Monsters’ Resort

Monsters, Inc

Any brush with what is hollow in this world leaves me sullen. And sullen I was all the while I was made to endure a stay at the Disney Coronado Springs “Resort” in Orlando, where I traveled this past week for a three-day meeting. The minute my plane touched down, I could feel my mood shift to dark. By the time I arrived at the hotel, after having endured a 40-minute sales video aboard the Disney Magical Express, I was nearly catatonic.

So were the people who worked at the resort, giving lie to the claim that it is “the happiest place on earth.”  The woman who checked me in, for instance, could barely look at me or get up from her chair; the same was true of the woman who checked me out. And, the first morning I was there, I passed a small, sad person sitting alone at an even smaller, sadder desk. On my way out in the late afternoon, I passed by her again. She was still sitting in the same position, alone, though I need to believe that she had moved at some point during her day.

 “You’re still here!?” I said and asked.

“Oh, yes,” she sighed.

Also there was the solitary gardener, who stood watering the same spot for what seemed like a very long time; the brigade of apron-wearing maids forced to walk beneath the upstretched arms of two cheery supervisors, who touched fingertips while the women ducked under their steeple; and the sour taxi driver who didn’t say goodbye to us, despite a generous tip, and whose antipathy you could eat.

Really, the whole place was creepy, though the scary prize would have to go to my room, wherein could be heard eerie sounds emanating from somewhere within the walls — clanking, pinging, sucking noises interrupted only by the sound of something with tentacles regurgitating in an underwater tank.

More than once while I was there I thought of how my father would check under my bed for monsters and wished he had been alive to take a quick peek.


Little Rock then and now and

Little Rock thenThis past week I went to Little Rock, Arkansas, for work and was not especially looking forward to my trip—weaned, as I had been, on images of the state’s 36th governor, Orval Eugene Faubus, defying the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown Vs. Board of Education decision and calling in the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine African American students from entering the racially segregated Little Rock Central High.

As my plane descended, however, I was more than a little taken with the lush green landscape, boggy though it was, and, despite myself, I immediately fell in love with the entire state. Our lodging, the Capital Hotel, was the bomb, as it is said, where smiles abounded and where gracious good will seemed a way of life; where I found hand-packed, ribbon-tied toffee on my bed each night; and where each day my toiletries were spread out and lovingly arranged on a hand towel. Everywhere we went, the food was delicious, though nowhere more so than at Brave New Restaurant (the name would not have been my choice), which overlooked the Arkansas River and which served exquisitely fresh salads and crusty sourdough bread.

A few hours before we were to catch our planes, we visited the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, which was very great fun and of enormous interest. For three dollars, we could hold a phone and listen to Bill describe the various exhibits, so we did! And, it was as if he had been speaking to each one of us, alone (I even half expected to hear him say my name). A nosey parker at heart, I particularly enjoyed the handwritten/typed letters from Whoopi, Elton, Queen Noor, and many others and especially liked that the comedienne called Bill “the cat’s pajamas.” I had fantasies, too, about how I might get myself invited to the Clinton “apartment” that sits atop the museum.

Our meeting had been a great success, also, and we were all patting ourselves on the back for it and were gushing about how wonderful the attendees were. But, I just couldn’t leave well enough alone and, after, was compelled to tell my colleagues the story of the college president who sat at the table behind me during an interactive session and who, in a booming voice, referred to the African American students on his campus as “the blacks.” I almost got whiplash.


Erica’s terrible horrible no good very bad day

untitledOur hearts go out to Erica, who, according to a Citi Simplicity TV commercial, had a really crappy day. Poor girl spilled coffee all over her keyboard, got gum on the bottom of her pink stilettos, found a parking ticket on her windshield, AND forgot to pay her credit card on time. Good thing she has kickboxing to help channel her frustrations. An even better good thing is that Citi, merchant of kindness and good will, doesn’t charge late fees or a penalty rate for its Simplicity card — EVER (“as in NEVER ever,” says the voiceover).

Maybe we can petition Citi to export a similar credit card program to, say, Syria, where Iman, who is eight months pregnant, has no end of bad days: Yesterday, her house was blown apart, her son was shot in the face, and her husband fled with his brother. Just imagine how much a no-fee card would perk things up in her life.

And if we cannot awaken?

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg tourism destinations

Glass Beach is a popular northern California tourist attraction, and its claim to fame has been that it is “one of the most abundant sources of sea glass in the world.” Soon, though, all that glass will have been picked over by visitor-thieves making off with baggies, buckets, and trashcan-sized canisters full of the stuff.

It sounds so mythic and dreamy, sea glass, but really it’s human refuse made smooth and gorgeous by the salty tumult of our churning oceans. Until the 60s, the Fort Bragg beach had been a toxic garbage dump, where people threw their soda pop bottles and other trash, but once the site had been cleaned up they returned in droves to collect the alchemized artifacts—unmindful, as they were, of the posted signs prohibiting this activity.

I am not so much troubled by the origins of Glass Beach as I am by the me-mine clamoring of those who seem to walk in never-ending sleep. We humans tend to make a heavy-footed mess wherever we go, and this has always been true, but one can only hope that we will awaken before mother earth gives up on her seemingly futile efforts to clean up after our messes.