Universal-ly Accepted

None of this architecture is ‘necessary,’ per se, serving no other purpose than to tantalize the eye and imagination, and just so, I love every detail. Who wouldn’t want a windmill spinning atop their house, or a clam-powered faucet?

Details are important.  Any fan of H.G. Wells’ science-fiction will inform you that ignoring the little things in life can prove fatal . . . you know, because all the aliens died in Wells’ novel War of the Worlds . . . because they never considered Earth’s micro-organisms . . . and because of this ‘tiny’ oversight of these microbes the space invaders ended up a ‘little’ dead . . . which is to say ‘very.’

Which brings me to my second point: subtlety.  Subtlety is also a very important quality, especially in writing.  However, in theme parks, the subtle touch is best left outside the gates, along with moderation and unapproved coolers.  In a well-designed theme park, the act of walking or waiting should prove as entertaining as the rides themselves, engaging the imagination as well as the senses.  At the risk of sounding like a dork, I enjoy the lure of another world, of the fantasy.  To quote John Hammond: “I’m not talking about rides.  Everyone has rides.” Continue reading

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Dear Ron, Thanks for the Ice Cream!

“So Bree, are you excited about Florida?”

“OHMYGOSH, IamSOOOready,” my little sister screamed, practically hurling her book to the floor of the car.  “Can’t wait.  Can’t wait to be done with school, with homework, with teachers, with Maryland.  All of it.”

“Amen,” I nodded.  The past few weeks at work had tested most of the school’s parents, students and teachers to the breaking point.  Rumors of our middle school closing due to low attendance had filtered through the hallways and classrooms like an airborne plague.  Only seven families had reenlisted for the new school year, and the administration had given no indication about the school’s survival to anyone, postponing any announcements until they could reevaluate their financial situation (i.e. drink heavily and pray their Powerball tickets pay out).  The kids, like sharks, sensed the blood in the water and were whipped into a frenzy.  Most in fact were already leaving for other schools and so what was the purpose of behaving when discipline no longer mattered? Continue reading

A Maryland Muggle in King Harry’s Court

Hogwarts Castle at Wizarding World of Harry Potter“Is this the line for Harry Potter-land?” Sean asked the Universal Studios guide, who directed the growing line of tourists now stretching the entire length of the park.  “Or is this just for some one of the rides?”

“If you want to piss in Hogwarts, this is the line,” she muttered back to him thrusting a wad of stand-by tickets into our hands before moving further down the queue.  Sean was left speechless for several seconds, a true achievement had the guide known it.  I would have shook her hand, if I didn’t think that she might bite it.

“Universal must hire all the rejects from Disney World,” he frowned back in line.  “All the ones that refuse to smile, assist the elderly and lie blatantly to the tourists.” Continue reading

Story Sickness

Presently I am recovering from particularly viral strain of “story sickness.” At least, that is the name I give to it, that passionate “fevered” desire to complete a particularly imaginative or well-told tale, and the effects are not pretty. The story envelops me. I cannot eat. I cannot sleep. I relinquish all work – as well as most conscious thought – as I devour page after page or scene after scene, driven to discover “What happens next?” Does the Count exact his revenge? Does Taran save his friends from the Black Cauldron? If Nia transforms into an intergalactic harbinger of death and destruction, how will she and Simone ever be together? Stuff like that.

I recall one night several years ago, when my Dad knocked on my door sometime around one or two in the morning. Both of my parents had not seen me for much of the evening. I had disappeared to my room right after inhaling some steak and potatoes and rapidly spitting out a garbled “One moment, Mom. Room with flying keys! Gotta go!” Relinquishing them to this cryptic phrase and some small tuffs of fallen potatoes, I scampered down to my room without a sound.

Worried at my unusual absence, the late hours, and whether I was alive or dead – being the good parents that they are – they decided to check on me. So spying the light creeping beneath my door past midnight, Dad decided to investigate. I, of course, had been reading all day. Recently, you see, my brother Ryan had received the fourth Harry Potter book, and taking an interest in the hype I opened the Sorcerer’s Stone that afternoon . . .

“Are you still up? What are doing in here?”

“Learning magic.” (I cannot recall exactly what I said here, but it was something to this effect. I possess little shame.)

“A book? You’re reading a book at three o’clock in the morning?”

“Yeah, Dad, this book is incredible! The storytelling is fantastic. It just pulled me in almost as soon as I began.”

“Well, remember not to burn the candle at both ends. In a few hours, it will be dawn, and you have to take the kids to school tomorrow. You can always finish tomorrow, you know.”

“I know. I know. But I’m almost finished this second book. It’s so hard to put down. I’ll go to sleep soon. I promise.”

Shortly after that, Hogwarts safe once more and basilisk slain, the second book ended, and I lay on the bed exhausted. With a flip of a switch the Walmart-bought fan twirls and cools my head, steaming with potential ideas for Harry’s later chronicles. Will Voldemort return? What is his connection with Harry? Will Ron always be the comic relief?

“I wonder if Harry fancies Ginny or Hermione?” I think aloud. A few minutes later, I break my promise and leaf through the third book until five or six in the morning. I fall asleep for an hour or two, waking exhausted somewhere between pages one-hundred twenty-eight and twenty-nine. The pages peel from my drool-dampened cheeks and ears. Like a wino with a hangover, I curse at the sun, shining brightly through my windows and stumble off to find Sean and my car keys. I – safely – drive my brothers across town to summer swimming practice, where I then waited in the parking lot, my mind passing into slumber and dreams: detailed visions of wizards, castles, and werewolves.

Such is the nature of my affliction, my “story sickness.” Considering the number of stories I finish each year, few provoke such unhealthy responses. Typically coming-of-age tales empowered with dynamic characters, heroic battles, or the search for true love incites the germ (at heart I am a hopeless romantic). Combine these elements with incredible writing or poetic prose, and the infection spreads. The story consumes me, and for hours or days later I am lost within another world among friends, both old and new. The story sickness strikes once again.

Of course, others may know of a more clinical term – insanity perhaps. My siblings simply tell their friends that their older brother is weird and a little eccentric at times, citing the T-shirt wisdom: “He lives in his own little world, but it’s okay they know him there.” I have heard the word “obsessed” too, somewhere in the din as I sat reading Verne and Doyle long ago. I cannot remember when or where. Growing up in a family of ten, you learn to cloud much of the daily cacophony, especially when there are lands to explore and ghost hounds to unmask.

Frankly, I have just learned to accept the fact that stories are a natural part of my life. A natural inclination like the love of seashores or ice cream. It is akin to breathing. Inhale and exhale. Read and write. The only difficulty lies in choosing between the two:

It’s hard to know when to respond to the seductiveness of the world and when to respond to its challenges. If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn by the twin desires to reform the world and to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
— E. B. White