Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!

It's a Small Word ride

I turned 60 years old on Christmas Eve, so Tim naturally thought we should celebrate by spending three days at the Disney resort (yay!). We stayed at the appropriately historic Disneyland Hotel. The weather was perfect—in the 70s—and we had a wonderful time.

Sleeping Beauty's castle, dressed-up for the holidays

One of the advantages of staying at the resort is “magic hour,” when hotel guests get to enter the parks at 7AM, an hour before everyone else. On Monday, we rode all the rides in Cars Land—including Radiator Springs Racers, twice!—before the hordes descended. Tuesday morning, we were among the first to ride Star Tours, Astro Blasters, Indiana Jones, and the Haunted Mansion. Another advantage: we got to take a much-needed nap before returning to Disney’s California Adventure (DCA), Monday night, for the holiday version of the “World of Color” water show (beautiful!).

Maleficent horns. Do I look like
Angelina Jolie?

Since we go to the parks so often, we decided to do stuff we don’t normally do when we’re there. For instance, Tim had never been on the 3-D Toy Story Midway Mania ride, so we stood on line for 45 minutes—something we rarely do. Luckily, it was worth the wait and so has now moved to the top of our “must-do” list of DCA rides.

Midway Mania 3-D

We also looked for some of the more “secret” parts of Disneyland that most fans know about. Every year, Disney recognizes its more legendary “cast members” by inducting them into a hall of fame at the Burbank studio. But did you know that the most special Disney employees are also honored by having their own Disneyland windows? The next time you visit the park, be sure to spend a few moments looking at the names on the windows as you run down Main Street to get to your favorite ride. You might be surprised by who you’ll find.

Uncle Walt, himself: 
"Founder & Director Emeritus"

Sherman brothers, songwriters 

Bob Gurr, designer of the Monorail, 
Autopia, etc:
"Leading the Race to the Future - 
Our Vehicles Pass the Test of Time"

Hearing a rumor that it will soon be dismantled, we went in search of the Fantasyland loading dock for the old Skyway ride, closed 20 years ago. Built to resemble a Swiss chalet, we found it hidden deep behind several tall trees to the left of Dumbo and the Casey Jones, Jr., train ride. Sneaking up some roped off stairs, we snapped a couple of photos and fondly remembered the ride my sister and I affectionately called the “barf buckets.” Check out the great YouTube video below to see the fabulous Skyway views of Disneyland in the early 1990s. 

Skyway remnants

The Skyway: one last time

While in Fantasyland, we visited the Snow White ride, site of one of the many fun “Easter eggs” sprinkled throughout the park. Hear the evil queen laugh fiendishly when you touch the golden apple. (Click on the video and turn-up the volume.)

Golden apple "Easter egg"

On my birthday, we took a 3-hour holiday tour of both DCA and Disneyland. Highlights included going to the head-of-the-line for three holiday-themed rides: the Jingle (i.e., Jungle) Cruise, Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Mansion, and, yes, even the dreaded It’s a Small World ride, which was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Plus, we had VIP seats for the holiday parade.

DCA Christmas tree and Carthay Circle

Haunted Mansion

We were so exhausted by the end of the three days we took the Monorail back to our car. 

Our chariot awaits

Happy Birthday, old girl!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Season's Greetings, 2013

Yikes! What a crazy year we’ve had! No wonder I'm so tired. Among this year's highlights:

Not much travel, but we did go to Phoenix/Tempe for baseball spring training, plus flew to Snohomish, WA, for a wonderful reunion with family in August. I also took a solo weeklong driving tour of California, visiting friends and conducting workshops along the way. I will never drive Highway 1 again . . .

Family reunion: my little sister and me

Lots of celebrity events: attended interviews with Judy Collins, Linda Ronstadt, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Crystal, Boz Scaggs and Anjelica Huston as well as nostalgia-filled 25-year TV cast reunions for China Beach and Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Can you tell we’re baby-boomers?!)

Lots of music: concerts by Steely Dan, The Rascals, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Earth Wind and Fire, John Williams (thousands of Star Wars lightsabers!) and Danny Elfman. I also took a three-week class on Bruce Springsteen at the Grammy Museum.

Several plays: One Night With Janis Joplin, End of the Rainbow (about Judy Garland), and Backbeat: The Birth of the Beatles. Karen and I also flew up to Berkeley to see Sirs Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart perform in No Man’s Land (absolutely fabulous!).

And, of course, sports: Angels baseball was especially disappointing this year, but we were thrilled by Clippers basketball and got to see a couple of games at Staples Center.

Tim is now the ice-cream-making king, after we took a one-night class for Valentine’s. The next day, we ran right over to Williams Sonoma and bought a Cuisinart ice cream maker, which was in constant use over the summer. Our favorite flavor: baked apple (yum!).

After all these years living in Culver City, we (finally!) toured Sony Studios, located practically in our own backyard. We also watched the Emmys red carpet from Tim's workplace, and returned to Smoke Tree Ranch for yet another Disney getaway weekend. 

The backyard view from Walt Disney's original
Smoke Tree Ranch home

Our gardens were featured as part of the prestigious Theodore Payne native plants tour for a fourth year-in-a-row. Always a wonderful, if exhausting, experience.

Our own beautiful backyard

And sadly, we lost our sweet cat Cecil to cancer this summer. We miss him very much and so now shamelessly dote on his brother Beanie.

Beanie and Cecil

Wishing you and yours a joy-filled holiday and very happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Saving Mr. Banks

We got to see the new movie Saving Mr. Banks on the Disney lot last night. Not only was the film—about author P.L. Travers’ internal struggle over giving Walt Disney the rights to Mary Poppins—wonderful, but we also got to “Walk in Walt’s Footsteps” afterward, visiting sets from the movie as well as touring Stage A, where hundreds of soundtracks have been recorded, plus the studio’s famous Animation Building. As with everything Disney, it was truly a magical evening.

Set of Walt's desk

Reproductions of Mary Poppins storyboards

"A Spoonful of Sugar . . ."

Set of Travers' office

With Mary and Bert

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Marilyn in Palm Springs

I love Marilyn Monroe, not so much because of her acting ability—though she was brilliant in Some Like It Hot and, especially, Bus Stop—but because she was so beautiful and misunderstood and tragic. She was the ultimate movie star and is currently being celebrated as a 3-story-high sculpture, called "Forever Marilyn," in Palm Springs.

We returned to Smoke Tree Ranch, last weekend, to spend three glorious days with a great group of Disney fans. But before immersing ourselves in all things "Walt," we, of course, stopped to visit Marilyn. Standing 26 feet tall and weighing 17 tons, she never looked better—so joyous in the pose made famous in The Seven-Year Itch. You'd never guess she's made of bronze and steel.

Marilyn is leaving Palm Springs at the end of the year, so go right now if you want to see her. Be sure to take a warm sweater, though. Marilyn may be dressed for a heat wave, but we woke-up to snow on the mountains on Sunday.