Friday, August 17th The Magic Kingdom Marathon and the Great Shrimp Smack-Down Larry and I were up at 7:30 to make it to Hollywood Studios by opening time. I called Ed as soon as we were up, and called Michael and John at 8:00 (Ed gets the Mr. Clean award as he likes to take very long showers). Apparently Michael and John fell back asleep until 8:25 but got ready at the speed of sound and were ready to go at 8:45. We drove to Hollywood Studios and I parked in the medical parking area so I didnt have to mess with trying to wangle my knee into a tram. The bag check line was way shorter than it had been on Tuesday and we were through the gates shortly after 9:00. I decided that Id go with John to the auditions this morning so I could see the process, so Larry and Michael headed for Star Tours while John and I went to the American Idol auditions. There was a nightmare of a woman and her daughter/niece/neighbor (who looked to be about sixteen) who arrived at the audition entrance right as John and I got there. Lets just call the young girl Allison for the sake of this report. Anyway, we all had to wait outside the building for a couple of minutes while a CM asked who was going to be auditioning (Allison and John) and how old they were. The CM then let us all in the audition building together where we were greeted by another CM. John and I stopped right inside the door next to the CM, while nightmare mom just barged on through and headed for the next room. The CM had to call them back to where John and I were standing. Nightmare mom rolled her eyes and said, It didnt look like there was anything important in this room so I thought we were supposed to go on. The CM was very polite and said, Yes, but your American Idol Experience starts here and I have a few things that I need to tell you. He began his spiel but nightmare mom interrupted and said, Can we get some water for Allison? We had to walk a mile and a half to get here this morning. *Sigh* Lord, grant me patience. Because if you give me strength, Im gonna need bail money to go with it. I think people could actually HEAR my eyes rolling in my head. The CM nicely explained that he did not have any water and, if they wanted to get some, they would need to step outside. You could see nightmare mom mentally calculating the consequences of leaving the building and allowing John and myself to get ahead of her. Apparently, she came to the conclusion that Allison was going to have to suck it up and sing without water. The poor CM managed to finally finish his spiel but not before nightmare mom informed us not once, but twice, that Allison hadnt sang HERE before but she HAD auditioned for the REAL American Idol. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt her, but it was still on the list. Meanwhile, nightmare moms competitiveness was ratcheted up to a level bordering on psychosis. She kept looking over and John and me and then looking back at Allison, then looking at John and me and looking at Allison. I half expected her to take a boxers stance and issue a challenge: Come at me, bro! I was not looking at her so hard I might as well have been staring. I think I could have taken her. Next, we were taken to a couple of soundproof rooms where the first auditions were to take place. There were already hopefuls in both of the rooms so we were instructed to wait outside until we were called. Nightmare mom may have mentioned again that Allison had already auditioned for the REAL American Idol. After about a five minute wait, John and I were called into one of the rooms. The CM asked him a few questions about what he was going to sing for her and what, if any, training he had had. John sang a verse or two of his song and then the CM gave him some feedback. She seemed to really know what she was talking about. In fact, I was impressed with all of the CMs working at the auditions. They all seemed genuinely interested in helping the contestants and they were all very knowledgeable. She had John sing Use Somebody and then recommended If Everyone Cared (Im Alive) by Nickelback so John sang that as well. She told John she was putting him through to the next round (woohoo!) and then also suggested that he might try Drops of Jupiter by Train, but in the alternate key. She told John that she had noticed that when he sings, he closes his eyes. She said that he needed to open his eyes and sing to the audience instead of singing to himself. When we left the audition room, John was given an iPod and headphones so he could practice his songs. There were quite a few people in the practice room singing. So many, in fact, that there was only room for contestants in the chairs that were there; we parents/guardians/managers were all standing up and milling around. It was very interesting listening to all the contestants practice. They all have headphones on, so they arent really aware of whats going on around them. One kid was belting our Circle of Life (apparently, its quite popular) while two young men were having the Battle of the Bubles in the cornerone singing Just Havent Met You Yet while the other sang Sway (Dance with Me). We had to wait quite a while before we got in to sing in front of the producer. During that time I got to see a variety of emotions when people came out of the audition roomssome happy, some disappointed, some very sad. The worst, I thought, were the ones where two siblings both auditioned and only one made it. Its a hard line to walk to show elation for one childs results and sadness for the others. We eventually got to go in to the producers room. He had John sing both songs with the backing tracks. He, too, was very kind and helpful. In the end, he didnt put John through to the show. He said that the dynamics of the shows were different every day and he just didnt think that John would be a good fit for todays shows. He said that they had seen way more than the normal amount of people auditioning today and the shows were filling up quickly. He told John that he needed to work more on connecting with his audience and that John needed to quit singing in the shower and get out and sing in front of people every chance he got because that would give him more confidence and experience. Before we left he told John that, although he didnt put John in the show, he was still impressed with his singing and he gave John five Fast Passes for any attraction at Hollywood Studios. John took the critique well and didnt seem too terribly disappointed. I suppose its a valuable lesson whether you advance or not because you have to learn that youre not always going to be picked and not everyone is going to love you. After our rejection, we were literally shown the door. I was kind of hoping to see how poor little Allison did. She seemed a very nice young lady and she had a good voice. I just felt sorry for her having to be saddled with that train-wreck of a guardian. I would have liked to watch the finale for that night to see if anyone we knew made it through. We called Larry and Michael and found out they were at Rock n Rollercoaster. After they rode Star Tours, they had pulled four Fast Passes for Tower of Terror and had then ridden RnRC using the Single Rider queue. I needed to get something to eat so I could take my knee medicine so we told them to meet us at Starring Rolls. By the time I got my bagel and diet coke, Michael and Larry had shown up. Michael and John decided to go make use of the Tower of Terror Fast Passes while Larry headed off to do the Backstage Tour. While I was eating my bagel, Ed called and said he was just arriving at the park. I told him where I was and we eventually met up after he had walked right past me twice. Michael and John soon showed back up after having ridden Tower of Terror twice. Larry soon squelched up as well. He had volunteered for the battle at sea simulation on the Backlot Tour and, even though he had a rain slicker on, he looked like the sea had definitely won. This was the day we were supposed to meet up with Scoobydooby and her family, so we gave her a call and found out that they were just down the road at Fairfax Fare. We told them we had a table at Starring Rolls so they said theyd be down in a minute. John and Ed decided to go check out the Backlot Tour for themselves while Michael decided to go to the Great Movie Ride. They did all want to hang around when they found out that Scoobydooby had a daughter, but I shooed them off saying that her daughter was only around 10 years old and that was WAY too young! Scoobydooby and family soon arrived and we had a really pleasant hour or so chatting with them about all things Disney, British, and American. I know it did Larry good to be able to talk with some sensible British folks for awhile instead of all of us milkshake-swilling, Elvis-loving, capitalistic pig Americans that hes surrounded by on a daily basis. Hopefully, well get to meet up with them again sometime. After we said our good-byes to the Doobys, it was time for some lunch. The boys showed back up and we all went to the ABC Commissary. The sensible Brits both had the Chicken Curry, while Team Milkshake Swillers all had the cheeseburger (with a couple of fried shrimp on top for whatever reason. Bizarre but, hey, free shrimp!). While we were eating the skies opened up and it started pouring down rain thus making an already crowded ABC Commissary even more claustrophobic. The boys decided that they could make the dash to Toy Story Midway Mania without getting too wet and thereby use Johns Fast Passes from his American Idol audition so the guys all went there for a quick ride. After they came back we made our way out of the park to go back to the hotel and rest a bit before dinner. Ed opted for a nap because his flight home was leaving at 8:00am the next morning so he had to catch the Magical Distress at the frightful time of 5:15am. Michael and John both became absorbed in their respective electrical devices of the moment. Larry napped while I iced my knee and watched TV. With ice. I iced my knee with ice, not frosting. That would just be weird. I always hate the last day before you have to head for home. I was getting a little case of the blues thinking about everything that I had wanted to accomplish on this trip and how little of it I had actually done because of my knee. I wanted this to be the perfect trip for John and Michaels graduation and I was worried that they hadnt had enough fun, that I hadnt shown them enough, that we were leaving things undone, that the Disney magic was gone... I think that, with a Disney trip more than any other, your expectations are always so high that sometimes you cant help but feel a little disappointed as the trip winds down. Larry gave me a little pep talk saying that everyone was having a great time and that the Disney magic was just as strong as it ever was. He also told me to cowboy up and put a smile on my face because we were leaving for dinner to celebrate John and Michaels graduation in five minutes. Good advice, Kimosabe. Good advice. We left the ASMO at 7:50 to drive to the Polynesian for our dinner at Ohana. It was raining a little and we had a bit of trouble finding a parking spot. Inside the Great Ceremonial House, Larry and I went to check our party in at Ohana. John and Ed both showed up wearing leis that theyd gotten from the front desk. Michael and John went off to look at the volcano pool while Ed, Larry, and I found a few chairs to wait in. Michael and John soon joined us right as we were called to our table. We were led to our table at the back of the restaurant right by windows which looked out onto the Magic Kingdom. The hostess left us with a loaf of warm pineapple-coconut bread and the parade o food began. Our server quickly came over and took our drink order. I forget what John ordered to drink, but I asked the server if he would put one of these glow cube ice cubes in Johns glass. All week long, every time we passed a cart or store selling something neon, John would go over and look at it; he loves things that glow. (Just as an example, he has a glowing Frisbee and the ceiling of his room at home is covered with glow-in-the-dark stars.) When they brought the drinks out, the look on Johns face was priceless. Who would have thought that a three dollar plastic cube could bring such joy? We had devoured our bread so they brought us some more when they brought out the salad. I adore the salad at Ohanas. Its just mixed greens but they put some kind of crack cocaine dressing on it that leaves you craving the stuff. The Honey Coriander Chicken Wings and the Pot stickers soon followed and everyone began eating in earnest. The Lo Mein noodles arrived about the same time as the meat started coming. I rarely ever eat the steak, pork, or chickenpreferring to save as much room as possible to the shrimpand tonight was no exception. The guys; however, were very much into the meat. Once they brought the first skewers of shrimp around though, John jumped ship from the meat, declared the shrimp the best he had ever had, and never looked back. By the end of the meal, John had eaten FORTY shrimp. I kid you not. To put this in perspective for you, I ate eleven shrimp and I was very, very full. John, whos about five-foot nine and weighs maybe 110 pounds soaking wet, ate FORTY of them. FORTY. As many shrimp as Ali Baba had thieves. As many shrimp as days and nights it rained on Noahs Ark. As many shrimp as WD has formulas. As many shrimp as Smith & Wesson have calibers. As many shrimp as newly freed slaves were promised acres (without the mule). I think you get my drift: he ate A LOT of shrimp. Between the main course and dessert, the Wishes firework show at the Magic Kingdom began. They dimmed the lights in the restaurant and cued up the music and we had a good view of the fireworks. The meal we had that night is destined to go down as one of the best meals Ive ever had at Disney. Not just because of the food, but because all of the metaphoric planets aligned to create a perfect meal. The food was great, the company was great, the setting was great, and everyone was in a good mood. It was at that exact moment as we watched Wishes that I had an epiphany. Its not that every moment at Disney has to be perfect. In fact, I can guarantee that they wont be. Life is not perfect. Its just that when it all comes together in one perfect momentfireworks bursting overhead, Wishes playing in the background, Michael and John scooting their chairs over next to me, Ed and Larry leaning in head to head for a better view, bellies full of good food, everyone satisfied, everyone smiling, everyone enjoying that one specific momentits Magic. And then Wishes was over. The music stopped, the lights went up and the moment was gone. But the memory of that one magical moment and the feeling of perfection or magic or whatever you want to call it was still there. And its that feeling that will, God willing, keep us coming back to Disney until the day we die. Our servers brought over leis for everyone and brought us the check. It was 10:30 by now and the Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom were ticking by. I told the guys to go ahead and go to the Magic Kingdom and I would settle up the bill; time was a wastin! They hurried on their way with John stopping to ask, Could you please get two more of those glow cubes for me, Aunt Robin? I told him I would and called out John needs to ride Its A Small World! as they took off for the monorail. I paid for the meal and got the requested glow cubes. I drove back to the ASMo and looked around in the gift shop for a bit before going to our room. They guys got back round 2:00. They had accomplished a lot in their final push to get John on classic rides he had never been on and that did, indeed, include Its A Small World. Magic. Saturday, August 18th The Closing Ceremony Eds plan for the morning, after not getting back to the hotel until 2:00am, was to just stay awake, get all of his packing finished, and be ready for the Tragical Express at 5:15am. Unfortunately, in one of those no-so-perfect moments that I talked about yesterday, the reality was that Ed fell asleep almost as soon as he got back to his room so, when I called him to be sure he was up at 4:30, he was asleep with absolutely no packing done. Well, thats what adrenalines for. Larry went to Eds room to spur him on but Larry couldnt take the suspense and drama so he came back to our room to leave Ed to do the packing on his own terms. Larry went back to Eds room at 5:05 and managed to get Ed and his luggage on the bus in time. Larry got back to the room at 5:30. I didnt think wed be able to go back to sleep after the excitement of making the bus, but sleep we did until 8:00. We got up and began our own packing. I called over to John and Michaels room and got them moving as well. We were all packed and loaded in the car by just a few minutes after 9:00. Our plan for the morning was to have breakfast at Wolfgang Pucks Express in Downtown Disney before hitting the road for home. We drove to Downtown Disney and quickly found a parking place. At Wolfgang Pucks I had the bacon breakfast pizza, Larry had the spinach omelet, Michael had the Crispy Cornflake French Toast, and John had the Chocolate Chip Waffles. This was my first time trying the breakfast pizza (last time I had the Cornflake French Toast and I had a hard time not ordering it again). It was very good and very big. I gave a piece each to Larry, John, and Michael and still had plenty for me. After breakfast, we still had a meal credit each and a couple of snack credits so we went to Goofys Candy Company to use the snack credits and then went to Earl of Sandwich to get sandwiches to put in our cooler for lunch later down the road. We finally set off for home around 11:00. It was a bit later start than we wanted, but the time at Downtown Disney was a nice way to ease into the long drive home. And the drive home WAS long. And tedious. (So, I wont bore you with all the details here although many Bothans died to bring us this information.) The lowlight of the trip was the fact that, for some reason, my knee ached like the dickens when I sat in the passenger seat of the car. Sitting in the back seat was out of the question because I still couldnt bend my knee enough to get in the back. That left me with the option of a) sitting in the passenger seat with my knee aching or, b) driving, so I drove a tremendous amount of the time. The highlight of the trip home was stopping around twilight on Saturday in Biloxi, Mississippi to let John splash around in the Gulf for a bit and walk on a real beach. We all enjoyed stretching our legs and John got to cross something off his bucket list. Everybody wins. We spent the night in Baton Rouge, got up early and hit the road, and made it to my moms house Sunday evening around 10:00 where we dropped off the boys and picked up the dog. We were home and in bed by midnight.