On Tuesday, I went to Disneyland for my birthday. Disneyland is offering free admission on your birthday during 2009. I figured the happiest place on earth would be a nice place to change years. After signing up online, I got my birthday pass and headed down to Anaheim with Aunt June who recently retired.
Friends had warned me that it was spring break and that there was no alcohol in Disneyland. I brushed all warnings aside. I wasn’t joining a convent. I was going to a place where people dressed up in giant furry animal costumes and there were pink castles and candy and flowers.
I had gone to Disneyland once before when I was in high school. The whole family did a trek from Cleveland to Los Angeles over Christmas break. We spent two days at Disneyland. I remember the Captain Eno movie with Michael Jackson. I remember riding Space Mountain and loving Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and dealing with It’s A Small World. We had a good family time at Disneyland. Was this trip just a trip to Nostalgialand? Then again, everything at Disneyland plays into some fantastic nostalgia for a time and place that never really existed in the first place.
We arrived at the Death Star sized parking structure and were directed on where exactly to park by several parking attendants in orange and blue shirts. As we walked to the tram, I realized that Disney is very good at moving, corralling, and dealing with large groups of people. Maybe heaven is like this. Maybe you have to take a tram into the next life. By the way, both times on the tram, I hit my head on the low ceiling right after the announcement came to watch my head. Since I was in the happiest place on earth, I checked the foul language.
The ticket lines were long. As you got closer to the ticket window, the line split with half going right and half going left. We went right. We probably should have gone left, but once you choose, there’s no going back.
As we watched some of the slowest ticket transactions in the new century, we adults all wondered if world peace was being negotiated. Meanwhile, a random kid fell face down the pavement and started to roar. Kid down! Kid down! We’d see a lot of kids drop in the course of the day.
When we finally got to our ticket window, I presented my pass, and the ticket seller, an old fella, gave me a ticket and a pin saying Happy Birthday to me. My Aunt got a pin saying she was celebrating my happy birthday. Woohoo! Big plastic buttons! Feeling the love and happiness.
When we tried to pay for Aunt June’s ticket with some plastic, the old fella said we had to go to another window. Huhhhhh???? He gave us some lame explanation about personal information, state law, and birthday promotions. Huhhhh?? We tried giving him my plastic and my Aunt’s plastic. We tried saying magic words like ‘we release you from all responsibility.’ Finally, we gave him some good old fashioned Yankee greenbacks, and Aunt June told him that the birthday policy sucked. She later said she didn’t really let him have it because he had said his boss was Mickey Mouse. Well, at least his boss was a mammal.
We were in. We were finally in. We walked down Main Street USA as a barbershop quartet sang songs and tourists took pictures with Pluto. We were most definitely in a fantasy world created and constructed to make us feel good, and we started feeling good. We wandered through Adventureland and noted that we would come back for Indiana Jones ride and the cool hats and T-shirts.
We wandered into New Orleans land and got on the line for the Pirates of Caribbean ride. Yes, we were gonna ride one of the classics. While on the line, we met a bunch of people also with blue birthday buttons. My Aunt insisted that I take pictures with them. How did so many good looking people get born on April 7th? It’s one kick ass day. I also got my first Happy Birthday from a random Disneyland employee. Do they get paid by the happy? Still, I was taking it all in. I was loving the happy.
The Pirates ride had changed over the decades. The ride had inspired a movie which went back to inspiring the ride. Still, the cannonball battle at the fort was exciting, and I liked the pyrotechnic theatricality of it all. They did a lot with shadows and water. After the Pirates, we were feeling mighty famished, so we stopped in at the Blue Bayou restaurant which had been recommended to me.
Do you have a super elite seating pass? The hostess asked in a chipper high pitched voice.
Uhm, no. We said.
Well we’re all booked up, but you can check back later. And happy birthday. She said. I said nothing, turned, and left.
How did Disneyland become the elitistland? I also noticed Fast Pass signs on all the rides. I hate Fast Pass. It’s an imperfect rhyme. Shouldn’t there just be one Disneyland for everyone or am I being too socialist?
Fortunately, Aunt June has a food beacon. While I was pulling out the map and trying to find steak in Frontierland, Aunt June tracked down the French Bakery and had her tray and utensils and wondered why the family in front of her hadn’t put their tray down on the rail. Hadn’t they gone to High School? Didn’t they know how a Cafeteria worked? Aunt June wondered all these things out loud before ordering roast beef and mashed potatoes. I got the jambalaya which turned out to be bland. I wondered if all the food at Disneyland came from a central kitchen. Still we were eating. Food brings happiness.
After lunch, we set out to ride more of the classics. We went to the Haunted Mansion which was morbid. We watched the spinning tea cups and took pictures in the non-spinning tea cup. We went on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Mr. Toad is awesome. I don’t know if it’s the rhythm or big cardboard cut outs, but it’s a ride with great comic timing. We laughed.
Feeling happy after Mr. Toad, we got on the line for It’s a Small World. It was very fifties even with the recent revisions. It’s still little kid dolls from around the world singing It’s a small world after all over and over again. Still, there was something kind of trippy about the pink and purple camel and the giant butterflies circling overhead and the grand finale where all the children of the world dressed in white sing It’s a small world after all accompanied by a brass band. Note to tourists, there’s a designated smoking area right next to the It’s a Small World ride.
After a small world, I was ready to take on the ride I had come to Anaheim to ride. Yes, I was ready to take on Space Mountain. Aunt June told me she couldn’t ride Space Mountain with me. She found the darkness and the shooting stars too disorienting. We figured out which column to meet by later, and I proceeded inside only to find that the ride was closed down temporarily. No one could tell me how long the temporary was, so I wandered around a gift shop. Grumpy the dwarf seems to be an icon among the Disneyland consumer. Was this a sign of post-Bush malaise or some deeper social depression?
I almost got trapped in the Star Wars section of the gift shop. There was a lot of cheesy Star Wars stuff there. How did Star Wars become Disneyfied? Jedis are most definitely not cute, but all these kids are signing up for Jedi Training Academy and buying cheap plastic light sabres. Damn those stupid prequels!
When I went back to check on Space Mountain, I was able to jump on the line which was lonnnnng. I was on line behind two thirteen year old girls who were texting their friends and eating ice cream sandwiches. They were cute as only little Lolitas could be. I noticed they were dressed exactly alike. I also texted my friends to pass the time.
When I got to the front of the Space Mountain line, I scored a seat in the front row, and I was off for two minutes of shooting lights and pure adrenaline. Yes, yes, yes. Hyperspace! The roller coaster went up and turned and went down and turned and the stars went faster and faster and faster. Hell yeah! Yep, I think I said hell at Disneyland.
When the ride was over, I scooted up the stairs and out into the sun light. Oh yeah, I had a burst of adrenaline going. I was ready to run a marathon. Aunt June had gone to see Honey I Shrank the Audience, a 3D movie. She felt she had seen all those 3D tricks before. I mean, how many times can a 3D movie shoot things out to the audience? We decided we had had enough of Tomorrowland and headed back to Adventureland.
We got on line for the Indiana Jones ride as the wait time changed from forty-five minutes to sixty-five minutes. Meanwhile, a lady came through the line with single tickets. We could hop the line if we were willing to not ride together. Sure we were family, sure we were loyal, but at the end of the day, it was just a ride. Aunt June and I snapped up two single tickets and proceeded past the hour long wait.
On the Indiana Jones ride, you get on a large jeep that holds about twelve people and strap yourself in. The jeep chugs, bumps, and grinds through a vast underground maze and an old temple with lots of creepy crawlies and swinging bridges. At one point, the jeep’s engine conks out and you’re just sitting there in the dark listening to the engine strain to start. I thought the ride was a hoot with just the right combination of tongue in cheek and action thrills. Aunt June and I weren’t in the same jeep, but when we met up at the end, we agreed that it was great fun.
As we skipped and walked on air, we noticed a lot of adults sitting ready to collapse. It was 4:30 in the afternoon, and either the kids or the adults or both were pretty much done. They had done all the happiness they could handle. We did a bit of shopping. I got a nice cotton hat. Aunt June got a cupcake. When I was purchasing some postcards, the gift shop clerk wished me a happy birthday.
Oh please, enough, I’m happy. I said to him.
As we walked away, Aunt June told me that it was obvious that I was done. She thought I was going to tear his head off and eat his ears. No, actually, I was doing okay.
We got on the tram, found the car, and got back on the freeway to Los Angeles. I was happy. The traffic was going the other way.