Friday, September 9, 2011

These are a Few of my Favorite Things

So it's been another difficult week with a fruitless job search, a fresh heatwave, some nasty PMS and the "I" key deciding to pop off my laptop*.

However my years of Polyanna Training are fighting hard against the reds and as such I came across this article via a friend's Facebook feed and it got me feeling all warm and fuzzy.

See, Disneyland has been a serious boon to me, especially during this and my previous bout of unemployment. 1) because it's simply a lovely escape. I get to forget that I'm a near-insignificant college grad who is doing little more than existing and trying to pretend that it's not a big deal and 2) I get to be a part of visiting friends' vaycays and be the Disneyland guru.

See, I'm one of those rare Annual Pass holders that also used to work at Disneyland. Many moons ago, before my mission and exploration into adulthood I worked on Main Street peddling collectible Disneyland items, mainly Time Pieces and Jewelry. I also spent a good amount of time with Crystal, China, Silhouettes, and Disneyana. Yeah - I was one of those people. I left when I went to go serve in Washington DC and during my tenure there I saw a number of things that could have disenchanted a lesser being with Disneyland. I'm not sure what I'm legally able to talk about considering they made me sign a stack of paperwork an inch thick when I first started there and even 10+ years later I still feel emotionally obligated** to keep up the "Show" for the kiddies of the world.

The time I worked there was a time that I felt any and everything was possible and when I go back I still feel that. I've been a passholder for years now and in the spirit of the article above I'd like to tell you My Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Disneyland in no particular order or ranking.

1) The Music
  After you elbow your way through Main Gate and past the tourists congregating in front of the flowered mosaic Mickey*** you go through one of the two tunnels on Walt's version of a red carpet and all 5 of your senses are washed in a whole new world (hehe). You smell the vanilla coming from the Candy Palace, you see the amazing gardens and Mickey and whoever else walking around hugging people, you feel cooler because there are all of a sudden groves of trees on either side of you and then - you hear it. You hear the train whistling behind you and the Music of Main Street inviting you in. There is a chipper loop of "Wells Fargo Wagon", "Put on your Sunday Clothes", and happiness constantly going on in the background. If you're lucky the Barbershop Quartet might also be out or Alice and the Mad Hatter having a Rag Time moment by the Coke fountain. EVERYWHERE you go at Disneyland Walt is humming to you. He seemed to figure out exactly what your heart might be singing in every corner of the Park and attached speakers to it. There's the constant Jazz in New Orleans Square, the tin drums in Adventure Land, Aaron Copeland's "Rodeo" in Frontier Land, every princess' song ever in Fantasy Land - it's all there. There is always something to hum along to, something to take you back or take you away and I just love it.

2) Strawberry Ice Cream from The Gibson Girl

I'm not typically a fan of strawberry ice cream. I'm usually firmly in the vanilla/chocolate/caramelized side of the spectrum but for some reason the strawberry ice cream at Disneyland eclipses them all. I make room in my money and calorie budget for a serving at least once every 3x I go (I go pretty often). It has magic in it. I could write a whole food blog about Disneyland "Eating My Way Through The Magic" and I might as a follow up to this but this is the most noteworthy methinks.

3) Churros

I lied. I need to talk about churros too. There are some foods that in the real world I don't regularly seek after or like at all but in specific places they're all I want. If I'm at Dodger Stadium, I want a hot dog. Would I eat a hot dog anywhere else? Nay - but at Dodger Stadium it's all I want. On a plane I only want to drink ginger ale. At Disneyland it's churros. Where else can that baseball bat of warmly fried cinnamony sugary goodness be openly consumed. It's almost required. When the nice lady at El Pollo Loco asks me if I want flan or a churro with my two tacos al carbon and a brc I firmly say NO. It doesn't seem right, like I'd be cheating on my Disneyland churros if I stooped to a non-Disneyland churro. They're the food of childhood dreams. Anyone who says differently has never had one or simply doesn't get it and needs a timeout.

4) The Story

I could speak for days about my devotion to stories. I'm essentially dedicating myself to them seeing how I want to teach, have a degree in English, and am of a Celtic Bardish background. They seem to be the only thing I'm suited for. I recently finished some unique comics called "The Unwritten" and at one point a villain is monologing and the kid hes captured doesn't really get the full ramifications of his situation and says "It's just a story. It's not worth dying for"  and the villain replies

"Just a story? Tell that to the Greeks who fought at Troy. Tell the women burned as witches. The Rosenbergs. Sacco and Vanzetti. Tell the martyers of all the religions and the millions who fell in all the wars since time began. Stories are the ONLY thing worth dying for."

I agree. Walt understood this and I truly believe that it's at the heart of Disneyland. We all love stories. We crave them. They're how we learn, how we cope and how we're hopeful about the future. We identify with them and bend our lives to look like them. They inspire us, comfort us and remind us that the world is a whole lot bigger than it typically seems. We feel the people in them are our friends and to a degree they are. Disneyland is a place where that corner of our imagination has ground. We get to, in a very real sense, BE in our favorite stories. The ones where we know the endings and love them. We get to see the White Rabbit's house. We get to get into Indiana Jones' jeep. We get to board a transport to Endor. We get to go into the castle and you know what? It's marvelous. It's how it should be. It's childhood and Disneyland wrapped up in a castle spire. Every ride, every line for every ride, is a story in which we're characters and that means the world to me.

5) The Jedi Training Academy

So how is the only way that Disneyland could possibly get any cooler? Oh right -  by contracting with George Lucas. I think there are fewer larger nerd eruptions than when Disney devotion and Star Wars devotion meet and it happens 4x a day in Tomorrow Land. The Jedi Training Academy is something I dearly wish I could have had when I was a kid. The stage and dance floor at the Tomorrow Land Terrace are taken over by a Jedi, four Paduans and a flury of kidletts that are selected, outfitted, and lightsabered to be instructed by the Jedi on a light saber combination and then out of the ground comes Darth Vader and Darth Maul and every kid gets a chance to fight the evil Lord Vader. Can you think of anything more formative and empowering??! They all beat him but not before Vader does his best to entice all of the Younglings to join the Dark Side. They all decline, Vader is expelled, and all the kids are presented to their parents and onlookers as the newest recruits in the Fight for Freedom in the Galaxy. I cry every. Single. Time. DON'T JOIN THE DARK SIDE KIDS! Have you ever seen a 4 year old in a kid in a tiny brown cloak battling his heart out with Vader with a plastic light saber? My ovaries ache every time I do. It's Good Parenting 101 and about as wholesome as the world gets.

6) The Prince and Princess bathrooms in Fantasy Land.
There are bathrooms specifically for Princes and Princesses. In a Castle. I would like every bathroom ever from here on out to be referred to for Princes and Princesses. The world would be a better place.

7) Fantasmic

I'll be honest. I've seen this show a number of times. I think I'm in the multiple hundreds. When I worked in New Orleans Square I saw it twice a night and you know what? I'm not sick of it. As a matter of fact, I desperately love it. I love every thing about it. It's a great story. It's on a RIVER! Well - "river". You get to cool off via the spray from the jets/movie projection screens. Mickey kicks a dragon's trash by asserting "This is MY story" (see #4) and the music (see #1) is about as good as it gets. I may or may not know every note and every dance move and during one sparsely attended fall performance some friends and I may have taken over the wheelchair area (we were there legally) and danced and sang the whole show. In my opinion it remains the best show at Disneyland (including World of Color).

8) The Dinosaurs

Did you know there are dinosaurs at Disneyland? Bet you didn't. However, if your feet have ever been at the falling off point (a frequent occurrence at Disneyland) and, in desperation, you take the railroad back to Main Gate to avoid another hike through people and the park, somewhere in between the Tomorrow Land stop and Main Gate Walt takes you back. That's all I'll say because it's that cool.

9) The Striking of the Colors
A little known tradition on Main Street is the Striking of The Colors. Like any good solider knows, when the sun is down the flag comes down too. Walt, being the real patriot that he was, made sure this would ALWAYS be the case at Disneyland. Whenever time the sunset is, the Barbershop Quartet and the Main Street band invite everyone on Main Street to gather around the flagpole. We sing a few patriotic songs and then they invite everyone that has served in the Military to come forward to the inner circle of the square, right by the flag pole for special recognition by the crowd and to be the first to grab the flag as it's lowered. They call them up one branch of the military at a time and you see everyone from young dads on leave laden with sippy cups and still freshly shaved heads to silver-topped old men in Tommy Bahama shirts and fishing hats walking with canes coming forward with the same pride and respect. We clap for each of them and thank them in turn for their service. Then they stand at attention (well, most of them) and a color guard strikes the colors while everyone sings "God Bless America".

By then everyone is pretty much in tears and I'm prouder than ever to be an American, to have been walking amongst these heroes all day and not even known it, to remember that my day of larking and freedom isn't all that free. It's an amazing way to end the day and to keep the love flowing.

10) The King Arthur Carrousel

There are a multiplicity of rides that I love at Disneyland (Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain (but only at night), Peter Pan, the canoes, the Mark Twain...) but the one that truly has my heart is The King Arthur Carrousel and I don't really know why. I'm a sap I guess. It's just this lovely traditional ride. Also, Mary Poppins is one of my favorite Disney movies and I've always wanted a magical carrousel horse ride like Jane and Michael. The lead horse, Jingle, on the carrousel is even dedicated to Julie Andrews. That's just classy. It's the heart of Fantasy Land which is the heart of Disneyland which is the heart of the Disney Empire. It's the concentration of simplicity and innocence and thrill all in one.

Because this is in conjunction with the spirit of The Carrousel, is

10a) The Fireworks
They're perfect. Some shows are superior to others like the Christmas show (Christmas in general at Disneyland is a whole other blog) but few things are more thrilling, beautiful and evocative of wonder and delight than the Disneyland Fireworks. Like the blog aforementioned said. If everyone everywhere had the chance to see them all at once we'd have a real shot at World Peace.

God bless Walt and God bless Disneyland. Keeping hope alive since 1955.

*I spent a good hour and a half using two pairs of tweezers, a reading light, and my best impression of a surgeon to reattach it. I think I did a fine job considering all I had to work with was an online tutorial, my mad puzzle skills, and some gumption but it's still a bit tender.

**I still scan the crowds for people who look lost when I'm there. I still offer help and when giving directions I still point with two fingers or gesture with my whole hand like my meticulous Disney training dictates (We have a lot of international guests you know - don't want to offend anyone with a single digit hanging out there). Oh  - and they're still "guests". The word "customer" is the rudest idea possible. I've seen a lot of a lot of different things and I'd be happy to tell you in person but not in print (the Mouse is everywhere).

***I made the mistake of crossing in front of Mickey going on a break once and got innundated with a gaggle of Japanese tourists asking me to take their picture. It was hilarious but took up my whole break. I made sure never to do that again.


Shelly! said...

Oh Lizzie.

I love this post. Wholly. Completely.

And I need a trip there with you. Just us two. And since we all love are mine:

I did not grow up a fan of Disneyland. We went a few times -and I always liked it, but never loved it. We didn't watch the princess movies so I didn't have c connection to the characters that way. And honestly I had a chip on my shoulder about feminine roles in Disney movies, marketing to children, and hefty admission prices.

One year we (E, the kids and I) flew down from the City by the Salt Lake one year - which happened to be the 50th anniversary year. My parents surprised us at the airport and hauled us off to D-land. I was horrified. We'd just spent time on a plane - I was tired - and not at all enthusiastic about going to Disneyland. Most of the time at Disneyland was my 1/2 bummed attempt to have a good time. And when you fake things you fail to give yourself the chance to find the real good.

That is until It's a Small World. The boys were probably 2 & 3 at the time - so several rides were off limits - but It's a Small World of course wasn't. And riding through that ride, watching the boys' faces light up...remembering how that ride felt as a child...well it changed me.

Then a couple of years ago I went with my cousin - a huge Disneyland fan. She's had a pass...for how long I don't know. Her enthusiasm and trivia of the place made it all the more wonderful.

This year having our passes has helped as well. I've learned to navigate the crowds (always my least fave part of anything) and prioritize our time. With passes we don't have to gorge on Disney...we can nibble and sample only to return another day.

And the parts I was worried about...well I don't have to engage in those*. I can let go and let loose. And that is real magic for me!

*though I have been known to indulge my children in a few directly marketed to them toys!

Ms. Liz said...

Oh Shelly,

You know, everyone has their own road to and from Disneyland. I'm so glad that you're beginning to mend the dislike.

I have a whole theory about "The Kid Factor" and how we get license to see things again when we're introducing them to the world. Disneyland was made for the kids of the world so it's now wonder your munchkins loved it so much. They're about as full of wonder as they come. and YES we HAVE to go together. I will make you nautious with all of my useless Disneyland trivia and I'd like to think my love of the place is contagious.

Also - I TOTALLY agree with you about taking the place in nibbles. I went there with a buddy of mine last month with his two munchkins and it was the first time I've spent more than 4 hours at Disneyland in years and I was grumpy, hot and exhausted after the day and I understood why people hate Disneyland if that is the only kind of experience they've had with it.

I'm with you on heavy ticket prices and I try to be understanding about their rolls with women (the artists are products of their time) and I'd like to think they've gotten much more responsible about it. Have you seen "Tangled"? Rapunzel is an AWESOME female character. Independent and bright but not fake or alienating. Seriously awesome stuff.

But seriously - we need to fix a date soon and go play. I've got my R2D2 ears ready and waiting.

I heart you btw :)

Liz W. said...

I whole-heartedly agree with you about Disneyland. Love, LoVe, LOVE!

And also about your understanding of the importance of stories. There is nothing more important to society than the stories we tell ourselves.

I took a class in grad school that was all about stories and management. It was fascinating and changed how I interact with people on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe how much I need a churro. Like, right now. NEED.

Ms. Liz said...

Emsy - there is only one way I could share a churro with you. We need to get back to Disneyland!