I fear overload is starting to set in–everything is turning into a blur of rides, buses, and buying T-shirts. Today is our last day, and we’re probably going to start at Epcot and then see what happens, although plans are nebulous.

A few impressions of Hollywood Studios:

Muppets are awesome. Would that they had a Beaker shirt in my size. (Large is sold out of EVERYTHING. You can get XL, or M, but no L. This includes hats.)

The Rockin’ Rollercoaster inverts you multiple times in the first couple of seconds. I did not notice any of them. I was screaming like Gonzo. All I was conscious of was speed. There’s a flip later on that I noticed, but the first couple I was completely oblivious to. Which is kinda funny, since the inversion was what I was really worried about. (I did not do the Tower of Terror. I can handle rollercoasters, but a straight vertical drop would result in the contents of my stomach going places.

Kevin put on an Indiana Jones hat in the gift shop, turned around, and my ovaries, who had been sulking somewhere in the pelvis suddenly leapt up and reminded me in no uncertain terms that, by the way, we have had a raging crush on Indiana Jones since we were EIGHT, he may have been our first love, even before Spock, and hey, time has not really blunted that nearly as much as we thought.

"What do you think of th–"

"YES."

"…ooooookay." 

Other things of note–the masks on stilt-walkers in the street parade at Animal Kingdom were INCREDIBLE. I-wish-I-had-designed-them incredible. They had a warthog and an armadillo and a couple of birds that were just amazing. Apparently the Lion King Broadway show had similar mask design–I’d never seen it, and in some vague part of my mind, thought they were doing it in fursuits, or maybe leotards and makeup like in Cats. But those were amazing! I was standing near the front of the parade squeeing and gushing, mostly at Kevin’s parents, who now probably either think I’m charming or dangerously insane. (Ironically, both his kids were lurking back aways, doing the too-cool-for-this studied ennui of children. I did it at that age, too. Sometimes I think that half the fun of adulthood is that there comes a point where you stop worrying about jumping up and down and squeeing, because hey, you’ve already made a fool of yourself so many times, so what’s one more or less?)

Also, while most of the merchandise at Animal Kingdom was an afterthought, the designs on the buildings were fantastic! Forget the Mickey stuff–where do I get carved teal beaver roof supports, or the giant hornbill signs? They were awesome! The architecture on the buildings was amazingly cool. Do I have to take up woodworking? I’ll do it! I’m crazy!

Today–something! And then maybe something else!

When Did Tinkerbell Become A Skank?

Seriously. I know she was always kind’ve a flirty and vindictive little bugger, which is fine, some of my best friends are flirty and vindictive, but we walked into one of the Disney stores and were confronted by a wall of Tinkerbell Slut Chic.

Kevin inched closer to me, leaned over, and whispered "I feel strangely conflicted…"

I never liked Tinkerbell particularly, but this is a little unsettling. It’s like she was made an honorary member of the Bratz dolls, except she went too far and started doing lots of ecstasy and calling them up at 3 AM asking if they want to go clubbing and then barfing pixie dust on their shoes and threatening to cut a bitch and now they don’t talk to her any more.

Actually, I might buy a t-shirt with Tinkerbell threatening to cut a bitch. Maybe. It would depend on the art.

It doesn’t make me quite as irked as the revamp of Rainbow Brite and Strawberry Shortcake to look like teenagers (are there ANY toys that actually look like little girls now?) but…uh…if you’re determined to milk lots more money out of my demographic of Females With The Money And Will To Buy Overpriced T-Shirts, let me suggest two things. A) Stuff in my size. I have boobs. Tinkerbell DEFINITELY has boobs. Were she proportional, I do not think this t-shirt would fit her rack, either. B) Earrings. The selection of earrings consisted of rhinestone variations on the Mickey logo, a couple of dolphins, and a lot of peace signs. Branch out a little, people! If you had Cheshire cat earrings–or Eeyore, or the Mad Hatter, or Maleficent or frankly anything other than Minnie Mouse–you would have relieved me of money at a shocking rate. My Visa would have flown from my pocket and alighted on the cash register, fanning plastic wings like a rare butterfly. You have access to the greatest archive of beloved iconography in existence. Why must you waste it making fifty million mugs that look like the lower legs of Mickey and Minnie instead? Do you really think I wish to drink from the severed pelvises of my enemies? Is that what you people are doing in Cinderella’s castle after hours–drinking from severed pelvises? Really? If so, how do I get invited to these parties? Do I have to be a member of the Disney Vacation Club or something?

Also. I got the inkling of the Disney Princess thing back when I started playing Kingdom Hearts, but I had no idea what a terrifying juggernaut it would become.

Which would be fine. I firmly believe that little girls can play being princesses without being unduly warped by it. I didn’t ever play that I was a princess, but then, I was playing that I was a dragon-riding Vulcan who could turn into a horse, and I seem to have come out mostly okay.

I had a point there, but I think I got distracted.

But anyway, there is NO Mulan merchandise. Technically I think she’s one of the princesses, but no Mulan, and Pocahantas was one costume in the Halloween section. Meanwhile, you couldn’t throw a dead Cheshire cat without hitting Sleeping Beauty stuff.

I gazed at one of them…I don’t know which one…on a T-shirt that said "Waiting for my prince," and found myself muttering "Get a job," which probably just proves that I’m totally not the target demographic for these shirts, and now I’ve completely lost my point. Thing. Uh. Did I mention that the bar makes this Bailey’s milkshake…?

Day 3 — Animal Kingdom!

I am informed that when presented with birds, I become five years old. We were looking for food, and then there was a guy with a great horned owl pimping the bird show, and I dragged Kevin in because we could get food later, and OMG birds! The ground hornbill! The Mississippi kite! The spectacled owl! And Kevin was sitting in a flight path, and got buzzed by the Harris hawk, and the African crowned crane, and then later by a mallard who wasn’t part of the show.

They also had an awesome chicken. I mean, sure, it wasn’t the young king vulture, but I appreciate a good chicken.

And there were various aviaries which were also awesome–an Argus pheasant! I’d never heard of such a thing!–and Kevin stalked a jacana trying to get me a good photo because he is awesome like that and OMG naked mole rats! They had a colony! The staff guy pointed out the queen for me. (Not a terribly regal animal. Still, you cannot go wrong with naked mole rats.)

And there were tigers, being watched over by a woman who clearly loved tigers and could take or leave humans. "Don’t climb on the fence. Don’t climb on the fence. Please don’t climb on the fence…you better not scare my tigers…Please don’t climb on the fence." She was a riot. Kevin used to volunteer at the Carnivore Preservation Trust, which she knew of, and there was much commiseration.

Also, flying foxes! Which are awesome! And…uh…letting it all hang out. I can say with some authority that a couple of the bats in that enclosure were definitely not Jewish. And definitely male.

Also, Kevin had never seen a Malaysian tapir, and owing to scale on the Discovery channel not always being clear, had previously believed that they were the size of a dog. The massive butt of the sleeping tapir disabused him. He had also never seen a Komodo dragon, and had not been clear on the scale either, and was gibbering a little.

After running around and squeeing a lot, on the way out of the park, we saw some more birds. Black-necked swans! And there were other ducks that the gentleman feeding the turtles was pointing out, including a mottled duck. "That’s a native," he said.

"What? Really? It’s from around here?"

"Yeah, they come in the with the mallards. Cross with them occasionally, too. It’s the one right there, looks like a female mallard with the different colored bill–"

I hugged him. (Hey, it was a lifer!) He looked at me a little oddly–perhaps random women do not often hug him for pointing out ducks, or possibly it was the fact that his hands were full of dead fish to feed the turtles at the time.

"You just made her day," Kevin told him.

"They, uh, have babies up the hill, too…?"

So I left a bemused employee with a handful of smelt in my wake, but really, haven’t we all done that from time to time?

Day 2 — Epcot!

I have seen a real live manatee.

Oh my god, I want to kiss their big wodgy snouts. And they’re so TRAGIC! One was missing a flipper, and the other had been savaged by a boat propeller–the one-flippered one was suffering cold stress and was due to be released when he’s fattened up a bit, but they didn’t think the big one would be releasable, since his tail was shredded. I got choked up. Granted, I had champagne for lunch. Good coral reef exhibit too, great seahorse tank, and there were little horseshoe crabs booking across the sand. They’re awesome!

Then we caught a dolphin training exercise and ate our way across the faux world, a small snack at a time. I bought T-shirts and drank random cocktails. It was a lot of fun. And the Polish cart made something called a Chopin raspberry chiller which tasted like a raspberry smoothie and left me staggering. Into an Oaxacan carving exhibit that left me gibbering. (I have a VERY small Oaxacan carving collection–all of two specimens–and I do not have the budget or the cat-and-crisis-free zone to collect them seriously, but god, I love them! I gushed drunkenly at one of the painters, who I don’t think spoke English well enough to quite understand what "I’m so sorry! I’m not sober enough to tell you eloquently enough how much I love these!" meant. Actually, I’m not sure *I* speak English well enough…) They had this one of a deer with cactus antlers. I must paint cactalopes. Eee!

Also, I am extremely sunburned. I never think of sunscreen. Then I discover that I have epic cleavage burn, with a lovely slash of white diagonally across where the strap of my messenger bag fell. But this is as nothing, because I have seen the Manatee!

Day 1 — Magic Kingdom!

We survived the Magic Kingdom!

It was a near thing, too. At first I didn’t think we were even going to GET there, since this morning, Kevin and I were taking a shower together, and I dropped the soap.

This isn’t going where you think it’s going.

"We should be careful," said Kevin, as I picked it up. "We don’t want to slip on the soap!"

The soap was in my hand. Let us be clear on this. At this moment in time, I was completely in possession of the soap, a cedar-scented bar made by well-meaning hippies in Pittsboro.  The soap was not at fault.

Nevertheless, the final word had not yet left Kevin’s mouth when he took a step on completely non-soaped bathtub, slipped, skidded, took the tub wall in the back of the knees, and went down full-length on his ass across the tiles. Along the way we learned two exciting facts, namely that a shower curtain is not load-bearing, and that when a large bald man goes through one at high speed, the shower curtain doesn’t rip.

Instead the plastic hooks explode.

Beige plastic shrapnel rained through the bathroom, in a truly amazing scatter pattern. Kevin screamed. I shrieked. Bits of hook pattered to the floor around us.

"Are you okay?" I asked, appalled.

He began laughing hysterically. Taking this as a sign that he was not badly injured, I pointed at him–naked, wet, and sprawled flat across an ex-shower curtain, with bits of hook stuck to him–and also began laughing hysterically.

At the time of this writing, Maintenance has still not fixed the shower curtain, but damn, it was funny.

After that, the day went fairly smoothly. The guard checking out bags asked where we were from, and upon learning that we were from North Carolina, volunteered that he had been stationed at Camp Lejeune. "Okay," I said, "I have to ask–which was scarier? There, or here?"

He thought about this for several minutes. "At Camp Lejeune," he said finally, "you always knew where the enemy was coming from."

This marked the first of several amusing conversations with Disney employees. We walked through the gates–yay! Main Street USA! Tacky and glorious and ruthlessly capitalistic, which is more or less the USA in a nutshell, I suppose–and Kevin’s mother informed us that she needed to stop by Guest Relations to cash in a fairly large sum that she’d earned on a Disney credit card thing which involved getting money at the theme park. I caught Kevin’s arm, and said "Wait up, your mother has to go stick it to the Mouse."

"Woo! Stick it to the Mouse!" cried Kevin, drunk with enthusiasm and perhaps the shower-related bump on the head, and pumped his fist in the air.

The security guard who happened to be about three feet away stopped dead and leveled a look of grave concern at our party. "Stick it…to…the Mouse?" he said.

Fortunately, I can talk very quickly when I need to.

The only other incident of note–other than a good time at Disney!–occurred when Kevin dragged me on It’s a Small World, proving either that Kevin is a rat bastard or has two small children or was really WAY more concussed than any of us realized. After waiting the queue for ten minutes and wanting to claw my eardrums out, we reached the end and I asked the young woman if she had learned to tune the song out.

"You never tune it out," she said grimly.

"…do you have nightmares about this?" 

"It runs through my dreams," she growled.

Not much more you can say to that…

Tomorrow, Epcot!

So tomorrow I get in the car with Kevin and his kids and we drive to Disneyworld for a week of Family Fun.

Week of Family Fun, in this case, involve his parents deciding they’re taking the grandkids to Disneyworld, damnit, and thus have to take said grandkids’ parents as well, and so they rented a condo, in which I will be staying for a week, with Kevin, his kids, his sister, his sister’s kids, and his brother-in-law.

For those doing math at home, this is four children under twelve, two adult Republicans, and two nurses, the latter of which might be required in the event of unfortunate interactions with either of the former.

I have never been to Disneyworld, and I’m looking forward to it. (I’ve done Disneyland multiple times, but they say it’s very different.) And I quite I like Kevin’s family. So that part should be good.

…I DO think his parents were very clever in renting their own separate condo, though. And I have never spent anything remotely like this long with children–while Kevin’s kids live with us on alternating weeks, five of those days are spent at school, and the actual time I have any chance of encountering them is a three hour window between getting home and bedtime, most of which I spend in my studio. Saturday is…long. Sunday is about a five hour window, during which most contact with kids involves all going out to brunch, during which the youngest generally cries about something, to the point where Kevin and I have taken to laying small wagers out of earshot as to likelihood and timing. (Presumably he will grow out of it someday.) Then we go to the comic book store or Target or do something together. Then I go hide in the studio until they leave.

I’m really not GOOD with kids. I have no idea what to do with them, I can’t understand a word they’re saying when they get excited, their miniature dramas annoy me and the fact that it’s easier to housebreak an incontinent coyote than to teach a child to pick his clothes off the floor makes me despair for the species. But that’s neither here nor there, and is largely a failing on my part rather than theirs, except maybe the bit about the clothes. The point is that my coping mechanism is retreat. Natives get restless, Ursula goes into the studio. (Occasionally there is even bonding over this very fact–if the younger is weeping in the bathroom because he is being cruelly forced to eat vegetables, the oldest and I will exchange "Right, we’re out of here…" glances and BOTH retreat, leaving Kevin, as the procreator, to deal with the fallout. Then we commiserate about it on the stairs.)

This is not actually the source of relationship tension you’d think it’d be, because Kevin is a smart man and realizes that I am not a parent, and never will be. There is a skillset involved with childcare, and I do not possess even the smallest piece of it. Life didn’t go that way.* I was an only child. I never babysat. I will ferry feral cats around to vets to be fixed with a song in my heart, I will rip up carpet and paint the walls, I will come and get you in the small hours of the night if your car breaks down on a deserted stretch of road, I will even help you bury a dead body if you convince me that he needed killin’–but you don’t ask me to look after kids or perform open heart surgery or change your oil. It’s not a matter of willingness. These aren’t things I know how to do.

(Ironically, this has no bearing on being a children’s book author. To be one, you don’t observe kids. I think that’d be death, in fact. You remember what it was like when YOU were a kid–or at least, that how I do it–and adults were baffling godlike authorities with no sense of what was really important. Adults know too much. Kids think you know everything because you have some kind of terrifying Adult Sense, and do not realize it is because they themselves cannot lie for wet shit, but that’s not something you write in a book FOR kids. Of course, then you also have to cut out or tone down all the bits that you recall that are true and accurate but which adults would balk at, but it comes together somehow.)

Anyway, coping mechanism = retreat. Coping mechanism is going to have an interesting time when one is spending the entire week, plus two twelve-hour car trips, in the company of small children. And frankly, I’m bloody terrified–less of them than that I’ll snap and go "Look, I can’t HANDLE this," after about three days, thereby revealing that I am, in fact, the irrational lunatic I have always suspected I am.

But, as they say, it’ll either be great, or great material, and either one is worthwhile. And dude, I get to ride the teacups.

*Sample conversation:
K: "You may have to read your book aloud to a group of kids. You’ll need to do it like a picture book, because of the comic bits…"
U: "Okay. How do I do that?"
K: "…you’ve never read a picture book out loud?"
U: "WHEN IN MY LIFE WOULD THIS HAVE EVER COME UP?"

Vivid Guinea Pig!

I worked on this little guy during last night’s D&D session, during which we killed some drakes, and then spent quite a long time wandering around a town trying to figure out what to do next, ("Hark! Is that a plot hook?") and eventually struck out in search of that fabled treasure, the Dead Wino’s Silver.

Also, we may have conclusively proved that for all our armor and weaponry and magic, nothing beats throwing a rock at the enemy. ("Dude. Did that rock crit?" )

Vivid Guinea Pig

Thank you guys all so much for your input! I really appreciate it!

Okay. Here’s what I’m thinkin’ I’ll do…

Platypus (and fox) were the big winners. I’d love to do Platypus, but because I’d have to do a mirror image thingy, in order to do right and left that’s a minimum 200 order, and I need to do proof of concept first–my concern is mostly weight, since these are going to be fairly heavy earrings, akin to the big Laurel Burch earrings (which I love, and wear!) but also just practical terms, how tricky it is to assemble, how much the mailing makes me weep, etc, etc. Not as much a concern for pendants, or for selling them as keychains/charms/pulls/whatever but I want to cover all bases–I really want to make earrings work, because those I’ll actually WEAR, ya know?

So, I’m gonna try a symmetrical design first. If it works, if there’s interest, then platypus will be the next option, and after that, sky’s the limit–if it works and set-up doesn’t make me want to weep, this may be an on-going thing every coupla months. We’ll see how it goes.

For symmetrical designs, I’ll do four or five–bat and turtle would work well for full body, and then probably a couple of heads. (Fox got a LOT of votes…) I’ll post ’em here, put it to another poll, and then do pre-orders on the top design. If I can ten pre-orders for earrings, or fifteenfor pendants, or some combination thereof, that’ll cover half the cost of the run, and I’ll put in the order and we’ll go from there.

So! Watch this space for future developments….

So the place that does my little cloisenne lapel pins can do pendants. And pendants are presumably a hop-skip-and-jump from earrings, since if they’ve got a little ring at the top, we might be able to work something on the earring front, assuming they don’t weigh a bizillion pounds.

Downside, the minimum order on stuff is like, 100, and we run into the snag on earrings in that a design like the platypus would require me to get 200 made, if we wanted a left and right one, and since I’d be laying out somewhere in the vicinity of $500 to get those made, I’d need to sell at least thirty-forty pairs (assuming a price point around $18, which strikes me as pretty damn good for cloisonne earrings!) in order to cover the cost of the making, plus the booze I’d need to lay in for the Earring Backing Party where I get a half-dozen good friends who can be bought to sit around with needle nose pliers popping hook backs onto the things and drinking heavily.

Hrrrmmm.

I am tempted to do a few more designs, and see if I cook up a bilaterally symmetrical one, minimizing initial order size and only requiring me to sell twenty pairs…and of course, I could have a few as pendants, too.

Okay! As a very unscientific poll, and I don’t know if I’m going to do it at all, let’s see what the species interest is…