Powering Through Vacation

Poor thing, she’s still coughing. Well, it’ll be okay as long as I don’t get sick. In fact, I never NEVER get sick. I’ve been taking the flu shot for years which has been key to staying healthy. This year I didn’t get the flu shot and still didn’t get sick, even when all my colleagues at work were dropping like flies.


Is that my throat feeling sore? Continue reading

Misfits & Losers, Part 2

Misfits & Losers, Part 2

If you were to ask me to pinpoint the moment I realized camp was hell, I couldn’t say. From the outset, I knew this camp would be different. It was for city kids who’d never really experienced the outdoors before. I’d seen an ad for the camp on TV and thought it looked like immense fun, but what did I know? The commercial depicted scenes of gleeful children splashing around in a lake, and taking part in potato sack races and sing-alongs around the campfire. What lucky kids, I had thought at the time. Continue reading

My Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire” is a new HBO series, which premieres this Sunday. I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know too much about it except that it’s based on a true story set in Atlantic City, once known as “The World’s Playground.” The buzz around “Boardwalk Empire” is, well, the best kind of buzz a new show could ever want. I have seen the promos and they have a sizzling energy that simply crackles. Excitement is in the air. Someone better warn Snooki and the whole lot of them at the “Jersey Shore” that the antidote to their idiocy has finally arrived.

The Steel Pier, circa 1960's.

Now, anyone who knows me knows how many shows I watch and that it’s suicide to take on yet another one. After all, watching a series takes dedication, especially with Tivo making sure I never miss an episode. It’s like signing a contract. I need to make sure I’m prepared to be in it for the long haul (assuming it’s not cancelled after one season.) Plus, watching a series on HBO means no commercials to fast forward through, so an hour show really is an hour. Now that’s a commitment! Still, I am planning to add this show to my repertoire and I’ve already programmed my Tivo for a season pass, thank you very much. For “Boardwalk Empire” doesn’t just bring the promise of a high quality, superbly written drama. “Boardwalk Empire” might as well also be the story of my life. At least, my growing up years.

Sure, “Boardwalk Empire” is set in the Roaring Twenties and let me make it clear that I absolutely was not around then. But sometime during the fifties and sixties, my family could be found spending every summer there, on the boardwalk of Atlantic City. We’d wake up in the wee hours of the morning (my father liked to start out early to get ahead of the traffic) and groggily pack ourselves into the car, taking the Cross Island Parkway to the George Washington Bridge and over into New Jersey, then south on the Garden State Parkway. We’d arrive about 160 miles later.

Who can forget the smells of our summer haven—sea air mingled with salt water taffy and Belgian waffles that wafted through the breezes on the boardwalk? Who can forget Mr. Peanut himself, standing tall with his monocle and a broad smile that greeted us beach goers as we strolled aimlessly, without a care in the world?

I just loved Mr. Peanut and every year looked forward to seeing him tip his tall hat as if he was happy to see us return.

And what about the Steel Pier, once called the “Showplace of the Nation”? This was the place for kids. My brothers and I, with a few coins in hand, would be left here to our own devices—to explore the sights and sounds, and to enjoy the rides. Most of all, to have fun. No troubles, just three kids having the time of our lives. Hours later we’d all reunite to see an outdoor show which featured a woman on a horse diving 60 feet into a 10-foot deep pool of water. Amazing. Back then we didn’t know how dangerous it was for the woman and the horse, nor were we aware of any animal cruelty. Back then, we were just in awe. Yes, nothing beat Atlantic City where walking along the Boardwalk was more fun than the beach itself. Taking in the scenery, the good times, and the feeling that we were kids in paradise and growing up was still a world away.

I was 16 the last time we visited Atlantic City. It was our last vacation as a family. We wandered through the Boardwalk with nostalgia and sweet memories of those innocent days brimming in our hearts. But sadly, the Atlantic City of our childhood was now in decay, largely due to travelers preferring to fly to their vacation spots rather than stay close to home. This was just before 1976, when New Jersey voters would approve legalized gambling and Atlantic City would begin to experience a period of revitalization. The years have passed and I now live in California. I have not returned to see today’s Atlantic City and this has allowed me to keep my memories mostly intact.

Atlantic City of my youth. Maybe it wasn’t quite its heyday, but close enough. And now I can’t wait to see how “Boardwalk Empire” captures it all.

Disney Trippin’

Disney Mania just hit the Medina household big time. Let’s just say, if you have stock in Disney, you can thank me and my 19-year-old daughter, Sarah, for the increase in value you saw last week. Yes, that was us, spending money hand over fist, as if we’d just received the inside scoop that the world was ending and the only way to save it was to go crazy in Disney World. Our “Lost Weekend” had nothing to do with alcohol, heroin or cocaine and had everything to do with our love for The Mouse.

Mother and Daughter Go Disney!

But I blame Disney. I also blame my parents who’d let me sit in front of the old black and white console, day after day, watching “The Mickey Mouse Show. “ Thanks to watching, “Mickey” and “Mouse” were the first words I learned to spell—and this was way before “Sesame Street.” Who can forget the immortal words from the show’s poignant closing song, which would bring tears to my eyes every time?

“M-i-c (C ya real soon!)-k-e-y (Y? Because we like you!), M-o-u-s-e!”

I’d sob when the show was over and no assurances that it would be back again the following day could stop my wailing. I needed my Mickey fix and I needed it NOW!

Psychedelic Mickey's for sale!

So Sarah and I went on vacation to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Our first visit and I’m here to tell you that the folks at Disney sure know how to pull out all the stops. They work feverishly to take the “hassle” out of vacations by seeing to your every whim so that you love it so much you want to come back even before you leave. For six days we never forgot for one moment that we were in the land of Mickey.

The indoctrination began at the Orlando International Airport which, if you ask me, should be renamed Disney International. From the moment we arrived the Disney staff, I mean cast members, went into hyper-drive to ensure we had a very Disney experience. We were picked up from the airport by Disney’s Magical Express and whisked to our Disney resort.

The magical fun begins on this bus!

No need to wait for luggage at baggage claim! Disney dealt with that trivial matter and delivered our suitcases straight to our room. At check-in we were given a portfolio that contained all we needed for our stay: brochures and maps for each of the Disney theme parks, and a handy dandy key card that not only unlocked our hotel room door, it also contained all our passes to the theme parks, our Disney dining plan and my credit card information that could be used anywhere in Disney World. One tiny card packing a lot of punch!

For better, for worse, the Disney touch was everywhere. Disney songs were piped in wherever we went. The first 10 channels of the in-room TV sets were all Disney-—including a channel on making the most of each day in the parks and another on the weather in the parks (hot and hotter with extreme humidity and a thunderstorm thrown in). Mickey-shaped waffles were served for breakfast. The pool in our resort looked like it came out of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and our hotel room décor was “Finding Nemo.” (We could’ve had a room with a pirate motif but that would’ve cost extra. Arrrrgh.)

Still, my daughter and I were over the moon, ready to embrace it all. We wanted to find the hidden Mickey’s that we were told were secretly placed throughout the parks and resorts. We wanted to go on all the rides, and see the 3-D movies and shows. But mostly we wanted to shop. Some people wait until the end of their visit to shop for souvenirs. My daughter and I are of a different mindset and that’s why I love travelling with her. We say, why wait? Let’s shop now! If the world ends we’ll be fully stocked in our Disney regalia—decked out from head to toe!

My daughter and I having a Disney moment.

Yes, we wore our devotion to Disney on our sleeves. And on our heads and feet. Minnie Mouse ears, Tinker Bell tees, Grumpy sweat pants and Mickey Mouse flip flops. It rained during our trip but that was no problem. We just put on our newly purchased Mickey Mouse ponchos and took out our Dumbo umbrellas, replacing our Minnie Mouse ears with Mickey Mouse baseball caps. Thank heavens for our Disney credit card!

And we were not alone in our Disney fashion. As we walked through each of the theme parks, we noticed young and old dressed as their favorite Disney character–Cinderella, Jasmine, Woody, Belle and the Donald. Duck, that is.

Decked out Disney fans meet Snow White.

Nobody thought twice about the countless newlywed couples spending their honeymoons at Disney World, wearing their matching bride and groom Minnie and Mickey ears.

Whether Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Tea Partier, whether Christian, Jew or Muslim, whether American or just visiting from abroad, we were all there for one reason: to experience the Mouse. There is no Red State or Blue State here. There is only the state of Disney and no one cared about the death-grip heat or the endless waiting on lines. Our end goal was far greater than the sum of these parts.

Us Disneyphiles, we know who we are and any other time of year, we blend in with the rest of you. But at Disney World, we become Mickey and Minnie Mouse wannabees, or Cinderellas or Buzz Lightyears. You get the picture.

So how about you? How do you feel about your Disney experience?