Dispatch From Disneyland
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All Roads Lead to Disneyland
In France they say all roads lead to Paris. At the peak of the Roman Empire they all led to Rome. That, of course, eventually led to the downfall of the Roman Empire as the ‘unfriendlies' had an easy time finding and then sacking Rome. In Jimmy's world, all roads lead to Disneyland. However, Jimmy doubts that Disneyland will ever be sacked, as the traffic conditions in Southern California are grueling enough to stop the advance of any army.
Today marks the start of Jimmy's bi-annual trip to Disneyland. So far it's not going very well. He's been stuck in traffic on the abomination Southern California calls its freeway system for over two hours and there is no end in sight. In the middle of that mess of steel frames and foam bumpers Jimmy yearns for the promise of mass transportation Walt Disney provided in his version of the future. High speed monorails would travel between population hubs and business or entertainment zones. Local transportation such as busses, people movers, or even Segways, would get you to your destination in a safe and timely manner. Of course, all instructions to be provided by that pleasant voice of Disneyland - Jack Wagner.
One benefit of being stuck on the freeway is that it gives Jimmy some time to reflect on his previous trips to Disneyland and what he wants to do differently this time.
Even though his immediate family always lived in the outdoor enthusiast community of Portland Oregon, Jimmy felt blessed that some more sensible members of his family had taken up residence in sunny Southern California, home of the Happiest Place on Earth. He also took solace in the knowledge that yearly trips to Disneyland were accepted practice by his parents, even if it was occasionally shuttling him and his brother on a plane to the awaiting doting aunt, who thankfully recognized the primary purpose of these trips - to provide the boys with some quality time at the park.
Jimmy recalls the one time his aunt dropped him and his brother off at the Grand Hotel in the early morning hours with instructions to return when Disneyland closed. It was a marathon day. They ran through the park enjoying every attraction, exploring every shop, buying loads of candy, and scarfing down the rare bit of actual nourishment. By the time the shuttle bus took them back to The Grand it was past midnight, a very long day for a 13 year old, let along his younger brother by 5 years. Jimmy was shocked to discover that his aunt had waited in the hotel parking lot all day while he and his brother had their fun. He felt so guilty; that was the last time the asked for a ride to the park. That didn't mean he wouldn't visit the Magic Kingdom, from then on it was the train from downtown and eleven bucks for a cab. He'd call when he wanted to be picked up.
While in college Jimmy found his poor student budget wouldn't allow for even an occasional escape to Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. Oh how he suffered. Each fall he would promise himself that by next summer he would visit the park and bring along as many friends as possible. But by Spring finals all the opportunities had passed and it was time to say goodbye for the summer. Plus he just couldn't trust the old Chevy to survive one more trip down the I-5 and back again.
This trip down the I-5 featured a new car but it, and the cars around it, were going nowhere. The news radio channel Jimmy found blamed a traffic accident a few miles downstream that had blocked all but one lane. Jimmy scanned his street map for any sign of hope but the nearest off ramp with any hope of providing a detour appeared at least a mile away. Not good. Too his left a billboard screamed out its message trying to convince him to buy a new car. Jimmy thought an ad for a personal helicopter would probably do better.
Jimmy vaguely remembered another ad at that location - the famous Coppertone ad. The billboard featured a blond little girl playing on a beach with her puppy. The girl had a well tanned body and a pale bottom that was revealed each time her dog pulled down her swimsuit. Jimmy wondered if that girl had ever escaped from the evil clutches of that naughty dog.
Jimmy doesn't remember his first trip to Disneyland. Nor his second or his third. In fact, he had been to the park six times before his fourth birthday. Pretty remarkable he thinks, considering his family lived in Portland at the time. He does retain a few memories of his sixth trip. Mostly he remembers having fun on the Fantasyland rides, the feeling of awe and excitement he felt as he approached the ticket booths, and the bizarre uncertainty he faced when encountering the various walk-around characters.
He remembers one encounter that his father had memorialized in glorious Kodak permanence. The setting was Town Square outside the little breakfast eatery stuck into one corner of Disneyland's opening scene. This location has always been a popular spot to locate the chief characters of Disney's animated menagerie.
On that day Mickey Mouse emerged from offstage and was immediately surrounded by a dozen little tykes eager to have their photo taken with the main cheese or perhaps just offer him a hug of thanks for all those years of quality entertainment he provide them in their youth. Jimmy's parents, also eager to snap a photo of their kid with Mickey, gently pushed Jimmy into the fray.
Miraculously all of the children who had been mobbing the mouse departed and Jimmy was left with a one on one experience with the Tuxedo Wearing One. Even sitting in traffic, Jimmy remembers it well, very well. Mickey, sensing an opportunity for a little one and one interaction, bent over toward little Jimmy to pat his head. Jimmy, not quite sure what was going on, stumbled backward tripping and falling onto his back. After a very brief pause, more from surprise than anything, he started crying from the shock and embarrassment. Mickey, obviously horrified at little Jimmy's fall, immediately bent down to help the little Jimmy up; and that was when Dad decided to snap the picture.
Years later, while thumbing through the family's photo albums, Jimmy stumbled across that exact photo. Only, it looked like Mickey was bent over in a menacing position with his hands raised wickedly in the air. The expression on the young Jimmy's face was one of absolute terror as the monster sized mouse towered over him. Not a pleasant moment at the time, but worth a good laugh years later.
In Southern California is doesn't matter where the roads lead, thought Jimmy. Eventually the traffic will clear up and the path to Disneyland will reveal itself. Then before you know it the Matterhorn and the new Tower of Terror will come into view and the land that Walt built, with its millions and millions of memories, will crank the turnstiles one more time to let you in. Then all the delay, all the wait, all the traffic, will have been be worth it.
Dispatch from Disneyland: Memories and fantasies woven together to create whimsical tales that can happen any day at Walt Disney's magic kingdom. Through Indigo's dispatch you can experience some of the wonderful moments that make Disneyland such a magical place.
Dispatch from Disneyland is not posted on a regular schedule.
The opinions expressed by our Indigo, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.
-- Posted July 7, 2003