up to do regarding the day to day activities of my adventure thus far.

Friday, once arriving at Orlando airport, I immediately get lost. Luckily, David finds me quickly. Our first meeting face to face ensues, but in some ways, it felt to me like we were just long lost friends reconnecting after many years. He begins to show me the ins and outs of Orlando. But one of the first things we do? Stop at a Wal Mart…can’t seem to escape the place! After picking up a few sundry items, he takes me to his home, where I meet Kathryn, his wife, and Liam, their newborn. Luke, their 20 month old, was down for naptime. From there, David drives me through some of the snazzier neighborhoods, where the likes of Shaquelle O’Neal and Tiger Woods live. These are some of the nicest homes I’ve seen. We show up at his office where he has some business to attend to. But he has a surprise for me. Cezar Cunningham shows up, and I get to meet him face to face! (Cezar is a Jamaican reggae artist and actor and all around artist/businessman who is close to the Mullings family. I have purchased some of his music and I work out to him on a regular basis.) It was such an honor to meet him.

After this we go to Downtown Disney, for dinner at Paradiso 37, a restaurant that features food from the Americas –  North, Central and South. I had beef enchiladas and a Sangarita, (Sangria and Margarita), David has Mahi Mahi Sliders. Delicious food. Downtown Disney was a first for me, and I loved the Disney Magic displayed in the multiple restaurants, stores, street musicians, arcades, and entertainment venues. From its own Cirque de Soliel, La Nouba, to Splitsville, a multi-level bowling alley and restaurant, to its own Lego Store, and a Harley Davidson store, this place has a vibe that is truly unique.

The next day we went to our first park, The Magic Kingdom. One of my favorite rides is a ride that’s not inside any theme park. The Monorail! We ride over via express right through The Contemporary Resort, disembark, and prepare to enter. I began preparing myself, for I knew I was going to be a bit emotional on my return after 26 years. We walk under the tunnel that goes under the train station, and enter Main Street USA, Sure enough, I get a heavy lump in my throat. No tears, just overwhelming emotional release of being reunited to an old “friend”.

I quickly make my way to the end of Main Street to The Crystal Palace, where I have a reservation that I’m late for. Well, sort of. Turns out I made the reservation on the wrong day. So they cancel that one, and quickly seat me for an all you can eat breakfast buffet. The Crystal Palace is also the home to a character breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and friends. Winnie, Piglet, Tigger, and Eyore make the rounds from table to table, posing for pics and hamming it up with guests. Piglet stops by my table to shake my hand. Sorry folks, no pics. I blew it, I know. (sorry Kim…) The breakfast was wonderful, and I love the Victorian theming of the 20th century setting.

I catch up with David, Kathryn and the boys, and we begin the rides. Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (twice for me), Splash Mountain, Country Bear Jamboree, The Haunted Mansion, It’s a Small World, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan’s Flight, Stitch’s Great Escape, Monster’s Inc.’s Laugh Floor, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, Space Mountain, The People Mover, Carrousel of Progress, Mickey’s Philharmagic, The Tea Cups, Tomorrowland Speedway, the Train, and we witness the last half of the Main Street Electrical Parade. We decide to call it a night, so David and I catch part of Wishes, the spectacular Fireworks show, from the ferry over the Seven Seas Lagoon. Then we hop on a tram to our parking lot, Simba 20, and find our way home after a very tiring, but lively and emotional day.

Splash Mountain, Stitch’s Great Escape, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor, and Mickey’s Philharmagic were all new rides for me. Have to say I love Splash Mountain. Got soaked. It’s just part of the experience you can’t avoid. Also love Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, The Haunted Mansion, and Space Mountain…I love it all, but some of them I’m a bit more endeared to.

David’s Kermit the Frog Mickey Ears drew a lot of attention, as well did Luke his 18 month old, who was flirting with all the ladies.

So, tomorrow I will highlight today and tomorrows activities. This tired boy’s going to bed.

David and Me, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad




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Brothers From Different Mothers

As many of you know, I have embarked on a venture to the World of the Mouse in Orlando, Fl. If you are reading this, it means I have arrived safely, and am preparing for the next day’s first excursion into The Magic Kingdom. My 26 ½ years wait is over.

As promised, I will reveal to you some of the other reasons this is a special trip for me. I am staying with my good friend David Mullings. He and his family have graciously offered their hospitality to me. Even more special is that this will be our first meeting face to face. David and I have developed a great friendship over Facebook for the past 6 years.

The means of which we met is really kind of a fluke. Here’s the story…
In October of 2007, I began a Facebook account, mainly because MySpace was getting kind of silly. In those days, Facebook wasn’t as popular as it is today, and it was mostly inhabited by college students and young professionals. My good friend Dana Kermanian nudged me to join. So I gave in, and soon began building my profile.

At that time there was a Facebook App called Causes, which was a means to identify with other likeminded folks and rally behind and contribute to various causes on Facebook. I was a big fan of Bono’s charity called ONE, so I searched it out. I found it, (or at least I thought I did) and I immediately joined it. I was very enthusiastic about it. I began inviting many friends to it, and even donated around $25.00 to it. I requested to be friends with its administrators, Kathryn and David Mullings, and they  quickly responded in kind.

(Now, it turns out that this was not the official worldwide organization charity ONE…it was a local Miami chapter. And it clearly stated that information. I’m still wondering how Kathryn responded when she saw  my donation and note that said something along the lines of, “I plan on making ONE my primary cause to donate to…” Probably thought, ‘Silly Redneck from Texas.’ I noticed my error in my ways about a month later. It’s never come up in conversation. )

I began reading David’s posts and links and blogs on a regular basis, and thought him to be very fascinating and thought-provoking. I began corresponding with him, and he always answered my questions  and was always encouraging. This has gone on for the almost six years we’ve known each other on Facebook.  He is quite business savvy, and has a heart of gold when it comes to raising up leaders in the ranks of the young people of Jamaica. (David has dual citizenship with Jamaica. He bleeds both red, white and blue, and green, gold , black.) His ambitions in making a difference in the world, and his devotion to his family, have inspired me to the core. I have learned so much from him, he has widened my perspective. I am 12 years his senior, but I truly consider him a mentor.

So, on that note, not only am I taking this adventure to a place I’ve been longing to return to for the past 26 years,  I also get the pleasure of meeting a dear friend face to face. Some friends have jokingly chided me, “Scott, what if he is a serial killer?”  My response, he doesn’t fit the profile, unless of course, the profile of a serial killer has been updated to include men of integrity.

Here’s to 9 ½ days of adventure in the World of the Mouse, and exploring friendship’s new journey.

Shooting up Aliens on Buzz Lightyear…

Onward to Disney

So, as many of you are quite aware of, on September 27th, I depart to Orlando, Florida for a little adventure. Obviously, I’m very excited. Like a 6 year old on Christmas Eve. There are so many reasons why this particular trip means so much to me.

Disneyland, 1973, age 4…………

 As a child, my family used to go to either Disneyland in Anaheim, California, or to Walt Disney World, in Orlando, Florida. Religiously. My parents loved the Land/World of the Mouse just as much as I did. I recall, mainly from photos, my sister, Debbie, going with us a few times, before she went off to college. But thereafter, it was my mom, dad, and myself taking a two or three day journey to either side of the country, either during Spring Break or Summer Vacation. On one trip, we went to both. Yep. Got to Disneyland, and found out the Haunted Mansion, our family favorite ride, was closed. Bummer. After two days, dad said, Ok, let’s go to Disney World. So, during the energy crisis of 1977, (or whenever, I just know the energy crisis was during that trip,) we drove all the way across the southern US, from California to Florida. In about 3 days. Straight. No motels. Mom and Dad took shifts driving. We were road warriors. But we got to ride the Haunted Mansion, darnit!

 Some times our trips included excursions to other parts of the country, too. Like driving through Colorado and Wyoming, stopping at Yellowstone, then through Montana to Washington State, down the coast through Oregon and California, driving through the Redwood Forrest, onward to Anaheim. Or through New Mexico and Arizona, stopping at Carlsbad Caverns and the Grand Canyon. Or up through the Midwest states to Ohio, (where my dad was from), then up to Niagra Falls in New York/Canada, and then down the East coast to Orlando. However, most of our trips were to Orlando, by the Gulf states route, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, then of course, Florida. I’ve been to just about everything that makes America – America. I’ve been to every state in the country, except Alaska and Hawaii. My parents have been to Hawaii. Someday I will venture to those places, as well.

 It’s been 26 years since I’ve been to Disney World. It was my Senior year, Spring Break of 1987. I was just one month shy of 18. Even as an eighteen year old, I could completely give in to the Disney magic. My parents probably didn’t think I was, but I was sold out to it. I felt equally at home on Space Mountain and It’s A Small World, or Spaceship Earth, or Journey into The Imagination. I loved it all. The previous year, my junior year, the high school band went to Disney World. With only a day and a half, we were kind of rushed. And when you get in a small group of adrenaline buzzed teens, you’re kind of pulled in all directions. It was fun still, but not the same experience I had with my folks. Spring Break that same year my folks and I went to Disneyland, to change it up a bit. We had been to Disney World for the past three years. One of the dual coast years for me.

EPCOT 1985, age 15 Not completely given in to the Disney magic in this pic………..

 In those days, at Disney World, there was no Disney Hollywood Studios, (originally called Disney-MGM Studios, it was being built.) Animal Kingdom was still a glimmer in some imagineer’s eye. Nor were the water parks Typhoon Lagoon, or Blizzard Beach in existence. ( There was a small water park called River country, which is now closed and stands in ruins.) The Grand Floridian, Disney’s flagship hotel, was just a skeleton of scaffolding and cranes, as I recall riding by on the monorail. The Swan and Dolphin Hotels were also being constructed. Eighty-five percent of the now 27 hotels had not yet been built. Downtown Disney existed in a different form, not near the shopping entertaining district it is today. The ESPN Sports Complex was also in its early phases, and The Richard Petty Driving Experience had yet to be conceived, as well. Fort Wilderness Campgrounds were there, and The Disney Inn (now Shades of Green), and its golf courses were there. But the overall mousetropolis that is Disney World today was only in its adolescent years.

 At eighteen, I started college and got a job. Vacation time for the job was non existent. If I had chosen to take a vacation, when I had returned, I probably would not have a job. So for the next few years, Disney was a non-existent idea. Then the busy-ness of life took over, and any hope for a special vacation got put on a back burner. It wasn’t until around 2000 before I even had any notion of trying to take a trip to Florida. By that time, mom had passed away, and dad’s health was such that in his mind, Disney World was out of the question. I tried organizing trips with a few friends once or twice. But when the reality hit them that this was not going to be in the price range of a trip to Six Flags, they balked.

 I say all of that to say this…I have a lot of catching up to do! I’ll miss the older attractions that are no longer there, ( like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,) but will welcome the new favorites, like Splash Mountain, (hardly “new”) and the expanded Fantasy Land. Plus the two parks I haven’t even stepped into yet. And don’t forget Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando. And The Wizzarding World of Harry Potter! Half of my friends at Wall Mart want to stowaway in my luggage so they can go to Wizzarding World!

(On a side note, one of the reasons for my recent weight loss efforts is a practical one. The main attraction at Wizzarding World, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, is a wild ride in which you are seated in a bench that’s placed on a huge animatronic arm that moves on a track, and can also move in all directions. A safety harness is placed over you, and it must tighten to three clicks, or supposedly they won’t let you ride. How true this is, I don’t know, but I read an article of a heavy set fellow who only made it to one click, so he vowed he would return to ride again after he lost the pounds. That was his motivation for his weight loss journey. I decided I would beat them to the punch. I’m going for three clicks, first time around, baby!)

 I have a lot of fond memories of Disney, but this photo takes the cake:

This was back in the day when Mickey’s appearances were RARE. Especially walking down Main Street USA upon park opening. We were in the right place at the right time. Now days, the characters have meet and greet locations throughout all four parks. It’s a bit easier to get your pic with the Big Cheese.

 I’m gonna wrap this post up, but stay tuned for follow ups. I’m planning on blogging every night on the trip, even just a few short sentences and a few pics. One last thing. I will be staying with a good friend, who lives in Orlando. And I believe that subject requires a post to itself. So stay tuned till next time…