Disney

I am going to Orlando next month for my 30th birthday. Why? Disney, DUH! Yes I know I said I’d be 30 years old next month, but it’s Disney for Christ’s sake. I am a kid at heart. I love Disney. Always have, always will. Now I was actually at Disney World last year in March, but hopefully this time will be better…if that’s even possible. Let me explain. Last year, I forewent the Magic Kingdom in favor of SeaWorld Orlando. Don’t get me wrong…I loved SeaWorld. But Magic Kingdom has this charm about it nobody else can beat. I think Disney in general is just that…magical. I am actually most excited about the Magic Kingdom this time because I missed it last year. Animal Kingdom is arguably the best Disney park in my opinion. But all the parks bring out the best in me. I could be having a shitty day but once I think of Disney or my previous experiences with anything Disney related, all of that goes away. As I said, I am a kid at heart. I met Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse last year at Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM Studios). I held my composure until Mickey gave me a hug. Once Mickey hugged me, I lost it. I felt like a little kid again. That’s not all. Minnie gave me a kiss. I was in Heaven. I know it seems weird, a 29 year old man crying meeting Mickey Mouse, but I know I am not the only adult who has flashbacks of Disney. Disney was my childhood. I know it’s a weird time to go to Disney with covid and all, but any chance I get to go, Hell yeah I’m going to go! I was watching Mickey’s Sing A Long Disneyland Fun. Again I was almost in tears just because of the nostalgia factor. I am really looking forward to September 22-26, 2020! It cannot come soon enough! So are you a Disney fan? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!

-Tom

Texas Trip So Far

So as some of you know, I am currently in Texas visiting family. We left Baltimore at around noon on Thursday, July 16. We flew to Houston and the flight was uneventful. Except for the landing and taxiing. When we landed, there was a fuel spill at our terminal so that had to be taken care of. Then the plane that was supposed to leave ahead of us had mechanical issues, so we had to go to another terminal. All in all, that took about an hour. That was the only pain in the ass part. So after all that was said and done, my Uncle picked us up and we went to my Aunt Susan and Uncle John’s house. We sat around and, per usual with my family, started drinking almost immediately. It’s ok. I’m Irish. I can handle my alcohol. After swimming in my Uncle’s VERY warm pool and taking some GoPro vids in said pool, we ate dinner. We had oysters, pasta, and …my favorite part…CRAB MEAT! We went to bed a little while after.

Day 2, yesterday, July 17, we drove to my cousin JJ’s house in Leander, about a half hour outside Austin. We got there around 11:00 in the morning. Naturally, as soon as we got there, JJ’s boyfriend made us mimosas. Damn good mimosas I might add. Then came the REALLY fun part. We went boating on Lake Travis. I’d been on a boat before, but nothing like this! They included water sports like water skiing, wakeboarding, cliff jumping, and probably my favorite…TUBING! I was the first one on the tube and I held on the whole time for dear life! It’s funny I managed to hold on that long because I have terrible upper body strength! It’s funny because nobody else managed to hold on the whole time, even when everyone else did it tandem. I went solo. Cliff jumping was fun but it was tough getting up there. My sister Caroline took a MASSIVE hit cliff jumping. She did a flip and a half off the highest point of the cliff and did a HUGE bellyflop from 35 feet. She has a massive bruise but is ok. She’s one tough gal!

Today we are heading back to Lake Travis so me, my dad, JJ, and Uncle John can go zip lining. I love to Zipline and cannot wait to do this! Yeah it’s expensive ($125 per person) but during this one there are multiple zip lines of varying lengths. The longest going directly over Lake Travis at 2800 feet long. That is insane! Oh and did I mention the whole excursion takes about three hours to do? My legs are gonna be sore later! I am kinda hoping we can go to Congress Bridge in Austin. Congress Bridge has the largest Mexican Free-Tail bat population in the US. Every night at sunset, 1.5 million bats fly out from under the bridge. It looks amazing and I’d love to see it! But we will see.

So that’s my trip so far. As proof of my tubing, I attached a link to the video. Thanks for reading!

-Tom

 

Dixie

My dog, Dixie, has not been doing well lately. She is a 12 year old lab mix. She is the sweetest girl! Yesterday, July 10, she couldn’t even get up. The night before, she fell down our stairs…twice. I thought she was a goner. So my dad and I took her to the vet. After waiting maybe an hour, and believe me, it was one of the longest hours of my life…Dixie walked out of the vet’s office of her own accord! Keep in mind, we had to physically carry Dixie from our house to the car. They said she had a swollen paw but little else. Today, July 11, is like a world of difference! I have no idea what the Hell they did but Dixie is back to her happy, energetic self! It’s amazing! She is up and walking around on her own. Right now she is sitting next to me as I pet her.

I got Dixie from a girl I used to do therapeutic horseback riding with. Dixie was 4 weeks old at that point. Oh my God she was adorable as a puppy! Even at 12 years old, she is still adorable! She is super affectionate and is always popular whenever people come over the house. She craves attention…most of the time. In her age, she  developed skin tags and a fluid-filled thing that looks like a tumor. It’s nothing to worry about, though. At least not according to our vet. She will get a little nippy if you touch her in certain spots but she has never actually bitten me. She also has arthritis. But still, despite all this, I love her to death! She isn’t as agile as she used to be, but that’s ok.

I was SUPER worried about Dixie yesterday. I still am, but my fears are somewhat alleviated. We put up gates so she can’t get up or down our stairs and risk falling again. I know it must be killing Dixie not being able to go up with us every night. Prior to the other night, she used to come up with us every night and sleep in either my room or my parents room.

I think dogs choose their owners rather than the other way around. I am honored to say Dixie chose me as her owner. I think Dixie can sense that I am more “vulnerable” than others in my family due to my health issues. She sticks by my side. When I broke my arm and had my pacemaker put in five years ago, Dixie never left my side. She is loyal as all get out. And in the end, that’s what makes a good companion. Dixie is more than just a pet to me. She is my friend. Actually, my best non-human friend. Whenever I am upset or pissed or whatever, I talk to or play with Dixie. I know no matter what I say or do, Dixie has my back. She has been with me through thick and thin. With Dixie, I know I have a friend for life. And that means the world and more to me!

So do you have any pets? Do you feel the same? I’d love to hear from you about this, especially from people who are on the Autism Spectrum. Feel free to comment and thanks for reading!

-Tom

 

Hershey Trip

Yesterday, July 3, 2020 I got the chance to visit HersheyPark on its first day open to the public. It was hot as Hell but who cares? If you are unfamiliar, Hershey just opened a $150,000,000 expansion to the park called ChocolateTown. So first impressions? The new area looks fantastic! Hershey knocked it outta the park with this area! The whole area is themed to…you guessed it…Mickey Mouse! No, it’s naturally themed to chocolate. And not only does the area look good, but it smells like chocolate, too. It’s amazing. So well done! The main draw of ChocolateTown is their newest roller coaster, Candymonium. This is a ride that has really been hyped up over the last year. And caused some debate. See, Candymonium is a hyper coaster. Meaning it is over 200 feet. However HersheyPark already had a hyper coaster called Skyrush. So the debate was, why is Hershey putting in a second one? I have an answer. Thighcrush, I mean Skyrush…is intense as anything! It’s really aggressive. The coaster enthusiasts call Skyrush Thighcrush because the restraints dig into and actually tend to leave marks on your thighs. Not comfy.  Candymonium, while taller and faster (barely) is a lot less forceful and more graceful. Candymonium is a ride you go and have fun on. Skyrush is forceful. Unfortunately, some of the rides were closed. The launched coaster, Storm Runner, is closed for the entire 2020 season and possibly 2021. The ride needs a new part from the manufacturer in Switzerland. The first looping roller coaster on the East Coast, SooperDooperLooper, is also closed for maintenance. Another thing with Storm Runner is there is a lawsuit against the ride. Article is attached. Lightning Racer, the park’s racing wooden coasters, was open but broke down right as I was about to ride it and it didn’t reopen for the rest of the day. Bummer… But everything else was open. The longest wait I had all day was for Candymonium. And that was only about an hour if that. Everything else was either a walk-on or had less than a 20 minute wait. It was Heavenly! Now if you know me, you know I generally do not do water rides. So I did not go into the water park. However I did do a ride where you get wet called Tidal Force. It is a ride where it takes you up high, turns and drops into a pool of water. I rode up front and got drenched! But it was 96 degrees so I am not complaining. It felt great! I also did their log ride, Coal Cracker. That was nice and relaxing and got my legs wet. So I got four rides in on Candymonium. The front was great, but the back was spectacular later on! Hershey closed at 9pm last night and I was on the last train of the night for Candymonium. The Great Bear had a 10 minute wait all day, as did Comet. SkyRush had a 15 minute wait and that was for the front. All other rows were total walk-ons. The Sidewinder roller coaster, which only runs one car, had no wait whatsoever and I rode with NOBODY ELSE! How often do you get a solo ride on opening day? Trailblazer, the mine train coaster, had a one-train wait for the front. Actually, there was no wait for any other row. I rode Trailblazer in the back row FIVE TIMES without leaving my seat. So all in all I had an amazing socially distant day at HersheyPark! I love it there and cannot wait to go back later this summer!

 

https://www.pennlive.com/news/2020/07/dad-sues-over-9-year-old-sons-near-death-experience-on-hersheyparks-storm-runner-rollercoaster.html

My New Interest

I recently got into watching TedTalks on YouTube. I am watching TedTalk videos on Autism. But there is a caveat to that. I am watching videos where women with Autism are speaking. Call me sexist if you’d like but I have spoken to Christ knows how many men my own age I have talked to with ASD. I know some women but they are kind of far and few. Plus my agency has been on hiatus since March’s COVID pandemic hit so I have not had a chance to interact with them. On top of that, no offense, but  a lot of them will probably never get the chance or means of doing public speaking. The number of people with Autism or, in the case of the video I am watching as I write this, ADHD, who are inspirational is staggering. But how many of those are “famous” for raising awareness or the right reasons? I will attach a link to the video I am watching now. I HIGHLY suggest you watch it. It’s only 17 minutes long and will not take all day to watch. But I can sure as Hell assure you it will make you think. All the stuff Jessica McCabe says in this video is true with me. But going back to my original point of why I am watching women is because it gives me a different perspective on my world, my life, my passion  So I highly suggest checking out some of these videos  Just go to YouTube, look up TedTalks Autism and just pick whichever video looks appealing to you. It’ll change your perspective, if only a little. Trust me…it did for me. Thanks for reading!

-Tom

Excitement to Get Back

So I found out I am going to one of my favorite parks this Friday, July 3. The park? None other than the Sweetest Place on Earth…HersheyPark. Oh my God you have NO CLUE how insanely happy I am! I mean, it’d be nice to get out of the house for any reason, but add the fact I get to do my favorite thing outside advocacy? Hell yeah I’m in! One major bummer is that my favorite ride in the park—Storm Runner—for some crazy reason, is closed for the whole 2020 season. I LOVE that ride! 0-72 mph launch in 2 seconds, 3 inversions (meaning you go upside down 3 times), 150 feet tall…count me in! But to compensate Hershey is opening their 14th roller coaster. Season pass-holders have already ridden it and said it’s amazing. Candymonium, a “hyper coaster” (200-299 feet tall), is the newest ride. It is 210 feet tall, goes 76 mph, has almost a mile of track, and goes around Hershey’s front entrance. Not to mention it is made by one of my favorite roller coaster manufacturers, Bolliger and Mabillard (B&M). B&M are known for making some kick ass rides. Actually,  my favorite hyper coaster was built by B&M. It is called Mako and is located at SeaWorld Orlando. This ride is incredible! The airtime (the feeling you get when you are lifted out of your seat) is INSANE! In the front, the airtime is great! In the back? You’re pretty much standing up on those hills. It’s crazy! So if Candymonium is anything like Mako…I already know I’m gonna love it!  Actually B&M also built another ride at Hershey. They built the inverted coaster, Great Bear. Inverted is when the coaster car hangs beneath the track. It goes close to 60 mph, has four inversions, is 90 feet tall, and has a drop of 125 feet! How does it do that? Well this coaster is built in basically a trench by the water. It’s a fun ride! Of course, maybe one of the most famous coasters at Hershey, or maybe in the United States, is SooperDooperLooper. Funny name…historic ride. Despite the name, SooperDooperLooper only has one loop. I admit, it isn’t he smoothest, fastest or most intense coaster out there (or even in the park for that matter) but it’s just “fun”. Plus it holds sentimental value to me because it was the first roller coaster I ever rode that goes upside down. Now if you wanna get really vintage, right across from SDL is Comet. Comet is a classic wooden coaster built in 1946. So yeah…this ride is OLD! And rickety as Hell! But having said that, it has actually held up really well for being around about 74 years. It’s a little bumpy, but that’s to be expected with a ride this old. Honestly, Comet is running smoother than another wooden coaster in the park, Wildcat. Seriously. Wildcat is a wooden coaster made in 1996 by one of the best wooden coaster companies in the business and it has NOT held up well! Like every time I ride it, I feel I should call a chiropractor after. One of my favorite coasters in the park…built by the same company that made Wildcat weirdly enough…is Lightning Racer. Lightning Racer is a dueling pair of wooded coasters that intertwine and race. It has gotten *slightly* bumpy over the years since it first opened in 2000. But it rarely has a line over 10 minutes. It’s amazing how popular this ride is yet it never gets a line! No joke the last time I was at Hershey, I switched trains and rode each side 4 times with no wait and without even leaving the cars! One tame ride at Hershey that I always without fail get on is the mine ride, Trailblazer. Look, I know it is seen as a family ride or even a coaster for kids, but again…nostalgia. This is the first roller coaster I remember riding when I was 4 or 5 so yeah. For sentimental reasons I kinda have to ride this. Now some of you may be thinking “Wait! You left out Skyrush!” Well…no I didn’t. I enjoy Skyrush…it is super fast and exciting…but the leg restraints are brutal! I think this is the most intense coaster I have been on to date. It’s only about a minute long, but it is memorable! And to some that is a negative. Skyrush is a ride where you either love it or you hate it. Me? I love the ride but loathe the restraints. Last time I rode this, I had a bruise on my thigh just from that dumb lap bar. The last ride I wanna mention that is fun but maybe a little too hyped up is the spinning coaster, Laff Trakk. The queue and interior of the coaster are probably my favorite theme on a ride. It is themed to an old-fashioned funhouse! Like with props, black lights, sound effects and everything! Even waiting in line for this is fun because, one it is indoors in the air condioning, and two: they have those weird, goofy funhouse mirrors that show you in various forms. That’s almost as fun as the ride itself! By the way if you want to see what the interior looks like, I have attached video links below. Keep in mind the POV was shot with permission with a GoPro a and chest harness. So have you ever been to Hershey? What is your favorite ride or attraction there? Feel free to comment and thanks for reading! Ride on!

-Tom

 

 

Life, Animated Review

I just started watching a documentary film called Life, Animated. The film focuses on the Suskind family. Owen is a seemingly “normal” kid…until he turns 3. According to Owen’s dad, “Once Owen turned 3, he stopped talking”. The parents are obviously freaked out. What could cause such a drastic change in a kid? The Suskinds took Owen to a pediatrician but medically they couldn’t find anything. Then they go to a specialist who observes Owen. The specialist diagnoses Owen with Autism. The parents are devastated. Remember, back in the early 1990s, all people really knew about ASD was Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. So this sort of is why the parents freaked out. Then the specialist says Owen may never get his speech back. As Owen’s dad put it, “It was like our son was gone. Someone had kidnapped our son”. I can sort of understand where the parents would be concerned at this point. But then something happened. See, Owen and his brother, Walt, are Disney fanatics. Especially Owen. Owen’s dad recalls the time about a year after Owen stopped speaking that they were watching The Little Mermaid. It got to the part where Ursula  the Sea Witch was coercing Ariel into trading her voice for legs. “Just your voice”. Owen suddenly says something the parents thought was “juice”. So his mom gives him juice and he pushes it away. He keeps rewinding the VHS tape to  Ursula saying “Just your voice”. Owen’s dad realizes he isn’t saying “juice”. Owen is saying “Just”. Owen runs the words together, but amazingly manages to get out “Juicervose”. This is interpreted as “Just your voice”. The parents call the specialist. He says not to get overly excited. Owen probably has echolalia. Echolalia is when someone has conversations in dialogue they know is familiar to them. For Owen, that was Disney movies. Owen actually fades into gibberish again. Until four years later. Walt is having his 9th birthday. Owen, without any prompting, walks into the room, looks at the parents, and clearly says “Walter doesn’t want to grow up like Mowgli or Peter Pan”. The parents were dumbfounded. As Owen’s mom put it, “Where the Hell did that come from?” Owen’s parents try to figure out if they can get Owen to talk to them and have a conversation based on what they know and just heard. Owen’s dad picks up a Iago puppet from Aladdin and asks in the parrot’s voice, “Owen how does it feel to be you?” Owen replies, “Not good because I don’t have any friends”. Owen is connecting with his dad through an inanimate object. Owen’s dad asks “When did you and I become such good friends?” Still as Iago. Owen says “When I watched Aladdin you made me laugh.” The dad then says the two of them had about a 90 second “normal” conversation. Owen’s dad has a revelation and the family begins to talk to Owen in Disney dialogue. Owen’s mom explains, “Things change. As parents we are getting older. People change, people are dying. Walt and Owen are getting older. But the Disney films are the one thing that will never change.” Owen’s mom plans a trip to Disney. She says Owen “used different movie scenes to express his feelings. Like Hercules for not giving up, Jungle Book for wanting friends and Pinocchio for wanting to be a real boy”. This is such an amazing documentary! Just watch it.

Yet Another Show Review

A few days ago, I installed Netflix on my fire stick in my room.  Well it was while sifting through shows to watch—out of boredom keep in mind—I came across a Netflix series from 2017. I know, I’m antiquated. The only reason I started watching this show was because I thought it sounded “interesting” and, again, nothing else piqued my interest. The name of the show? The End of the F***ing World. I am still in the middle of season 1. I love this show! It is gripping and, despite the premise, somewhat relatable. One thing I thought was a “turn-off” was the Britishness of the show. See, the show takes place in Britain. If you aren’t used to British accents when you aren’t expecting it, yeah…it can be a little distracting and off-putting. The opening episode opens with a Hell of a bang. The opening line is, “My name is James. I’m 17 and I’m pretty sure I am a psychopath”. That immediately grabbed my attention. Like, “Whoa! Hello!” That part is not the relatable part to me…don’t worry. It’s when James meets Alyssa that he kind of starts to turn. Not much but a little. James had always had a morbid fascination with killing things. It started with an animal. Then he tried harming himself. He wants to try killing a person. Enter Alyssa. Throughout a lot of the first season, amidst James and Alyssa’s journey, James is trying to determine the best time to kill her. Look, I have never had the urge to kill things, let alone a person. But I have experienced those angsty teenage years. Moody, emotional, feeling isolated and like I don’t fit in…

The “journey” comes into play when Alyssa tells James “This town is shit. Let’s leave.” James steals his dad’s car and, obviously, Alyssa goes with him. I am not going to go into detail about what happens on their trip. That’d ruin it for all involved reading this. But I will say James starts to come around to Alyssa. After Alyssa is attacked, James as a voice over says, “I never saved Alyssa. Alyssa saved me.” Oh, that’s another thing I failed to mention. A lot of the show isn’t your traditional dialogue. It’s voiceovers from James and Alyssa. Think of it as narration driven.

So do I suggest watching this series? It depends. For me I love it! But the language, content and language? I can see where it might be a little much for some people. So it’s kind of a mixed bag. For its score, based off what I’ve seen so far, 10/10. Thanks for reading!

-Tom

A Proud Brother

Last week, my youngest sister Abbey graduated from Drexel college in Philadelphia, PA. She is now officially an RN. She went to nursing school in Drexel. I don’t mean to gloat or boast or brag, but I could not be prouder of my little sister! She worked her ass off to get to this point. I, on the other hand, never really got into the whole college thing. I dropped out, hit a rough spot, found my agency, and like to think my life took a turn for the best from there. So in that regard, for me, dropping out was one of the best things I have done. But back to Abbey. She is actually not the first nurse in the family. My grandmother was a nurse God knows how long ago at Mercy hospital, my Aunt is a nurse at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, and now Abbey is a nurse at Jefferson hospital in Philly. Abbey, I am sure, has seen some shit. But as far as I know, she never lost her calm or her “cool”. I can personally attest to this. Five years ago, I broke my arm. Abbey did exactly what she was supposed to do. I could tell she was freaked out by the look on her face, but she stayed calm, stayed by my side, and called my dad. Keep in mind, all this before she went to college and figured out she wanted to become a nurse. It’s amazing. So Abbey, this post is for you. As a brother I am proud to call you my sister. And hey, if I need any medical help…you’re only a phone call  and a 2 hour drive away. Love you!

-Tom

 

Disney/PC Controversy

This might sound a little jaded or controversial or whatever coming out of a nearly 30 year old white man. But I have to give my opinion on this issue and will be “fair” and unbiased to the best of my abilities. With all the PC stuff going around, (Black Lives Matter, No Police, etc.) it seems now that not even the Happiest Place on Earth is being spared. I am a HUGE Disney fan, so this might seem an unpopular opinion coming from someone of my demographic. But there is a call for Disney to re-theme their popular water ride Splash Mountain from Song of the South to…believe it or not…the Princess and the Frog. I have attached the link below so you can judge for yourselves and not take it from my perspective alone. But personally I think some of these things are just products of their time. Yes, Song of the South is so racist that Disney themselves never re-released it. But they took out—thankfully—the Uncle Remus character from the ride. FYI, Uncle Remus was an African-American who was seemingly owned by a wealthy white family in the film. The ride revolves around Bre’er Rabbit leaving home and trying to find his “Laughin’ Place”. And yes, Bre’er does speak with a kind of over-exaggerated Souther drawl or accent, but so do all the other animatronics on the ride. The ride culminates in a drop into the Bre’er Patch. Granted it has been quite awhile since I have been on this ride. I last rode it at Disneyland back in 2009. Personally, I do not entirely have an issue with this ride. Look, Disney has done a lot of crazy cartoons that could be seen as racist. One such cartoon is, and I swear I am not making this up…is Donald Duck in a WWII anti-Nazi cartoon called Der Fuehrer’s Face. Donald is seen as an overworked Nazi and his job is to salute photos of Hitler. He falls asleep on the job and is seen at one point reading Mein Kampf to stay awake. And no, I did not make that up. That is a legit Donald Duck cartoon. One other example is Bugs Bunny (not Disney, I know) parachuting into “enemy territory” after Pearl Harbor. The Japanese people are racist stereotypes with slit eyes and a very exaggerated accent. Bugs even goes as far as to call them…pardon the phrasing… “Japs”, “Funny Face”, “Slanty Eyes”, and “Bow Legs”. Offensive? Uh…yeah! But at the time it was relevant and culturally acceptable. Look, I am IN NO WAY endorsing racism. That is not me or my intention. I am merely trying to make a point that people nowadays are a *little* sensitive. And I understand where that comes from. At least, I do to the best of my abilities as a white person. But fight the good fight and not the Happiest Place on Earth. Those are just my two cents. If you agree, great! If you disagree with me, well that’s ok too. Either way let me know in the comments section what you think and thanks for reading!

-Tom

 

 

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/disney-mum-splash-mountain-outcry-1298453