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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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At least I'm not drinking liquor at 7:30 a.m.
At least I'm not drinking liquor at 7:30 a.m.

Mommy needs coffee

Recently, my son started two different conversations with, "Mom, after you wake up tomorrow and drink your coffee, can you …"

I found this funny and a little strange. I never make a big deal out of my morning coffee drinking. I simply wake up, put on my ugly, outdated glasses that are never worn in public, and pour a cup of coffee at some point while making breakfast for the boys.

This, like everything else I do, is documented in the minds of my 5-year-olds. And this, my friends, is one of the most frightening aspects of parenting.

I am their license-less teacher and their three-dimensional film strip about life. I am being watched and recorded by their ravenous intellects. I am their reality TV.

Even at 7 a.m.

A portion of my Pez dispenser collection.
A portion of my Pez dispenser collection.

The allure of the Pez dispenser

This is very Generation X of me, but I -- and now my kids -- collect Pez dispensers. We have a couple hundred and they fit perfectly on a piece of molding that adorns the walls in their playroom.

I prefer the classic models, like the Incredible Hulk and Yoda, but we have our share of modern Pez characters, like Bob the Builder and Shrek. I had an Uncle Sam dispenser and an eyeball Pez dispenser as a kid, and I've been told both models are quite rare. I don't know what happened to either of these dispensers, and I'm sure I could buy them off eBay, but I'm not that Pez passionate at this point.

Today, I bought a new Pez from the NASCAR series (my 6-year-old son wanted it) and I had the same thought I often do when loading a Pez dispenser: they're annoying to load into the springy sleeve and the candy really isn't very good.

So why do so many people collect Pez dispensers, myself included?

Most likely it has to do with childhood. Maybe we wanted them and our parents wouldn't buy them for us. Maybe it's because they come in so many different forms. Maybe the candy is laced with meth and nicotine and I'm addicted to it.

In any case, while loading up Kai's new racecar Pez dispenser, I had a deep Pez thought: Pez dispensers and bobble heads are from a similar planet. Both are wildly collectable, made of plastic and have an emphasis on the head. One bobbles, one dispenses nasty sugar pellets.

I guess it doesn't really make sense why people collect anything: bobble heads or Pez dispensers or cat whiskers or Norman Rockwell figurines. I guess we do it because we like the way they look, the feelings they evoke and derive pleasure from having scads and scads of something.

The Dark Ride Coaster is an indoor, steel roller coaster ride.
The Dark Ride Coaster is an indoor, steel roller coaster ride.

Dark Knight roller coaster: Was it worth the wait?

Yesterday, my family and I went to Six Flags Great America so I could do research for my upcoming article about taking young kids to the massive theme park. (Tough job I have, I know.)

Because it was a weekday, we experienced very short lines at every ride except the new Dark Knight Coaster. The first time we checked, the wait was 90 minutes and we decided not to stay. A few hours later, the wait dwindled to about an hour, so my daredevil son and I decided to give it a whirl.

The roller coaster -- which is indoors -- coincides with "The Dark Knight" Batman film, and the premise of the ride is that you’re a citizen in Gotham City that’s under The Joker's wrath. 

Waiting in line is supposed to be part of the experience. Pre-boarders wait in a mock subway station and watch a "live" news broadcast featuring characters from the film alerting the public to The Joker’s evil ways.

Unfortunately, despite the elaborate pre-boarding build-up, the ride itself is no marvel. It really isn’t thrilling or scary. Instead, it’s more like a mediocre haunted house experience. The coaster rides mostly through the dark, with lots of flashing lights, backlit effects, screens with creepy images and loud noises.

The experience lasts less than two minutes, and at the end, I felt like it was still working up to the scary part. Plus, the coaster ride is mostly a series of abrupt turns, which cause a lot of uncomfortable heads thrashing.

Unfortunately, the Dark Knight Coaster comes off more like a marketing gimmick to support the film. At most, it was a good idea that just doesn't deliver enough thrill.

I was hoping to include the coaster in this week's " Recommends" column, but instead I walked away feeling duped.

Some go all out for a day at the Renaissance Faire.
Some go all out for a day at the Renaissance Faire.

Ren Faire factoids

Recently, I took my kids to the Bristol Renaissance Faire and learned a few (useless) factoids.

•    Between 30,000 and 45,000 turkey legs are sold during a single, nine-week season of the Bristol Renaissance Faire.
•    Approximately 450,000 gallons of ale, wine, iced tea and lemonade are consumed each season.
•    Bristol’s Queen Elizabeth has six exquisitely detailed gowns, each costing thousands of dollars to create.
•    The Queen knights somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,280 children every season.
•    First-year performers are required to complete 45 hours of classes in the Bristol Academy of Performing Arts prior to the start of the season.
•    The longest-standing participant at the Faire is Pamela de la Pena, a Cordon Bleu-trained food vendor who has been serving Faire guests crepes and tempura for 30-plus years.
•    More than 100 couples have been married at Bristol over the past 21 years.  Every summer, there are dozens of pre-arranged marriage proposals at the Faire.