California

End of the magic

I booked my return flight from Anaheim for 12:15pm because I didn’t feel like getting up and rushing to the airport super early in the morning. So, of course, I woke up at 6:45am. There was no use in going back to bed as the kids next door were already up.

So I used the time to pack my pajamas and try to cram a cute slightly oversized hat I bought yesterday at the park into my carry-on without damaging either of them.

Then I plugged in my phone and tried making the instant coffee they left in the room for me to use. First it was too strong (and small), so I decided to make a second cup of just to water, which brought me up to half of the cardboard cup they provide, so… screw it, I’ll buy something at the lounge downstairs.

But first, I needed to make myself presentable. And then for the second day in a row, just I was nearly ready for a shower when I heard a knocking on the door. This time I was still dressed, so I opened the door and the 35yo Hispanic woman looked at me like she was shocked – SHOCKED – that someone would still be in their room at 8:30 in the morning before hastily going onto the next room before I could even get a word in edgewise. I’m not sure if that made the situation worse or just more confusing.

I get dressed again and go downstairs to the lobby, pour over their menu for a few seconds and approach the counter. After unsuccessfully trying to explain to the cashier that I wanted a decaf flavored coffee, I was ready to leave empty-handed, but a lucky break in communication meant I got my decaf iced mocha. Unfortunately, it tasted like chocolate flavored water, so I ended up throwing half of it out.

Interestingly enough, the boy cleaning the tables was… the same hot blonde haired boy from PCH last night (whose his badge says his name is “Luke”).

I got the nerve to speak to him and before I could finish the question (which disappointed me since I thought I was doing a decent job keeping my composure), he shrugged and said “yeah, they cross-trained me here as well” (I was GOING to say “I thought you worked evenings”).

I wanted to wish him goodbye, but I didn’t see a point to it as he’s working here and I’m leaving today. Thus, we will never meet again… which makes me sad, but that’s how these things work. Besides, my Lyft driver was outside.

I arrived at Orange County Airport (SNA), and saw a few nice hats and sweatshirts in the CNN Store next to the empty security line…but then I remembered how much trouble I had fitting that silly character hat into my bag this morning so I decided to forgo BOTH of them (the blue/grey “California” beanie for $21.95 would have fit in my regular bag).

Anyway, I passed through the metal detectors and checked the monitors and this old man came up beside me, asked what flight number I was on was and told me what I had already seen “gate 7.”

“So, how far is this ‘gate 7?'”

He pointed to a large rectangular sign directly behind me (which I honestly hadn’t seen yet as I was literally still holding my shoes in my left hand) with a black “7” on it, shrugged and said “you’re standing in it.”

I take a seat, put my shoes and rucksack back on and head to the McDonald’s across from the sign. It wasn’t a great breakfast, but it was better than starving myself all day.

I throw my bag out and return to the gate area. There are no open seats left, and there are no outlets that I could see along the floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

There appears to be a charging station at the next gate, but with my phone at 58% power and my flight boarding in 20 minutes. This appears to be a good time to end this post and power down for the day…

Categories: adventures, California, Disneyland Resort, Disneys Resort Hotels, flying, Orange County Airport (SNA), transportation

The most popular attraction of the day

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Seriously, there was a surprisingly large crowd around these two for the longest time.

Categories: adventures, California, Disneyland Resort, photography | Leave a comment

Travel denied

I got off the plane in LAX at 5:30pm, and made my way to ground transportation so I can find the Disneyland Express check-in area (as I was expecting large kiosk area)…but I couldn’t find one, so I did the unthinkable – I asked someone. They didn’t know, but the next person was able to look it up in her binder…but couldn’t tell me anything about prices or check-in procedures, just to “wait under the orange signs. They run hourly, so the 6pm one should be by shortly.”

I go outside, find one of the orange signs, and while I was looking for the huge blue/yellow Magical Express buses, a white mini-van (not to be confused with a “Minnie Van” in Orlando) with a pink “Disneyland” logo (that I barely saw amidst all the other logos) appears, and before I could process this, they were gone.

Was I under the right platform? Did I not move fast enough? Am I supposed to flag them down like a cab? I don’t know, but I had two more vans pull up to a rolling stop and then shoot off as I approached them. That’s when I remembered, that Disney’s contract with Super Shuttle expires tonight, so the drivers have exactly zero incentive to pick-up or drop-off passengers.

That’s how I ended up on a LAXit bus to the Ride Share at 9:00 at night, going through the narrow rope maze past somewhat bored looking employees (like everyone else in LA are hawt af) before arriving at my Lyft vehicle. Why spend $35 for a shuttle when I can spend $53 on an over-glorified taxi?

But, at least now – 10:35 at night – I’m back in the resort (finally). Tomorrow is when the magic starts…

Categories: adventures, California, Disneyland express, flying, transportation | Leave a comment

Down the rabbit hole

I woke up for the first time in months without pain and feeling totally refreshed. It was PERFECT… until a few minutes ago.

Then I picked up the phone just so they wouldn’t leave a pre-recorded message on my machine (which doesn’t let me delete messages because it’s a cheap pos) when OMG this happened:

“Hi, is this Jonathan?”

A live person wants to talk to me!

“Hi, Mr. Twaay-gear? I’m calling to let you know we can reduce your property insure…”

Of course.

Less then thirty minutes into my day, and it’s already ruined.

It’s not her fault. She has a job to do, and she clearly likes it as much as I do… but she just HAD to say: “n-no, don’t hang up! If you give us the make/model of the car you drive, we can also save you…”

I’m flattered that she thinks I can drive… even if its SOLELY so she can make money off it, but the emotional rabbit hole she effectively threw me into was what derailed my otherwise perfect morning,

The rabbit hole with various side burrows and booby traps, think of it like Oak Island in reverse. The worst part is I never know what’s going to trigger said hole – and then once I’m in it…

Good luck getting out of it, all on your own, without any help from anyone.

That’s the part that REALLY hurts me.

Sure, I can often distract myself for a moment or two but as long as it has even a little of my attention, I’m not out of it yet. It helps that these side burrows often lead to sad/traumatic memories often from years ago that I was never “allowed” to feel because that’s just not how teens/adults deal with things.

Nope.

The supposedly “correct” order of operations is: Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or some combination thereof… and if all else fails therapy. The problem was, once my parents decided to get the latter for me, the school they sent me to didn’t provide the “safe, therapeutic environment” mentioned in their brochure.

No, you had to stick to THEIR script (whether it was true or not) and then they would flip anything you said against you without any help or guidance on their part. Cleaning up the mess they caused is YOUR responsibility not theirs. In fact, the closest thing they gave me to a “tool” was:

You want to know what’s causing all of your problems? Look in a fucking mirror.”

Deep man. Really deep…. unfortunately, it’s not very, you know, helpful. I’ve tried looking in mirrors. All I see is a fat, ugly dude who needs to shave more often. I, however, have yet to find any SOLUTIONS there.

Yes, I know I look ridiculous ranting in a mirror about lowering the insurance rates on a car I don’t have but am expected to have anyway JUST so if I got hit by a car I can say “I lost my car and license after a really bad accident but I continued paying anyway just in case this happened.” To which they’d inevitably say, “you’re an IDIOT” – and they’d be right!

But nope, at least FOUR people at the hospital asked me for MY car insurance – even though I was the VIC… Oh, sorry, wouldn’t you know it? She has other calls to make.

In the meantime, my reflection and I have to find my own way out of this damned rabbit hole…

Categories: Autism, BYAS (Benchmark Transitions), California, ramblings, Redlands\Yucaipa | Leave a comment

A pal and a confidant

A Facebook page called “Queertism” shared a link to a poem they found on “The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism” about the heartbreaking realization that a new “friend” is only using you for school credit and will go back to hanging out with the cool kids when their “assignment” is over.

Well, I was one of those “assigned friends” as a student at Benchmark Transitions (formerly Benchmark Young Adult School). It was supposed to make the arrogant douchebag (who made zero effort to hide his annoyance with me or his assignment) I was “assigned” more humble. It didn’t.

That’s the primary reason why I refused to participate in “Best Buddies Day” in college (“make a friend for life,” by using them as a prop to feel good about yourself for a day), and “Disabilities Awareness” merit badge in Scouting (which now only requires you to “…spend a day with a disabled scout…” [3a]), and while I cringe at Allistic Scouts explaining disabilities to their troop/pack (5a), it has added a new requirement about “pledging to show a positive attitude about people with disabilities” (req. 6).

Thank you for reading this, and, as always, thank you for being a friend…

Categories: Advocacy\volunteer, Autism, BYAS (Benchmark Transitions), California, Redlands\Yucaipa, scouting | Leave a comment

Labor Day updates

  • You may have noticed, but I posted pictures from Chicago, but not from Disneyland. The reason for that is because objectively, the best photos I took there were taken a) in Cars Land and b) all my non-Cars Land photos were already posted to my Facebook page (seriously, 26 “followers” and only 5 “likes?” Actually, they’re BOTH terrible numbers. 😦 ). I was going to post the pictures from Cars Land today, but..
  • My laptop died on Friday evening (of a holiday weekend no less) so I’m typing this from a back-up laptop which isn’t as nice, fast or as functional (in other words, the computer version of me), but it’s a LOT better than trying to type this from my phone.
  • I was going to post recaps of my disastrous Chicago trip (because that’s kinda my theme here), but frankly I’d rather just let that go and focus on the few good pictures I have.
Categories: announcements, California, Chicago, Disneyland Resort, Illinois, news, photography | Leave a comment

Disneyland: Day 2

~8:55am – Called into PCH Grill for my breakfast reservation, and am guided over to get my photo with Mickey in front of his lifeguard stand. I was hoping to make “The U” with my hands like last time, but that pose never came up. The frogger asked to me do another pose, but I blanked on how to do it so I look dumb and confused in my photo (see below).

~9:06am – Not 30 seconds after putting my food on the table and sitting down, a sales agent comes to my table, pushes my photo right up to the edge of my plate and starts telling me how much I REALLY want to only spend $36.95 on my “special commemorative photo with Mickey so I can remember this trip with my family for years to come.” That’s great, but my food is getting cold. I ask him to put it on My Disney Experience and he said no “at Disneyland Resort Hotels character photos are linked with the Disney Dining PhotoPass card” (?) so all I had to do was show him that card (which I could buy from him for an additional $39.95) and he’d be glad to process my “once-in-a-lifetime picture” with the great mouse himself.

So in review, in order to actually eat my food and get my photo with Mickey I need to pay for my meal $35 ($42 with tax) plus $39.95 for the photo package PLUS an additional $36.95 for the photo itself. That’s…$111.90… for two glossy 4×7 photos in an equally glossy paperboard frame. Um, no thanks.

~9:18am – Minnie passes by my table, and poses for pictures with the family sitting at the table next to me. Honestly, I’m not here to see her, but she did “kiss” my hair on her way bac towards the stage area.

~9:25am – My favorite Hawaiian alien “dog” comes by my table, which I am overly-excited about as he intentionally walked right past my table on my last visit (I KNOW he saw me because he stopped at the tables to my immediate left and right) but since I’m dining alone and both Mickey and the PhotoPass friends are on “surf break,” I have no-one to take my picture with him (happens to me a lot in Florida too). Eventually, I corral a somewhat reluctant server into taking our pictures, and Stitch leaves to do his hourly “Surf Rock with the Kids” dance in front of Mickey’s backdrop.

~9:38am – I watch Stitch do his dance with maybe a half-dozen kids as I wait for my server to bring my check around. He drops it off at my table just as Daisy who like Minnie “kisses” my hair as I wait for him to return so I can officially start my day.

10:18am – Enter park and head immediately to Soarin’ around the World. I love hearing people complain about the “30-minute wait.” Do you know what you call a “30-minute” wait for Soarin’ at Epcot? A walk on!

11:04am – Speaking of which, I left Soarin’ and literally walked right onto both “Journey of the Little Mermaid” (which is EXACTLY like it’s MK counterpart) and “The Golden Zephyr.” I also got my photo taken in front of Grizzly Peak, and when I told him about what happened earlier, he sent me to “the photo shop on Main Street” to resolve it.

12:03pm – Left “The Golden Zephyr” and went across the pathway to Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta where I had the most dried out, disgusting and flat-out inedible “pizza” I’ve had in my life. Seriously, my high school cafeteria could take lessons from whoever made that pie. Yep, $7.95 and I threw it away after three bites.

~1:25pm – Took the wrong path out of Paradise Pier (I was trying to get to Cars Land), but ended up in Carthay Circle instead. That was where I was told they could solve the PhotoPass problems from this morning. It took a while to find it as it was tucked into the back corner of another shop and was only really accessible from a small door next to the lockers (!), but once I explained the problem to the woman at the counter and she was able to do what the sales agent (whose job is to sell photos for as much money as possible) and manager (probably going on what the sales agent was telling him) from this morning couldn’t – in less than 30 seconds!!!

~1:57pm – Leave Photopass shop with printed copy of my photo (I only asked for the digital), and head down the opposite side of the circle towards “Monsters Inc. Mike and Sully to the Rescue” where the greeter noticed I was traveling alone and handed me a yellow card and told me to go “directly through the exit to the right” (same thing that happened to me at Indie yesterday).

~2:19pm – Turtle Talk with Crush (show actually started at 12:38pm, but I wanted to get out of the sun).

~2:56pm – Starbucks break (there’s nothing quite like a cold drink on such a miserably hot day)

~3:45pm – Enter Cars Land and get in the ridiculously short line for “Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree” (which is basically a slow moving whip ride) before skipping the Flying Tires or whatever it is now and headed over to the main attraction: “Radiator Springs Racers!”

~4:01pm – I couldn’t read the sign for the wait on Single Riders and one of the four CMs standing there (a cute boy with blonde hair) told me it was “20 minutes, um, maybe 15” so if you don’t hear from me for a while then you know where to find me…

~4:31pm – Exit RSR and follow the road into A Bug’s Land. Judging by the times on the Disneyland app this shouldn’t take very long – particularly since I couldn’t stand that movie. Ian at Flik’s Flyers however rawr (a trait he shared with Ryan the “grouper” over at RSR).

~5:13pm – Back in Hollywood Land where I am nearly caught in the ropes they were setting up for the afternoon parade.

~5:24pm – Decide not to leave the park immediately and instead ate dinner at the Smokejumpers’ Grill (next to Soarin’ Around the World). I know it’s quick service, but it can’t possibly be worse than the pizza I had for lunch.

~5:47pm – Exit park through the nearby Grand Californian entrance. It’s a bit early to leave the park, but my feet are killing me, my thighs are so red it literally HURTS to walk and most importantly of all I have a recap to write…

Categories: adventures, California, Disneys California Adventure, entertainment | Leave a comment

Disneyland: Day 1

9:47am – Pass under the famous placard coming out onto the iconic Main Street USA. This is my third time visiting this park, and it’s still exciting.

11:12am – I am on fire here (or at least my thighs are) hitting Jungle Cruise, Indie and Pirates within the hour. Now, I’m looking for lunch, but I’m really wanting to eat in Critter Country or Frontierland or New Orleans Square so I’m forced to backtrack to Adventureland…

11:27am – I have an extremely disappointing chicken skewer at Bengal Bistro before circling back around to Critter Country again where I meet my longtime imaginary boyfriend Jacob who warmly greets me as I enter the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (Haunted Mansion was closed and the line for Splash Mountain was too long). His warm smile and friendly tone pretty much made my visit.

12:49pm – Photographed my way through Critter Country and Frontierland before hitting a line wall around Fantasyland with 35 minute waits for Canal Boats, Casey Jr. and Alice in Wonderland (though they were all closer to 20 minutes), but I passed on Matterhorn with its 45-minute wait. Some things aren’t worth it.

1:55pm – Get off Casey Jr., check the time on my phone (watch is broken) and rushed as fast as the 20 families with double strollers in front of me would let me to the Fantasyland Theatre to just to find out they didn’t have shows of Mickey and the Hawt As- I mean “Mickey and the Magic Map” on Tuesdays.

2:21pm – Console myself with some popcorn outside It’s a Small World (45 minutes), passed under the shuttered railroad and got into line for Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin. The wait time was about 35 minutes but the 3 -year behind me wouldn’t stop screaming about the dark and scary lighting in the queue area. So even if it was only 25 minutes, it felt like 2 hours (do kids that age actually breathe?)

3:15pm – Skipped Matterhorn again as I wandered into Tommowland (not to be confused with the shitty film of the same name) where the Finding Nemo submarine ride had a 50-minute wait which doesn’t make sense to me but that might be because it scared the literal shit out of the 50 or so toddlers on board the sub with me (causing their already deafening screams to reverberate throughout the tiny cabin freaking them even more).

4:19pm – As I passed under the famous sign under Main Street station, I realized I didn’t have any reservations for dinner tonight so I walked back to Guest Services and the agent told me that he couldn’t get me any times for 6:30 as “the window has passed.” He was able to get me reservations for breakfast tomorrow at PCH Grill so it wasn’t completely wasted.

4:37pm –  Left park, and passed through the lengthy stretch of green security tents heading back to Downtown Disney… only to find myself in a massive parking lot. The only way out of said parking lot (on foot anyway) was…that’s right, I need to rescreened by people who literally saw me leave 30 seconds ago. Fortunately, unlike that time I got the wrong gate at MCO, the screeners were quite friendly (and dare I say cute), but I wasn’t really in the mood to notice.

4:52pm – Inquire about reservations at the first restaurant I come to past security. It wasn’t exactly my first choice, but they said they could get me in at 6:30pm so I took it.

5:50pm – I spent about 25 minutes in my room, mostly editing photos from earlier today. I can’t connect to hotel Wi-Fi with my laptop so I’ll have to post them when I get back to Orlando. I looked over at the clock next to the bed, grabbed by room key off the desk and dashed out.

6:15pm – Arrived at restaurant on far side of Downtown Disney. I was 20 minutes early, but they seated me immediately. That was the extent of their good service, aside from a bored busser dropping some stale rolls on my table while I was looking at the more limited than I expected menu. The food however wasn’t bad.

7:10pm – I bought some ice cream from the Hagen Daz near the breezeway connecting the district to the Grand Californian Resort. I checked my phone, and considered going back into the park to ride all the rides I skipped earlier just to find out that my park pass was back in the room. Just as well, this recap wasn’t writing itself…

Categories: adventures, California, Disneyland Resort, entertainment | Leave a comment

Photo: Understatement of the year

60years

Categories: California, cartoons\memes, Disneyland Resort | Leave a comment

Memories of an unpaid janitor

Consumerist is reporting that Applebee’s in Rhode Island “forgot” to pay an Autistic line cook for a full year despite he and his parents filing the proper paperwork numerous times. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud them for hiring him, but not paying him is inexcusable!

Yes, I know people with Autism are supposed to be cold, unfeeling and incapable of empathy, but I’ve seen this shit first hand too many damned times – and I’m not talking about just freelance writing gigs (which are already notorious for not paying up – heck, The Baltimore Guardian fired me just for asking).

I was just finishing my last semester at Crafton Hills Community College and finishing the last of my requirements for Benchmark Young Adult School (now called “Benchmark Transitions”) while working about 10 hours a week for Redlands McDonalds. Unfortunately, the day before I was set to begin “real employment” for them (rather than the supposedly standard “30 day trial period” that only I was offered) I was called to the break room at the end of my shift and summarily fired for being “stupid, incompetent and the WORST damned employee EVER in [the] history of this company” (but no concrete, specific REASON for my dismissal).

Unfortunately, it took me over six months of daily searching just to get that job and it was the ONLY reason BYAS was letting me graduate. Okay, I did anyway (on Aug 9, 2001), but it was more of a “good riddance” than a “good-bye” graduation. It was also the last time I had anything remotely resembling a “friend.” No wonder I’m so damned lonely all the time.

Anyway, in order to keep my hastily arranged graduation “on-schedule,” then “Director of Student Services” Joelle Walters (also my “Primary Counselor” for most of my time there) called me into her expansive corner office to tell me she was starting me on the school’s semi-official Non-Federal Work Study type program which consisted of “assisting” in their woodshop.

It wasn’t much: 3½ hours per day, two days per week at an even $5 per hour (slightly below minimum wage at the time) but it was easy work and kept my cookie cut-I mean “custom individualized program” going as scheduled…or so I thought.

I can’t say if this is still true or not, but when I attended BYAS Tuesday was a “special” day: the day students could – barring any outstanding fines – get their weekly “money requests” from Toni (Director of Student Accounts). Most students used said money to buy cigarettes, but a fair number of us would pull our money together to buy a large pie from the small pizzeria in the plaza on the opposite site of the Redlands Blvd there in Loma Linda (the receipt going back to Toni in the office – the last time I ever NEEDED a receipt for something).

Anyway, after several weeks of working there, I went to see in the Student Accounts office as scheduled and she just looked at me blankly.

“Sorry, hon,” she said with her smooth Southern accent. “You don’t have any money for me to give you.”

“I should, I’ve been working over at Building Trades for the past several weeks.”

“I don’t know nothing about that. You’ll need to talk with Deborah about that, and then you can come back to see me.”

The whole point of both BYAS (and likely “Benchmark Transitions” as well) and its NF-WSP is to teach young adults about RESPONSIBILITY so, of course, then “Dean of Student Affairs” Deborah Kennedy would set an example for her students by resolving this unfortunate situation in a mature, professional manner befitting her position.

“I have no clue what you’re talking about,” Ms. Kennedy said in her strong Southern accent. “We don’t pay our ‘workers,’ and I know for a fact that Joelle isn’t STUPID enough to say we do!”

That was a total LIE as “work hours” was the backbone of the schools work-education and one of the chief tenants of their financial-education programs at the time.

She then goes on to chastise me for coming to her without any “documentation” of my work contract then thus surmising that said agreement was “pure hearsay.”

“That means,” she said with a giant “fuck you” grin. “It’s YOUR ‘word’ versus mine and as the Dean of this school, I know whose word I’m taking in this manner.

“Now,” she continued her tone suddenly serious. “We are NOT discussing this matter again, and if you say another word, I WILL fine you and I know you will NOT like it! Now GO!”

The line cook above is now getting the money he’s owed…or at least half of it. Meanwhile, my five months of sweeping floors for free remains as uncredited “volunteer work” and probably always will be…

Categories: Autism, BYAS (Benchmark Transitions), California, editorials, job hunting, news, Redlands\Yucaipa | Leave a comment

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