They say that Disney World is truly a magical place!
We’ve always loved going to Disney World down in Lake Buena Vista, FL & have had some incredibly memorable experiences, ranging from some of the best times ever to some of the, let’s call it, more unique experiences of my life.
We began taking Heather there when she was just eight months old, actually as part of a business trip. I had a planned trip to Jacksonville, FL to go see a checkbook plant & some new automated processes they had recently implemented.
I decided to take Laurie & Heather along (yes, at my expense!) & first visit Disney World for a couple of days.
It was January 1985 as I remember watching the Joe Montana-led San Francisco 49ers beat Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl. It was a great game & we watched it on the big screen at our hotel bar.
We then drove up to Jacksonville and, man, the weather changed overnight! When we arrived, the temperature had dropped to,I believe, 12°, a record for that area!
The city looked as if it was the loser in a nuclear war!
There were burst pipes EVERYWHERE, with these frozen fountains of ice, resembling beautiful sculptures.
As great & as memorable as the Disney parks are, I also had quite a few other unforgettable experiences that were not necessarily “theme park-related”.
After we moved to San Antonio (and I had picked up the game of golf), I decided to take my golf clubs with me to the Sunshine State.
So one day, I’m playing the beautiful Lake Buena Vista course and on a par-3, I believe it was the hole #6, I hit a nice 7-wood that headed straight for the hole!
It took one bounce and…
…ricocheted off the flag stick, barely missing my first-ever hole-in-one!
The following day, I’m at another gorgeous layout, the Palms, when I find myself standing on the tee box of the first par-3 of the day, again with my trusty 7-wood in hand. I smack my customary high bending drive, slicing gently…cough, cough…from left to right.
As soon as it lands on the green, it makes a bee line straight toward the hole. And again…
…it smacks into the flag stick & bounces away!
Two consecutive days, two par 3s, same 7-wood, same disappointing result.
Still a hole-in-one virgin!
(A year or so earlier, at the Mission del Lago course here in San Antonio, I came within a couple of inches of holing my tee shot. I hit a beautiful 9-iron, straight as an arrow, that hit a yard or so right in front of the hole. It rolled nicely, but as luck would have it, came to a stop, no more than a couple of inches from the hole!)
After 2 almost aces, I tried the magnificent Magnolia course on day 3.
Nope, nothing close to holing our on a par 3, though I actually did have a near miss.
And thank God, too!!!
The Magnolia is famous for its “Mickey Mouse hole”. As you look toward the elevated green from the fairway, you can clearly see Mickey’s silhouette, formed by the shape of the circular green & 2 boarding sand traps!
Well, on the previous hole, a long par 5, I hit my second shot off to the left. There was a small brook bordering the fairway there & while I lost sight of its final landing spot, I decided to go take a closer look.
I get out of my cart to explore when I suddenly feel as if I’m being watched.
I was…by a small alligator/crocodile.
I didn’t have my Jack Hanna Animal Adventure book with me so I really couldn’t tell the difference.
As we all know, chances are usually quite good that big ol’ Momma is lurking nearby, keeping a close eye on her yungin’.
I quickly retreated to the safety (?) of my cart! “Don’t you dare die on me now!”…and off I went!
A year or so earlier, in 1996, Walt Disney World celebrated its 25th anniversary by inviting one couple from each of the 50 states on an all-expenses-paid trip & extravaganza.
Laurie’s older sister, Linda & her husband, Cris, were chosen as the sole representatives from New York!
And they were treated like royalty!
Special dinners, star-studded entertainment, their own personal Disney guide, certain reserved park hours available only to the 50 couples…everything was totally first class.
They were selected, partly for the fact that they’d been visiting Disney World, several times every year, ever since the theme park opened. They would often drive their full-length camper down to FL to stay at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort that had accommodations for campers as well as log cabins & tree houses.
One of my more memorable Disney trips is when I flew my (now ex-) fiancé Trisha down to St. Petersburg in August 2009.
We drove over to Disney World…it was Trisha’s first time ever there. It was probably my 12th, 13th time, but the first (and only) time that I’ve gone during the summertime.
Normally, Laurie & I would go in January or February. The weather was always great (after all, it is Florida!), school was back in session & the parks were never crowded. No waiting on long lines, no hassles, no problem getting reservations at any of the restaurants.
Anyway, there we were in the middle of August, but I really didn’t foresee any major problems. I believe it was a Wednesday & the forecast was for an overcast day, with a high in the low 90s.
We arrived early so we’d be there when the park opened to the public. (Note: If you stay at one of the many resorts right on the Disney property, you get access to the parks an hour earlier than everyone else. You’re able to get there via monorail or using the shuttle buses that service every Disney resort.)
As the day progressed, it started getting hotter & hotter…and more humid & exceedingly uncomfortable by the minute!
Pretty soon, our main objective became “Find the nearest pavilion, attraction, store, whatever’s air-conditioned & we’re off!”
We watched some stupid film about traveling the French countryside…only because we were near France in the World Showcase & it had A/C!
We lingered in the Disney Store, buying stupid little crap so we could breathe in all the cool air & store it in our camel humps!
We ate lunch, even though we weren’t particularly hungry!
Epcot Center has this li’l Coke shop, filled with soda fountains serving all different kinds of Coke from around the world. Many of them don’t even look like, taste like or even sound like Coke, but what did we care? They were ice cold & we were inside & out of the elements!
“I’d love to take you to the Norway pavilion, Babe, but it’s waaaaaay over theeeeeere & it’ll take us, like, a whole 8 or 9 minutes to get there!”
Come 2:15PM, with another 7 hours’ worth of Disney in front of us, including the spectacular fireworks display at 9:00 PM around Crescent Lake in the World Showcase section of Epcot Center, we actually called it quits.
We were absolutely drained. It had become more of a battle of survival than what it was supposed to be…pure, unbridled joy & the eager expectation of “what’s next”.
Florida in the summer is unbearable. Maybe if you’re in your pool or at the beach you may think differently, but…
About 16 months later, I took Trisha & her son, Bryce, to Disney over the Christmas holiday.
Again, a bad move.
The parks were incredibly crowded, so badly that Magic Kingdom was actually closed (to additional guests) as they were filled to capacity on Christmas Day itself! That really sucked as we were planning to go there that day, having already spent a full day in each of the other theme parks…Epcot Center, Animal Kingdom & Disney Hollywood Studios.
My last Disney adventure is about the time when U.S. Citibanking brought a bunch of us senior managers down to Disney World for a management training seminar conducted by Disney.
(Personally, I thought it was somewhat “embarrassing” that Citi, one of the world’s most prominent companies & admired for years for its wealth of exceptional executive leaders, were actually turning to another company…not a noted consulting firm or a company specializing in leadership training…for training.
And what was interesting is that, at the time, the Disney Corporation had lost some of its famed mystique & had experienced a number of “down years” financially.
Oh, well, what do I know, right?)
The course was OK. Nothing spectacular or particularly revolutionary.
Been there, done that.
They explained a lot about the ways in which Disney “analyzed their customers’ behavior” & put that knowledge to use in their business.
For example, there would be a garbage can strategically located X steps from a store or restaurant as their studies showed…
There’s no chewing gum sold anywhere on the property…
They also took us to Disney Underground, an entire complex located directly under the Magic Kingdom, where the “brains of the operation” were located. We got a specially-guided tour of the facility…everything was pretty impressive.
The seminar also marked the first time that I ever sang karaoke! No, not by myself, thank God, but with several other, er, well-lubricated individuals in our group.
I had a picture somewhere, at one point in my life, with me, the esteemed John Golio (Senior Director of Consumer Credit & Support Services), the lovely Deb Harrington (National Training Director), the normally reserved & demure Rashmita Mistry (USCC Director), the lovely Marty Woodbury, Alba Quirogay & Renee Smith (Training), the dashingly-handsome Torben Melohn (Direct Bank Senior Director), the normally-quiet & reserved Dan Owczar (Investigations Director), Phil McCammon (Legal) & a few others belting out “New York, New York!” to a flock of our adoring fans.
Well, that’s my story & I’m sticking to it!
As always, thank you so much for listening!
P.S. My daughter, Heather, recently found a bunch of old pictures that we had in storage…and one of them actually featured this magnificent karaoke ensemble!
I’ll be posting it on Facebook.