Craig Shoemaker


Legs & Legos


Just returned from a Memorial Day holiday in San Diego with the family.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to appeal to all the ages of our sons, who are 13, 7 and 2. Even on the drive down from LA, it was tough choosing the appropriate music for all to hear. The teen likes hip-hop, and the youngest is requesting “Baby Beluga.” It got to the point where I was hoping to find a combo CD of “Rug Rat Rap,” where Snoop Dogg bangs out nursery rhymes.

“Mary had a little scam, fleeced her man, now she’s on the lam.”


“Ole McDonald bought the farm, capped by the high-heeled ho. And on this farm he had some pigs, with the Po-Po here and the Po-Po there….”

Maybe I’ll just buy three sets of headphones.

As far as meeting the diverse desires of my wife, Mini me, medium me and micro me, San Diego is a good place to spend a vacation. It offers a wide variety of entertainment, and one missed mortgage payment should cover it all. Peace of mind takes a piece of paycheck, especially in sunny Southern California.

There are some obvious choices here when it comes to family fun. We chose Lego Land and the Seal Tour for activities we all enjoyed. Actually, the 13 year old took bribes to get him to participate in the “lame” and “gay” events, but liked it once he got over the complaining. I told him that if he went along with us, he could hang with a buddy in the Gas Lamp district, a downtown area where there used to be many brothels for the men at port. By my observation, the way the ‘civilian” girls dress for a night out here; the madams of 1800 wouldn’t rent ‘em a bed for being too slutty. What they wore was so tight and skimpy; I could see what brand of condom they were carrying in their top.

My son, who is going through huge hormonal changes, was in his glory. He insisted on eating at a place called “The Tilted Kilt,” since he was told it’s a better version of Hooters, without the 1979 orange shorts and old male excuse of “I really like the wings.” When I told him the rumor about men in Scotland not wearing anything under theirs, let’s just say there was no issue with him ordering more from the nubile, green-eyed and scantily clad waitress, and “accidentally” dropping silverware a half dozen times.

Okay. I looked too.

One problem with staying in the downtown area – It is NOT for a cranky, middle-aged man in need of rest from chasing kids all day. We were staying right in the heart of the action, which reminded me of college dorm life. If I’m going to travel down memory lane, I’d prefer to go back to when I hit a home run in little league, not puking on a sidewalk in hopes of getting a second wind. The hotel put a lot of effort into being hip and trendy for the pretending-to-be-wealthy, but I was wishing they replace a few of the hipster concierge lobby greeters, and use their salary to beef up the security team. To hell with the I-pad mobile check-in; I need some muscle-bound intimidators for some party stopping! Room 427 had a rave going on, and my children were up all night begging me for a glow necklace. They saw it on a dude who looked like an extra from “Where The Wild Things Are.”

Our hotel had three nightclubs in it, so I am quite sure the management is not trying to entice my Chuckie Cheese clan. The rooftop pool sounded great, until I realized our children would only be able to use it from the hours of 1030am to noon. That’s about the only time gap you won’t find a drunken fiancée in a wedding dress, passed out on a lounge chair after a night of tequila and mechanical bull riding.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” If around here, he might simply say, “Youth is wasted.” Just riding in the elevator with these drunks, I got a contact high, and I couldn’t have passed a field sobriety test.

Once we left the party central area, we took the Seal Tour, where you’re on a guided Trolley ride and then suddenly the vehicle becomes a boat. Literally, a 20-passenger vehicle goes right from the street to the sea, while you’re singing the theme from “Gilligan’s Island,” and takes you out into the water to be one with the seals and sea lions.

No, I was not stoned.

I always enjoy multi tasking and getting two and three-for-one deals. In this case, I’m knocking out a boat ride, historical lessons and trip to the aquarium in one swoop at one reasonable price. Cost is always of prime importance for me, especially being the sole bread winner for us, as well as paying the ex, who apparently thinks I am the only job she needs, leaving me to wonder how human resources justifies that expense. How do you get to do nothing, complain about conditions and offer no help – and GET PAID? I want THAT job!

To say the least, I have become cost conscious, or, as my kids call me – “cheap.” I am always looking for ways to save money, and unfortunately the boys have been a part of the plan.

At Lego Land, a theme park built entirely of plastic toys; the admission alone caused a slight heart murmur. When you invest in something, you want return, and after forking out the admissions for all of us, I was half- thinking they would hand me some sort of a sheet that spelled out my future residual payments. Add my son’s buddy along for the mini van ride, and I had major window licker shock.

Right away, I started to look for ways to make up for the cash kidnap. Since adult price begins at thirteen, I began training the two teens to look “twelve.” Self-obsessed middle schoolers have no interest in helping an adult, especially if you mess with their “look.” Even though they were one foot away, I got attention by texting them my orders, “When we get to the window, turn your hat like a little leaguer, smile wide and squat down.”

I then got a surprise I hadn’t received in 25 years – a discount by having triple A! I’ve been carrying that card for decades and finally I got ten bucks back. Very cool, but not to the embarrassed teens. I might as well have pulled out an AARP card and asked for a senior discount. I had no idea my kid could run so fast.

My money saving plans did not stop there. Instead of paying 20 bucks for the roller coaster photo, I had the kids snap a pic of the display pic. Yes, I was yelled at and ran like a criminal, but humiliation trumps extra beverage cash.

Despite my frugalness, I must say that this park is one of my all time favorites. It is clean, well-run and the food is great (and healthy). It has rides and activities for all ages, and even in a crowded holiday weekend, the lines are manageable. The staff is very helpful and friendly, although I wasn’t crazy about a Rule Nazi not letting our 7 year old put the Claw Ride on the next level, because he missed the height bar by a centimeter. I coached him into stretching like daddy did when I was too short, but Fraulein Formal nailed him, told him to relax his shoulders and get off his tippy toes.

One element of the park I like over others is the amount of water throughout. They have rides where you spray and get soaked, and splashy games for the little ones.

Plus…a few fountains for the boys to play, and collect some free coins for daddy!


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