Friday, August 04, 2006

Downtown Disney

During the past week I've been in Orlando for business meetings. It has been a very productive week, and I finally got to meet some of the great people who I've been on conference calls with during the last few months. Normally, when I travel for work I travel alone - well, what I mean is that I travel to the destination alone, and then end up working with what at times ends up being literally hundreds of people. This week I was actually traveling with some of my associates - one of whom is my boss, Mike.

Mike is a good guy - he's fair, and has been with the company for nearly twenty years, so he has a lot of great experiences and knowledge to share. He's also a father of five! He's got two boys, and three girls - the youngest of which is 6 years old. I wasn't surprised when he asked me if I'd like to join him on a shopping trip to Downtown Disney.

In case you're not familiar with the GIANT, magical, world of Walt Disney; Downtown Disney is essentially the out door shopping mall of Disney. Shopping mall isn't really the best description because it's really much more then just a shopping mall. First, there are kids everywhere. It's one of the few places in the world where kids are not just allowed - they are expected! And, even better then the huge population of kids...they are all happy! After being there for about an hour I realized that of the hundreds of kids running around, I didn't see one child that didn't have a smile on his or her face. On the road connecting the outdoor shops there are statues of every Disney character you can think of. There are clowns and people dressed up in Mickey mouse costumes everywhere you look. It's really amazing.

Mike had three things he HAD TO GET. He explained that if he returned home without the items he would lose his "best father" award, and even worse would have a house full of upset little girls. His two youngest girls wanted just two things: 1 - princess flip flops, and 2 - princess puzzles. Although it might be a little difficult to find princess things in the real world, in the world of Disney one thing you are never without is princess stuff. Disney has princess everything...and I mean EVERYTHING. Princess flip flops, princess dress shoes, princess shirts, princess wands, princess cups, princess dolls, princess glasses, princess pins, princess jewelry, princess bottled water... if you can think of it, it comes in princess form. So, it actually didn't take long for Mike to find such common place items as princess flip flops and puzzles.

After Mike found the flip flops, I heard a noise coming from across the square so I told him I'd meet him there after he'd finished buying the princess items. What I discovered across the square was one of the cutest things I've ever seen. It was - of course - the Downtown Disney hoola hoop contest. There was a DJ playing up beat dance music, and a referee who was "judging" the contestants. Any child who wanted to could take part in the contest. It was basically a last man standing event. The referee would count down from three, and then the music would start playing for one minute. If during that minute you dropped your hoola hoop, you're out. Then the remaining "contestants" reposition and the music starts all over again.

The best part was that there were no age constraints on the game... so there were twelve year olds, and there were two year olds. This proved to be a very fun, and even funny combination. Of course seeing the two year olds attempt using a hoola hoop is about the sweetest thing you will ever see... but seeing a two year old pick up his hoola hoop and bounce into every contestant so that they have to start over is very funny. This cute little boy, who I guess was probably close to three would quickly drop his hoola hoop, and then pick it back up and try to link it with the older boys and girls hoops. At first I thought that the older kids would get upset that the little boy was disturbing their hoola hooping, but - maybe because of the magic of Disney - they just smiled and let the little guy run a muck. He had a blast, and it was at least 15 minutes before his mom decided she'd take him to one of the other events. Again, you'd think that a three year old being taken away from his play pals might upset him... but he just smiled and walked on down the road with his mommy. He was so cute. I wish I had thought to take pictures - I didn't bring a camera, but I wish I would have thought to snap some quick photos with my camera phone.

After the shopping, we went to the Downtown Disney Wolfgang Puck dining room to meet up with another associate of ours who had flown in later that week. She's a mother of a 15 year old boy who was on his first official date with his first official girlfriend that night... so needless to say she was a little anxious to get back to her hotel to call her husband to find out how it went. She seemed to be a really attentive mom - so it was great to have her share some of her stories. Her son sounds like a pretty amazing person for someone his age.

Anyway, shopping and dinner turned out to be much more fun then I could have ever expected. Being around all those kids, and at the same time being part of a loving couple hoping to adopt a child was really a huge feeling. It brought great hope for the future, as well as great memories of my family and our vacations to Disney when I was just a kid.

As always - thanks for taking the time to read this post.


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