Monday, October 16, 2006

October 6: Zero Gravity

Warning: Do not read this if you have a bad heart!!!!

I visited Anaheim Disneyland last Saturday (Sunday Manila time). We got there at around 8 in the morning and stayed till 6 in the evening. To be quite honest about it, I’m not really a fan of theme parks or it’s equivalent. I always viewed theme parks as for kids and not for old guys like me and I still hold that belief even after visiting Disneyland. Even so, I can surely say that I did enjoy my visit to Disneyland, or more accurately, I got a blast that day. so what exactly make my visit to Disneyland a blast that day? Well, let me see: First, I enjoyed the cheap thrills. Second, I happen to be “playing” with my 10 – year old cousin. Ah, kids. It takes a kid to enjoy being a kid. And Last but not the least, I do get to see a “number” of hot blondes and sexy brunettes at the park wearing shirts with plunging necklines and the skimpiest skirt or shorts one could ever find if not the most tightest shirts and pants that accentuate their figure. It was a feast to the eyes! Mine of course. Anyway, we started with the Indiana Jones ride that morning. The ride was fun although rather bumpy but not really scary at all. To be frank, my plane ride to LA was a lot scarier and bumpier. The best part of the ride I think is at the end when the giant boulder rushed towards me. It’s fun but not scary or thrilling. The same goes with the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. My plane ride was far more “adventurous” compared to it. The Haunted House gig on the other hand is scary to kids but not to an “old” guy like me. I actually felt a little sleepy if not bored with it. My first real thrill that day came when me and my sister and my cousin took the “Splash Mountain” ride. I had to confess that I’m afraid of heights and I hate sudden drops as well, which is why I generally avoided roller coaster rides. But I don’t want to be a “kill joy” to my young 10 – year old cousin, so I took my chances. And boy, it was great. The “dive” was actually short and thereby mollified the “scariness”. I was shouting “Geronimo” when the automatic camera took my picture at the top of the dive, which is why my mouth formed an “O” (I wasn’t screaming by the way, that would be too “shallow”). I did however got wet from the splash landing since I was seated in front (Yeah, incredibly genius of me to volunteer). My hair, my face, my jacket and my pants all got wet but fun is definitely written all over my face. Next stop, we went to the “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad” ride, a roller coaster theme ride. As mentioned before, I had this general “uneasiness” with roller coaster rides which is why during my youth, I would most likely closed my eyes during those dangerous “stunts”. Having considerably aged since, I decided to face “it” like a man (a favorite mantra of my cousin, he speaks mandarin by the way). Whatever that means, I did soon find out. And boy! What a ride! The 2G (2x the gravity force) experience is quite exhilarating. I felt my neck got twisted with the ride. After the ride, I thought that was the “thrill” that has eluded me for sometime now but boy I was dead wrong! For the next ride, “The Space Mountain” ride was even more thrilling!!! The speed, the numerous twist and turn, the dazzling light show all turned the thrill decibel a notch higher. Even so, just like the last ride, it didn’t make me scream! It’s child play. However, I did develop a back pain from the “Space Mountain” ride. Apparently, my body is telling me that I’m too old for this “kid stuff”. Before the “Space Mountain” ride, Eric, our tour guide took us to the Merry Go – Around. Boy, it’s been quite a long time since I took the Merry – Go – Around. When I was kid, riding the horse at the Merry – Go - Around was like looking forward to the future. I mean who didn’t dream of being a cowboy or a prince charming riding on his stead? I know I did. Now, riding the Merry – Go – Around was like going back to the past, to a time when we all dream that we could be a cowboy someday and we actually were back then. So much has changed after one merry – go – around. After the Space Mountain ride, we next went to see the 3D movie, “Honey, I Shrunk The Audience”. It was actually my first time to watch a 3D movie. It was quite “real” enough to me then that when the neon lights blew up “in front” of my face, I raised my left arm to cover my face from the “flying sharpenels”. It is then I realized that it is only an illusion and with that, came “enlightenment”. Like Neo finally seeing the Matrix as a computer code rather than “reality”, my mind likewise began to see past the “tricks”. So much so that I didn’t blink nor bat an eyelash when the lion roared in front of me or when the giant boa constrictor open it’s fanged mouth and tried to bite my head off (that happened after audience was shrank). In spite of the “clarity of vision” I had, it was nonetheless fun for I was not only treated to an optical illusion but also to sensory illusions as well. I actually felt a “herd of mice” run past my legs as well as the shake of the entire floor due to the thumping of the scientists after they “shrank” us. After the show, it was already mid – day and to everybody’s surprise, we had finished all the major rides at Disneyland. Eric suggested that we walk across to the “other side”, to the new Disneyland California Adventure theme park. The California Adventure Park is just like Disneyland, they had rides, 3D simulation shows, and cheap thrills, all of that except for the Disney toons. First stop after lunch, we went to see the “Life as a Bug” 3D show. Now, if you ask my opinion about how the show was. Well, I would say that if you have arancaphobia or for that matter a morbid fear for furry little insects. It is better not to attend even though the characters are “cartoonish”. I mean you’ll definitely scream your lungs out if not pass out if you saw a giant arankanid suspended directly above your head. Fortunately for me, I had already “transcendence”. My mind has been conditioned to treat everything I see as an illusion and so nothing “scared” me not even the finale coup de grace of the show. At the finale, they released “cockroaches” to the seat and if you happened to press your back against the seat, you would have felt the “rush” of cockroaches streaming across the seat making you jump out of your seat thus creating a “human” wave at the end of the show. Nice but again I’m immune to such illusions. It also help that Eric, tour guide gave it away when he told us to remain “glued” to the seat after the show (something that an AA IQ wouldn’t miss). After the show, we went still to another 3D show, this time, “Soaring Over California”. This is by far the most spectacular 3D show I’ve seen. You’re strapped to a seat and got suspended 3 storey high above in the air and once the screen opens, you are treated to a spectacular aerial view of California starting with “flying” through clouds and then over the top of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco followed by the hover over the great Colorado river then over the sides of Yosemite mountain and over the Grand Canyon towards the Mojave desert (I waved my hands to a squadron of F16s flying by). Afterwards, we flew over an aircraft carrier, and followed a helicopter and then over a PGA golf course where Tiger Woods hit a golf ball towards us missing us by inches and then towards an ocean wave near the beach and finally landing safely. Wow! That was a spectacular ride! It’s not just the visual spectacle that wooed me, the sensory stimulation was quite spectacular in itself. For the seats veered left or right, up and down complete with wind blowing past your face as if you were actually flying. Wow! I wonder if that’s how Superman felt. You know, with the clouds swaying on your knees. I had to admit I was a bit apprehensive about the ride and had to tighten my grip on the handrails in spite of the seat belt once I’m on the “air”. It was only on the latter part of the show that I got “comfortable”. My sister was equally apprehensive about the “flight” but somewhere near the middle, she got over it. Once on the ground, she told she had been to a far more scarier situation, that on a para – sailing expedition at Boracay earlier in the year. At this point thus far, I’ve been thrilled somewhat, surprised probably, entertained definitely but not scared. However, none of these compare to what I did next. There is this ride that me and my cousin are contemplating to take but are quite fearful of taking, that of “The Twilight Zone, The Terror Tower” a.k.a. “The Hollywood Tower Hotel”. The concept of the ride is simple. You ride an elevator and they shot you up around 10 stories high and then opens the door to let the fresh air in and also reveal exactly how high you are vis – a – vis to the outside world where one can only see the roofs and all the sudden the elevator falls with you along in it. Scary? Nope. It is traumatic!!! My hands were getting cold and sweaty when I lined up for the “insane” stunt (I must be crazy to be actually doing this). We first went to the library where a clip told us the “legend” behind the elevator. The story goes like this. 5 people (including an actress and an actor) went up the elevator then suddenly a freak lightning struck the hotel building and destroying it. The freak lightning caused the people inside the elevator to “vanish”. These people later became the ghost that haunts the hotel elevator and “causes” the unexplained malfunction. After that short clip, we were then led into a queue and finally unto the elevator. We were first in the line and so we ended up at the back of the elevator, me and my cousin (my sister got scared of the idea and went shopping instead). The elevator door closes and we backed away from the door only to show us with the Twilight Zone trailer. Then the sign fades into darkness, we were then taken up 1 or 2 floors where the door opens to reveal a huge mirror and there we could see ourselves in the mirror. Our group picture is taken and then suddenly, our reflection vanishes from the mirror (which signifies that we’re as good as kaputs). The door closes and we were brought up another floor where the ghostly apparitions appeared. Afterwards, the door closes and we were suddenly shot up a floor or two at high speed and then it abruptly halts with a jolt and then without warning, the elevator drops a floor. We then stopped shot up again around two or three floors at high speed and stopped. The door opens to reveal the outside world and how high we are actually. We are at the third floor from the top then. Then after like a second or two after the door opened, the elevator falls two floors! Again it abruptly halts and we were shot up again this time to the second floor from the top and falls like 3 or 4 floors and then again the screeching halt and the final ascent to the top. We lingered like 5 seconds at the top before falling again 4 – 5 floors down the elevator shaft. Afterwards, it stopped and we descended one floor below before being led out. Once we started falling, my heart sank to my arse and simultaneously, the seat beneath my arse dropped leaving my arse 3 inch up in the air and suspended there by half a second. Zero gravity!!! Just then when my arse is hanging in the air during my second “fall”, my phone rang! I later found out that it was my sister who called to inquire “how was it?” Perfect! Here I’m with my arse 3 inches up in the air and she has the gall to ask me how I was?! Damn! What’s even worst was that, the phone never stopped ringing! And once it stopped, it rang again!!! Damn! And I couldn’t take the call since both of the hand is tightly gripped on the seat rails in spite of the fact that I had my seat belts on (I could imagine my hands has turned knuckle white from the grip). Although I’m loath to admit, I was pretty damned scared!!! I so scared that my legs were wobbly for the next 10 or so minutes afterwards. In spite of that, I still manage to guide my cousin out and bought the photos and walked 100 meters away from the building. Damn! I’m pretty sure that I won’t be “crazy” enough to try that kind of stunt again!!! Ever!!! Well, maybe until I got over with it! It was indeed fun! Correction, it was SUPER!!! My adrenaline was way up so much so that I can’t sleep a wink that night. Well, there is also the fact that every time I’d closed my eyes that night, I dreamt of falling elevators with me inside. My sister scolded me for being an “irresponsible” kiddult for “dragging” a 10 – year old to a traumatic zero gravity, free fall expedition (my cousin also have that falling elevator nightmare that night). Well, what can I say except to repeat the phrase “faced it like a man”, which happens to be my cousin’s favorite mantra. “ )

Sunday, October 15, 2006

October 5: Good Evening LA

I landed in LA after a grueling 12 – hour flight from Manila. The flight was quite bumpy due to turbulence from the bad weather in Pacific region near Korea – Japan. Aside from the occasional jolt, the strong winds rock the plane so violently that I actually felt that I’m at sea and not in the air (even though I’ve never been to the sea before). Anyway, the ride was so shaky that I hardly slept on board the plane even though I’m tired and haven’t slept much prior to my trip due to anxiety. However, not many passengers share my trepidation. Most of them including my sister who is traveling with me, slept rather soundly despite the turbulence 37000 feet in the air! In fact, the passengers behind me and beside me in the middle row (I sat in the window aisle near the rear of the plane) snored so loudly that it disrupted any attempt I had in sleeping (this is in addition to the fact that I might also mess up my gelled hair, which I rarely do by the way). Oh! How I envy those hearty sleepers for it’s not easy for an insomniac and a light sleeper to enjoy the simple comfort of sleep. Even so, I tried my best to get some shut eyes. I could actually read the book I carried (“The World Is Flat”) instead but every light inside the plane was shut off and though I could open a reading light to read my book, I risk interrupting my sister’s beauty sleep. No choice indeed but to bear the “torture”. I left Manila on October 5 2200h and arrived in LA also on October 5, 1900h. I arrived on the same date because I passed the International Date Line. So technically, I lived an “extra” 15 hours of life without aging for a day (LA is 15 time zones away from Manila). And because of that, I got to eat 5 square meals and 2 snacks, 3 in Manila and 2 on the plane as well as 2 snacks. Talk about cheating on life. Anyway, I never did planned to visit the US anytime soon having spent my vacation already in China this past Lent. It’s just my sister got only a year’s visa and she wanted to use that before it expired in June of next year and it also happened that my aunt who is living in Taiwan has a long holiday around the 10th. Add one to the other and puff, I’m here. This is my second vacation for the year and I’m with my sister, my aunt, and of course, my cousin, Philip. I joined the Taiwan tour courtesy of my aunt and the trip took me to Disneyland Anaheim on the first followed by a visit to the Chinese Mann Theater, and then to Universal Studio then Las Vegas on the third day followed by a tour of the Grand Canyon, then to Laughlin for some shopping (Oh, I sooooooooooo hate shopping!!!!) next to Calico and Fresno, Yosemite National Park, and lastly, to San Francisco, from where I’d took a plane home on October 12 and arrived 2 days later on the 14th. Anyway, as the plane geared to a landing at Tom Bradley International Airport terminal, I was treated to a beautiful nighttime sight of LA with all the streetlights and the car headlights on. LA looked like the reflection on the ground of the heavenly stars at night. Impressive I would say with all those rectangular street layouts. The first impression I got about LA at least from the airport is that I don’t feel like I’m in the US at all. Truth to tell, I felt like I was at home or least in some Asian world city like Hong Kong or Shanghai for I noticed that there is a predominance of familiar Asian faces at the airport. Even the languages you overheard at the airport are mostly Chinese if not other Asian languages like Filipino. That is my perception until I saw a Caucasian couple, a man and probably his girlfriend locked in embrace and engage in a deep kiss lasting like 2 minutes or more. Now, definitely, I’m in the US! (Among Asians, you would rarely see a public display of affection. Usually, it’s a peck followed by a bear hug) Another thing I noticed in LA is that I saw a lot of fat locals (Caucasian, Afro – Americans, and some Asian Americans as well). They are not just simply chubby or plump or portly. They are really fat as in the size of a boulder! And surprisingly, it’s not the rich people who are fat here in LA. It’s the ordinary Americans! I supposed that McDonald’s and it’s clones are indeed very popular here in the states (or so I thought). Anyway, we were billeted at the Holiday Inn at Buena Park that night. The rooms are ok but not exactly the type that I’m accustomed to but who is complaining as long as I got a comfortable king size bed all by myself. Finally, I could get a welcomed sleep (which I did)! My cousin who is sharing the room with me with his own bed cannot sleep on the otherhand due to jet lag (he even fiddled with the lamp at 5 in the morning waking me up in the process) but not me, no jet lag got hold of me. I definitely slept like a log that night. “ )