Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Insider Secrets to the Top Amusement Parks

You spent eight hundred dollars on plane fare, hotels and admission tickets, and finally the day is here. How are you going to maximize the fun you get for all that amusement park cash? I'm a veteran of some of the most exciting theme parks in the world and I'm going to share with you some of my secret tips.

1. Wait for lousy weather

Let's face it: nobody likes bad weather, especially when they're visiting a theme park. I hate getting my hair mussed and PeePaw doesn't like how the wind blows his fat around. For whatever reason, bad weather means no crowds, which means extra fun for you. Just make sure you're prepared: bring a poncho and a sturdy umbrella -- and maybe stop at the barbershop on Main Street to get a sensible hairdo.

2. Go during an unpopular time of year

Everybody knows that theme parks are mobbed over Spring Break, Easter, or Christmastime. The smart mom, then, books the family trip when they know kids won't be there: like, right before exams. Since there's no chance Wally-Bob and Florabelle are getting into good schools, I figured we'd might as well enjoy ourselves.

Another secret is that most parks have gay nights, which aren't hugely popular in red states like mine. Evangelicals make up a large part of the theme park crowd, and needless to say they don't like rubbing against hunky, shirtless men -- at least when their spouses are around! Take advantage of their absence: tie a rainbow bandana around your neck and you'll blend right in with the crowd.

We had terrible weather during Gay Night this year, which means the place was deserted and extra fun. The 'Allo Guvnor! Alfred the Butler's Spinning Derbies ride was transformed into a disco, and I must have danced with Doreen, a single woman from Maine, for three hours while PeePaw napped on a bench shaped like a library book and two sweet guys named Nate and Andy watched the kids.

3. Avoid overpriced costumed-character meals

Every theme park has some elaborate party banquet where all the costumed characters show up, and all the kids go nuts. Count me out! I do not need some zit-faced high-schooler dressed as Ariel squeaking to me about undersea life when there's a table full of generic Chicken McNuggets nearby.

Sure, maybe the kids will whine, but tell them you're preparing them for real life. Every girl dreams of marrying that prince, but we all grow up to make pudding from a box for husky guys in backward baseball caps. Sure, that harsh reality might scare them, but if it means dodging a meal that costs more than their education, it's definitely worthwhile.

You’d be surprised how much time you can save by eating somewhere unpopular. In fact, it's the worse the better for me! Is it sizzling hot outside? See if the park has somewhere that serves fish. Has their taco truck been shut down for food poisoning? Three bean burritos, please! Or better yet — here's a real expert tip — go on TripAdvisor, search for your theme park, and sort the listing so the worst appears on top. There’s your place! Maybe the sensible folks steer clear of Grandma's Sweet N' Savory Snack Shack but with nobody else in the building PeePaw and I enjoyed a relaxed meal with Doreen. We were in line for Super Space Wahoo! while all the "cool kids" were still going, "Are you weally Ariel? Weally? [PAUSE] I wuv you."

(Doreen was such a sweet girl. She loved my short hair and didn't believe I had a mullet just six hours earlier. As a joke she started calling me "Butch," and she let PeePaw finish her Peaches N' Cream Chicken Wings.)

4. Go on the rides nobody likes

Everybody knows the cliche: go early and stay late. The problem is, everybody knows this and everybody DOES this. Unless you're Tom Cruise, by the time you scurry your fat ass over to Harry Potter's Oh Look Ta-Dah! ride the line will be so long you can use your $80 wand to wave goodbye to the rest of your day.

Instead -- insider tip alert! -- go to the attractions nobody likes. Maybe rides sponsored by chemical companies aren't quite as much fun as flying elephants and fairies, but when there's no line you take what you can get. And how else will you learn how weed killer is made? I personally didn't find it interesting but it got Wally-Bob to stop drinking it.

You'll also be surprised how much you enjoy a country dance jamboree led by muskrats who look like the Jonas Brothers. PeePaw loved it when Doreen and I danced together. And sure, the Half-Baked Hotel isn't anybody's all-time favorite attraction, but my kids really liked trying to get all that luggage up the circular stairs.

So, do your homework. Is there a roller coaster that couldn't scare a cat? Maybe a boring old carousel? They can be surprisingly fun, though my kids could have died every time PeePaw yelled, "Look, Doreen, I'm riding on an ostrich!" Is there a slow boat ride that goes past portable toilets? Head for that. The line is probably short, and it can come in handy when your stomach finally decides what to do with that Mango Maple Churro.

You’ll also win bragging rights: really, your neighbor only went on four rides? You went on fourteen, and you got a coupon for fifty cents off weed killer.

5. Go to a cheaper park and lie about it

Knott's Berry Farm is -- let's face it -- a dismal turd of an afternoon, but it’s half the price of Disneyland so that was our next theme park trip. The kids' downturned faces perked up after Doreen told them it was actually Harry Potter World, but Voldemort had magically changed all the signs and then turned Harry into a chicken!

Of course, nobody could have guessed that Wally-Bob would catch a chicken and then try to make it change back. PeePaw and I could barely hide our guffaws! I swear, we had the best time ever until some mean stranger spilled the beans. Our beer breakfast came to an end pretty much when the chicken did.

Anyway, I hope these tips help you. it's almost bedtime so I've got to go. Doreen and PeePaw say they want to ask me something, and then Florabelle needs my help. I told her if she said, "God bless Nate and Andy" just one more time in her bedtime prayers, I'd make her go live with them. Now I've got to make her unpack.

Monday, August 19, 2019

A German driver's license is fiendishly difficult to get. People study for years and still fail to pass the tests. Having to use the English translation of the official government app renders it nearly impossible, as you can see from my difficulty here. See if you agree with the correct answers (the checkmarks on the left) or my "incorrect" choices (on the right).

"Be aware ... that you only detect oncoming vehicles after it is too late." It's a real danger! I hardly see that giant white splash of headlights pointed straight at us.

Never assume a bus will pull away from a bus stop! This is Germany, so there's paperwork to fill out first.

This makes sense. If you see a blind guy, don't toot your horn. He's got to learn about electric cars sometime.

I'm not sure why, after a long drive, I'm too close to the vehicle in front. Maybe I'm hoping he has food?

I don't know why I got this wrong, since it seems straightforward. When you see this sign and then notice cars careening towards you, you should be, like, "No, you go first."

Those specially designated footpaths? They ain't that special.

Got it: don't use the merging procedure when merging. Just randomly, out of the blue, have you guys ever won a war?

The last choice is definitely understandable, because in Germany everybody's like "Fuck my rear-view mirrors."

Don't enter an intersection if you want to turn and would have to wait. In America, the first time somebody tries this they will starve to death in their car.

Quick question about #1. Aren't I the traffic turning left?

Just slide right into him and he'll get the hint.

Those special bus lanes? They ain't that special.

If the cyclist stays parked there for over an hour, can I leave my car to get snacks?

Once you're across the road, though, fuck those weather conditions.

Because in Germany trucks are like sharks: if they stop they will die.

Don't drive to the right to let people pass! That's admitting you are weak. Instead, drive slowly in the goddamn center of the road while repeating, "I AM somebody."

Also when you're on a two-lane road and there aren't any vehicles within miles, be aware that botulism kills 18 people per year.

So, drive faster than you can see, and remember there's no stopping! If your car catches fire, put on oven mitts and push it towards the next exit.

"The rear parcel shelf"? Is this a Mercedes or a UPS truck? Do we have to make things look like parcels to leave them on the rear parcel shelf? Can we put the camera on it if we wrap it in brown paper and tie in with string?

Fuck those taxi drivers.

Got that? Don't bother your mechanic, just hit the road with fingers crossed.

This makes a little more sense in English: "When you start your car, keep your foot on the brake."

Those "special areas" in #1? They ain't that special.

Fuck that red truck.

Okay, I will definitely not overtake the moped before the rail crossing.

Quick question: If I ask, "What rail crossing?" can I get a driver's license anyway?

I don't know why I got this wrong. I just assumed the right answer for "What is a towed load?" wouldn't be, "You know, it's that load you're towing."

Fuck the flowing traffic on the road.

I heard Einstein once took this test, and after he read this question he threw himself off a bridge.

If I promise not to say anything bad about currywurst can I go back to America now?

Friday, July 12, 2019

I'm not crazy about music these days. The pomposity and braggadocio alienate me. Do people really want posture and bluster rather than humbler words about life that they can relate to? See if you can tell from the list below which are popular songs and which are slightly more realistic sentiments that I for one would rather hear on Spotify.
  1. Legendary 
  2. I'm the Best 
  3. I'm Studying Now So I Can Contribute To The World Later 
  4. I Want It All 
  5. Number One 
  6. I Don't Enjoy My Job But It Puts Food On The Table 
  7. I'm Too Sexy
  8. Heroes 
  9. I Wrote Up A Ten Year Plan And I'm Sticking to It 
  10. I'm Gonna Be Somebody 
  11. Ima Boss
  12. If You Watch My Kids I Can Take A Piss In Peace 
  13. All I Do Is Win
  14. Supermodel 
  15. "Difficult" Is In My Vocabulary Since I Took An English Class Last Year 
  16. Can't Be Tamed 
  17. Hello, Destiny! Can I Put You On Hold While I Talk to Student Loans?
  18. We Are The Champions
  19. Last Year I Planted A Tree, and Today I'm Sitting Under Shitting Birds
  20. I Believe I Can Fly
  21. I Wrestled With Fame and Now I Can't Feel My Feet

    Answer: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18 and 20 are popular songs.
    3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 17, 19 and 21 are more realistic sentiments.

    Thursday, July 11, 2019

    I can't ever leave my husband. No matter what happens. I have no choice but to spend the rest of my life with him.

    It's not that I want to leave him: no, he's a great guy and I'm crazy about him. What bothers me is that I have no choice in the event things go south.

    It's not the marriage vows: they're easily reversible. You send a few thousand dollars to a lawyer and a week later you're downing martinis at The Tipsy Turnip again. When we got married, though, a well-meaning friend gave us a bond I hadn't anticipated and now there's absolutely no turning back.

    He named a star after us.

    You know the bit: the International Star Registry has a list of the billions and billions of stars, and if you send them upwards of $54 they'll let you name one. Any name you want, as long as it's not vulgar or derogatory. I'm not sure how that would happen, but maybe there are people in the world who'd fork over cash just to have something in space called I'm A Little Asshole.

    Of course I was excited. Their website has photos of famous folks with stars named after them, though I'm guessing these were freebies given for publicity. There's a photo of Princess Di and a copy of a thank-you note from her secretary. It's gracious rather than grateful: "The princess was most interested" seems like the opposite end of "the princess shit her ballgown" scale.

    As part of the package, we got a framable parchment with the star's coordinates, though I'm not quite sure what to do with them. I typed them into Google and they're clueless. There's no walk to a bus to a train to a plane to a rocket ship. There's no "A taxi would be faster, ya cheapskate!" Of course there's no street diagram with that constantly-spinning arrow saying, "Your star is in front of you. No, it's behind you! No, it's in front of you again!"

    Our star wasn't in any of the big constellations, but that didn't bother me. The constellations are just gimmicky things created by ordinary people, like astronomical connect-the-dots. Some bored soul staring upwards said, "Hey, that string of stars looks like a topless chick. I think I'll call them 'Virgo.'" Though I'm not bored or astronomical, I decided to make a constellation too, and now our star is in the Bowlegged Toad. Modestly, I didn't make it the centerpiece of the Toad, instead just sticking it on the side of his glasses. I still haven't written up the characteristics of people born under this sign though "soporific" and "oleaginous" are safe bets.

    Over the months, though, my glee at having a place in eternity turned into unease. There was a responsibility that came with the star that went unmentioned on the website. They don't let you rename your star so your choice is as permanent as a tattoo. Sure, maybe I Love Britney is a cool name right now, but how about in a hundred years? Spaceships are going to fly by and passengers are going to think, "I wonder if this 'Britney' was an important statesman, or at least danced in her own music videos." What was once flattering is suddenly going to be sad.

    While we're together, then, everything is terrific. People can look up and go, "Wow, Roman & Dieter 4Eva looks really good tonight. Its luminosity and magnitude are impressive for a red dwarf. They must be one amazing couple to have a giant exploding ball of gas named after them." But what happens when it's not happily ever after? People criticize heterosexuals for having kids and then getting divorced: how would they feel about two guys with a billion-megaton ball of gas? We'd be that bad role model, with the star that forever blared, "You know those gays just can't commit."

    And how about all those wonderful people who believe in eternal love? Picture NASA sending a rocket to Mars:

    SCIENTIST: Okay, guys, I want you to turn right at Alpha Centauri, then make a hard left when you get to Roman & Dieter 4Eva -- shit, they broke up, didn't they? [SNIFFLES] I knew this was gonna happen. Can somebody else take over please?

    Or imagine a college Astronomy class:

    PROFESSOR: Here, just left of Roman & Dieter 4Eva, is a nascent black hole that --

    STUDENT: Professor, did you know that Roman and Dieter aren't together any more?

    PROFESSOR: No, I did not know that. [PAUSE] Sorry, kids, I got something in my eye. Class is dismissed.

    I picture jets full of students seeing our star on their way to Spring Break on Jupiter. "Did you know Roman and Dieter separated?" someone will announce.

    "NO!" someone else will gasp. "Nuh-uh. NUH-UH! Nuh-uh, nuh-uh, NUH-UH!!! [PAUSE] Are there any chips left?"

    Of course, I have to look on the bright side. We're still a happy couple, and if we knew how Star Coordinates worked we'd probably gaze up at our star with pride. And besides, there are far worse gifts. For instance, at the zoo they let you adopt animals, and you can even adopt an animal for a friend. It's one thing to stay together for an astronomical body but another to find room for an ocelot.

    Thursday, July 4, 2019

    Game booth at a festival in Hanover, Germany yesterday. Did you know German toilets have a shelf in them so you can look before you flush? Weird, but still better than an Adam Sandler movie.

    Wednesday, June 19, 2019

    Sitting in Front of a Guy Who Looked Exactly Like John Landis (repost from 1999)

    On a flight from L. A. to New York I recently sat in front of a man who looked EXACTLY like John Landis, but as I have a horrible fear of lawsuits it DEFINITELY POSITIVELY was not John Landis.

    Ordinarily I don't eavesdrop on conversations -- especially on flights from L. A., since I really don't need any more information on either Pottery Barn or plastic surgery -- but the Non-Landis had his mouth approximately two feet from my ears and he was SCREAMING. I tried the subtle hint of clamping my hands over my ears and he wouldn't quiet down. I turned up my headset so loud that people in KANSAS were looking up and going, "Hey, do you hear Ratt?" and he wouldn't quiet down.

    I spent half an hour trying to convince people sitting next to a screaming baby to change seats with me. Because at least the baby wasn't SMACKING F*CKING CHEWING GUM two feet from my head while discussing DAN ACKROYD. At least the baby wouldn't pound on the back of my chair every time he wanted to emphasize a point. Like an ATOM BOMB needs emphasis.

    And so for the remainder of the flight, like people who are trapped in car wrecks, buried under forty feet of snow or entombed in collapsed buildings, I got through it the only way I knew how: by repeating to myself over and over, WHEN I GET OUT OF HERE -- AND I KNOW I WILL -- I'M GOING TO POST ALL ABOUT THIS ON THE INTERNET.

    So here are some highlights.

    He's 48, has a wife named Leslie, a 16-year-old daughter, and a son who's in that "unconditional love phase," which if I know men means either the kid is less than four or his dad has huge honking breasts. He's got a half-brother, two sisters and a stepsister, all of whom "feel much closer to me than I do to them." His parents were "very reformed" Jews and his wife is atheist.

    Commenting on a magazine: "Those are great tits. Real tits." As opposed to, I imagine, reproductions.

    On "Antz": "It's a Woody Allen movie. Because it's animated you don't have to look at him. [Ed. note: D-uh!] He's old."

    On Woody Allen's "Celebrity": "Hated it. Hated it. I hated it. Hated it. Hated it."

    On the in-flight movie "Practical Magic": "Ugh. It's unwatchable. Just unwatchable."

    Said there's going to be a re-release of the movie "Blood Simple" to promote it's video release. He said they recut it because they didn't have the rights to some of the music used.

    Said Eddie Murphy got $20,000 to appear in "Trading Places."

    Said he's happy with his latest project, but it was a very frustrating experience. "It's a small movie, very unambitious."

    On how difficult some actors are to work with: "Like Danny Ackroyd I have some close friends that are out of control."

    "We're No Angels": "It's terrible. Horrible."

    Meg Ryan: "She's very overrated."

    On airplanes: "I still can't believe we're 37 thousand feet in the air. It's like science fiction."

    On the internet: "I hate the internet. Do I go on it? No. I'm astounded by how stupid everything is."

    On the ocean: "The ocean is big."

    And for our finale, I must caution sensitive and/or thoughtful readers that they might want to skip ahead to the next posting. I post this only because I am futilely hopeful that in the future people like Mr. Non-Landis will think twice about screaming and pounding on the backs of chairs because they just might hold IRRITATED PEOPLE WITH INTERNET ACCESS.

    "'Shakespeare in Love' is a great movie, not for the acting but the writing. If you know Shakespeare it's just brilliant. My daughter is interested in the theater, which is too bad, but as I said to my wife: thank God she has no talent."

    Monday, June 17, 2019

    I'm trying to get a German drivers' license and am dumbfounded by the government's official study app. We all know Germans are overprotective and borderline paranoid, but can't they pretend to be normal here? I mean, how do you study for a question like this?

    "Before turning right at an intersection, you should:
    1. Activate your turn signal.
    2. Move into the right lane.
    3. Be aware that goose attacks injure 27 people every year."

    I am aware of goose attacks. I also know about asteroids, climate change, and that groundhogs are neither ground nor hogs. But maybe, just for this test, we can ignore everything that human beings should be aware of all the time? When you're frying chicken, you should know that there's a vaccine that eradicates polio in children. This is a true statement. That knowledge isn't specific to frying chicken, though, which is why most cookbooks leave it out.

    Likewise, German drivers' license bureau, maybe your education should stick to driving tips. It's a fair compromise: When I'm stopped behind a school bus I can look out for wayward children or cars in my blindspot, but for a blissful minute or two please let me stop worrying about circus performers who've been temporarily blinded by talcum powder.