:: Wednesday, July 20, 2005 ::
Wow, what a weekend.
The retreat in San Jose was wonderful, as always, and it was great to see fellow journalism scholars, catch up with them, and make new memories.
I arrived in San Jose before noon on Thursday, so I took a swim in the hotel pool. I haven't been swimming in over a year, so the dip in the pool was quite refreshing. Thursday evening, we went out to dinner in small groups and had interesting discussions with company leaders.
On Friday, after a day of meetings and seminars, we had burgers and shakes at a chain diner restaurant and then saw the movie Crash. I highly recommend this film to everyone; it has redeeming social commentary and has moments that make you happy, sad, and angry. I always enjoy movies that show "what if" scenarios and how we are all interconnected. Also, since "I Have To Deal With Something Racial Every Day," the movie was quite relevant.
Saturday, we had some sessions in the morning, including one about how to dress appropriately for the workplace (very interesting) and dining etiquette (also very interesting). In the afternoon, we went to San Francisco!!! It was a fun ride up to the bay. We then boarded boats to visit Alcatraz Island. The audio tour led us around the jail cells and pointed out some details of historical relevance. Afterwards, we had dinner at a seafood restaurant on oh-so-touristy Pier 39 - always a fun place to stop. For dessert, I had this wonderful chocolate souffle with a gooey chocolate center. It would have been better had it been served warmer, but paired with vanilla ice cream, it nicely concluded my salmon dinner. We had time after our meal, so some of us went to Ghirardelli Square to get some chocolate!
Sigh. I love the Bay Area. Just being in SF, seeing the TransAmerica pyramid and Coit Tower and soaking up the atmosphere was great. Random people on the street would talk to me; that never happens on the East Coast. The people in the Bay Area are so friendly. Well, most of them are... except for certain pissy Starbucks workers who might yell at you if you don't put money in their "tips" jar, even though tip is never required for such Starbucks workers when all they do is ring up your friggin' order... on a computer no less.
Speaking of which, how tacky is it for workers at Starbucks to put a tips jar out in front of the cashier? Starbucks drinks are already ridiculously expensive without having bitchy "baristas" complain about wanting extra money. It's not as if they're not being paid for the job, anyways, with cushy stock options, etc. once they've been working there for a bit.
But I digress...
When we returned to our hotel, we scholars said our goodbyes, and some of us spent time in the suite hanging out and chatting into the night like we do every year. I ended up staying up the whole night, and as the sun began to rise, I shared a taxi with fellow scholars to the airport to fly to Los Angeles, where I met up with my sister at Disneyland for its actual 50th birthday on July 17, 2005.
It was a magical day filled with touching and heartwarming moments to remind the parkgoers of that special day back in 1955 when Walt Disney invited everyone to his Magic Kingdom with the following speech:
"To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here, age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and the promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to the world."
There was a big ceremony in the morning (which sadly I missed because I was still on my way to the park) with the bigwigs of the Walt Disney Company, Art Linkletter, Walt Disney's daughter, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, they replayed the ceremony later in the day on giant Jumbotrons around the park. At exactly 4:45, the time Walt Disney made the dedication speech on July 17, 1955, the Jumbotrons played a video of that speech. My sister and I gathered at Town Square to experience the moment, and it was indeed an unforgettable one, one that will be remembered in the history of Disneyland.
Later in the day, I got to ride the reopened Space Mountain roller coaster! It closed more than two years ago for a complete refurbishment, and the track was completely rebuilt. The ride now has new special effects and is so much smoother. Because the ride is darker, as well as smoother thanks to the new track, you really feel like you're gliding through space. For some reason, the ride feels faster than ever, and the new soundtrack enhances the feeling of speed because it is timed to every small turn or drop in the track. Everyone go check out the new Space Mountain at Disneyland!
After the amazing fireworks show (which I've written about in the past - it's a whopping 17 minutes long with a new flight routine for Tinker Bell and more fireworks and special effects than ever), my sister drove me to the airport, and I took an overnight flight back to Philadelphia.
Oh, I forgot to mention that last week I got to see the musical The Fantasticks for free! I had wanted to see the production of West Side Story that was in town, and on the way to a park I passed by the theater it was playing at. I stopped to check out show times, and these three old ladies approached me and asked me if I needed tickets. Well, it turns out they were tickets for The Fantasticks, which I had heard about earlier in the month and had wanted to watch. I had forgotten that that day was the very last performance of the run, and the performance was sold out, so I was really really lucky. In the right place at the right time. The show was great. Sad at parts, but a nice nostalgic look at a simpler time with pretty romances and family time.
Ah, it's time to wrap up my experience here in Philadelphia... Friday night I will be taking the train overnight back to Boston, where I will (hopefully) visit some friends who are staying on campus for the summer. Saturday night, I will board a plane for my first trans-Atlantic flight for my first-ever trip to England! I'm really looking forward to the study abroad program, and I shall try to provide details once I'm there!
Quote of the Day: "I haven't been around any exploding vaginas lately..."
:: SL 10:53 PM [+] ::