Mickey and Shamu hog most of the attention, but the discerning Bay Area six-year-old has another reason to travel to southern California: the sleeper theme park known as Legoland! So, to it, my family unit went on a sunny spring morning a few days ago…
The following night, children and grown-ups alike dreamt of Miniland: the exquisite collection of urban mockups, clad in 20-million Lego blocks, that anchors the park at its center. Within, you’ll find Washington D.C. and its monuments, a kid-friendly Bourbon Street sans the boobies and barfing, New York’s Empire State Building, and the Lilliputian City of San Francisco:
As you begin your Miniland stroll, it just feels right. The imitation landmarks look great, and, but for a few smatterings of artistic license, everything flows like real life, except with more perpendicular angles and less trash. Then, soaking it all in, you begin to notice the details: the black-suited secret service agents observing outwards from atop the White House, a worker popping out of a manhole and back down again just before a Lego bus passes overhead, and look! Those beloved, smelly sea lions, rendered in interconnecting blocks, covering the wooden floats just off Pier 39 in San Francisco!
Now, proceed with caution: for if you anticipate a future visit to Frisco, there be spoilers ahead, and you might not want to read any farther…
Clearly, the creators of Miniland did their research, but just how deep did they dig? I quickly scanned Fisherman’s Wharf for its most notable obscurity, fully expecting not to find him, and… No way! There he was, in his usual spot, hunched over on the sidewalk behind some greenery: Bushman, the grand-daddy of San Francisco street performers:
An encounter with Bushman starts something like this: you’re minding your own business, playing tourist, strolling along the water, happily slurping chowder from a bread bowl. Then, without warning, a bush near your feet spreads apart, and from within, a crazy-looking man hurls a menacing growl at you. Oh, shee-it! After a panicked jig backwards, you realize that okay… he’s not going to attack, and now, three dozen people are chuckling in your direction. Er, uh, ha hahaha!
Then, after ponying up a few clams, you join the nearby crowd to watch inconspicuously as the next victim approaches. The shtick is pure psychosocial genius – the gritty, minimalist half-brother of Candid Camera and punk’d – and lucrative, to boot. Reportedly, Bushman pulls down 60-grand-plus a year, and he’s even got a rating on yelp!
The moral of this story? With the element of surprise – and several pieces of surreptitiously-harvested shrubbery – you can go far, grasshopper!