Who:A whole lot of people unrelated to me
What: Another family's vacation
Where: Bartow & Orlando 
When: July 20-26, 2016
Why: Lack of boundaries
Sites Visited:
My Girl
Parenthood


I am above doing a lot of things. Shoplifting? I don't ever steal from grocery stores. Pokemon Go? I refuse to leave my house when electronics say I should. Paying for beverages? Not when water is free. But inviting my
self on someone else's family vacation? Nope. Not above that one. Not even in the slightest.

In July, Danielle, my beloved sister-in-law was planning to go to Florida to meet up with her very large family. It wasn't often that she saw them all at the same time, and when she told me about this, I was very happy for her. Godspeed, I said. You relax. You have a good time. Bring me back a key chain.

Then she mentioned there was a possibility they all might go to Disney World, and that they might get VIP status. 

Well in that case, I told her, let me book my flights!

My brother, my beloved, James, was going too, so it was sort of like I had a reason to be there. And they were taking my 1-year old niece, Kara  who does share my bloodline. And like, I knew Danielle's relatives. When I showed up at their AirBNB and they asked why the hell I was sleeping on their couch, I could answer each of them by name. It was totally fine.

Also, DISNEY.

I went to Disney World for the first and only time as a 32-year old (grown) woman and I'll be the first to admit, I was changed forever by its magic. Saw every parade. Cried. Hugged every damn cartoon character. Squealed with delight. Bought Mickey ears. Wore them in 4 different parks. I'm not really sure how I managed to live for so long without the Kingdom in my life, but there was no way I was giving up the opportunity for a reunion. 

Plus, My Girl and Parenthood were filmed in the area.

All aboard the crazy train! Choo-choo! Party of one comin' at ya!

We arrived in Orlando late on Wednesday night and I was like, "HEY FAMILY!!!!" And they were like, "heyyyyy??" and then I immediately went into plan mode. The house featured in My Girl was 45 minutes away so I had to make sure there weren't any big events happening the next day that I would need to invite myself to (there weren't) and that the car my brother and sister-in-law rented for themselves wouldn't be in use (it wouldn't be). I would leave super early in the morning with my brand new selfie stick, snap-snap some photos and be back before anyone knew I was gone or could think of a way to ditch me. 

When talking about my plans, Danielle's 13-year old niece, Bella mentioned that she really liked the movie, My Girl and knew all about Thomas J. and his hyper-sensitivity to bee stings. Did she want to come along with me on my journey to 1991?

Why yes, in fact, she did.


Bella, my favorite 13-year old living today, who's so big time she was once featured in the background of an episode of Dance Moms, was all about TV-traveling with Lori, and I was all about having someone to hang with during my 2-hours of driving, and also to have a photographer on staff. We were going to have so much fun!

Then 8am hit...

Bella???

Bella???

Bella???

Seems teenagers really value their sleep when it's the crack of dawn and they're on vacation and they don't really have any legitimate places to be. 


I made it to Bartow, FL in one piece -- thankfully, since my name wasn't on the rental car policy (rebellion!) -- and I stepped out onto the street where a prepubescent Maculay Culkin and Anna Chlumsky made some movie magic.


(My Girl house location)

The street was empty except for a gardener on the corner ("Selfies, lady?" "Yes, sir. Selfies.") so the path to obnoxiously photograph myself without fear of interruption or judgement, was thankfully clear. 

Despite a penchant for visiting houses none of my friends really wanted to go to, I had only gone on one solo stalk-fest before this and that was well over a year ago. So while I hate to admit it, my selfie game was pretty weak. To get one good photo, I needed to take about 50. 


Maybe 51.


             (My Girl film location)

After I'd sufficiently gotten a good shot of the entire house, I looked over the screenshots I'd saved from the film and remembered that most of the action happened on the front staircase.


Normally, out of respect for people's living quarters and an incessant fear of getting yelled at and/or shot, I don't go onto people's private property. The sidewalk is my safety place; I'm a law-abiding citizen; I'm here to cause no trouble. But when I looked up and down the street, there really was no one around, and the steps were the most recognizable location, and you know, YOLO

I ran to the stairs, held out the selfie stick and took dozens of photos in the span of 20 seconds before running off and onto the safe public sidewalk.

None of them were any good. You could only see the porch, you couldn't see the stairs, the angles were all wrong. (You have to get good angles!)

I debated whether or not I could make due with what I had, then panicked, looked around to made sure no one was peering out the window with a rifle and I ran back to the steps REALLY, REALLY quick. 

Stick in the air. Snap, snap, snap! RUN!

Terrible again.

More studying. More running. Snap, snap, snap! All terrible.

I ended up sitting on a stranger's porch in total for a good ten minutes. 


                         555 East Stanford St, Bartow, FL
                                                  (My Girl house location)
It was worth it.

Finally satisfied with my solo-selfie accomplishments, I made the 45-minute drive back and was inside the AirBnB dwelling before anyone had made any real moves to do anything. (That includes you, Bella).

The next morning, my way-too-old-for-this heart exploded and we were off to the most magical of all Magic Kingdoms. 10 adults, 3 children, 3 babies under 2 - and me. THE MOST EXCITING DAY EVER!!
  
We had to be at the park by 8; I was ready by 6:30, dressed in the sparkly Mickey T-shirt Danielle and I had bought for everyone so we could all be awesome together... or so no one would notice that I didn't really belong there. One of those two...

Connections were able to get us VIP status through what is quite possibly the greatest company ever, Go VIP Orlando and we rocked the park for hours. We had two amazing tour guides, fast passes for every ride, and the best ever way to start off the morning: a meet and greet with Mickey Mouse.


Now, I love Disney with every fiber of my being, but I could forgo every single ride and attraction just to spend all day hugging sweaty college students dressed up as cartoon characters. When I went to Disney two years ago, I got on every single line to hug every single furry with no children in sight and I had no damn shame.  

The only difference between that time and now? Babies. When my niece was born over a year ago, I took her to Sesame Place after 4 months so I could use her as my excuse to meet Big Bird and Grover and she didn't know what was going on and she was the best baby ever. 

Now? She knows exactly what's going on... and she doesn't like it.  

When we got inside the Town Square Theater, I couldn't even hug Mickey because SOMEONE started having a meltdown.


Then, I couldn't even stand next to Minnie or Daisy because SOMEONE was freaking out about animals with freakishly large heads. It was like she didn't even care that her aunt was trying to live out her life's dream. Such a selfish, little.... 

Thankfully, I was able to make up for it at the Winnie the Pooh character lunch (a character lunch!!!!!!!!!) and let her baby ass freak out at the table with her parents, who in all seriousness, really should've done a better job raising her.


Then, around 4pm everyone decided they'd had enough magic and were going to go home. But you know who wasn't going home?? Me. Me, my bestie friend Bella (who was awake this time), and Danielle's other niece, my bestie friend, Olivia. 


Olivia, my favorite 11-year old on the planet, who I would witness three days later being raised 300 feet in the air on a bungee cord to swing to what most would consider their impending death, was one of the most fearless people I knew and an absolute joy to be around. 

With babies and grownups gone, the three of us were finally free to roam the park, make up for lost time and do the things that were most important in life.

Like meet the Little Mermaid.



And Tinkerbell.


We also rode tons of rides, had hot dogs, watched fireworks, closed down the entire park after FIFTEEN HOURS and then spent another hour waiting for the shuttle bus while Olivia and Bella tried to teach me how to do selfies without looking like a complete moron...


...and failed.

It was pretty much the most fun I've ever had. Kara, you need to get it together. 


James, my brother, my beloved brother, the apple of my eye, who's come with me to several movie locations but never ever willingly, actually said to me after I'd come back from the My Girl house that he wished I'd woken him up because he would have liked to have gone with me. 

Wasn't sure if it was the Florida heat making him delirious or I was slowly dragging him to the dark side, but hey, I could make up for that exclusion by taking him to Parenthood!

My brother and I actually saw Parenthood in the theater back in 1989 when I was 8 and he was 5. He has absolutely no memory of this, but I certainly do, and we've seen the film together and apart afterwards on many different occasions. Steve Martin riding horseback with bathroom rugs tied to his legs? Can't beat it. 

I had five locations I needed to hit - three houses, one baseball field and a senior center. I mapped out the whole thing furthest away to the closest and we hit the open road.

First up -- the home of beloved film star, Rick Moranis and his fictional wife and daughter. My brother had no memory of Rick Moranis even being in this film and didn't recognize the house, but he did get out of the car willingly to take my picture and that is a triumph in and of itself.


(Parenthood film location)

When looking up the exact locations, this was the first time addresses weren't readily listed on the Internet so I had to do all the grunt work myself. Thankfully, a 1989 Orlando Sentinel article was still on the Internet listing all the general locations where scenes were filmed and I was able to walk through Google maps weeks beforehand to find the exact spots. For this house, most of the houses on that street looked pretty much the same, so did I get it completely right? Let's just say I did and move along.


(Parenthood film location)

We then made our way to the patriarch of the family, Jason Robard's house, which was bluer than blue in the film, but had now been painted a shiny yellow, much to the chagrin of my accuracy-driven mind. No scenes were really filmed in the front of the house, but across from it somewhere, Tom Hulce was thrown from a car and rolled down the street. 


                                                                                                                      (Maybe?)

For close to 10 minutes, my brother and I tirelessly tried to find the house, the one-way sign and the stop sign featured in the background so I could take a photo, but for whatever reason we couldn't get it together. Oh well...


(Parenthood film location)

The last house on the list was the home of Dianne Wiest and her two fictional children, Martha Plimpton and Joaquin Phoenix. This, outside of the Steve Martin house which was completely torn down, was the house of all Parenthood houses, where tons of scenes were filmed and tons of superstars ran around on the grass. 


Located at the end of a dead-end street which threw my brother off completely because you couldn't tell it from the movie, the house looks exactly the same as it did almost 30 years ago, and I mean, exactly. It's the same color. It has the exact same stair banisters. The door is the same. The window frames haven't changed. Any second Keanu Reeves was going to come tumbling out telling Dianne Wiest he knocked up her daughter, and my brother and I were just going to nod, and go, yup, this is exactly what should happen. 



1398 Eastin Ave, Orlando, FL
(Parenthood film location)

Based on his memory of the film, my brother was surprised the front lawn was so small and he was excited to be able to go back and rewatch the film with all this firsthand knowledge he was getting.

He even posed for his own photo:


Florida - where magic doesn't just happen at Disney.


Delaney Park, Orlando, FL


Because it was on the way back to the hotel, we then stopped at the field where Steve Martin coached his son's baseball team. No Trespassing signs and padlocked gates prevented any real photo-taking, but here's one I was able to take through the gate!

Then, just because it was two blocks away - the school that's actually a senior center -- where Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen had a meeting with their son's principal. 


800 South Delaney Ave, Orlando, FL
(entrance on East Gore St)
(Parenthood film location)

My brother found the staircase Steve Martin walked up right away and pointed it out to me so we could take a fast picture and go back to the hotel. I wasn't so sure it was it and made him walk around the building with me in 99-degree heat to double-check. Turns out he was right all along, and I'm a really annoying human being. 


(Parenthood film location)
Thank you, brother!!!

With that done, I had finally completed all the goals of my sister-in-law's family vacation and I was free to...


Relax in other people's pools.



Eat dinner with with other people's children.



Go on shopping sprees with other people's cars.




And most importantly...

Be grateful for family.



Even one that isn't mine. 


Thanks for the mem'ries, Bartow and Orlando!

(*Thanks for letting me crash your vacation, Batistas!)

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