Middle Age Muggle Mother’s Guide to Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood

Ever since I rode the Tower of Terror at Disney World and couldn’t get the spike out of my hair for a week,  I decided to play it safe  and swear off amusement park rides forever.   I figure at my age I’ll wind up with more than a bad hair day.   My back will be as thrown as a football passed  by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning  in the Super Bowl.

But my youngest daughter  begged me to go to Universal Studios Hollywood where the Harry Potter rides just opened.   The most daring ride is Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey. 20160414_132601 The tip-off  is the warning that says:  This ride is not recommended  if you are pregnant, prone to heart or vision problems, limp, drool, or are a namby-pamby, pantywaist, whimpering wimp who  believes a  warlock is after you.  I had discussed my fear of warlocks with my therapist recently,  so I knew I was done.  Strapped in with a harness that locks your head in on either side, I was jerked around in the dark.

“Stop being a weenie!” my daughter chided watching me flinch at every turn.

It’s the closest  you’ll get to riding  a Quidditch broomstick flying alongside Harry Potter.  You dip, turn, and twist playing this wizarding sport on broomsticks.  I had an unfortunate encounter with Lord Voldemort who put a motion sickness spell on me.  Luckily, during turbulence on the flight to Los Angeles, I had slipped a barf bag into my purse.

Photo-on-9-16-14-at-6.26-PM-300x200I also  rode a number of rough 3-D rides in other areas of the park where you are tossed around, like the Simpsons Ride where they tell you a killer who escaped from prison named Sideshow Bob is on the loose.   It’s a simulated  ride, so if you have to wait in a long line like my husband and I did, it’s not worth it. Although the line did get shorter when I barfed all over my seat.   I should have bought a bulk of barf bags online.  The ride is also a pain in the neck. Luckily, Los Angeles has a number of good hospitals and doctors.

The UCLA doctor was toying with calling someone from the psych ward when I told him that I had been done in by Lord Voldemort and was afraid a psycho killer named Bob was after me too.  But then he examined my x-rays more closely.

“Is that what I think I see? he blurted out.  He thought he saw  a lightning-bolt shaped scar on the back of my skull.  Holding a rabbit’s foot charm over my heart, the doctor recited the following phrase:“As these words of mine are spoken, let the evil curse be broken!”

He  advised me to avoid the  Honeydukes candy shop at Hogsmeade Village where I had downed one too many Exploding Bon-Bons, Cauldron Cakes, Fizzing Whizzbees and Chocolate Frogs, which contain a wizard trading card in each box.  He suggested a vegan died instead.

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He also thought I should  lay low until Sidebar Bob was captured.  Here I was with my life on the line and all my husband cared about was his empty wallet. “Look at the pickle we’ve in,” he said waving the wallet in my face.

He was peeved that along with other crazed fans, I had spent hundreds of dollars at the Hogsmeade shops on wands, robes, and stuffed owls.

He also had no emergency room copay, so the doctor advised  him to down a pint of Hog’s Head brew before opening the hospital bill.

Does Rudolph Really Have a Shiny Nose?

By middle age, you can rack up more regrets than there are floors in the Empire State Building.  As I look back at my broadcast career, I have one big regret.   I never interviewed Santa.  Like King Arthur in search of the Holy Grail,  I scoured the country dredging up Santa Clauses on street corners or in malls, always finding that they were impostors.

santa-1862411_640While most people want publicity,  don’t expect to see Santa starring in a reality tv show with the Kardashians anytime soon.  For years I  wrote Santa letters that I mailed to his workshop in the North Pole. arrow-1238842__340 I always got a note back from Mrs. Claus that stated: “My husband  doesn’t give autographs or do interviews.”  Give me a break.



I decided to stay up all night one Christmas Eve in the hope that I could interview Santa.

With me in my kerchief, and my husband in his cap, we read The Night Before Christmas 42 times before falling asleep with visions of sugar-plums dancing in our heads, bags forming under our eyes, and swollen feet.  I stayed up the longest.   I  pretended that I was trimming the tree.  I baked some  macadamia nut cookies and put them by the fireplace for Santa.  My husband later admitted that he had eaten all of the cookies himself.


I  was so tired by 4:30am  that I actually did a painful face-plant into a box of ornaments.  I woke up with a Donald Duck tree topper I got in Disney World  stuck to my forehead,  gold tinsel wrapped around my neck, and our dog Bumper licking my face.

I was so disappointed that I had missed Santa.  I remember as a child hiding behind the couch waiting to catch a glimpse of Santa.  But then my little sister would blow my cover by yelling out that I had stepped on her foot, pulled her hair, or better yet yanked her arm out the socket.  “I’m going to TELL Dad!” she would scream.  Then  I would sit on her, put my hand over her mouth, and tickle torture her for telling.  Then my brothers would sit on her and tickle her too before my Dad would come in and threaten to ground us for six months.  I was reminiscing about these Christmas memories when I spotted  something on the  mantel.   Santa had left  a selfie with a reindeer.

It was a good consolation prize, like winning Miss Congeniality in the Miss America pageant,  the community service prize in high school, or thinking you are getting an Oscar only to wind up with  Ellen DeGeneres in a selfie on Twitter.  I was so angry at my husband for eating all the cookies.  “You blame me for everything!” he protested, claiming Santa probably has a nut allergy.

Why did I want to interview Santa so badly?   Was I acting delusional?  Is  he a figment of my imagination? Was the need to find him so dysfunctional that Dr. Phil should do a Christmas special  with me titled: “Mom Suffering From  Sugar-plum Fantasy Who Can Name All Nine Reindeer.”  You can fault me if you want, but I have always wanted to ask this plump, white-bearded old man in the red suit some important  questions like, “If Rudolph really has a shiny nose, have you tried Clearasil?”  Or: “If all teens talk back to their mothers, how do you know who is naughty or nice?”  And, “Is Santa a paid spokesman for a toy company?”   Several sources told me that he was but no one would go on record.   I wanted Santa to finally admit it so I could give him a piece of my mind.  After all, I am the mother of three children he has spoiled rotten.

Yes, I’d tell him that I blame him for this  “me generation” of materialistic,  narcissistic, coddled  Americans who can’t wait to leave the Thanksgiving table to run out to buy even more gifts.  You see frantic Americans trampling each at the sales in the stores, with  half-eaten drumsticks still in their mouths and wet gravy on their lips.  He had turned the Christmas and Hanukkah season into a gift-giving frenzy.  The more that I think about it, maybe it’s a good thing that I never found him.  I would have ended up on Santa’s naughty list, with so much coal in my stocking that I’d be humming the lyrics from Loretta Lynn’s hit song “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”