The Merriest Place on Earth

Monday,  November 5, 2001


DH was feeling a tad under the weather on Friday,  so we thought it prudent to stay in town.  He retired early, but only after downing a dropperful of Echinacea and Goldenseal tincture.   Determined to wipe out the cold bug , before it beat him to the punch, he downed the herbal elixir  straight up.  Ick.

Saturday, he was feeling much better.  Still, we laid low, attending to light, non-demanding work-related tasks -- rainy day stuff.  DH spent most of his day scanning slides into his computer for his power point lectures, while I researched and wrote. 

Yesterday, the skies were grey and overcast.  A dreary day with light showers.  Feeling much better,  DH decided it was a great day for sushi.   

He asked me out on a date.  I accepted.  "Take me out for sushi,  and your wish is my command!"

We drove over to Diamond Bar, about a half hour away by freeway, to lunch at the sushi bar, Sushi Koyo,  run by the father of DH's  former student.   We should have checked the Net for the restaurant's hours.  The sign on the door said, "Go Church".  Translation:  "We are closed on Sunday because we go to church."

Plan B was a Chinese seafood restaurant, Diamond Palace Seafood Restaurant,  close by .  DH's work buddy, Greg, had recently taken him there for  lunch,  and he was impressed by the flavorful food.  Looking about,  I saw that its clientele was mostly Asian.   A reliable, although not infallible,   sign for authenticity.

We ordered  a deep-fried squid dish cooked with seasoned salt and clams with black bean sauce.  $5.00 a dish on the lunch menu includes attentive, efficient table service,  fresh white table linen, rice,  bowls of soup, glasses of cold sweet tea,  a pot of hot tea, and orange slices for dessert.   The food  was fabulously delicious, and we will be back.


DH wanted me to see the newly completed AGRIscapes,  an impressive  facility where faculty and students  can conduct research and display senior projects to the public.  There, we toured the spanking new Farm Store with its excellent fresh produce selection, which included finger bananas, Hawaiian papayas, and fresh coconut, beautifully displayed.  

We bought dried Calmyra light figs at $2.50/quarter pound and three (!) boxes of  Turtle Island's Southwestern Roasted Corn Chowder  (see my "Soup's On" entry for my raves).  

Carlos Kakaki, a student worker,  was outside on the patio, watering the plants on sale.  Over lunch, DH had just told me about Carlos' windfall opportunity.  With two partners,  Carlos had just  bought a 33 acre Fallbrook farm with a two acre lake, working avocado and citrus farm, rose garden,  and a house. For $1.5 million and owner-financed!  

This opportunity is one of the silver linings of the economic slow-down. As casualties of this new war economy,  his well-heeled partners are directing their investments into food production, instead of luxury goods production.  He will be the farm's working manager.   As an agribusiness major with considerable hands-on experience from the bottom up, he is more than trained, more than prepared.

Half Paraguayan, half Japanese, Carlos is among the most hardworking and self-motivated of  DH's students over 22 years of teaching.  Refreshingly, he is polite, eager to learn, and respectful.  With a strong work ethic, he is a gem of a student, clearly marked for success as a graduate.  

As DH related, when he pulled into the nursery, the other day,  with a load of supplies,  he was impressed that  Carlos came forward to help him unload,  unasked.  He is ki ga tsuku.  Literally, "to have "spirit, mind, soul, heart " put onto you," meaning to be alert, attentive, and helpful without prompting.

We are delighted that this huge  opportunity has arisen and is being seized by this well-deserving young man.   Opportunity, in this case, is the exact intersection of luck with preparation. 

Carlos is destined to do well, very well.

"Somehow I can't believe there are any heights that can't be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C's. They are Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, and Constancy and the greatest of these is Confidence. When you believe a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably."
~Walt Disney 


DH was feeling back in the pink,  and we decided to extend our date by spending the afternoon at The Happiest Day on Earth, Disneyland.   We had heard on the Net grapevine that Christmas had arrived there today.  Since we are rarely in town on weekends, we decided we'd beat the holiday crowds that arrive in late November.  

My eyes lingered on the words on the plaque above the entrance tunnel:   

“Here you leave today, and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.” 

It is one of my Disneyland traditions, and,  for me, the plaque and its words mark the divide between the everyday world and the magical world of Disney.  

We walked through the tunnel, emerging on the other side to another time and place.  Walking down Main Street is, for me,  very much like going home.  It is an idealized, spruced up version of my hometown, complete with false fronted buildings, sidewalks, and front porches,  reminiscent of how things once were. 

Another time and place, because this time of year, all of Disneyland is sporting its annual holiday makeover. Everything is festive and Christmas cheery. 

The traditional 60-foot Christmas tree in the middle of Town Square is magnificent and real,  filling the air with generous whiffs of fresh pine. Main Street is draped with garlands of shiny ornaments and lights, and there must at least a 1000 wreaths in the park, on every post, around every corner. 

Wintry charm is everywhere. There is even a magically wondrous snowfall! 

>> Photos of Christmas at Disneyland

>> It's Christmas at Disneyland!

We ducked into the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor for a late dessert. Sharing a Gibson Girl sundae for $4.99 -- 2 scoops of FANTASIA ice cream in a waffle cone, hot fudge, chopped peanuts, whipped cream and cherry on top -- was very messy, but oh, so decadently delicious! 

>> Photos of the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor

>>  The green glass elephant named Penny

We hadn't visited Sleeping Beauty's  castle since 1993, and crossed the drawbridge, entering Fantasyland through the castle.   The It's a Small World attraction is enchantingly decked in its pastel Christmas finery.  In Toon Town with its cartoony Christmas decor, I felt like I was in the middle of surrealistic dream with eyes wide open.

On the way out of Fantasyland, we veered toward the right to enjoy sweet  moments at the Snow White Grotto with its Singing Wishing Well , which is, hands down,  the most romantic spot in Disneyland, complete with soft music, seclusion, and swans.

>> Hidden Mickey's photos of the Snow White Grotto 


I paused to enjoy my favorite sculpture in the park:  Walt Disney & Mickey Mouse , the famous partners, in the middle of the hub.

We strolled  through Frontierland, decorated in rustic Christmas,  and boarded the grand paddlewheeler, Mark Twain (photo). 

The upper deck is the best place to enjoy this attraction.  The ambience of the tiny topside room is relaxingly quiet.  It was empty.   With a light breeze coming through the doorway, protected from direct sunlight, and the gentle lilting motion of the ride,  the 8-chaired room is the perfect place to catch a few ZZZs, and DH dozed off in a captain's chair in no time at all. 

Meanwhile, from the open deck, just outside,  I watched the nostalgic Wild West sights of Frontierland lazily pass by,  enjoying the warmth of the autumn sun on my face . 

>> Laughing Place's photos of Christmas in Frontierland

We disembarked and headed for the Haunted House, "where two holidays, Halloween and Christmas, collide" -- as in CAAAH-RUNNNCH.  


Unfamiliar with Jack Skellington and not into ghosts and goblins, I was not expecting to have my socks knocked off. The creative imagineers have been hard at work, and my socks flew off. The holiday detailing throughout the attraction-- even to down to the bedding plants of gold-orange and black pansies at the entry -- was something to behold. 

Our last time in the mansion was in 1975, and The Haunted House, 200, was an entirely new experience for us. Surprising ourselves, we thoroughly enjoyed it! 

>> Laughing Place's photos of the Haunted House Mansion Holiday

>>  News on The Haunted Mansion

Talking about Disney landscaping:  the hundreds of candy cane red and white cyclamens and brilliant  poinsettias burst with color.  They are gorgeous!

We backtracked to New Orleans Square and picked up a bag of warm fritters with an apple-cream sauce and steaming cups of coffee at the Mint Julep bar and headed up the stairs above The Pirates of the Caribbean to our most favorite spot in the park:  the little-known, open-air central courtyard of the Disney Gallery.  

The spaces occupied by the gallery were  originally built as  Walt Disney's (second) private apartment.   It is a special place in the park,  away from the madding crowds.  A peaceful oasis.

>> More info on the Disney Gallery from the Hidden Mickey's site

Unfortunately, Mr. Disney passed on before he was able to enjoy his new accommodations. Opened to the public as an art gallery, we get to enjoy it for him.  And I like to think with him.  

His was a mighty spirit, and you can feel it everywhere in the park, but especially here, where Mr. Disney had hoped to enjoy private, quiet moments in the midst of his action-packed creation. 

In the courtyard, the sounds of the wall fountain with water burbling from the mouth of a brass dolphin are calming; the plants are lush and healthy; and the air temperatures are perfect, as Mr. Disney had heating and cooling vents built along the perimeter.

DH enjoyed the peace of the courtyard, while I browsed the Herbert Ryman lithographs in a gallery that was meant to be a formal dining room.  I lingered on the corner balcony with the wrought ironwork bearing the famous Walt Disney's initials and his brother Roy's, enjoying the panoramic view of theRivers of America.  

The evening dessert buffet with the perfect view of  Fantasmic is held here -- for a hefty price.  $43.  We have not done it.  

I'm thinking, "I'd rather spend $43 on sushi..." 

>> Intercot West's photos of Disney Gallery

We stopped by the Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland to pick up a refillable Sorcerer Mickey water bottle, large enough and perfect for  home and work.  It is sits right along side me as I write this.   

Water tastes so much better out of Mickey's wand.

Soo had mentioned to be sure to stop by the jewelry store, and we did.  There,  the cast member asked about the kukui lei that encircles my woven vintner's hat, and I had an opportunity to share my homeland's jewelry with him.  He seemed sincerely interested, not just being a polite cast member.   

>> A Wonderful Account of a former Disneyland Cast Member's Experiences

Invigorated and suffused with holiday part, we left the park to walk the long promenade through Downtown Disney to the Paradise Pier Hotel for sushi at the Yamabuki Restaurant. 

DH was making sure that his gal was going to have her sushi fix. The restaurant opens at  5:30,  and we bided our time with window shopping at the hotel store and  watching the first innings of the World Series in the lounge area.  

We found the perfect Winnie the Pooh and His Pals photo album for Jenn's third son, Kevin.  

The Snow White & the Seven Dwarves is out and touted as a masterpiece DVD,  and this may well be the first DVD that we own ($24 at the store, $19 at Amazon, ? at Costco).  The reviews at Amazon are positively glowing!

I think I will buy this for the office.  I think all the kids, including the adult kids, will enjoy it.


I live for sushi.  DH lives for sushi.  We all live for sushi.  Do you?

Yamabuki is touted as an award-winning, classical Japanese restaurant with a full sushi bar. We decided to give the sushi bar a try. 

The decor is simple and beautiful, with strongly contrasting reds and black and lots of pine wood. "Less is more" came to mind. 

The black lacquer chairs each have a Mickey carved in their backs with a simple, uncluttered outline. Very Zen. 

A picture's worth a thousand words:  

>> Disneyland Source's photo of the interior of Yamabuki Restaurant 
>>  Meaning of the Yamabuki name

[Yamabuki is pronounced yah mah boo kee, and means "mountain rose"] 

The sushi bar is a good place to make quick friends.  We met a lovely woman named Evelyn from Cincinnati, Ohio, who was on a business trip, dining alone. An environmental engineer, she was working a booth at a conference.  

I could see that she had not been taught how to dip her sushi in her soy sauce. Her sushi kept falling apart into sloppy messes. I taught her to dip it, fish down, and she was delighted to learn something so simple, but not obvious. 

Sushi is the original finger food.  She was using a pair of chopsticks, bound together at one end with a rubber band, intended to help the novice "keep it all together". I could see that she was struggling to pick up her sushi with them, so I let her it is very ok to use one's fingers. 

Novices think they HAVE to use chopsticks at a sushi bar. Wrong.  Etiquette-wise,  using fingers or chopsticks to eat sushi is proper.  I told her,  if she'd like, I'd teach her how to use chopsticks. She was interested. It's all technique and she mastered the skill in mere minutes. 

>>  How to Use Chopsticks

>>  Sushi Etiquette

We thoroughly enjoyed the congenial  itamae (sushi chefs) at Yamabuki; they are traditionally trained and masters of their sushi-making art and craft. Sei is from Okinawa; he's practically part of the furniture, having been at the restaurant since the mid 1980s. He's been in America for 21 years and still knows very little English. His sushi-making colleague, Richard Sato from Kumamoto, knows more English, and we learned that he knows our favorite sushi chef in the mountains, Abe-san, who owns our favorite Sushi Ichiban. 

The waitress, Toshie, was beautiful in her kimono and obi, and very warm and friendly. 

We savored delectable sushi, artistically and proficiently made, made with squid, clam, toro, scallops from northern Japan (Hokkaido), natto roll, sake, and octopus sushi, washed down with two tall bottles of Sapporo beer. The seafood was fresh and delicious; the sushi rice, perfectly prepared. 

Yamabuki is sushi heaven.  Totally seduced by the sublime tastes of sushi, we give it five stars.

We'll be back!


We made our  way back up Downtown  Disney to catch the tram to the parking garage, enjoying the lights, sights and happy faces.  Downtown Disney is a very happening place.  

We were walking through the World of Disney store, when we heard this VERY LOUD crash of breaking glass. A little girl had accidentally bumped a ceramic mug off an overstocked shelf. Mortified, she'd  burst into loud sobs and tears, falling into her mother's arms. 

I tried to comfort the girl, telling her that she didn't do it on purpose, and not to feel bad. Accidents happen. I hope it helped. I hate to think that her Disney experience would forever be tainted by this trauma. 

I informed the cast member who hurried by that it was an accident, something that could have happened to anyone. My husband whispered, "Disney can absorb the cost of that mug." He's right. 

After a dream afternoon at The Merriest Place on Earth and a lovely dinner at Yamabuki,   we drove  to The Happiest Place on Earth -- home, sweet home.  

I was rewarded for my two good deeds for the day, as we got home just in time to watch the 7th game of the World Series in its 9th inning. The score was tied, 2-2. And then the Arizona Diamondbacks rallied and beat the NY Yankees. 

I'm not a big baseball fan, but I was grateful to be watching this greatest game ever between two of the greatest teams ever. It went right down to the wire. Loved it. 

Also, Eric McCormack won an Emmy for his role on Will & Grace.  Yes! 

What a magical day!

"Life is a Gift."

Author Unknown

P.S.  If you would like to share a portion of yourself  with words, in response to this journal entry,  you may do it here.  

 "The only gift is a portion of thyself..."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


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This web journal was created on a September Morn, September 29, 2001.
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