What an incredible and fun day. As more time passes, I'm realizing that this day signifies/marks a new chapter of an old friendship. Way back in junior year of high school (15 years ago is starting to qualify as "way back"), one of my best friends started dating a girl from the other high school across town. I thought about different ways to write and describe that she went to the other high school, and no matter how I wrote it, it sounded so Grease and West Side Story. "She's a Viking, man! You can't date her!"
But through a lot of mutual friends in our hometown of Stamford, CT, my friend did in fact date Virginia Tran. We would hang out on occasion as part of larger groups and somehow we developed our own inside joke of touching our nose with our index fingers. Not each other's noses, just touching our own noses with our finger as a way of saying hello or acknowledging one another. A visual...
Too this day, neither of us can remember where it came from, but it was "our thing" for years. Over the years, through Facebook, I learned that Virginia, "Gin," had lived in Australia, explored it quite a bit, had gotten married and that she certainly loved her dog. It was exciting to see her adventures.
Fast forward to late February of 2015....sadly, and unfortunately, Gin had posted a link to Facebook. It routed you to the website of funeral home where her mother's obituary could be seen and read. I'm becoming a broken record to the point of pretentiousness, but I had lost my mother to cancer in March of 2012. Upon seeing Gin's post, I sent her a message on Facebook with my condolences and open invitation to talk anytime. We exchanged a few words and it was nice to reconnect despite the circumstances. Gin was living on the east coast at the time in New York, and let me know that she would be visiting California, Pasadena in particular, and Las Vegas in a few weeks. West coast reunion! I looked forward to being able to chat and catch up in person.
Her trip/wedding weekend came around and it was at the same time as my birthday week/weekend in Las Vegas. We traded a few messages about the timing of things. We could meet in Las Vegas? What days are you free again? Being an adult, all this good life and scheduling problems...sigh.... The weekend started to draw to a close, and on Sunday evening, I started to lose hope that Gin and I would hang out before she headed back to the east coast. And then at around 11:30PM she sent me the coolest message ever...
"....I'm actually going to Disney tomorrow and have a free ticket...I'm going with my friend Jamie, would you be interested in going??"
I didn't see the message until early Monday morning, the day of the trip to Anaheim, but responded immediately and emphatically. I had not yet been to Disneyland and voila, here was a chance. God bless Virginia Tran. Her and her friend, Jamison (Jamie) picked me up at my apartment and we made the mini-road trip down to Anaheim. The back story is that one of Gin's cousins, Thanh, worked for Disney and was able to secure some free passes, and one of their friends could not go at the last minute. I didn't care one bit, because that little scheduling hiccup for their friend = a trip to Disneyland FOR ME. No shame.
We arrived, we parked and in that time we discovered what would be our slogan for the entire day: "too excited." As we were making our way through the parking lot and walking towards the park, the girls just kept saying all the Disney things that they were looking forward to seeing and how excited, excited, excited they were. Naturally, we were all "too excited" and it just stuck. During the day, and after it was our hashtag on all Disneyland photo postings.
Gin got in touch with her cousin, Thanh, and he met us at the gate with our passes. We entered and took our first photo of the day courtesy of a kind stranger. From the left, that's Thanh, yours truly, Gin and Jamison. Disney smiles...
(For anyone keeping score at home, I was in fact wearing an Olaf, from Frozen, t-shirt that read, "CHILLIN." Purchased from Target a few hours prior.)
After our arrival and introductions, Thanh had to go back to work unfortunately, but he set us free and would meet up with us later in the day. It was time to explore....
[*Note/Disclaimer: all brands, characters, signs, names and/or trademarks captured in these images are the property of The Walt Disney Company. Though I am a professional photographer, I am not attempting to sell or use these images for profit, simply creative documentation and sharing. I'm sure there are plenty of people whom have vacationed to Disney and have shared their images on a blog or website, so I'm sure I'll be fine. I'm just trying to cover my tracks (aka, I'm not trying to get sued by Disney).]
Oh the anticipation...
The man and the mouse. Welcome to Disneyland.
Gin and Jamison ready for a fun day...
Alright, so the hands on the left side of the photo above...we all agreed after taking photos with this Disney worker that he was top of the line, superb, an A+ guest photographer. He was quick, energetic and taught us a cool thing about panoramas on an iPhone. The lesson was that pano shots CAN be taken quickly. That "slow down" thing that the iPhone tells you while you're making them...lies. All lies. He had us stand in front of the statue and castle and said, "okay, let me do a panorama shot" and just...whipped the phone across his body, and we were like, "What? No way..." He handed the phone back to us and voila...
We all tested it out at some point inside the park and yes, you can go quickly and make a panorama shot, barring you don't tilt up or down too much. As amazing as our guest photographer was, a recurring joke after this day is that none of us could remember his name. We floated around "Neil" or "Flynn" or maybe "Carl." I think Thanh got back to us and told his what it was, and I believe he let us know via Facebook comment. I could technically go back and find it, but I think for the fun of the joke, I won't go back and find it. Still can't remember his name, though he was excellent.
We started out the day on the Storybook Land Canal boat ride. The detail on these models is too cool...
If the image above didn't give it away, we made our way over to the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. I'm still debating this in my mind, but I think..that Finding Nemo is still my favorite Pixar movie. It was undisputable until Inside Out. Inside Out is pushing hard for the top stop. I may need to just keep watching them over the years and maybe eventually my mind will make a decision. Right now they are 1 and 1a...very close. Anyway, getting on that ride was a must, but I will share something with you...
You know how people have deep-seeded fears in life? It could be a fear of heights or a certain animal or clowns, you know...fears. Usually they are irrational and be cast out by simply facing and experiencing them, but they are there. I seem to have two weird irrational fears that I've discovered over the years. One is a fear of very large renaissance paintings, which is odd considering how much I appreciate art. I don't know, it's not all renaissance paintings, it's a few particular elements of some that get to me. First if it's a portrait or involving faces. Second, it's the scale; if it's a very large canvas and the figures within them are proportionally larger than me. And the third element is the lighting. If the artist created the painting as if it had one strong single, light source. More specifically if there are areas of shadow with faces or figures in them, that's terrifying. If someone's face is emerging from the shadows in a painting...no thanks. Ah. I can feel it right now as I type this. Nope. Can't do it.
[Slight example. See: Gerrit van Honthorst - The Procuress. Nope.]
My worst irrational fear is being a large art museum, alone, at night, with dark hallways and with very dimly lit gallery spaces and MASSIVE Renaissance paintings on the walls just starting at me. Come on, isn't that scary? Just you and bunch of huge paintings?
The second fear is large things underwater that should not be there, especially faces. There's a recurring theme here about scale, faces and not wanted to be overtaken by things larger than me. Hmm..some correlation to the fear of God or encountering the "face" of God? Proooobably. But yeah, if the Statue of Liberty or Mt. Rushmore were underwater, forget it. Over. Done. I am NOT a fan of underwater sculptures. Yes they are beautiful and creative, I get it. Great. Fine. But I do not need it in my portfolio, thanks. (I'll be interested to see if I ever get over this fear and dive and photograph them one day. If I do, be sure that I'll link back to this page so I can laugh at myself)
Another example: See: Sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. Beautiful, beautiful work. But, not an adventure on my list.]
All that said, as we entered the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage my fear instincts kicked in and I realized that the ENTIRE enjoyment of the ride was going to be based on seeing things outside the window of the fake sub.....UNDER. WATER.
How is this fun again? It's relatively dark and we're rounding these stupid corners and there's stupid fake rocks, algae, and coral and these little pockets of light. What's going to be there? What is...what the...? It's dim, is that a fish!? What is that?! A person!? What the hell?! Is it moving?! Animatronic scuba divers are NOT cute. Underwater puppet fish singing songs to me are NOT CUTE. Let's keep moving...."
This is pretty much the inner dialogue that was running through my mind during the ride, but on the outside I had to keep my cool in front of my friends. "Yeah! This is great!" *forced smile. I managed to take a picture or two to manage the fear.
While I was safely NOT looking outside of the submarine, I managed to capture an image that I ended up being really fond of. My friends where actually enjoying the ride and I took a moment to try to catch the expressions on their faces. I posted this to Facebook a long time ago and I feel my words there described the image best:
I love that, no matter your age, Disney is still magical:
After we finally got off the submarine of ride of terror, we kept exploring making sure to see a few favorite characters and attractions.
I know everyone gives the Hall of Presidents a hard time as not being the most exciting attraction at Disney, but I liked the animatronic Lincoln and the model builder in me really enjoyed the replica of the Capitol building:
Disney has this way of making you feel like a kid again. No better place that this was on display than the parade. Old and new Disney characters warming hearts....
We did a lot of cool things in the park, but I won't share all the personal photos we took. I will say though....of course we met Mickey:
A fitting image to signify the end of the day...
It was a terrific first visit to Disneyland and I'm glad I shared it with Virginia, Jamison and Thanh. We still speak of our fun from time to time on Facebook adding the hastag #tooexcited to our comments. As we left the park near sunset, I noticed that the elaborate figurine statue outside of the World of Disney store was making a really fun silhouette. Unmistakably Disney in nature: