“Come with me to the most magical place on earth…”
Marv Waxman. My “Grade Ten” classmate at Bathurst Heights Collegiate and Vocational School, billboarding his “Oral Composition” on his recent visit to Disneyland.
The first kid anyone knew who had been there.
And now, he was telling us about it. In an (embarrassing) overwrought delivery, contrasting his normally serious demeanor (auguring a future ascent into U of T medical school.) Going seriously against “type”, Waxman waxed poetically about visiting the fabled and fabulous “Magic Kingdom.” (In a place where they never have winter.)
I desperately wanted to go.
A dream – which was a wish my heart made – that was finally fulfilled when I was twenty-one.
While attending The Bertolt Brecht Summer Theater Workshop at UCLA, I was invited to join a group of fellow thespians on a day-trip to Disneyland hosted by a generous classmate who had previously worked there. Due to her “emeritus” status, she was accorded complimentary tickets to the park, for her and all of her guests.
I got excited again, just writing that sentence.
I know not everyone likes Disneyland. To many, it’s just a big, fake fantasy theme park.
Well first, “Duh!”
And second – although first for me – I like big, fake fantasy theme parks. Given the choice, I would happily live in one. (Some might say I already do.)
For me, Disneyland was like exploring an enormous “Pop-up” book, an enchanted Earlo roaming its oversized pages. (Or, Disneyland was normal-sized and I was “Honey, I shrunk the Jew.”)
Disneyland was colorful acres of “Can this possibly be real?” My previous closest experience in utter amazement was a full-sized statue of Hopalong Cassidy made entirely of butter, displayed at the Pure Foods Building of the Canadian National Exhibition. This oleaginous marvel left me rubbing my incredulous eyes. (Come on! A chiseled buttery statue of your favorite cowboy?)
My first trip to Disneyland combined two of my favorite elements:
The experience was as thrillingly memorable as I’d imagined.
And it was free.
I have gone back on numerous occasions. At least one of then, I have already mentioned, involving Anna taking me there on my 65th birthday, where, with authorized certification, they allowed “Birthday Boys” (and girls) in free.
(There is something about that tantalizing arrangement that has a mesmerizing hold on me. I gained ten pounds eating available accompanying dinners on studio “Show Nights.” The food was terrible. But it was free.)
Two Disneyland stories:
I am flipping them around.
Somewhere in my late forties, we met my friend Shelly and family – recently featured in the chronicled weekend trip to Arizona – at Disneyland, where I was dared to try Star Tours. And before I knew it, I was lined up for a ride I’d showed active resistance to ever visiting.
Because I am squeamish, easily nauseated and wimpishly fearful.
I am forty-something years old.
And there I am –
Succumbing to a dare.
Jumping over the specifics, including an angst-boosting moment where riders have the opportunity to bail – which I should have taken have but didn’t – I am hurtling powerlessly through what are essentially two frightening elements combined: A rollercoaster barreling through pitch dark. I hear a voice – which is mine – wailing what I am confident are the last words I will ever be heard to say:
“I am going to die.”
Well – evidenced by this current communication –
But throughout the remainder of the day, strangers came up to me, asking, in solicitous voices, responding to my visibly greenish complexion,
“Are you okay?”
I said yes, but I wasn’t.
I shall finish, recounting a “Milestone Moment” in a Dad’s life – the first time I took my daughter to Disneyland.
Anna’s, like, about three. And we are traversing the castle entrance into the park.
I could not be more excited.
Dad and daughter, her little hand in mine,
Visiting the “Magic Kingdom.”
As we proceed toward Disneyland’s “Main Street”, unable to check my emotions, I turn to Anna and exultantly blurt,
“Anna! Where are you?”
To which I expect an exuberant,
But instead, she calmly replies,
“I right here, Daddy.”
I am now back at Disneyland, for a three-day stay with immediate family and visiting Chicagoans. (Although, as yet, not Golda. That one’s coming. (Knocking the replica “Craftsman” wooden dresser beside this faux marbleized desktop. Everything’s stylized in this hotel. The decorative motif is “Old-but-actually new.” Call it the "Disneyland Replica Hotel.")
I have no idea what’s ahead here, though it is certain to supplement the mounting Disneyland lore.
I just hope no one dares me to ride anything else.
Older – yes.
I wouldn’t count on it.