Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Roll Up For The Mystery Tour, Part Four

Part one, two, and three.

There’s this book I had as a kid. It was a picture book, but not glossy. It was constructed more like a Dr Seuss book, with the pages that feel like construction paper. You know what I mean? Anyway, this book had drawings of all sorts of weird fish in it. It was like the book of unusual fish. Like the lungfish that buries itself in mud, waits out the dry season in a sort of dirt cocoon, then comes out again when the rains restore the lake where the fish lives. Or the remora, that attaches it’s sucker head to sharks, hitching rides from them and eating the little scraps that the shark leaves behind. Or the angler(?) fish, that has a little glowing tendril that attracts small fish into position so the angler fish can snap them up. Or the archer(?) fish, that spits a stream of water at insects to shoot them out of the air so they can be eaten. Obviously, if it made such an impression that I still remember it some thirty years later, it must have been quite a book.

I bring up the book for two reasons. First, as we toured various exhibits at Sea World, I kept seeing fish that were in that book. The second reason is because Miss Tori and Kid S were noticing the same exact thing, because when they were little, they had the same exact book! I mean, wow man, all the vast universe, and it’s still a small aquarium after all. We moved from one exhibit to the next, until I got distracted. And it wasn’t even some sexy little mermaid this time!

Most parks have a water ride in which the victims sit in a circle of seats that are mounted on this sort of oversized inner tube. They travel through a series of “rapids” and get lightly splashed on the way. Smart parks have overlooks, where people walking by can watch the poor suckers on the ride. Brilliant parks have coin operated batteries of water artillery so you can put in a quarter and blast the helpless schmucks. I tell you, there’s nothing sweeter than hitting the button, launching a shot of water into the air, and having your good timing rewarded as the water drops down on some poor kid’s unsuspecting head. (sort of like what happened to Code Name Eagle on a trip to Great America, maybe 15(!!!) years ago? Holy crap I’m old). I really want to go with four or five friends so we can control an entire bank of water cannons. Full disclosure: I really, really want to stand on the bridge of the Enterprise and say “Mr. Worf, fire at will!” Which, if you watched that episode, maybe you’ll agree with me that firing at will was not that impressive. It seemed that instead of one phaser firing once, they fired it twice and shot off a photon torpedo. All of which is the long way of saying that Miss Tori and Kid S toured one of the other exhibits while I shot at hapless tube riders.

We hooked back up again for the big shows: Shamu to the Infinite Power, and The Not Ready For Prime Time Dolphins. The Shamu show was great. It was very entertaining, and Shamu got all kinds of people wet. It looked like everyone in the designated splash zone (the first fourteen rows, if memory serves) got at least a little bit of splash. The problem was that we had three or four killer whales in the show, and the woman who was narrating the act for us called all of them Shamu. One is Shamu. The others should be called something else. I’ve heard of Shamu in Sea World commercials for a long time. For all I know, none of these were the original Shamu. They may have all been sham Shamus, as it were.

The dolphins missed a few tricks, but the humans made up for it. They call up a nice family to help with the tricks. We had a dad, and a mom, and a little boy old enough to talk, and not much else. The kid may have been a little slow too. At one point, a rope is tied to the far side of the tank, and mom is in the audience pulling the other end up the aisle to make a really high rope hurdle for the dolphin to go over. The trick goes great, but poor Mom took a little tumble back down the last couple of steps and almost ended up going over the side into the tank. The dolphin emcee was right on top of things. Oh, he didn’t ask if she was ok. He didn’t ask if she needed help. He just deadpanned “Don’t worry. Only 3,000 people saw that.”

Dad got to touch a dolphin, and he was asked what it felt like. The emcee agreed when Dad said it felt like rubber. Little junior got to touch the dolphin, and he was asked what it felt like. Our host, who must have heard every answer a million times, got a real laugh out of the boy’s response: “It feels like a hot dog.” He tried to get the boy to run a trick, waving his hand just so, so the dolphin would do something, but the boy didn’t quite catch on. They gave the kid rubber boots (not made from dolphins, I trust, no matter how much dolphins feel like rubber) to walk out in the wading area for all this. The host had some fun with the boy, telling him to sit down at one point, and to jump in the tank at another point, just as jokes. We in the audience knew he didn’t really want the kid to do that. Mom and Dad certainly didn’t want to lug a soaked kid around the park. But the kid didn’t think it was a joke, and the host had to rescue him both times, or the kid would have sat down, and he would have jumped in the tank. Even though the dolphins missed some cues, they did pretty well, and were certainly impressive. However, in the splash zone, I would guess that less than half of the people got wet from the tail slaps.

One other show we went to was called Pets on Parade, I think. This show has regular household pets, cats and dogs, and even some ducks. They do their little tricks and run around on a stage that is filled with props. The actual tricks are impressive, even if the staging of the show is aimed at kids under six. Maybe the best thing was being able to sit in shade. I take that back. The best thing was that Sea World took all these animals from shelters, saving them from being gassed, at least until they get too old to perform anymore. Dang, where did I get this mean streak? It was cute and fun, and I got the warm fuzzies from the rescued animals. There’s also a very small chance I saw pretty much the same show some years back at Universal Studios, which is another park owned by the Budweiser people.

Speaking of Budweiser, let’s talk about the restrooms (and no, I didn’t get to go to beer school, we were too busy going from one thing to another). My understanding is that women’s restrooms don’t have this, but men’s rooms at many places now have advertisements posted above the urinals. It’s true ladies: men will spare no expense to eliminate even the slightest chance that our eyes will wander and we’ll accidentally see “something” out of the corner of our eyes at the next urinal. Some places put up sports pages from the local paper. Others put up ads. This Busch owned theme park puts up blatant attack ads! Allow me to reconstruct one from memory for you, if I may (I trust you’ll forgive any mistakes, but the intent is faithfully represented):

Everyone likes a good quality beer. Here’s a quiz. Which beer is the best tasting beer?
American made Anheuser-Busch
South African Breweries’ Miller

That’s right, if you want a good tasting beer, nice, fresh, and American, don’t go with some foreign beer, choose Budweiser

I may be a little off on the exact phrasing, but again I assert that this is the intent of the ads. They pretty much say that you’re some sort of America-hating commie if you drink Miller beer, which they strongly imply is made in South Africa and then shipped to America’s freedom loving shores, probably in secret league with the tobacco and oil companies.

We ate dinner in the park as well. All the restaurants look the same in there, so we just picked one. Kid S and I had cheeseburgers, and Miss Tori had some kind of fish. We were assured that it wasn’t from one of the fish that couldn’t learn to do tricks. One thing we kept noticing was kids walking around with a plastic Shamu sort of lunch box looking thing. Kid S did a little exploring and discovered that it’s a container they put the chicken nugget meal in. Now Kid S really wanted one of these things, so even though she had just eaten, she hunted down a chicken nugget meal and bought it, just for the Shamu lunch box. Being a gentleman, I helped her eat the extra food. I think that ideally, she wants to use it as a purse. So if you see someone with a Shamu purse, it’s either Kid S, or someone who ripped off her idea. You heard it here first.

After dinner, we were sort of wandering to the exit when we were distracted by a dance stage. They have a DJ, and a cute young woman who does these simple dance moves that the kids in the audience can sort of follow along with. When I say cute, well, it doesn’t do her justice. There’s just something about her. Even though I have no interest in dancing, Dusty was certainly interesting. You heard me. Her name (or at least, her stage name) is Dusty Skies. To be perfectly honest, with a name like that, I was hoping she would strip. And if you saw her, so would you.

It was definitely a nice end to the Sea World experience. If you’re looking for rides, Sea World isn’t the place for you. It is a nice park where you can learn things and spend a fun time with your family. I’ll give Sea World four out of five Shamus.
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