01 July 2013

Have a Magical Day

Dear Jane,

The Experiment Prototype Community of Tomorrow (a.k.a. Epcot) lives up to its reputation, I'm
not my picture of Spaceship Earth
happy to report--any and all of them. I guess I didn't really understand how theme parks worked, having never been to one like this before. My misconception became apparent to me the moment I entered the park. You know the orb that looms above you the moment you walk in? Silly me, I had always thought that it was your basic Bucky Fuller geodesic dome, as in empty. Ho no! It's a ride called Spaceship Earth wherein one is taken on a tour (guided by none other than Dame Judi Dench) of the entire history of humanity and not just that, but a glimpse into our future. I sent a postcard back to the present when I was there. Did you get it?

Next, I toured a "green" home with many energy saving features including, counterintuitively, a toilet that plays your favorite music. It's programmable from a smart phone or tablet so that you don't actually have to wait until you get to the toilet to hear your favorite jams. I'm not sure how that saves energy exactly, but who cares. It is square, no really. It's a square shaped toilet! You know how I love squares.

I hadn't eaten breakfast, so I was pretty hungry by then. So many choices! I wound up at a place called the Electric Umbrella. I ordered a burger and fries. By the time I walked the five feet to the pick up counter, it was ready. Panama should give that a try.

not my picture of space module inside Mission: Space
My next big adventure was at "Mission: Space." Astronaut training for the first manned flight to Mars. But wait, didn't One White Tree's friend, Tim, the payload engineer for NASA, say they had terminated their manned space flight program? Oh, right, it's only a simulation, a ride. Check. There are two levels of training. More intense astronaut training and less intense ground control training. The more intense version comes with repeated warnings. "May not be suitable for people who are afraid of motion sickness, have high blood pressure, are afraid of tight, dark spaces, or spinning. Judging by the number of warnings on signs interspersed along the waiting line and on the "mission ticket" they hand out, I assumed they were pretty serious, so I took them seriously. Let's see: motion sickness? Pffffft. I live on a boat, for godssake. High blood pressure? I take meds and its only borderline anyway. Afraid of tight, dark spaces? You mean, like, my engine "rooms?" Spinning? How would I know if I'm afraid of spinning? Whatever, move along.

Finally, I made it to the pre-launch area where Gary Sinise ran me and the other members of my crew through our pre-flight briefing and where his assistant provided one last reminder that it was still not to late to opt out and sign up for ground control training instead. You know how stubborn I am. All their warnings only had the effect of making me more determined to do this thing. Bring it! Our crew consisted of four members: a pilot, navigator, commander, and engineer, each with a set of responsibilities and each determined by the order in which we were queued up to file into the capsule. Sure enough, the role of engineer fell to me. These poor, unsuspecting people, I thought. They have no idea how doomed this mission is with me as the crew member responsible for repairs. I had a sudden, almost uncontrollable urge to confess all. It's only a simulation, I reminded myself. I can't really screw it up.

We took our places and at Cmdr. Sinise's order, pulled the restraints down over our heads. I wondered how I was to perform my duties when my instrument panel was more than an arm's length away. As if on cue, it lurched forward to within 6 inches of my nose entirely eliminating the problem. Unhelpfully, the thought floated past my consciousness that unlike this capsule, I have the freedom to climb out of my engine rooms whenever I please and this struck me as highly significant. While pondering this, our rocket swung into place on the launch pad and through the portlight I could see the top of the tower. Oh, I get it now. I've seen this on TV. Our rocket is going to "rocket" straight up very, very fast. Huh...OH MY GOD! WHAT WAS I THINKING!! I never even go on rollercoasters because they terrify me. Abort! ABORT! Too late. I had only enough time to verify that the air sickness bag was where Sinise said it would be and to note, with alarm, that it seemed to be shared between me and the pilot.

It's only a simulation.  Breathe. It's only a simulaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! I screamed inwardly as my
not my picture of not me (but might
as well have been)
cheeks rippled back from the G-force necessary to launch us. Breathe! Breathe! Breathe harder! I kept thinking, becoming more fond of the air sickness bag by the nanosecond. Remember (breathe!) to tell (breathe!) Jane (breathe!): DO NOT GO ON THIS RIDE! ohgodohgodohgod!!! And. Then. Finally. ...the endless black dark of space where we would spend the next three months, the length of time required to get to Mars. Each of the crew had two tasks (because it really is only a simulation, pant, pant), the first of mine was to put the crew--including myself--into hypersleep. Unfortunate, that; I was really hoping to use the time to catch up on my reading. Seconds (to us, months to you) later, we were awakened by ground control who stayed on hand to guide us through the landing process (Yeah, I don't know why I needed to put us to sleep if they could wake us up remotely, either. We astronauts are apparently on a strictly need-to-know basis).

After a few harrowing moments of near-disaster, we landed safe and sound. Air sickness bag unnecessary, check. I decided that after my brief but brilliant career as an astronaut, I should probably take early retirement. So rest assured, honey. Wherever I am on earth at least I will be on Earth.

Speaking of being back on Earth (I still can't remember the flight back, must be a side effect of hypersleep), I opted for some more sedate types of amusement. Honey, did you know that while we've been at sea Michael Jackson has been brought back to life? Not only that, he's been restored to his 1986 incarnation. In probably his only acting gig, Jackson stars as Captain Eo, who along with his motley muppet crew, saves the Earth by singing and dancing (how else?).

not my picture of Ellen with Albert to her immediate left.
Next, in the Universe of Energy, Ellen Degeneres's subconsciousness is highjacked by Bill Nye, the Science Guy so that she can beat her snobby elementary school classmate and Albert Einstein on Jeopardy. I know you've been to Epcot, but it might have been before this presentation. If you'd seen it, you'd remember, trust me, it would be hard even for you to forget seeing an animatronic Ellen beating back a dinosaur with a branch.

A full day, I know, but it wasn't over yet. After Ellen, I listened to a lecture by Simba in an exhibit called--what else--"The Circle of Life." All about being more conscious of the environment. Now here was something curious. During Ellen's dream lesson on energy, the Hoover Dam was presented as a shining example of technology. During Simba's lecture, it was presented as a screwer up of the ecosystem surrounding it. Leave it to Disney to problematize the concepts of good and evil in a postmodern, post-industrial society.

not my picture of nearly colliding with hang gliders (not me in it, either)
Well, hon, by this time, I admit, I was getting tired. I pretty much lined up for anything that involved sitting down for a few minutes. I sat in a boat and drifted past Epcot's botanical experiments. Interesting. I sat in a shell and watched Nemo and his friends expound on the creatures of the deep. Very clever animation. I even designed a prototype car and tested it on a track at up to 64 mph. Stupid. Not, however, as stupid as standing in a ninety minute line to go on an 11 minute ride. Although being launched into the air and soaring over parts of California, from the Golden Gate bridge to--big surprise--Disneyland, was pretty amazing despite the PTSD I earlier acquired from my space shuttle experience.

And that was just day one.

Day two was less eventful.

not my picture of Epcot's World Showcase
I saved The World Showcase for my second day, starting with Norway, which, in my humble opinion was a little too reliant on the glory of their viking forebears. Their thing (I don't know what you actually call them, exhibits? rides?), was a low-budget viking ship that slid down a couple of three foot waterfalls. Lame.

China featured a 360 degree movie with highlights from many parts of the country. We are SO going there. I know you've been. I'll go myself on my next vacation if I have to. (How do they shoot 360 degree video, anyway?)

nope, not mine
Mexico also had a tunnel-of-love type boat ride where Donald Duck and two other "caballeros" unintelligibly explained some of the culture of the country. Pretty dull stuff. That is until the boats got stuck in the middle of the ride for a few minutes due to technical difficulties. I thought we might be in for a real adventure, but they fixed it and we were on our way in no time. Bummer.

It was all taking much longer than I thought and I realized I wouldn't be able to get to every country.

But I didn't want to miss Morocco. You know how much I love Moroccan art. Morocco had a small
not this one either
display of ornamental art, but really, the whole area was art.

Watching France's presentation (so going there, too) almost made me too late to get a good spot to watch Illluminations: Reflections of Earth.

But before hitting France, I had to stop in and see how Disney presented the U.S. Disney does nothing by half, that's for sure. In this enormous theater, a 35 minute presentation of American history, hosted by Ben Franklin and Mark Twain (well, their animatronic doppelgangers), closed with a photo montage that featured every--and I mean every--conceivable sort of American. It was over the top cheesy, but also moving. So Disney, so America. If they ever do privatize the U.S., I hope they sell it to Disney. Think about it. What a clean, customer-service, and all-inclusive nation we would be. I mean, we could do worse.

no, but see the little movie?
While waiting for the movie, I wandered through their collection of Americana, real and replicated. There are lanterns, coach lamps, really, but they call them lanterns that have little movies inside where the voices of Diane Sawyer, Whoopi Goldberg and other celebs discuss belief and hope and courage. I didn't get to watch all the lanterns but the last one I saw before I had to get in line for the movie said this: "Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon."

This is the last thing I did before leaving. So, girlfriend, in case we ever decide to stop trotting around the globe and settle down somewhere... Just sayin'

(Whoops! That's supposed to be "Earth." Yes, this is mine. BTW, the background music which I can best describe as a cross between a fight song and a lullaby plays all day long from hidden speakers.)


  1. As someone who grew up in Kissimmee and spent many a field trips at Epcot, this is one of the best "reviews" of it! I was laughing the whole time. Even though you two are selling your boat I hope you continue to write about all your adventures on land.

  2. Hi, Kelley

    Thanks for your review of my review. I would have gone back for a third day if I could have...you know, just to do more research for this post. No worries about keeping our blog going. The way we look at it, it'll just mean even more "everywhere."