2017 comes in with sadness, the death of Dago Red, more commonly known as Father Patrick Mulcahy . . . or in real life as actor William Christopher. And it also comes in with unintentional hilarity and the clusterfuck that was Mariah Carey‘s performance on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest.”
And so 2017 begins much like 2016 ended: unexpected deaths and an unexpected train wreck: Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, and the regime of Donald Trump, respectively.
I was hoping the New Year would bring new prosperity and hope.
Now, I’m not too sure.
Like Jimmy Buffett says . . .
“If we weren’t all crazy, we would all go insane.”
As I predicted in my post yesterday, Walt Disney World is already installing temporary fences and making new signage for their properties. You can read the Orlando Sentinelarticle here.
I failed to mention a thought I had while driving to work this week. I started to think about how those lakes at the Magic Kingdom are interconnected, and that Fort Wilderness has a long-abandoned water park there on the shore of Bay Lake, the old River Country. And I thought that, if any place, that overgrown ruin would be ideal for alligators to nest.
Scroll down to the Sentinel‘s video, which is a link to a video made recently and broadcast on Inside Edition. Looks like someone else had the same thoughts.
The photo above, from today’s USA Today, shows you just how close the Grand Floridian Resort is to the Magic Kingdom.
The beach at the Grand Floridian, of course, is the site where an alligator snatched a two-year old from his father’s hand while the family walked just inside the waterline.
The attack occurred roughly forty or so minutes after sunset, and the gator pulled the child under after briefly tussling with the frantic father.
You’ve probably already absorbed all of this from cable or online news sources, so I won’t rehash any more of it. So I’ll say something unexpected:
Statistically, this should have happened long ago.
I do not think this is Disney’s fault. Signs were placed along the hotel’s beach warning guests not to enter the water. You have to ask yourself why those signs are there. It’s a man-made lake; there are no riptides or undercurrents; and not much of a danger. Unless there’s something in the water.
This editorial in the New York Daily News gets a lot of things wrong. Writer Shaun King, an admitted Disney World fan and frequent guest, along with his family, to Disney’s forty-square mile property admits that they had never once thought there would be dangerous alligators anywhere on Disney property. How could there be? This is Disney, for god’s sake! Nothing bad ever happens here! (Really? Read this, this, and this.) And then, to find five alligators in the lake? That’s simply horrendous!
I can’t speak for the powers-that-be at Disney World, but after working at a major theme park and by studying Disney Parks for four decades, I can make some educated guesses about the signage along the beach. First, they want you safe, so they clearly tell you that you shouldn’t go in the water. Second, they don’t want to scare the bejesus out of you, so they don’t even whisper the word alligator to anyone. They want you to keep coming back, and frequently; not too scared to never come back. This is PR basics.
The big secret is that there is no secret at all. Alligators were already on the Florida swampland that Walt bought up in the mid-’60s, and they’re still there now–and they’re plentiful.
In summer of 1986, I watched from the deck of the Empress Lilly (at the then Walt Disney World Village) as tourists threw bread from their dinner tables at a three-foot long gator waiting to be fed.
Shortly before Christmas in 1991, I took the monorail from the Grand Floridian to go Christmas shopping for my wife in the Magic Kingdom. The monorail track can be seen starting right above the upper right corner of the Grand Floridian box in the map above, leading to the station almost directly below the D in Walt Disney World. See that star you passed on the way? I placed that on the map. I was standing in the monorail and happened to look down through the window. That man-made canal is where Disney docks the Electrical Water Pageant, and that star is where I saw a gator basking in the shallows along the shore, its tail curled in a black question mark.
My wife and I both saw a gator in 1992, when Disney’s Coronado Resort first opened. As annual passholders we were invited to tour the property, and an employee warned us away from a shallow pool only feet away from us in the grass. “It’s a gator,” he said. “We’ve already called to have it removed.” All we could see were the ridges of its eyes just above the surface. We crept around it.
On the road that guests drive to get to Fort Wilderness, there used to be a guardhouse less than a quarter mile past the camping resort. It was customary back then to have the doors open on each side of the guardhouse so the guard could wave to the drivers as they passed by. One night, an employee told us, the overnight guard heard a noise close beside him, and a gator stood in the road, hissing at him. He exited through the other side of the guardhouse, and when the gator followed him–and entered the guardhouse–the guard slammed the door shut, then ran around and shut the other door, trapping the gator inside.
Consider this: Remember, the land area of Walt Disney World currently stretches (they sold some land a few years back) about 40 square miles. To get a grasp of how big that is, look at it this way: It’s the size of the city of San Francisco. There simply is no way Disney or anybody could build resorts and theme parks on top of forty square miles of Florida swampland, the natural habitat of Alligator mississippiensis, and get rid of gators entirely. Florida is known for these monsters, so I find it naive that anyone would not expect that, even though they may not see any, alligators are always somewhere close by in the mid-Florida scrublands. I mean, are visitors to the Serengeti shocked that there are lions roaming wild? Hell, the Everglades still has panthers, not to mention a host of non-native Burmese pythons breeding out of control. The wild is alive, and Florida is ground zero for the unexpected.
I don’t blame Disney, and I don’t blame the parents, either. What happened is the clash between nature and civilization. The gator did only what it would naturally do (even though they rarely attack humans); and who could fault a family, walking along a man-made beach on a lovely night, for not going in the water, but merely wading at the edges?
No matter. A boy is dead and a family is broken. Lawsuits will be filed, I have no doubt. Money will be passed and settlements made. Then corporate lawyers will order more signs, more fences, and perhaps even walls built around the resorts to insure that this never happens again.
It was bound to happen eventually. I just don’t know why it didn’t happen sooner.
Okay, so Hammer Films died back in the mid-’70s–the cinema home of icons Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing–and then was reborn as a tv show, “House of Hammer,” on BBC. Then the brand languished until the late 2000s, when a rejuvenated studio with new owners produced Let Me In and The Woman in Black.
While that studio is still in the business of making scary movies, there are other creators who are infusing their works with the blood and sexual vitality of the Hammer spirit. I count myself and the novel I just finished, Ghostflowers, among them; but this amazing trailer captures the best and the worst of the true Hammer spirit in vintage style. I feel like I’m watching a movie in the drive-in again.
Not much happens when you’re working in the middle of the week in a mattress store, until someone walks in and makes you wish you were them.
He was maybe early 40s, with an 8-10 year old trailing behind. Goatee already greying; t-shirt; shorts. He wasn’t buying. He was just looking for free plastic bags to wrap up his mattress and box spring while they were gone for two months.
No problem. If we have the bags in the back, I’ll give them out, hoping that whoever needs them will become a paying customer in the future.
Because I’m a nosy son of a bitch, I said, “Where are you going?”
And he says, “On a cruise.”
Well, thinks I, there ain’t no cruise ship cruise that lasts for two months; and while I’m peeling the first bag off the roll I says, “You’re going off on your own?”
Okay. “Tell me about your boat.”
“Oh, it’s a forty-five foot catamaran.”
I stared at him and looked him over. I saw sunsets and sails and horizons tinted with with gold.
“Parrothead,” I said.
He grinned. “Oh yeah.”
I knew where they were going, but I had to ask.
“Caribbean,” he says.
Island to island, sunrise to sunset, conch to oyster to burger to shrimp. That’s what living is to me. Yes, he has a boat dog; yes, two kids and a wife; yes, he’d be writing about their travels online, but warned me his blog was in beta, and might change.