See, Disney World for The-Youngest is a no-brainer. Candy. Rides. Loud sounds. Bright lights. More candy.
But for The-Oldest, it wasn’t the way he wanted to spend eight days. For him, being away from his music was like me being away from my girlfriend at that age.
He was an amazing sport, though, and went on all the terrifying rides with his brother, even enjoying a few, but there was nothing super special about the trip until the Biergarten in Epcot.
No, he didn’t have a beer, again, but it did have an oompah-pah band.
And a buffet where he could choose what to eat. 100% his choice. No potatoes he didn’t like. No gravy that someone poured onto something that shouldn’t have gravy (like peas). No spices cooked into the pasta sauce or meat flavoured with too much flavour.
Instead, he could have a plate full of wieners if he wanted. With a side of peas kept very separate from the wieners. And buns. Lots of buns. With butter.
Plus, while he ate, he could listen to Oktoberfest music (and dance if he wanted to, but that was as likely as me wanting to sing naked in front of my high school French teacher while dancing on a red-hot grill.) The music, I have to say, was fantastic, but stopped us from talking (which was also a HUGE plus for The-Oldest.)
Literally dripping wet, we all had a great time. I ate so much food, I think I gained 40lbs before I left the restaurant. Think Mr. Creosote from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. But then, I LOVE German food. Sauces. Sauerbraten. Spätzle. Strudel. Red cabbage. I think in a former life, I was German. Or at least starving.
With darkness falling and the rain letting up, we decided to stay for the fireworks and what a great decision that was. The-Oldest had the best reason why this is the BEST fireworks in Disney World (and that will be a part of his Top 10 list coming soon), but from my perspective, nothing beats a good fireworks show.
I don’t know why. I’m like a little kid seeing a puppy for the first time. If there is a heaven, mine will be filled with fireworks. And German food.
For some reason, it didn’t rain at all as we watched the sky explode around us, as the crowd oooh’d and aaah’d, as the air filled with the smell of explosives.
Everything had simply come together for this evening to make his adventure amazing.
Despite the rain, we got to ride on the Test Track.
Because of the rain, we went inside to a sitdown restaurant where The-Oldest had his best experience.
With no rain, we got to enjoy an incredible fireworks show.
I couldn’t wait to see what the next day would bring, not knowing at the time that I would get to experience one of my real-life nightmares.
So, our plan, with rain already spitting down on us, was to get to our Fastpass ride, the popular Test Track, (weather permitting) grab some food, and see the fireworks (weather permitting).
Unlike the other parks, Epcot was not filled with Dumbo rides or Splashy rollercoasters. It’s a showcase for pavilions from around the world. Back in Joe 1.0 life, I loved this park more than the others since it was like visiting Norway, or China or Mexico in a bottle. But The Boyz, well, I could drag them there, but it would be like giving a cat its bath.
So it would be rides, food, and fireworks. Weather permitting.
But that rain bit us in the ass right away. When we checked our Disney App, we found that the Test Track was canceled.
However, when a Fastpass ride is canceled, Disney gives you a free Fastpass to any other ride in that park. Any ride. So we changed our plans and decided to see Soaring.
But upon entering the park, the boys had an odd reaction to the big dome, the Spaceship Earth. Like fangirls crushing on Beiber, they gaped at it in wonder. They wanted to run around it, take pictures of it, and go inside it (and do the ride.) The ride itself was a journey through time. Not a rollercoaster. Not a thing that flipped you around until you wanted to throw up. Not even a ride that got you wet.
It was information. Like a museum.
Like the little kitten who comes close to you for the first time, I didn’t want to scare them off with all sorts of Joe-information (of which I have a ton!), so we just got on the ride. It was a little worn, a little outdated, but The-Boyz loved it. Yes, they loved learning something.
What the f…?
Then, just as we got out, the rain stopped and the Test Track was back on. We ran to the ride (or rather, The-Boyz ran, and I waddled like a very pregnant woman in need of some pickles and ice cream.) We got inside, hoping the weather would hold.
And let me tell you, there is a reason this ride is so popular. Like Avatar: Flight of Passage, it has so much to do while you wait in line. In fact, it’s THE BEST ride for the line-up since you actually design your own car!
The-Boyz made something out of Sci-Fi, while The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, (a car-girl at heart), put in quality-time making it look aesthetic, making it as ‘green’ as possible, and ensuring that it would run like a bat out of hell. Pictures on Instagram here.
Such fun! Unexpected fun.
The ride itself was blazingly fast, but we all took our stats from the car and on the test track, got to see who had actually designed a better car. The-Boyz won twice, we won three times, which made The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World as happy as a lion getting to eat a tourist.
The car that won for the fastest was The-Boyz car, so they were super braggy about how well they’d done, but jeeeez, look at the thing. That race was rigged!
As soon as we got off, the rains came, hard and heavy, like a movie rain so wet that it soaked through our raingear.
Sopping wet, we chose to eat in Germany. On the spur of the moment, we decided upon the restaurant, the Biergarten. I mean, why not? German beer. A buffet with wieners. And a band!
Little did we know it would become The-Oldest’s most unexpected fun.
Now, spoiler alert, this is a longer post than normal. Get into your comfy underwear, pour yourself a glass of whiskey, put your feet up on the dog and continue.
Yager’s War has come so far since it’s inception back in 2016, but my first historical novel has finally been sent off to my first readers – Two professional writers, and one person who lived through that time.
Oh, but that seems so long, ago, now. A lifetime. And in that lifetime, I learned a lot about my story, which kinda surprised me since I thought I pretty much knew everything about it when I sat down to write it.
So, what did I discover?
1) I discovered that I can’t eat well and write. Now, this doesn’t have anything to do with the novel, per se, but if anyone is looking to write a character in a novel who writes for a living, it’s a good trait. Not a healthy one, but something odd. Quirky. Stupid. Peanut M&Ms. Pop. Pizza. Oddly, I didn’t drink. Sorry Hemmingway.
2) I discovered that I sat down to write this because I love history and World War II history in particular. But it’s not a love based on battles, but stories. It’s something that’s not being taught a lot in schools. It’s all about facts, maps, (wait, I love maps, too), and dates. Even without a specific person, there is a narrative that thrills me. The massively outnumbered Jews who fought the Germans in the Warsaw Ghetto. The 500 Spartans at Thermopylae. The Alamo. Then it hit me. I love the underdog. The few who stood up when it mattered BUT died in the end. All knew they would die, yet still fought the fight. That leaked into my novel in a big way (and will certainly be a major part of the second and third novels.)
I discovered a lot about things we understand now, understand back then. Polio. PTSD. Asperger’s. They’ve all existed since the beginning of time. Like the Queen of England. But we’re only now understanding them fully and I was surprised at the complexity of each one of those subjects.
4) I discovered ‘what to keep in and what to take out’ was tougher than I ever thought. Yanking out a whole subplot ain’t easy, my friends. It’s like trying to yank off a skin tag, it’s quite painful and wants to snap right back. I can still use a lot of what I wrote or imagined in my next book,
5) I discovered I could fall in love with one of
my characters. It’s amazing how much a story can change even from the 2nd draft, to the third. I yanked out some decent writing about my character’s interaction with a family to explore a love interest and I fell in love with that love interest. Amelia “Amy” Anderson, a brilliant red-head with Sherlock Holmesian Asperger’s. Socially awkward. Kind. Driven. Beautiful (of course, cuz, you know, I’m a guy.) I dream about her now. Don’t tell my wife.
6) I discovered it’s tough to choose what research to use and what not to use. I had to cut research out. Oh, that fine line between having authentic historical details and way, way, way too much information… it’s so easy to cross because information is so fun! (You know what I’m talking about, Paula!)
7) I discovered that I could make myself cry while writing. Not, oh god, this is terrible, but I moved myself at some of the tragic scenes. Maybe no one else will shed a tear, but it’s odd that I could actually get in touch with emotion. Without whiskey. Thanks to Don Maass for making me live in the pain for a while.
8) I discovered, much to my horror, that it was not as much fun, sometimes, to do research. Now, this really shocked me. I love learning new facts. Like did you know that the Kaiser, the Imperial Emperor of Germany, fled to Holland? And had the nickname of the Woodchopper? But trying to get all my facts right, like what soap the Dutch used for dishes or what goods were sold in the Waterlooplein market, well, that took a bit of work and I often got distracted tracking down other details.
9) I discovered this is not, at its heart, a who-killed-Roger-Rabbit story. This is a Jewish
story. Again, a bit of a shock. Not that I didn’t have Jewish elements in it, but on the last rewrite, it really hit home how much I needed to tell the Jewish story here.
10) I discovered it’s a feminist novel. This came as the biggest shock. BIGGEST. Like finding a spider in your underwear. Both of my main female characters are strong, independent women in a time where such things were not the norm. Maybe it was all the women in my life who influenced that. My mom who went to university and graduated as the only woman in her class. My wives, Margot and Corinne. My inherited great Baba, who designed and built a frigging church.
But all those discoveries aside, the novel will get one last polish from my first readers, then it’s off to the agent.
It is the best thing I have written, but something not achieved without great pain and anguish. Ask my wife who’d find me wandering around the house muttering, “No, that won’t work, won’t work, my precious, he has to die, yes, die but how, dammit, how?”
It’s been an interesting journey, combining my deep emotional connection to the Netherlands (based on my visits there and my reading of the holocaust), my love of a good thriller, and my love of books that touch a poignant chord within us all. But, as any writer should, if someone has a way to make it EVEN BETTER, (my first readers, my agent, my editor, Bob the grocery bagger,) then I’ll kick it up yet another notch.
Because I not only want it to be the best story I’ve ever written, but one of the best others will ever read.