Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Long lost friends we’ve never met

I mentioned earlier that we’re meeting friends at 5:00 at the Disney Soda Fountain. That’s literally true: we’re meeting them for the first time. That’s the nature of online communities – you can make friends all over the world without ever being in their presence physically.

There’s a website called (SGT), which began as a place for Disney and other theme park employees to vent and express their daily frustrations about unreasonable visitors, since they have to be pleasant and cheerful on the job. (And those stories can be very amusing, too!) Those stories still happen, but the site has developed a pretty close-knit group of regulars, sharing life’s adventures remotely. I’m blessed to be among the non-cast members who have been accepted as “family” there, and over the years have had the opportunity to meet several SGT regulars in person during my travels – Zazu and Big Wallaby in Orlando, Purpura in Anaheim, DragonFox in Philadelphia, and of course Ktulu back in the DFW area. (Online identities are a wonderful thing.)

When this prize-trip came up, I let my friends at SGT know about it, naturally. I knew I wouldn’t have time for a detour down to Disneyland, but one of the regulars, who goes by DisneyMom online, keyed in on the fact that the premiere would be held on the same block as the Disney Soda Fountain, and we worked it out to get to the area a little early so we could meet anyone who could make it. Because of Disneyland and the other SoCal theme parks, there are many SGT regulars in the L.A. area, but the trip happened on pretty short notice. With Disney work schedules notoriously demanding and inflexible, I’m not sure who if anyone besides DisneyMom will be able to make it, but we’ll be happy even if it’s just her.

We head back to the south side of the street. I spot adjacent stars for Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick -- okay, I watched The Producers on the way here, so I have to get a picture of them together.

It’s a few minutes before 5 when we walk into the Soda Fountain. I scan the shop – it’s not terribly big – but don’t see anyone that matches the pictures I’ve seen of her on Facebook. No big deal; we’re early, and we wanted to shop a bit in the Studio Store.

We’ve just started perusing the merchandise when a female voice behind me asks, “Excuse me, could you tell me what time it is… in Texas?”

It’s her!

DisneyMom and I hug – we are old friends, even if we’ve never met – and then I introduce her to Becky. She in turn introduces the one of her sons (I’ll call him DisneySon) who accompanied her so she wouldn’t be coming here alone. She then leaves us to shop and goes to claim a table.

Becky and I find several little things, which I won’t discuss further here since they will likely show up at our house on Christmas morning… assuming we can get them to Santa, of course. (Yeah, my kids are in high school, but we keep up the show just for fun.)

After I make the purchases, we join DisneyMom and DisneySon at the table. Turns out DisneyMom is the only SGT’er who can make it after all. I’m absolutely thrilled to meet and visit with her, but it is always a little disappointing to be so close to others and miss connecting.

DisneyMom had already told me online that she wants to buy us ice cream as a “welcome to California,” but first Becky and I need to get some “real food.” We’re not excessively hungry, since it’s only been a little over three hours since we shared a pizza. Our next stop is the movie premiere, though, so we know we’d better eat something more substantial than ice cream.

The Soda Fountain doesn’t have a large menu, so it doesn’t take us long to decide. Becky orders chili in a sourdough bread bowl, while I order a chili dog.

DisneySon occupies himself with a handheld game while DisneyMom and us talk. I don’t feel like we’re carrying much of the conversation – quite frankly we’re still a little shell-shocked from the craziness of Hollywood Boulevard. But it’s a very nice visit nonetheless – DisneyMom is sweet, outgoing, friendly, and just a pleasure to spend time with.

And, I’m about to find out, very, very generous.

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