My mother and my stepfather (Daniel), invited me on a trip to go to the L.A. Times Book Festival at UCLA, and the tribute to Milt Kahl at the Academy of Motion Pictures (unfortunately, we ultimately didn’t get to go to the latter). We would stay over two nights at Daniel’s friends’ house in Long Beach.
Some of you might remember my previous loopy trip reports about vacations with my evil stepfather. This time, he topped himself. But more on that later…
Yes, I’m 27 years old and I still go on vacation with my parents. I’m that extraordinarily rare breed of Californian that doesn’t drive (I think it’s just me and Ray Bradbury). I never learned to, which doesn’t matter much here on the small-town Central Coast, but becomes a problem with getting to, and getting around SoCal.
My mother has always been a lot of fun to go on vacation with. My stepfather can be fun once you’re “there” – despite his griping about Disneyland, he always has a good time – but the drive there and the drive back are usually hellish with him.
Last year, my then-girlfriend bought me an annual pass as an early birthday present. It expires May 31st, and I probably won’t be able to afford to renew, so I wanted to get a couple more trips while I can still get in for nothing. I asked my stepfather, “since we’re down there already, could we maybe just swing by?” but he flatly refused and became infuriated that even brought it up. (“It’s always Disneyland!”)
I checked public transportation from Long Beach or UCLA to Disneyland, but it sounded like that wouldn’t work out, logistically. I thought about asking Daniel’s friends for a ride, but I would have to do it when Daniel wasn’t around. I was determined to get to DL somehow, even if it was only for a couple of hours…
(In present tense from here on in, for a sense of immediacy )
Saturday night. We depart, and the drama begins – Mom wants to eat before we go, and Daniel says he’ll stop on the way. Then, he keeps saying he doesn’t want to stop yet, and drives all the way there, four hours. Mom’s about to faint from hunger, and they’re both annoyed with each other. We eat at Hof’s Hut in Long Beach – very good hamburgers – and then, in better spirits, head over to Daniel’s friends’ house.
Daniel remains quiet while his friend and two other old friends of his sit around drinking and talking about their younger days when they used to drink a lot more, and do other things…
A prime sample of the conversation:
Daniel’s friend, to Daniel’s other friend: “Heeeeeeeeeeey, man. Remember when we used to do all that cocaine, man? Those were the days, man!”
THE BOOK FESTIVAL
The next day (Sunday).
Daniel’s friends were supposed to come with us, but curiously, they opted to go to the festival the day before, and have other plans.
We wait an hour for him while he tries, in vain, to get his completely disinterested friends to watch a video of him. (He does commentary on American Idol for the local news.)
A few minutes after arriving at the Book Festival, we stop to look at something, and Daniel disappears into the crowd, ditching us in search of Henry Winkler.
We stop at a booth helmed by a couple who make children’s books with photos of clay characters (“claymation without the ‘–mation’” they described it). They have Crayola Model Magic clay for people to make their own – mostly kids, but they let me do it, too. I make my own beaver character, Remi. (Unfortunately, it would wind up smooshed during the drama to come, but I just bought my own Model Magic clay to make a new one.)
I also got to show my own art portfolio to a lot of people, which is always great for me, and I got a complimentary copy of a guy’s novel when I told him I was a “struggling writer/illustrator.” (which I am).
We get in line for what’s billed as a “meet and greet” with Michael J. Fox. (There was a discussion event with him earlier, but we didn’t have tickets.)
When I was a kid, I used to recite the Back to the Future movies at recess while the other kids were playing tether-ball; at age 9, I performed the entirety of Back to the Future part III for my mother in our livingroom; and I once recreated the model train from III with my own plastic train set. So yeah, I’ve been a big Back to the Future fan for a long time, so this is a big deal to me.
I notice a small cloud of flies above our heads. Then I realize they aren’t flies, they’re bees. Then I realize they’re not a small cloud, they’re an entire swarm.
I point them out, and then the whole crowd starts running, shouting, “Bees! Bees!”
“A hive has been disturbed” says a guard on his walkie-talkie.
“Get rid of your slushies!” shouts a mother to her children. “Get rid of your slushies!”
An open slushie lands on my shoe and I picture the bees all stinging my foot.
I don’t know whether UCLA has some kind of bee crowd control, or whether swarms of disturbed bees clear out quickly on their own, but within five minutes we were all back in line for Michael J. Fox. Shortly, Daniel joined us. I planned to a “Doc” Brown impression for Fox, and was trying to think of a fairly obscure line to do, as I still have the movies committed to memory. I have my sketchbook with me and am suddenly inspired to do a sketch of him as a pun-intended anthropomorphic fox, (because that’s the kind of artwork that I do), wearing the poofy “life preserver” jacket from Back to the Future and looking at his watch. Considering how quickly it was drawn, it looks fairly like him.
Amid cheers of “Look! There he is!” Fox arrives. In front of us, there’s what would have been at least a 10 minute line at an ordinary signing, and it’s cleared out in about 30 seconds.
As I reach the head of the line, I still have my sketchbook in my hand, and am erasing an unfinished attempt at drawing a DeLorean in the background.
“Nothing signed,” says the guard brusquely.
“Oh, it’s not for him to sign,” I say, “it’s a picture, it’s for him.”
I tear the page out of the sketchbook, and the guard roughly snatches it out of my hand and hands it off to someone in the opposite direction of Michael J. Fox. I guess maybe they thought it had Anthrax on it or some such thing, but the next thing I know I’m standing in front of Fox and shaking his hand (and they allowed that). Still in shock from the way the guards acted, I say something lame like “Mr. Fox, I love your movies,” and am hurried along by the guards, then cajoled by three subsequent guards to move further away as I try to find a spot to wait for the rest of my party. I understand why they have to keep things moving, especially with Fox’s health condition, but there’s a way to do it without treating the innocent guests like criminals.
My mother said she got to hug him, and that he liked it when she told him they had read his book in her book club.
On the way up the steps to the comic book section of the Festival, we pass a guy who’s singing, and Daniel comments that his voice sounds just like mine, (which it does.) I tell the singer guy this, and he asks me to sing a song with him. We do “Some Enchanted Evening” and harmonize beautifully. We go on to do “Do Re Mi”, “One” and “New York, New York”
In the “comics section,” I meet Leigh Rubin, local creator (from Nipomo) of the “Rubes” newspaper comic.
Meanwhile, throughout the above, I’ve been wheetling in various clever ways about Daniel driving to Disneyland. At one point he says that if I can somehow produce Maureen “Marcia Brady” McCormick, whose book signing we missed, we’ll go to DL. But finally, miraculously, he relents for real. The plan is that he and Mom will have dinner in Downtown Disney and meet me in the Esplanade. When he says he doesn’t want to pay the parking structure fee, I suggest they go to Tony Roma’s instead, which Mom loves, and I’ll walk across the street. The initial plan is that I’ll leave the park by 9PM, because Daniel doesn’t want to get back to his friends’ house too late. At some point, he amends this to that I have to meet them by 9PM, and refuses to give me an extra 10 minutes to cross the street (“Leave earlier!” he says).
On the way back down the stairs, I do “Toora Loora Loora” (sp?) and “When You Wish Upon a Star” with that singer.
In 8 – 10 hours, I can generally do everything I want to do at DL and DCA. The shortest time I’ve ever had is four hours.
5:30 PM – We depart from the UCLA parking structure. Daniel asks Mom if she would rather go to “a fancy restaurant in Downtown L.A.” instead, but she’s wise to his tricks. Daniel points out that I'm now so excited, I'm like a record player set on a faster speed . Due to traffic, we don’t arrive in Anaheim until…
7:00 PM – We arrive at Tony Roma’s on Harbor. Mom and Daniel let me off while they go look for parking and I dash across the street to the park. As I get out of the car, Mom says something like “come back whenever you get done.”
7:10 PM – Arrive at the gates of Disneyland.
7:20 PM – Enter the Single Rider queue of Indy. It’s faster than the Standby line, but still a bit of a wait. For the first time, I notice the “lava effect” in the Chamber of Bubbling Death that I’ve read about on here – previously, I had only noticed red lights and fog down there.
7:50 PM – Enter the Single Rider queue of Splash Mountain. Get right onboard. Still my favorite ride in DL. It’s got bright, cheery Disney optimism, drama, physical wildness, atmosphere, plus a touch of classic Disney Imagineering with those America Sings figures. I really laughed at the part with the bees after what happened at the Book Festival.
8:10 PM – Arrive at Thunder Mountain and see that the wait time is 25 minutes. Grab a Fastpass for 8:50 PM and entertain devious fantasies of grabbing a ride on it before I go. Head off for California Screamin’ because I can do Single Rider on that and usually get on very quickly. As usual, I underestimate just how long it takes to walk all the way back to Paradise Pier, as I call it “The Longest Walk in the DLR.” (It might not be, but it feels like it to me). In retrospect, it might have been more strategically sound to just stay in DL…
8:30 PM – Arrive at the Single Rider queue of Screamin’. I get right on, and it’s a great ride (haven’t been on it at night in a while), but we get stuck just before going back into the station. Ever since I read about the rear-ending that occurred on that ride, it always freaks me out when that happens, but ultimately we pull back into the station safe and sound.
8:45 PM – Come to terms with the fact that Thunder Mountain is out of the question, and that I’m going to have to drag myself away from the DLR very shortly. But TSMM is right next door, and I have done Single Rider and gotten on instantly. I figure I can ride it, and then high-tail it back to Tony Roma’s and be, at the most, five minutes late. Unfortunately…
8:57 PM – I’m next in the Single Rider line, and I ask the CM what time it is. Well, I figure at this point, I may as well ride. It’s a short ride, right? Get another laugh out of the 3D bees on this ride.
9:15 PM – Arrive in the Esplanade and see what time it is on the Main Street Station clock. Freak out.
Total time actually spent at the DLR – approx. 2 hours, 5 minutes.
NOTE – the following contains some drama.
Approx. 9:20 PM – Arrive back at Tony Roma’s. Mom is on the sidewalk with her camera, videoing me coming towards her, saying something like, “Here’s Brent, coming back from Disneyland” (It didn’t wind up coming out, due to bad lighting.) Then she tells me that Daniel’s already mad. He’s standing off to the side, brooding by himself. She later tells me that he hurried her along and left the restaurant at 8:30. (Left to her own devices, Mom could have easily taken at least 2 1/2 hours in a restaurant, even under normal circumstances). I understand if he was peeved, miffed, annoyed, perturbed at my being late, but he’s got this whole self-righteous “you have wronged me in the most heinous way” anger thing. The fireworks start going off, and Mom says she’s glad that I took a little longer, because she wouldn’t have gotten to see them and now she feels like she’s been to Disneyland, too. This doesn’t work on Daniel.
WARNING – the following contains considerable drama.
We get on the freeway as the fireworks continue to go off above. Mom is videoing them, (unaware that the camera isn’t actually capturing them). Jokingly, she says something like, “here are the beautiful fireworks,” turns camera to me in the back seat, “here’s Brent all happy,” turns camera to Daniel next to her, “here’s Daniel’s brooding face.” I joke about showing it on MiceChat and he says, half-jokingly, “*bleep* you, ‘Mousechatters’”. Mom teases him a little more, and then suddenly he’s screaming at her and roughly grabs her hand with the camera in it (breaking a piece of the camera off in the process). He pulls off of some random exit in Buena Park and pulls onto some random street and tells her to get out of the truck. We try to convince him to calm down and just bring us back to his friends’ house, but he begins to physically push her out of the truck, in the process striking her under the eye. (He’s always had a temper, but hasn’t gotten physical like this before.) She has a few bruises but is more shaken up than anything. She screams for help and a very kind young man who is passing by calls the police on his cell phone. We get out of the truck, and Daniel drives off, but returns a few moments later, saying he’ll give us “one more chance to apologize.” The police arrive – at least four cars – and two officers hold guns on him and order him to get out of the car. He is cuffed, arrested, and taken away. We haven’t seen him since. The police officers are very nice to Mom and me. Since Daniel was the one who knew how to get to his friends’ house, they give us directions (based on the address). We arrive at their house, and the wife comes to the door. She says Daniel is on the phone with her husband, saying he’s in jail, and we’d better just get our stuff and go because she doesn’t want any part of this. That’s understandable, but her total iciness is still unsettling after what we’ve just been through. Not entirely knowing if we’re going the right way, we fortunately find out that the 405 does connect to the 101, and we drive all the way home that night, exhausted. I still can’t believe that all that happened on the same day.