Magic Kingdom day 2: Adventure and Frontier

Disney World promenade

We spent most of our first day in Magic Kingdom yesterday around Main Street, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland (with a brief detour into the outskirts of Liberty Square for some funnel cake). But with a late afternoon case of the sore feet and aggravated from one more too-scary roller coaster (yes, my 5 year old son is officially Too Little for roller coasters if he can even be scared by the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train), we hopped on the train and rode it all the way to Frontierland.

It was like being dropped off in a different century. The whole aesthetic of Frontierland seems tied to the same decade that brought us the Berenstain Bears — a nuclear family where the mama wears a bonnet and dad wears overalls and they live in a wood paneled country cabin style tree house. Which is to say, I walked through and instantly felt as though I were back in 1981 during my first visit to the Magic Kingdom. I even had a powerful flash of déjà vu walking from Frontierland into Adventureland. I knew that stretch of Old West street. I had walked it. I had gone to the Country Bears Jamboree in it.

The fact that going around the corner brought you to Aladdin’s Magic Carpet (and a character meet and greet with Jasmine) didn’t dislodge my memories—these attractions sit cheek by jowl next to the Enchanted Tiki Room and still are around the corner from the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. If Tomorrowland has received a big grafting of 21st century product, Tomorrowland and Adventureland felt something like 90% pristine.

Which is interesting to me. I think the original theory of these two lands was that they would be the “boy” lands while Fantasyland and Main Street would be the “girl” lands. But today’s kids have never heard the theme song to “Davy Crockett” (which was, to my surprise, playing on the bus to the park yesterday morning). There are no free range outdoorsman or cowboy kids any more. So what explains the enduring power of these attractions?

I guess the difference between Tomorrowland and Frontierland is that, when it was built, we still thought that there was more Tomorrow to be discovered. But the frontier celebrated by Frontierland had been largely explored a hundred years before Disney got to it. Frontierland was nostalgia from the beginning, grown into archetype, and now all but into myth.

Missed-a-day-cause-I-was-in-Magic-Kingdom blogging

Yesterday was our first day in the Magic Kingdom’s parks, and of course I didn’t blog.

One of the things this exercise in daily blogging has taught me is the importance of carving out time to write, which is impossible when sharing a room with three other humans, two under the age of 10. So I’m writing this while the kids bounce off the walls.

We learned some important things yesterday at Animal Kingdom:

  1. Timely breakfast is important for everyone’s happiness.
  2. The five year old was not ready for Expedition: Everest or for the time traveling Dinosaur ride.
  3. Neither was his nine year old sister. Or his mom.
  4. In fact, I’m probably the only scary ride aficionado in the family.
  5. Even a nine year old gets tired of chicken nuggets. That doesn’t make her want to try new foods though.
  6. It’s nothing short of a miracle to find good beer in a big amusement park. Thank you, Victory Golden Monkey.

It’ll be interesting to see what today brings.

Travel day

Don’t know that I’ll get much blogging done today, as we are flying far away from the frozen Northeast for a few days at the Magic Kingdom. So far I’ve learned that there are four magic things to help kids wait for a plane:

  1. The promise of lunch
  2. Reading a story, preferably some Roald Dahl (we’re working our way through The B.F.G. at the moment)
  3. Chocolate 
  4. iPads with headphones

More later. 

Traveling in London

I flew into London yesterday morning, and my arms aren’t tired. And surprisingly the rest of me isn’t either. I got almost ten hours of sleep last night, and while I did wake bolt upright at 4:30 this morning I’m still feeling pretty good and not particularly jet lagged. It’s been gorgeous here, much nicer than it was when I last visited twelve years ago (granted, that was in February).

Things I’ve done so far: 

  1. Walked around the south side of Kensington Park, taking in the sights.
  2. Gotten lost in Harrods.
  3. Watched people queue around a city block for hours to go to the French Embassy to vote in yesterday’s election.
  4. Learned how much you can pay for unreliable hotel wifi.
  5. Evaluated several pubs in the vicinity of my hotel and found a keeper. 
  6. Figured out how to navigate the Underground (or reminded myself) and to get my tickets for the National Rail Service.

And that was the first day. Should be a fun trip.

At the Salt Lick, Driftwood, TX

At the urging of about six Facebook friends, I make the pilgrimage from downtown Austin, where I am on travel for a few days, to Driftwood, Texas, tonight to visit the Salt Lick. It’s a barbecue joint that’s been around for about 43 years. As these things go, it’s commercialized and simple at the same time. Commercialized: mail order menus sit on the table; jars of the sauce line the entrance; there’s a separate function building. Simple: Four meats (brisket, sausage, pork ribs, turkey), three sides (potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans) that all come at once, free “condiments” (pickles, raw onion, white bread), pie, and soft drinks. (Driftwood is in a dry county, but they allow BYOB; I decide not to B my own B, since I have a 25 mile drive each way.)

I order a plate of brisket and sausage and an iced tea, and wait at an otherwise empty table.

The table in front of me is discussing old Texas home construction. “There would be a place in the parlor where you would have the viewings. With a stained glass window. Now it’s just a window seat, but then they assumed you would be hosting a wake. I remember two occasions where they had to open up the windows to get the casket out.” Behind me, a different technology: “So I had to convince them to take our quarter micron process and adapt it to the 3.3v work.”

Of course, Texas is, in terms of high tech, a hardware state. (What else?)

I sit thinking about old technology: cooking meat in smoke.

The food: Brisket is absolutely lean and supple. The sausage is saucy: well spiced, juicy, flavorful. The pecan pie is an inch of custard with a single layer of pecans on top–not at all my grandmother’s recipe–but the pecans are completely evocative of autumn nights with a nutcracker at the dining room table over a layer of newspaper.

As I stand to leave, I get the salty tangy burning in the eyes of the woodsmoke. It conjures other fires, and other cuts of meat with perfect pink rings from the smoke: 12 Bones in Asheville, Big Jim’s in Charlottesville, Dixie’s in Bellevue, WA, Three Pigs in McLean, and of course Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Q south of Williamsburg.

And even though I am full to bursting, it all makes me homesick for Carolina pulled pork in a bun.

Postcard from Madison County

madison county vista

Today’s post is a delayed peek at where I was the first week of August. We took a week’s vacation and spent it with my parents at their house in Buncombe County, as well as getting in a lot of good time with my aunt and uncle, cousins, and a rare visit with my Aunt Jewell. The photo above was taken at what I still think of as my grandmother’s farm (now my Aunt Jewell’s) in Madison County, as are a number of the other photos in the Flickr set I just posted. (Folks who are marked as friends and family in Flickr will find some new family photos in this set and in my photostream.)

Every time I go down there to visit, time slows a little bit. Part of this is because of the infrastructure in western North Carolina; though growth has accelerated in Buncombe County around Asheville, Madison remains the same deeply rural, underdeveloped county that maddened me as a bored child and entrances me and saddens me now. Part of it is the land and the quiet. Part of it used to be the isolation from technology, but my parents have had high speed for a while and before this visit they installed a wireless access point. I still managed to spend most of my time outside.

I sometimes think: so much of my job is virtual. What if I had to live in Asheville? I could probably do some of what I do, but sadly product management still requires a lot of face to face time with the various constituencies that we support. The refrain of “Free Man In Paris” goes through my mind every time I leave: “If I could I’d go back there tomorrow, but for the work I’ve taken on…”

(Of course, I’d miss other things about where we are, like being able to sing in the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. But our work is the main thing.)

Lenox rhythms

lenox ma downtownIt can be really beautiful out here in the summertime before the crowds come. That’s what yesterday was like. While the chorus and symphony were here, there weren’t any concerts going on, just rehearsals, and the only people about were a few symphony families and one or two odd visitors who wanted to get a preview of the weekend’s concerts.

Not only the grounds at Tanglewood were quiet (as you can tell from yesterday’s photos) but so was downtown Lenox (as you can tell from this shot). There were no crowds, it was easy to get a parking space even at lunchtime, and it was generally nice and quiet.

That changes tonight when James Taylor rolls into the Shed for a two night residency.

Already this morning Lenox was a mess. Tourists asking three or four times whether the local businesses took credit cards, parking and pedestrian hassles, long lines at the coffee shop. None of the wi-fi hotspots in town are actually functioning due to the large presence of freeloaders. It’s all kinds of fun, really.

The shop owners are looking a little wild eyed as the crowds come and they prepare to make some serious money. The guy at the bagel shop says, “I wish it were Monday already and I survived this weekend.”

We’ve got rehearsal this afternoon on grounds–it’s going to be a mess. But that’s the rhythm of Tanglewood. There’s always a different flood of people to share the town with.


I had a nice walk tonight from the docks at the end of King Street in Alexandria, Virginia to my hotel. Or, it was nice for the first three blocks until the heavens opened up. Man, I forgot what thunderstorms in June are like here. I made it to the hotel, drenched, and rested a bit before heading back to Old Town and Bilbo Baggins. Where the food has been adequate and the beer, divine.

All the reviews are spot on regarding the décor here, btw. I’ve been in Michigan State college bars that had more elaborate ambience. But they didn’t have Dominion on tap, or Duchesse de Bourgogne in the bottle. Mmm, Flemish red ales.

Back to Carnegie Hall

I’m on the Acela this morning, heading back to New York for my second ever concert at Carnegie Hall with the BSO. This time feels more like a real performance; last fall when we sang Debussy’s Daphnis et Chloe, the chorus part was more atmosphere than anything else. We didn’t even have words to memorize, just vowel sounds.

Well, we have words this time. Thanks to Mr William Blake, whose prophetic vision has been stuck in my head for weeks now. I know thee, I have found thee, and I will not let thee go! Thou art the image of true God that dwells in darkness of Africa…

The cold that has been sneaking up on me for the past few days is almost here. I hope it holds out for a few more hours. There’s this weird thing that happens to my singing voice right before a cold settles in, when all the awful stuff in the back of my throat hits my vocal cords just right and smooths everything out and I’m hitting notes that were trouble the day before and will be unreachable for a week afterwards. With a little luck this is that kind of cold. I can hope, right?

A new use for that Boingo subscription

I have a monthly Boingo subscription. It was mostly so that I could get online at Logan, back when I was flying out a few times a month (or, week) without having to pay $6.95 a shot. I’m not traveling nearly so much for my new job and was considering cancelling—until I saw the news that AT&T is taking over the Starbucks hotspots from T-Mobile.

Since AT&T is a roaming partner of Boingo, I’m thinking about keeping the subscription. Prepaid high-speed at any Starbucks for my iPhone sounds like a pretty good plan.

Synchronicity II: HDI ITIM and Blogworld collide in Vegas

As always, I’m out in Las Vegas representing iET Solutions at the IT Infrastructure Management (HDI ITIM) conference. But this year, the timing is fortuitous, since not only ITIM but the Blog World Expo are in Vegas at exactly the same time. Looks like the last day of ITIM is the first day of the Blogworld conference, featuring back to back panels moderated by Blogcritics founder and publisher Eric Olsen.

Not only that, but Tony Pierce will be on the afternoon panel. Now that’s a cool conference.

I’ll be working the show floor at ITIM during the day, but maybe I can catch up with any Blogcritics or other bloggers who are in town for Blogworld. If you’re interested, drop me a line.

Like a well-oiled machine

I have been flying regularly—at least once or twice a month—since I took this job in early 2005. I have my security regimen down to reflex: on the way out of my car, my keys are already clipped inside my briefcase, my wallet is in my hand and I am tucking my parking pass inside and my license in my shirt pocket; by the time I am in reach of a bin in the security line, my laptop and one-quart bag are out and my jacket and shoes are off. I scoff at those occasional travelers who slow the line.

Well, I got my comeuppance. I waited about 20 minutes to show my boarding pass and photo ID to the bored worker at the head of the line so I could get in the stationary line to go through screening. He took a look at my boarding pass and said, “This is a JetBlue pass. This is the United line. Go back up the ramp and to the other side of the terminal.”

Thankfully, I left plenty of time this morning. But what a blow. My perfect system: busted.

Twister = 0, so far

I didn’t hear any twisters during the night, and a quick scan out my window shows only some leaves on the ground, so I guess I survived my first experience being on a tornado alley. So far, the only actual indication of a twister coming through has been a report of a possible tornado that went through a town about 12 miles up the road.

It is perhaps a sign of how sleep deprived I am that I say: the actual outcome wasn’t worth the sleep I lost. I should have stayed in bed.

Of course, I’m sure that my flight home will be disrupted; hopefully they are able to resume flights this morning.