Monday, October 31, 2016

We Did Not Choose to Adopt

"What are your plans for having children?" Pastor Daniel Teerman asked us.

Andrea and I looked at each other. "We had planned on having four kids," she explained to the man who was to perform our wedding.

I "finished her sandwich" (Frozen humor): "We'd like to adopt two and have two of our own," I explained.

We didn't know what our future journey would hold...

Five years later, 900 miles away, and after many failed attempts at trying to get pregnant, Andrea and I contacted a local adoption agency.

We went through the numerous papers, compulsory doctor's checkups, social worker visits, fire marshal assessment, and telephone calls from people recommending that we were "fit to be parents," we finally got the process started with...twenty-four hours of professional development and the creation of a home study.

We learned about how to give kids medication, how to log the medication we administered, how to deal with their separation anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, what to do in case they threw poop at you or tried to burn your house down, and how to facilitate meetings with the birth parents.

At this point, we questioned whether foster care and adoption was for us.

We prayed about it and the doors continued to open. We finished our trainings and paperwork, and then the day came.

We were approved to be a foster home! Now we just had to...


Over the course of the next several months, we would hear on occasion from our social workers and other social workers from the agency to be placements for various kids. They would call us up, give us a brief description of the child (age, gender, race, and whatever medical information was available), and we would have to give them a split second decision.

Because my wife and I are one and work in accordance to one another, I would hang up, calling her as quickly as possible to let her know.

By the time I was able to call the social worker back and give them the thumbs up for us, they would often tell us that the child had been given to another couple.

After several months of this, as well as the continued lack of success conceiving, we became very discouraged by the entire scenario. At one point I even spent forty-five minutes on the phone with the director of the adoption agency, who encouraged us that she would personally find us a child, but that it would just take time to find that perfect fit for our family.

Then one day, we finally got a phone call.

A mother had given birth to a baby girl named Darla. Mom was an immigrant here from India, coming to America to have the baby. The child was brand new, less than a week old, and needed placement as quickly as possible. She had seen our profile and had chosen us as the family for her daughter that she could not care for, as she had conceived out of wedlock, something that was a big no-no in her home country. The agency had chosen us to take the baby while they got their ducks in a row. In the meantime, we began to outfit one of our three empty bedrooms, purchasing clothes, diaper bags, crib blankets, and changing tables. A week later we got a devastating phone call: because the child was born out of wedlock, the agency had to get the father's approval back in India. This would be a long process, and rather than having to work diplomatically across national borders and fearing legal repercussions, they had to retract the offer for the baby.

This was a hard blow for us. It was, to us, an adoption miscarriage: we had been promised a baby, were over the moon, and a week later told that the infant that was within arms reach would be taken away. We were devastated and lost all hope for a completed family.

A week later, we met with our social worker and she encouraged us to broaden what we would accept. We had previously been "in the market" for one child from ages 0-3 with no disabilities or special needs. We sat and talked and realized that as educators, we deal with students with special needs all day. We adjusted our certification and resubmitted it to the state. However, after losing Darla, we still had no hope.

A month or two later, we received an email from our social worker. The state had two little boys who needed a new placement out of a previous foster home. They were twins, three years old. One boy had gone through testing for developmental delays, while the other had had eye surgery and had vision difficulties. After reading the five page document about their background and medical history, we gave the okay, and the ball again started rolling. We learned that as of February 9, 2015, we would be bringing these two little boys into our home.

Excited, we told our biological families back home in Michigan, as well as our surrogate family we had created for ourselves in North Carolina, and the response was the same on all fronts. While everyone supported us, we got multiple questions: "Are you sure you want to do this?" "Is this something you can feasibly handle?" "Man, that seems like a lot of work." "Twins? Wow. Good luck to you." All of these people had felt for us in our infertility, but when we excitedly shared the news of our adoption, we could see through the feigned excitement of our family and friends. Only one set of our friends had the semblance of excitement for us. "Well, we haven't known you long, but we'll be here for you. We don't know what this is going to look like, but we will get through this together," the husband once told me.

Things began moving at a quick pace. We outfitted two bedrooms, converting the crib we had purchased for Darla into a twin bed, and purchasing a second bed set. Purchasing a few consigned toys and sets of clothes from a local store. My wife's school even threw an "adoption baby shower" for her. And as promised, on February 9, 2015, we picked our boys up from their previous child care and brought them home to us.

Due to my great principal, as well as the rare North Carolina winter conditions, I was able to score two weeks off from school for Paternity Leave, getting to know my boys. However, we were so stressed out that my wife and I spent the majority of those two weeks physically ill. We had taken these boys into our home, and had fallen in love with them instantly, but were we really able to handle being instant parents to a pair of three-year-old twins???

A few months later, we learned that the boys' 15-year-old sister needed a place to live, as she had basically gotten kicked out of her previous foster placement, as well; this was not due to anything she had done, but because her foster parents were not receiving the help (financially or otherwise) from the state. Wanting to keep the kids together, Andrea and I enthusiastically invited the young lady into our home. At this point, though, I was wigging out. She was 15, and I was 25. This was, to me, the equivalent of having one of my students move in with me. Would she even see me as a parent, or more of a peer? Was I qualified to be a parent to a 15-year-old? I mean, even I still saw myself as a kid-at-heart. I was struggling as it was being an instant parent to two kids, let alone a third who probably had pre-conceived notions about adults, let alone one only ten years her senior. And once again, when we talked to our parents, friends, and even our social worker about this, everyone asked us if we were really sure if this is what we wanted. However, after praying about it, we felt like it was the right thing to do. Once again, we were met with "Good lucks" and "May the Force be with you's."

Now let me explain something: Its not that our families and friends weren't supportive. They would support us no matter what decision we made. They just had reservations based on what society says "foster kids" and adoption is like. They had our best interests at heart. However, since the kids have moved in with us, our parents have fallen in love with the kids. My dad always says, half-jokingly, that he and my mom have been grandparents since they were in their 30s, they just didn't know it then.

Nonetheless, during the first week of June, 2015, the boys' older sister move in with us. And once again, she could not have fit in better with how we were as a family, both pre-established before the boys, as well as what we had created in our family of four after February.

The past year and nine months has not been easy. We've encountered a serious medical emergency (mine), deaths in the family, therapy sessions (as a family, for the kids, and for myself), and even growing pains for our new family as a whole.

However, we've come out of the fire each time stronger and more bonded as a whole.

But what's my point? Why did I decide to throw this out there? Let me tell you, it's not because I want to discourage anyone from adopting or fostering.

It's actually quite the opposite.

Yes, we've been through high-stress times. We went through a period of about three months where we were convinced the children's biological parents would appeal the decision to terminate their rights and ultimately have to say goodbye to these three kids we'd falling head-over-heels for. We've had to experience various "anniversaries" that have brought memories back to the minds of our kids, such as the dates they entered into foster care, or the deaths of important family members, or even the movement from one foster home to another. The biggest anniversary we've had, though, as a family, was on May 4, 2016: the day the kids' adoption was finalized and they officially became Kistes.

Here's my point:

Every time it comes up to someone that we have adopted, we get the same responses.

"Well good for you."
"Wow. You are awesome people."
"Well bless your hearts."
"I could never do something like that..."

How the heck do you respond to that????

Here's the thing. Andrea and I aren't awesome. Yes the road has been difficult, but even the events we've experienced the past 21 months that have nothing to do with the kids (my stroke, my mom and grandfather's cancer scares, deaths in the family, etc) have been just as, if not more, difficult than the challenges adopting three kids have brought. If anything, the challenges of becoming an instant parent has made me a better parent, as well as a better person. It's forced me to work out all the crap that I've forced down inside the past 28 years so I can have a positive influence on my kids in a hope they don't end up making the same mistakes that I've made.

But we're not saints. We're not awesome. We're just folks. We're just normal people.

We didn't choose to adopt. The choice was made for us.

We were told to adopt. Jesus said we "need to take care of the orphans and the widows." We simply followed God's plan for our life.

And even though things have been tough, both on the child front and on the personal front, with the devil trying to thwart the following of God's design, I would never go back to change anything.

I don't think any of the members of our family of five would. Our kids are awesome, all three of them. The boys are incredibly loving, and our daughter is incredibly smart, driven, kind-hearted, and caring for others. They may have been born from a biological set of parents, but they could not be more our kids if we had given birth to them ourselves.

So the next time I tell you that we've adopted, and you say to us something along the lines of "Wow. You guys are awesome," don't be surprised if Andrea or I respond with "No, we're not. We just do what God asks us to do."

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Mother Whale

Kthunk-kthunk. Kthunk-kthunk. Kthunk-kthunk. Kthunk-kthunk.


I glanced around. I scooted off the bench and grabbed onto the metal pole. Steadying myself, I ran a few steps over to the window and glanced out.

A large expanse of water stretched into the distance. I smushed my face against the glass and tried to look ahead in front of the train. I couldn't see anything. I turned my head to look behind the train without removing my head from the glass. The skin of my face squashed and stretched as I turned my head, rubbing my nose, open lips, and hair against the glass. I could not find the source of the noise.

I peeled my face off the glass and ran to the windows across the train, performing the same face squash-stretching ritual. Nothing.

Dejected, I wandered back to the bench, turned around to face the front of the train, placed my hands on the bench behind me and pushed myself up onto the seat. My feet dangled in front of me. My dad reached over and rubbed my head, his fingers messing up my hair. He made a noise at me, changing my demeanor from disappointed to excited.

"What were you doing, Andrew?" he asked.

"Looking for the mother whale!" I said, matter-of-factly. "I even heard it calling for its baby."

Kthunk-kthunk. Kthunk-kthunk. Kthunk-kthunk. Kthunk-kthunk. 


There was the sound again! Just as I started pushing myself off the bench to run back to the window, a large grey creature sped past the train in the opposite direction, a dark blue stripe along its side. I gasped and ran over to the window, but arrived as the pointed tail on the end disappeared. Behind the fabled creature, I caught a glance of a tall grey pyramid in the distance.

The train slowed to a stop.

A voice said some words that I didn't quite understand as the doors opened. I listened to them, and didn't understand them, but I didn't care: I'd seen the Mother Whale.

"Por favor manténganse alejado de las puertas."

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Peek behind the Curtain of a Disney History Book: A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Black Loop. Today we are sharing the Disney books you should have in your collection.

As an author, particularly one writing in the genre of nonfiction and history, I come under constant scrutiny and criticism from readers.

This is even more true when you write about a topic readers are passionate about like Walt Disney World.

Let's be real: as someone reading my blog, you've more than likely frequented WDW message boards or DisTwitter and have seen various posts by Disney fans who disagree over what the outside world would see as ridiculousness (such as whether resort mugs should have handles or not or whether Disneyland should replace its "classic" Tower of Terror attraction with a Guardians of the Galaxy overlay) that may contribute to why many Disney muggles (those not privy of Disney fandom) see us fans as crazy. There are even people on Twitter that I've unfollowed due to their constant scathing remarks, oftentimes making personal attacks on people for their differing opinions on the state of the Disney parks (I don't need that negativity in my life).

Some of this feedback on my books has come in the form of comments on blogs and letters to my publisher. However, the most damning comments has been reviews of my books, officially published on Amazon.

Some of these negative reviews are on the level of ridiculous. One reviewer states that "Any book that contains a historic look at WDW, wich the book seems to be, should knoe that the word is imagniears. How many volumes are set to. Be forthcoming? It would be a shame that it is onlt one. Please hire an editor." Obviously this reviewer does not know what they are talking about, as the appropriate term actually is Imagineer. Some of my students who have read my reviews have even noted the awful spelling and grammar that this reviewer uses, which negates many of their scathing remarks.

Other reviews have marked me negatively on Amazon when their real problem was the formatting of the book. For example, "The book was smaller than I imagined it would be. It's a good simple history, though it could benefit from some greater depth. The writing is good and the approach is fantastic, but it is sometimes lacking in depth. Nonetheless, I look forward to volume 2 (and further histories of the Disney rides and attractions)." The main problem this reviewer had with my book was that it was too small. I'm a historian and love reading history books. However (and this sounds bad coming from its author), my book was incredibly detailed, especially the chapters on Carousel of Progress and Pirates of the Caribbean, to the point where I can't remember half the details I wrote about.

However, it may be this review that upset me the most: "Unfortunately, I can't even finish this one. Its another in a line from Bob McLlain that shows the downward slide of the publisher, lack of editing, and misinformation. Within the first two chapters I made several notes on factual errors. For example, the roof of the Tiki Room is not made of thatch, but metal designed to look like thatch. It serves as a large lightening rod. The evening parade does not cut off the Adventureland, as the parade runs from Main Street to Frontierland, with exit available by entering the emporium near Casey's and exiting near the Firehouse. Exit is available between float units. On top of errors, this reads like an essay from a college student using Wikipedia."

As a history teacher, amateur historian, and someone who worked for four years in my university library as a research deskie, this review was incredibly offending. And this wasn't the only review to accuse me of using Wikipedia for my research.

Now, to be fair, there are times when doing quick research or looking up quick facts, it is okay to use Wikipedia. For example, if you are trying to figure out the date that Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer referred to by John, the father in Carousel of Progress, was released (1927), Wikipedia is an okay resource to use. Or if you are trying to get a quick summary of the story of "Sleepy Hollow" (spoilers for Volume 3!), Wikipedia can be an easy tool. However, when doing historical research in needing specific details, one needs to use more academic research than a typical online encyclopedia.

So what is the process through which I researched my two books? It may be easier to provide you with an excerpt from one of my books and then break apart the text to explain the process to you.

The following is an excerpt from A Historical Tour of WDW Volume 2 and is taken from the chapter about Spaceship Earth at Epcot:

           The background mural that is painted behind the horses and three men can be pinpointed to an exact place in the Roman Empire, which provides the viewer with some historical context of when and where the scene is taking place. The mural depicts a large Roman city, stretching off into the distance, while a series of buildings and statues are identifiable nearby. To the left of the scene, behind the horse-drawn chariot, are a series of statues capping Roman pillars, stretching on the left side of an avenue. Behind the tall statues is a building with columns holding up the roof with a triangular-shaped pediment. On the opposite side of the scene, behind the slave holding the reigns of the horse, is another series of statues atop pillars, while statues of mounted horsemen are rearing on a platform alongside steps leading up to the scene. Behind the horsemen is a series of buildings with columned facades, one with a triangular pediment and the other capped with a dome. The avenue surrounded by the pillared statues identifies the location as being in the Roman Forum, the headquarters for government and mercantile activity in the capital of the Roman Empire, the city of Rome (located in modern-day Italy). However, it is the location of the pedimented and domed buildings and the presence of the rearing horsemen that identify where the three gentlemen are congregated: the Temple of Castor and Pollux. The temple was built in 495 BC and dedicated in 484 BC, thanking the twin sons of the Roman god, Jupiter, for their assistance in the victory in battle. Interestingly enough, the actual statues of Castor and Pollux that are depicted in the scene’s background mural are not historically accurate: the scene shows them riding on the backs of rearing horses, while in actuality they were holding the reigns of the rearing horses.

Photo Credit: Melissa Knight

Photo Credit: Melissa Knight
              The location of the Praetorian receiving a proclamation from the Senator on the steps of the Temple of Castor and Pollux can also help to locate the date or period in which the scene is taking place. However, there is some discrepancy: one possibility would lead to historical inaccuracy, while the other is more plausible. During the time of the Roman Republic, from the temple’s dedication in 484 BC until 27 BC when Augustus established the Roman Empire, the Temple of Castor and Pollux served as the meeting place for the Senate, where they would make legal decisions and establish laws for the whole of the Republic. However, the placement of this scene during this era of Roman history does not fit, as the statue of Augustus holding the scroll that precedes this scene was not constructed until 20 BC. Thus, the statue makes this theory, that of the Temple being used as a meeting place for the Senate, unlikely. More likely is the second theory; from 37-41 AD, the Temple of Castor and Pollux was used as the palace of Caligula, who served as Caesar during a short three years and ten months. These was partially because Caligula would, on occasion, present himself at the top of the steps, making speeches, and attempt to personify himself as a god to be worshipped, in addition to his role as Roman emperor. This storyline for the scene would likely be more accurate, as the reign of Caligula took place twenty-three years after that of Augustus, which would maintain the historical integrity of the Temple of Castor and Pollux being the setting of the scene after the vehicles pass the statue of Augustus. While the important man handing the message off to the Praetorian is not Caligula, as evidenced by the Senatorial robe he is wearing, Senators and the emperors worked closely in regards to one another, and it is likely that he is delivering a message on behalf of Caesar Caligula.
A bust of Emperor Caligula
The presence of these three men standing on the steps of the Temple of Castor and Pollux identify what may be going on in this scene, which, intentional by Imagineers or not, represents a dark event in the history of the Roman Empire. During the reign of Caligula, the Praetorian Guard began to amass political power. At the same time, Caligula increasingly began to treat the Senate and other high-powered individuals in the government of the Roman Empire, causing many to begin conspiring against him. In 40 AD, Caligula announced that he would be moving to Alexandria, which was the center of Roman power along the Nile River in Egypt. His goal in moving to Egypt would be to gain more power and following from people, as those in Egypt worshipped their leaders as gods. As a result, Caligula planned on ruling the Roman Empire from the city of Rome, which was the traditional center of Roman government and administration, to Alexandria, which was in a land looked down upon by the Roman government because the people there were not “true Romans,” having been born outside the capital. As a result, the Roman Senate began to conspire with the Praetorian Guard to assassinate Caligula, which occurred in 41 AD; he was stabbed thirty times while addressing a group at an athletic event. The Senators, realizing how much the government had strayed from what they perceived as the glories of Rome’s “golden age,” planned to reestablish the Roman republic after Caligula’s death, thus giving them their political power back, which had been taken away when the Roman Empire was established. However, after being driven from the city, Caligula’s uncle, Claudius, exacted revenge on those who conspired and committed the assassination, and later naming himself the next Caesar of the Roman Empire. With these details in mind, this scene may actually be a Senator and Praetorian Guard passing messages between those conspiring to assassinate the emperor.

So let's break this scene down, shall we? Oftentimes when analyzing an attraction for my books, I utilize Google and YouTube to get started, as well as my extensive experience and background knowledge on the parks, attractions, or resorts being analyzed. Spaceship Earth is one of my all-time favorite attractions and must-dos: in fact, I often ride it multiple times a trip. The Rome scene has always been a highlight of the attraction for me for a few reasons, including the "Rome Burning" smell (which after the addition of Dame Judi Dench doesn't even represent the fall of Rome anymore, but rather the burning of the Library of Alexandria in Vol. 2 to learn more), as well as the old projections of the charioted soldiers riding through the streets of Rome on the painted backdrop of the scene during the Jeremy Irons version of the attraction.

Step one of attraction analysis usually involves me finding the most updated video of the attraction on YouTube. I sit and watch the attraction online usually in its entirety first, and then I'll break the video down scene-by-scene or even frame-by-frame to analyze the details, music, backdrops, and dialogue.

For this scene, I used my historical  background knowledge to realize that the backdrop of the attraction, as well as the monologue of Dench explains that this is during the time of the Roman Empire, which places the scene during the timeframe of sometime between 27 BC and 476 CE, the span of a little more than 500 years. Dench's monologue explains that Rome created a system of roads to help run the bureaucracy of its empire. This places the scene somewhere in the city of Rome itself. As a historian and teacher, I know that the majority of Rome's central authority took place in the Roman Forum, which was the hub of government and religion in the city of ancient Rome.

The real Roman Forum

I decided to Google the Roman Forum to see if I could find any pictures, maps, or depictions of what I saw in the background of the scene. Most identifiable are the tall pillars capped with individuals stretching on the left and right side of the scene and leading away from the location of the scene. Based on the position of the other buildings, specifically those with the triangular topped roofs, I was able to identify that riders were in fact passing the Roman Forum. I was able to figure out that the location of the buildings placed the guests as viewing the Forum from the porch of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, two Roman gods. I Googled a picture of what archaeologists believe the Temple would have looked like during the time of the empire, which confirmed that this was in fact what was being depicted: the temple had a series of steps leading down to the Forum with statues on either side of the steps. As mentioned above, however, the statues were not accurate; it is possible that Imagineers and designers of the attraction wanted to portray the brothers in a more dramatic fashion, mounted atop rearing horses rather than simply standing alongside them holding the reigns.

The real statues of Castor and Pollux, not depicted accurately in the attraction's mural.
Ok, so I was able to narrow down where the scene was, but 500 years is a lot of time. To narrow this down, I looked at the costumes of the animatronics. One of the figures was obviously meant to be a Roman soldier, as he is standing near a chariot and is wearing the armor of a Roman soldier. A second figure is a slave, based on the basic toga he is wearing, as well as his haircut and the paleness of his skin. However, it was the third figure in the scene, wearing a garment with a purple stripe, that was interesting to me. Because of the toga with the royal color, I was able to identify this figure not as an individual but as a part of a group: he was a Roman senator. But this made the mystery only deepen. Why would a Roman senator be handing a scroll to a soldier who would be using the roads?

I Googled for the history of the Temple of Castor and Pollux and found something quite interesting and slightly shocking: the emperor Caligula, who reigned in Rome as Caesar from 37-41 CE, actually used the Temple of Castor and Pollux as part of his palace. This angered many in the bureaucracy of the Roman Empire, including the Senators. The Senators, fuming from this sacrilege of government using religious buildings, called upon a group of soldiers called the Praetorian Guard to help rid Rome of the "corrupt" emperor. Caligula had also planned on moving the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to the city of Alexandria, located at the mouth of the Nile River on the Mediterranean. This also angered many Roman government officials who foresaw the fall of their empire by moving the capital from its traditional, centralized location to a place on the outskirts. I did some crosschecking and research on the Praetorian Guard to learn that the armor worn by the soldier receiving the proclamation was a close match to that which would be worn by the elite military group responsible for the assassination of Emperor Caligula.

As a result of the many details in the scene, I made the educated assumption that, whether intentional or not, Imagineers had actually depicted a secret murder in the classic Epcot attraction. While many viewed the pre-Jack Sparrow version of Pirates of the Caribbean as politically incorrect (the "pooped pirate" searching for his new bride, the pirates chasing the townswomen, Carlos being tortured for the location of the town's treasury), this scene is actually quite darker, representing the assassination of a government official (through death by being stabbed 39 times). However, the dim lighting of the scene, as well as the short period of being in the scene (a grand total of 23 seconds), and guests' overall lack of knowledge of the nitty-gritties of ancient Rome leads the details of this scene's backstory to pass over the heads of many.

So there you have it, folks. A brief glimpse into the way research was done for my books. While I'm a total history nerd, I have had to track down a number of historical tangents to find evidence to support my arguments for one detail (i.e. where was the Arab scholar with the onion-shaped turban actually from???). Maybe this is why it seems as though my book is a walking Wikipedia article...I was required to tie together a great number of seemingly-unconnected details to create historical backstories of classic and favorite Disney World attractions, land, and restaurants.
Who is that scholar in the middle?!?!

Want to learn more? Visit Amazon here to get copies of my paperback or ebook!

Vol. 1: Pirates of Caribbean, Carousel of Progress, Jungle Cruise, etc.
Vol. 2: Spaceship Earth, Country Bear Jamboree, Storybook Circus, etc.
I also recently learned that Theme Park Press has struck up a partnership with Fall River Press (an imprint of Barnes & Noble publishing) to publish a hardcover copy of volumes 1 and 2 as a combined edition! Visit your local Barnes and Noble bookstore to get a hardcover copy of A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World for only $7.98!

For more Disney book recommendations, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Here is the map of our Blogorail Black | Ultimate Guide to Disney Books

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Animatronic Afterlife: Chapter 3 (1998)

"Hold on, Figment," the old man requested.

"Why???" the inquisitive purple dragon asked, exasperated.

"The idea bag is full," his creator explained.

"It is? Let's start making new things!"

"Now wait," the gentlemen chuckled. "First we must store these ideas with the others in the Dreamport."

"Are we almost there?" the purple dragon asked as he turned his head to scan the room.

"Oh, the Dreamport is never far away when you use your imagination!"

"Come on, everybody, here we go!" the infant winged lizard excitedly yelled as the dirigible started moving to the left.

The man pedaling the blimp and his created reptilian child began singing about using imagination and how a little spark of it can light up new ideas. The ride vehicles continued into the next room carrying excited guests into a world where imagination brings color to abstract ideas that were otherwise seen as being either black or white.

The blimp drifted back to its starting point where the ride vehicles entered the circular chamber, the turntable at the center of the room coming to a stop.

In a remote room beneath the crystal pyramids, a cast member watched the different screens showing the black-and-white video feeds from throughout the attraction. He waited until the last vehicles reached the unload area, dumping guests who excitedly run to the ImageWorks playground, a land of singing light, rainbow bridges, and crystal pyramids overlooking the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

The castmember entered the combination of the safe drawer, slowly spinning the four wheels to line up the passcode, 1983. The drawer popped open, the light of the room illuminating numerous objects, including a key. He removed the key from the drawer and inserted it into a keyhole on the control panel.

"See you in a year, Figment," he said as he turned they key into the off position.

Back in the turntable's circular chamber, the old man slowly stopped pedaling as the propeller on the back of the dirigible.

The small purple dragon slowly descended into the cylindrical canister from which he emerged.

"Dreamfinder, I'm just great," he said quietly.

"Goodbye, Figment," the old man sadly called back as the canister clicked closed. His smiling face slowly relaxed into a new configuration: not a grin but rather a mournful appearance.  

Friday, October 14, 2016

Tips for Dealing with WDWWd (Walt Disney World Withdrawal)

I've got it bad. And it's not something that I like to talk about, because it can be slightly embarrassing.

Walt Disney World Withdrawal, also known as WDWWd.

Growing up in Michigan, I regularly dealt with PDD (post-Disney Depression) after every trip. However, after moving to North Carolina six years ago, if anything, my withdrawal symptoms worsened knowing that I was 800 miles closer to the magic and yet too far from it to go more often.

Because the parks are so expensive and my wife and I now have three children (twin five-year-old boys and a seventeen year old) that have been part of our lives the past almost two years, the opportunity to visit more regularly is now even slimmer. We took our children to Disney for the first time two summers ago, and the three of them instantly fell in love with the resort (yessss my indoctrination is working!). We are also in the process of planning our first trip to Disneyland for my daughter's senior trip this summer after she graduates (which I'm totally geeked about, as I've never traveled west of the Mississippi). Unfortunately, due to proximity from the parks and our lack of finances, the opportunity for us to visit Disney properties are less common now, which makes the withdrawal symptoms even worse.

To be serious, though, I have spent a lot of time thinking and considering why it is that I love Walt Disney World so much. For starters, my first trip to the parks was in the very early nineties, when I was only two or three. I had many wonderful vacations to the parks with my parents and brother growing up, leading to a strong sense of nostalgia for the parks (hence the title of this blog). My parents like to trace my love for Disney back further, as they honeymooned there, making it a special place for my family, which they claim has ingrained it into my DNA. As a child, I was fascinated by the attractions and the audio animatronics (even though, ironically enough, I was terrified of robots growing up...thanks a lot, Chuck E. Cheese...). I also loved seeing magical worlds and my favorite Disney films come to 3D life. As I grew up, I was more introverted. I had a hard time making friends, leading to low self-esteem. The world for me was a difficult place: I had a wonderful family and was heavily involved in my church (I was the antithesis of the stereotypical pastor's kid). However, I was tall and skinny, as well as an avid reader. As a result, I was often picked on and teased, leading me to withdraw further into myself. Eventually as a high schooler, I developed depression, which I still battle to this day. On September 1, 2015, I experienced a cerebellar hemorrhage, which is considered a form of stroke, while teaching my freshman world history class. I spent the next four days in the Neuro ICU at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, NC, and the next several months healing physically. I also learned in the process that my blood pressure was incredibly high and as a result, had developed stage 3 kidney disease. The pressure and stress continued to mount.

After contemplation, I've realized that Disney makes me happy. I've described my love for it to people who have asked this way: when I'm at Walt Disney World, it's like the entire outside world and all of my problems melt away. When I'm there, I don't have depression. I'm not an introvert. I can be myself, happy, goofy, funny, laughing at the jokes I notice without people looking at me weird, because I'm in company with thousands of other people who have reverted to their inner child, as well. For a few brief days, I can immerse myself in the stories being told by enveloping myself in the layers of detail Imagineers have created. The terrorism, political civil war of America, and stock market melts fades into the distance. For a while, the stress and fear about my brain and kidneys are absorbed by my wonder of being a child, before I had to deal with "adulting."

So how does someone like me deal???

The following are a few of my personal tips for dealing with WDWWd:

1.) There are some wonderful websites and apps that I frequent that create the illusion of being in the parks. For example, Subsonic Radio has both a website ( and an app on the Appstore that users can download that has a number of music streams from around Walt Disney World resort. For those who just want WDW music and loops, there is the requests and background music stations. For those who enjoy the sounds of Tomorrowland or Frontierland, there are stations for that. However one of my favorites is the Tangaroa Terrace station, which loops music from the restaurant at Disneyland, as well as the Polynesian Resort. Sometimes I make myself a homemade Dole Whip and listen to the station while laying on the hammock in my backyard. If I close my eyes and sip on the Dole Whip or a beer, it is almost as though I'm laying in a hammock on the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon at dusk.

Another website I like to frequent that helps to eliminate my WDWWd is, which streams a number of webcams, both live and historic. They have a live stream of Disney Springs, which can be fun to watch, especially in the evenings when Illuminations is seen in the background at Epcot. They also have a prerecorded cam down Main Street from one of the Magic Kingdom 24 hour parties that is synced real-time as though it is a live cam. On occasion, there are also live cams that Disney Live Cams links to from U-Stream where guests broadcast their vacation. One user I like to follow is EyesOnEars, who often broadcasts from the Boardwalk or Port Orleans: Riverside. When made full screen, it is almost as though I am looking out my resort window to watch the boats come in on Crescent Lake or chug down the Sassagoula River. This is similar to following people on Periscope, which I've never found amusing or easy, as it is often taken from people's phones which can get a little wonky. The only time that I've enjoyed a Periscope from WDW was a few weeks ago when a user live-streamed the entire show of Yehaa Bob performing at Port Orleans: Riverside. I'm not going to lie: it made me cry a few times because the last trip we took (with our kids), we stayed at Riverside. It was as though I was sitting in the River Roost Lounge, watching and participating in Yehaa Bob's crazy antics. For a few hours, I wasn't lying in bed in North Carolina, but was sipping on a beer, enjoying the live music. The Disney Parks Blog also live streams shows every once in awhile on their website. Just last Sunday, October 9, Disney live streamed the last performance of the Main Street Electrical Parade (I didn't watch it, I'm more partial to SpectroMagic myself, as that is the MK parade I grew up on).

I also like to use the My Disney Experience app for a few different reasons. It is fun to look at current wait times in the parks and see what is happening, but I also enjoy seeing what characters are out in the parks and where they are located.

2.) In the same vein as my suggestion of Subsonic Radio, a fun summertime ritual for me is putting on the Illuminations preshow BGM loop in the evening and lighting the tiki torches around my back patio, usually with a cold drink of whiskey, wine, or beer. This helps me to create the illusion that I'm standing at or wandering around the edge of World Showcase Lagoon as the music plays before Illuminations and the large torches burn.

3.) I find that one of the best ways to make me feel like I'm at Walt Disney World is to stay up to date on Disney parks news. I do this a few different ways. I like frequenting Disney info sites and message boards. My favorites are and DisneyParksBlog. I also like reading Disney commentary from websites such as Parkeology and (I may be crucified for this) Jim Hill Media. I also enjoy getting news from podcasts, including WDWRadio and WEDWay Radio. The Parrish brothers who do the WEDWay Radio and WEDWay Now! podcasts also spend a lot of time looking at Disney history, which helps to ease the pain of withdrawal. For example, this season, they are focusing on Disney artist and Imagineer, Claude Coats. I was a little disappointed when I found out they were spending a whole season on one guy I wasn't all that interested in listening about, but I've found his story and background quite fascinating and am really enjoying the episodes. I also listen to the RetroWDW podcast, which is particularly fun for me, because a lot of the Retro Disney stuff they discuss feeds into my longing for nostalgia that I experience daily.

4.) Weirdly enough, there is a practice I participate in on a somewhat regular basis that is not, at first glances, Disney-related at all. When I am particularly missing Walt Disney World, I will go out to eat. Now, unfortunately, one of the ways I deal with stress is by eating, which is something I'm really working on. But stress-eating is not the type of eating I'm referring to in dealing with my WDWWd. Rather, I frequent restaurants or indulge in foods that remind me of fond memories of the parks. One example is running by my local McDonalds and picking up a large box of fries. Starting in 1997 and lasting until 2008, McDonalds became a sponsor of Walt Disney World with various snack kiosks throughout the parks, selling primarily boxes of french fries. The fast food chain also opened two stand alone restaurants on property and even sponsored the opening day Animal Kingdom attraction, Countdown to Extinction. When in need of a quick bite to recharge our batteries during a busy day at the parks, my family would stop by a snack kiosk to purchase a box of fries, packaged in the typical red McDonalds fry box decorated with Disney icons, such as Spaceship Earth and the Sorcerer Mickey hat from MGM/DHS. Some of my favorite kiosks included PetriFries in Dinoland, USA and Frontierland Fries in the Magic Kingdom. The Refreshment Port in Epcot also brings back memories, as there were travel posters from around the world advertising McDonalds products. One example I particularly remember is tourists around the Great Pyramids in Egypt with McDonalds images nearby. Something interesting I found in my research is that Animal Kingdom's Restaurantosaurus was a full-fledged McDonalds location, selling hamburgers and nuggets from the popular restaurant chain. For more information, visit

While eating McDonalds fries brings back happy memories for me, another food-related way to ease my withdrawal symptoms may not make a whole lot of sense to others. When I am feeling particularly withdrawn from Disney, I take my family to Longhorn Steakhouse. This quiet establishment is a steak restaurant chain across America, serving various cuts of steak, potatoes, and other dishes. While I've never had a Disney steak, this restaurant has excellent theming. Patrons dine surrounded by artifacts of the Old West, such as lassos, barbed wire, and cowboy hats hanging from the wall. Lights hanging from the ceiling and mounted on the walls feature horses, Native Americans, and cowboys racing across the Great Plains. Bookshelves in the waiting area even feature titles about living in the Old West. This creates the illusion, for me at least, that I'm eating at a well-themed Disney restaurant at Wilderness Lodge. Again, sounds odd, but it helps me, at least. You can get a similar experience at Logan's Roadhouse or Texas Roadhouse, but that is a little too loud and busy for me. Maybe you can eat there and try to create to illusion you are at Whispering Canyon. *shrugs*

5.) My last tip for beating WDWWd involves YouTube. We live in an age where loads of content is available to us at all times through the wonders of the InterWebs. Various users have uploaded content to YouTube, from ride through of videos to walkthroughs of the parks to live restaurant reviews. However, my favorite way to beat WDWWd using YouTube is watching either "Must Do Disney" featuring Stacey Aswad ( or the "WDW Today" channel showing the day's park hours while majestic Disney music performed by a symphony play in the background ( Watching both of these, especially on Saturday mornings, create the illusion for me that I'm sitting in my resort room, turning on the television while getting ready for my day in the parks. I also use this as my chance to indoctrinate my five year olds (bwah hah hahhhhh).

So there you have it. There's my five tips for beating Walt Disney World Withdrawal. I've got lots of other tips and tricks that I'll have to share in the future.

Let me know in the comments how YOU beat Disney withdrawal!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Getting to the Magic

I have the fondest and most distinct memories of traveling to Walt Disney World growing up, almost as vivid if not more so than actually experiencing the parks.

My family went on two vacations a year: one over President's Day weekend in February and one during late summer, usually in mid-August. We generally took our vacation to Walt Disney World during the winter holiday, and growing up in Michigan, we usually flew to our winter destination.

I remember waking up early, some years as early as three or four o'clock, piling into a windbreaker and windpants, and falling asleep in the car as the highway lights flashed by overhead on the way across town to Gerald R. Ford International Airport. We would walk through the concourse, past a fake waterfall under which was a small coffee shop, and into the room to wait for our plane.

Upon arriving at Orlando International three hours later, we would get on the airport's monorail, which was a special taste of the magic prior to the Magic. We would roll or carry our bags past the Disney Store in the center of the airport before renting a car or taxi to our resort.

Some years we would get to our resort so late at night that the lobby would be empty. I have distinct memories of arriving at the All-Star Sports and Wilderness Lodge in the middle of the night, my parents leaving us by the television sets to watch the latest Mickey Mouse cartoons or animated Disney film while they checked in to our room. After ten minutes or so, they'd come collect us and we would trudge to the back of the resort and collapse onto our beds.

I remember another time when we traveled to Walt Disney World right after 9/11, during the 100 Years of Magic Celebration. We arrived at Orlando International to find the airport almost empty. After our vacation was done, as we journeyed home, I remember standing in hours-long lines for security to get on the plane, National Guardsmen and police officers surveying the crowds with guns drawn.

After arriving to the Magic Kingdom area, we would hop aboard the Highway in the Sky, which I was convinced was called the "Mother Whale." We would ride from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom, passing by topiaries shaped like hippos and elephants balancing on balls. This journey helped to set up the magic and charm we were about to experience in the 1990s Magic Kingdom. After passing through the turnstiles, we would wander into the entrance plaza, located just outside the Main Street train station tunnels into the park. Disney characters would be standing in front of the large Mickey flower arrangement, waiting for guests to pose for pictures: this was an era before hours-long lines for photos and autographs.

After a long day at the parks, we would end up waiting in the queues for the Disney busses to bring us back to our resorts. I distinctly remember standing below the green busports outside the Magic Kingdom, waiting in the heat for the Disney bus ride, sitting in the pitch dark while hushed adult voices, muffled by the head of a small child lying on their chests or laps. I was always too excited to allow myself to sleep on the busses, staring out the windows for a glimpse of the purple nighttime Spaceship Earth, the tall capped Earful Tower or menacing Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (after 1994). I also vividly remember seeing searchlights from Disney-MGM Studios panning across the sky and being convinced they were angels.

Maybe that's why I consider Walt Disney World to be heaven on earth.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Animatronic Afterlife: Chapter 2 (1994)

"One more crack out of you, and the act is finished!" yelled the larger of the pair, angrily.

The smaller comedian chuckled in his high-pitched laugh, the force of his laugh causing his bow tie to wiggle. "One more crack out of me and the yolks on you!" he laughed.

"That does it!" the green-suited ham steak stated in frustration. "We're through!"

"Fine," retorted the capped egg.

The two animatronic comedians bantered a little more as steam enveloped them. The larger of the two, Hamm, sunk into a pot, while his smaller companion, Eggz, lowered into a pan, both of which situated on a large stove.

The animatronics, housed in their respective crockery, froze in place for a few minutes before the last big number of the show. They once again emerged from their oven-bound pans surrounded by steam.

"Say goodbye to his bad jokes!" Hamm suggested.

"'Cuz we're going up in smoke, folks!" Eggz finished. As the two sank back into their pot and pan, deep in his programming, Hamm rolled his digital eyes, recognizing that Eggz always had to have the last words.

In the pot, Hamm's arms fell from their crooked position at his sides and his angry arched eyebrows lowered over his eyes as the mechanics relaxed. Eggz' hat lowered slowly onto his head.

The show's host, Bonnie Appetite closed out the final show and the curtain closed as the park guests stood to their feet and filed out of the theater for the last time.

The entire ensemble of singers could be heard behind the curtain singing the final lines.

"The proper foods each time you dine,
can keep you fit and feeling fine.
Eating right's a healthy sign,
and feeling good makes each day
shine and shine!"

Unfortunately, this would be the last day the sun would shine from the window of the Kitchen Kabaret.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Exclusive Excerpt of "A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World Vol. 1": The Carousel of Progress

It is raining here in North Carolina. Hard.

Hurricane Matthew has been dumping inches of rain on the Triad for the past 36 hours and will continue to do so until midnight tonight.

And I have a terrible case of cabin fever.

I've watched Space Jam with my son, worked on some fall crafts with my wife, taken a nap, played with my boys, and ate paninis. I'm going stir crazy.

Which got me thinking about Walt Disney World and how I wish I could be in my favorite place. I'm sure those in the Disney community would like the same. So I thought I'd give an exclusive excerpt of volume 1 to my Twitter followers and readers of Distalgic.

I present to you my analysis of scene two from the Carousel of Progress.

Scene Two: The 1920s
            As the Carousel Theater rotates counterclockwise, a new scene comes into view. The audience quickly realizes that they are looking at an almost identical kitchen; Disney has never officially stated whether the Carousel of Progress features the same family throughout the show or four separate, but similar families. Because the characters all have the same names, look very similar throughout the show, and are voiced by the same actors and actresses, we can assume that it is the same family throughout the twentieth century.
            The kitchen is almost identical in layout, but with some cosmetic updates across the twenty-five or so years that have taken place since the first scene. The right window that previously created a nook for the stove has now been flattened against the back wall of the house. The wood paneling that stretched halfway up the wall is gone, now replaced by lime green paint. Also, wires hang all over the kitchen, stretching from the light fixtures hanging from the ceiling to the wall and various appliances throughout the kitchen. Outside the windows are a series of buildings, leading us to believe that the neighborhood that the Carousel family lives in has grown in size and become more urban over the past two decades. The exterior mural is lit as though the scene takes place in the evening or just after dusk. A large American flag hangs outside the window behind the narrator.
            Once the theater comes to a stop, the audience has a moment to take in the scene as John begins his monologue. A white Hotpoint Automatic Electric stove sits centered between the two windows. Beneath the left window, similar to the prior scene, is a sink with two taps. John sits backwards in a wooden chair, facing the audience with a kitchen table behind him, atop which sits a Singer sewing machine. To his left is a vacuum cleaner. Against the back wall of the kitchen, between the windows, are a series of shelves, upon which sit containers with labels for their contents. An herb cabinet sits beneath an electric clock, and an electric toaster and a coffee pot sit on top of the stove. In front of John is a footstool, with a tray holding a large glass pitcher of ice tea sits beside a full glass topped with a piece of lemon. John himself is dressed a blue collared shirt and bowtie, with brown slacks. He holds a paper fan in his right hand advertising Niagara Falls. 
            John begins by explaining that the scene takes place on Fourth of July, and that the day has been an extremely hot one. As a result, our narrator fans himself with a paper fan, which was purchased at Niagara Falls. The popular destination is not one waterfall, but actually a collection of three separate waterfalls that straddle the American-Canadian border, with the American and Bridal Veil Falls on the American side in New York State and the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side in Ontario. As automobiles became more popular and common after World War One ended in 1918, auto-tourism boomed, bringing more visitors to Niagara Falls. As a result of John’s fan, we can assume that the Carousel family joined the many Americans that had recently visited the Falls due to the prevalence of automobiles, which, we will later learn, is entirely possible due to John’s new Essex car.
            Our narrator goes on to explain the big current events that have occurred over the past twenty years, including the solo flight of Charles Lindbergh, which, in common John fashion, he lauds as likely to be unsuccessful. He also explains the growth of sports stadiums, and excitedly explains the accomplishments of a new baseball player named Babe Ruth. John also describes a new form of music called Jazz, as well as a new film starring silent film actor, Al Jolson, who will talk and sing in the film, explaining how much he is looking forward to seeing this unlikely technology.
            Charles Lindbergh, a pilot working for the United States Postal Service delivering mail via airplane in the 1920s, became famous on an international scale when he was twenty-five by becoming the first individual to fly across the Atlantic Ocean by himself, a trip lasting thirty hours and stretching 3,600 miles. Lindbergh took off in Garden City, New York’s Roosevelt Field on May 20th, 1927, and landed at Le Bourget Field in Paris, France on May 21st, 1927 in his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis (proving John once again wrong in his assessment). As a result of this accomplishment, Lindbergh received the Orteig Prize, a $25,000 reward offered by Raymond Orteig, a New York hotel owner, to any aviator who would make a non-stop flight from New York City to Paris in 1919. Because he was an officer in the US Army Air Corps Reserve, Lindbergh was also awarded the Medal of Honor for his exploits. As a result of his accomplishment, Lucky Lindy became a national hero, becoming the subject of songs, postage stamps, and even inspiring the first Mickey Mouse cartoon drawn (and the second released), “Plane Crazy.”
            Spectator sports became popular in the 1920s, particularly baseball. A few different reasons contributed to this phenomena: radio began to become common in the home, on which games were broadcast; newspapers became more common, reporting on statistics of various players and events; new groups of people, such as African Americans and Latinos became involved in the sport, ushering in a new pool of talent into the game; and playing fields became enclosed, which allowed leading to the explosion of large stadiums holding immense crowds of people to watch the game. Also, a transition to the use of cork-centered balls rather than wound thread allowed for an emphasis on batting, rather than defensive pitching or fielding. This development led to a large fan-following of baseball legends, such as Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, and Babe Ruth. George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jr. was actively playing for Major League Baseball from 1914 until 1935, pitching for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Ruth was infamous due to his reckless behavior and public womanizing, but also was well known for his batting average, hitting a total of seven hundred fourteen career homeruns, breaking the single-season homerun record of twenty-nine home runs in 1919, fifty-four in 1920, fifty-nine in 1921, and sixty in 1927. Ruth became a national idol of the 1920s, serving as a hero for young men and the envy of the middle aged during the 1920s and 1930s.
            John also explains the popular forms of contemporary entertainment of the 1920s, beginning by describing jazz as “the cat’s meow.” One of the most popular forms of music of the time, jazz music emerged in different cities throughout the United States during the era of Prohibition. In the early 1920s, the United States legislature passed the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the production, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages. As a result, an illegal alcohol market developed, being sold and served in illicit clubs called speakeasies. Entertainment was offered at speakeasies, including musicians playing a new form of music, called jazz. A few different cities became the hub of jazz music in the United States, including Chicago and New Orleans. Some of the most famous jazz musicians are still known today, including Jelly Roll Morton, Bessie Smith, and Louis Armstrong. With roots in the slave spirituals of the 1850s and 1860s, as well as ragtime and blues music of the early 1900s, jazz became a popular form of music throughout the United States and eventually inspired the swing movement of the 1940s and rock and roll music of the 1950s and 1960s.
            Jazz was so popular that film studios incorporated the music into their films. One of the most popular films of the 1920s, released in 1927, was The Jazz Singer, starring silent film actor, Al Jolson. The film was a technological accomplishment during the decade, as it was the first feature-length film to synchronize pre-recorded dialogue and music to the film being projected on the screen of a movie house, bringing the end of the silent age of film and the beginning of the era of the “talkies.” While The Jazz Singer was not the first film to have synchronized sound, which had been around since 1923, it was the first film to have synchronized speech and songs, which began approximately seventeen minutes into the film. While the film only had approximately two minutes of actual synchronized dialogue, the ability of speech and singing synchronization between sound and film was revolutionary. The recording of the sound for the film was recorded at the same time as the film itself, with the motor driving the cameras and audio recording equipment working together. Thus, when playing in a theater, both the film and sound record would be played at the same time and synced up for viewers.
             The plot of The Jazz Singer follows a young Jewish man who rejects the tradition of his family by becoming a singer of jazz music. The main character of the film, Jack Robin, played by Jolson, performed in blackface, wearing a suit and covering his face in black makeup to create the illusion that he is an African American singer, a practice that was common in American minstrel shows, film, and radio shows from the 1830s until the 1950s. The film is a very controversial film to modern audiences, as it is seen as culturally insensitive and extremely racist, but at the time was commonplace. Popular actors and actresses of the 1920s and 1930s participated in blackface performances, including Bing Crosby, Shirley Temple, and Judy Garland.
            John moves away from the current events of the 1920s to discuss the technological innovations manipulated by the common folk. He laughs to himself over a neighbor, Schwartz, who enjoys beeping the horn of his “Hupmobile.” Built by the Hupp Motor Company between 1909 and 1940, which was founded by brothers Robert Craig and Louis Gorham Hupp of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Hupmobile was produced to directly compete against Ford and Chevrolet. Unfortunately, the Hupp Motor Company and its Hupmobile came to a demise as a result of the Great Depression during the late 1930s.
            While Schwartz did not choose a long-lasting automobile company, John was a little luckier purchasing a car from Essex. Manufactured by the Hudson Motor Car Company, which was begun by department store owner and founder, Joseph L. Hudson of Detroit, the Essex line of automobiles also sought to be in direct competition with Ford and Chevrolet for the pocketbooks of those wishing to get the best deal for their money. In fact, sales of Essex automobiles were listed as the third most sold automobiles in the United States in 1925. Essex automobiles would later be phased out in 1938, making a change in name to Terraplane. John explains that as a result of his new Essex automobile, he is now able to easily start his car using the electric starter, whereas in previous vehicles he had to start his engine by turning a hand crank, which was an inconvenient, difficult, and dangerous process.
            John continues to explain the accomplishments of travel in the United States in the 1920s, by explaining that travelers can get from New York to Los Angeles by train in only three days. Whereas in the 1920s, trains were traveling at speeds up to one hundred miles per hour, with averages of approximately forty-miles per hour, including frequent stops. Technology had developed during the early decades of the twentieth century, making train travel more common for passengers on cross country trips, leading to shorter trips from one side of the continent to the other.
            At this point in the scene, John finally addresses the tangled mess of wires hanging throughout his kitchen, attributing to “new electrical servants” who “add life to [the] home,” courtesy of Thomas Edison. Suddenly, fast paced music begins and the lights begin to flicker as the appliances come to life: the vacuum inflates and begins to sweep back and forth in the corner, the oven door of the stove begins to open and shut, the kitchen appliances on top of the stove begin moving around, and the door of the refrigerator opens while the light inside is illuminated and extinguished. Suddenly, the lights to the home go out, which John attributes to the appliances blowing a fuse. Unfortunately, he also blows a fuse to the entire neighborhood, which evokes angry protests from his neighbors. John sends his son, Jimmy, who we have not yet seen in the scene, outside to reset the fuse box and restore power to the home.
            During the early decades of the twentieth century, a flood of new inventions were developed bringing electrical appliances into the home. However, because no one had yet developed the concept of an electrical outlet, and because it cost so much to embed new wiring into the walls of a home or building, new electric wires were strung throughout the home, connecting into the lighting fixtures in order to provide electrical power to the various appliances. Because electricity became common in the homes, new machines were developed to make chores and the everyday lives of Americans easier and more efficient. Electric vacuum cleaners were invented to allow for fewer steps in sweeping the floor. Rather than constantly adding to and stoking a stove fueled by wood or charcoal, electric ranges and ovens were developed utilizing coils that became red hot from electrical currents. The ice delivery men also quickly became obsolete, as electric refrigerators developed by General Electric and Kelvinator began utilizing compressors, fans, and sulfur dioxide to cool the inside of the refrigerator, allowing for the home manufacturing of ice cubes and longer food preservation. However, because consumption of electricity was not regulated by power companies and because technology had yet been developed for grounding and preventative shortages, overusing electrical power in the home often led to the blowing of fuses, as evidenced in the Carousel family home.
            After Jimmy resets the fuse, the lights to the home come back on, illuminating not only the kitchen, but also the scene on the turntable diorama behind the right hand scrim. We see Sarah, John’s wife, sitting on an enclosed porch, sewing a white shirt. She is wearing a red dress and white cap, in the fashion of the late 1700s. We soon learn that the Carousel family is participating in the 4th of July parade in town and that John and Sarah will be dressing as George and Martha Washington. Because of the midsummer heat, Sarah is sewing on the porch in order to benefit from the evening breeze, while fireflies flicker outside the screened windows. John does not seem thrilled with the idea of dressing up, blaming the evening’s festivities on Sarah’s Ladies’ Club.
            Ladies’ Clubs, also known as Women’s Clubs, began in the 1850s in the United States as the female counterparts of various men’s clubs, such as the Freemasons, Elks, and Rotary clubs. Women gathered on a regular basis to advocate for the improvement of many social issues, such as temperance (limiting the consumption of alcohol), women’s rights and suffrage (the right to vote), educational and prison reform, and working conditions for women and children. Because this scene takes place in the 1920s, after World War One has concluded and women received the right to vote in 1920 as a result of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, it is not surprising that the local Ladies’ Club would be sponsoring an Independence Day celebration, as patriotism, especially among women, was rampant in the 1920s.
Sarah goes on to explain that their son, Jimmy, chose the music for the fireworks show; the diorama on the left is illuminated to show the young man standing in the parlor on a footstool, dressed as a young patriot, leaning against a record player while John Philip Sousa’s march, “Stars and Stripes Forever” plays. The record player in this scene does not look like a typical phonograph of the 1920s; however, it is likely that this player was of the sort that shared the cabinet with a radio during the early decades of the twentieth century. Sitting to Jimmy’s left in a rocking chair is the family’s grandfather, dressed as Benjamin Franklin, and holding a red firework rocket in his hands.
John begins commenting on the record player/radio combination set that Jimmy is playing the music on, explaining that their new Crosley radio set allows them to get news and entertainment from all over the country, even Pittsburgh. Crosley Radios become a large seller of radios in the mid-1920s, becoming a top manufacturer for combination radio and record players of 1924. This reference is made to the first commercially available radio station, KDKA, which began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 20, 1920. Jimmy changes the radio station, which features an announcer discussing the festivities in town for the evening of Independence Day.
While the audience’s attention was on Jimmy listening to the Sousa march in the diorama on the left, the right hand diorama where Sarah was sewing on the porch has rotated and illuminated to reveal the daughter, Patricia, dressed as the Statue of Liberty. Patricia is sitting on a bench in front of her window, and proceeds to complain about how her new boyfriend, Theodore, will feel about her being dressed as Lady Liberty. The scene behind the scrim obviously takes place in Patricia’s bedroom, and we can assume that she is either in the latter part of her high school career, due to the college pennants hanging on the wall. There are also black and white photographs hanging on the wall and a record on the ground, leaning against the wall.
After laughing at his daughter’s vanity, the scene behind the scrim dims, and John changes subjects, describing the new innovation of indoor plumbing, as the scene behind the left scrim lights up to reveal a man laying in a bathtub, reading a newspaper, wearing a red, white, and blue top hat. It soon becomes obvious, due to the outfit hanging behind the bathtub, that the older gentleman will be dressing as Uncle Sam for the 4th of July celebration. John explains that the man, Uncle Orville, has invented something that he calls “air cooling,” which the audience realizes through Orville’s setup of a Westinghouse fan blowing across a large block of ice pointed at him in the tub. On the other side of the tub from the fan and ice block, Orville has a glass of iced tea sitting on the closed lid of the toilet, complete with a wooden toilet seat. Closer examination of the bathroom reveals other details: glass bottles of various soaps or elixirs sit on a wooden shelf on the back wall of the bathroom, while shaving implements and soap sits on a shelf above the porcelain sink. Wooden paneling stretches halfway up the wall, which allows for easy cleaning of the bathroom.
There are many different pieces of evidence from the scene to suggest that the scene takes place on July 4, 1926. We know that the scene takes place prior to 1927, as that is the year Charles Lindbergh makes his journey across the Atlantic. 1927 is also the year that The Jazz Singer was released to theaters, and both of these events are things John is looking forward to. However, we also know that the Carousel family’s Crosley radio was manufactured in 1924 at the earliest. July 4, 1926 was a significant date; it was the one hundred-fiftieth anniversary of American independence against the British. This may be why the entire family is dressed as significant American historical figures or characters, as the 4th of July festivities include a large parade and fireworks display in the downtown area. Also, Patricia dressed as the Statue of Liberty also likely has historical implications, as well. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge used his presidential authority to declare the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island a National Monument, to be protected under the Antiquities Act. This caused the famous statue located in New York Harbor to become a popular tourist destination.

Uncle Orville reprimands John with an angry, “No privacy at all around this place!” and John apologizes for his insensitivity. He is quickly interrupted by Sarah announcing that his costume has been completed, urging him to prepare for the Independence Day celebrations. John excuses himself, sending the audience on their way by singing the theme song, “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow,” as the theater begins to rotate to the right, transitioning into the next scene.

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