Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Enchanted Tiki Room

If you don’t know what this is, I’ll tell you. It was one of the older features at Disneyland while it was still there.  I was in it about twice, maybe three times before they removed it.  I have a very vague recollection of what was there.  But I think you walked into this Polynesia themed room, and there were all sort of creatures that elements the walls including animatronic birds, flowers, and other tropical themed displays.  

I don’t know why I was thinking about this…or…maybe I do.  I heard on the news just a few days ago that the Walt Disney Company is getting extremely pissed off at Governor Newsom’s reluctance to open amusements parks and other such large, live venues.  Disney gets a lot of their revenue from their parks, into which their various creative efforts are funneled from such divisions such as live-action films and animation, and turned into another huge revenue stream.  

I personally think that all of this shut down is just absolutely stupid, and is a completely paralyzing overreaction to the Covid issue.  Maybe the Governor will grow a brain at some point.  His track record would indicate that it’s unlikely, but we’ll see.

But it all got me thinking about my relationship to Disneyland, which has always been great, but has dwindled over the years simply to age factor I suppose.  

My first visit to Disneyland was in 1969.  I was four years old and went with my father and another women and her son.  The son was in my nursery school class.  It blows my mind now to think that my first visit to the park occurred when the park itself was only fourteen years old.  What???

Over my childhood, I went to Disneyland a lot with my parents and friends.  In junior high school, I went with my girlfriend at the time, Tanya, as well as one of my friends, David.  I have a black and white photo of the three of us wrangling a horse, one of those photo set-ups with a mock western theme.  We were wearing cowboy hats.  

And in high school, I went with my girlfriend, Trish.  I have a photo of that visit as well with both of us sitting in some sort of Pony Express scene.  She adorned some women’s frontier clothes, and I, a coat with a top hat.  

When I got to University, I had by them acquired a good friend, John, who loved Disneyland, having his own extensive background with the park.  While he attended UCLA and I was at, USC, we would meet down at the park on weekends, say, a Friday evening, and enjoy the park for our own catching up.  We each had annual passes, which made entry very uncomplicated.  Our meeting place was usually under the castle.  We’d hit some rides, watch the best ragtime player I’ve ever seen in my life, Rod Miller, play Twelfth Street Rag in Carnation Plaza, and then we’d grab food and hit a few more rides.  It was a great escape from the monotony of studying.

And later, when I was living with a girlfriend in Venice, our circle would all gather our respective girlfriends and boyfriends and wander down to the park as a group as a way to spend time with each other.  It’s funny to think that Disneyland has seen me (and so many others) through varying stages of life.  I have a great video of me, my friends John, Tim, Kristin, Lani and Marcie all packed into an old maroon Buick that my girlfriend had at the time, bouncing down Route 91 towards Disneyland, all full of energy and hilarity.

There are two times that I recall laughing the hardest in my life.  As an aside, one was, while working at a group  home (later in my life), another counselor (Mike) and I got all of the kids to bed, made ourselves pizzas and played SuperMario Brothers into the night.  It was the idea that we had been these kind of stern but kind counselors, having to get the kids through their routines and to sleep, then had turned into these video game maniacs stuffing our faces with pepperoni slices once they were asleep that got us rolling on the floor with laughter.  We couldn’t stop.

The other times I laughed the hardest in my life, and there were many, were with John while walking around at Disneyland.  We’d get into discussions about our own insecurities and observations about the world, and then we’d get into laughing fits, especially me.  It was that escape into the safety of the the park that brought us the sense of perspective about all of the ridiculous things in the world and would release an avalanche of laughter between us.  And somehow, especially at night when the glow of the park’s light would pierce the veil of darkness with the enchanted music playing everywhere, things became completely magical.  

There was one time that John and I did one of those annual Disneyland all-nighters.  They’d actually keep the park open for twenty-four hours.  John and I did well, continually going on the rides and grabbing snacks until about 3:00am when we got very sleepy.  We went into one of those areas at the end of rides that had a bunch of consumer products and a large array of telephone booths.  We tried laying on the ground for a few minutes to grab some sleep and were promptly poked by a security guard’s baton.  “If you need to go to sleep, then you need to leave the park.”  He was reall that curt about it too. 

We got ourselves up again, and like zombies, roamed the park as the light grew in the dome of the sky.  But it was of no use.  We were both too sleep deprived and decided to drive home.  I would find out later that his experience of driving home was identical to mine.  Dangerous.  While driving the forty-five minutes back to Studio City, I had to keep the windows howling open, music blasting, and continually slap myself on the wrist to keep from falling asleep.  That was definitely the most dangerous and stupid driving I’ve ever done.  

I don’t get down to Disneyland nearly as much as I used to, the most recent listing being about a year ago.  Perhaps it’s because the escapes that I now take are much farther away.  Bryce Canyon, Lake Tahoe, Jackson Wyoming, Austin, Texas, Zion, Utah, The Salton Sea, Bellingham, Washington, Moab, Utah.  The places I have been to goes on and on, and I enjoy road trips because I always see something new, and because I love amateur photography.  I pass Anaheim on the way to Corona Del Mar, or from the South Bay to Scottsdale, Arizona, for instance.  

But I do think of the park from time to time and those moments in my younger life when I so enjoyed escaping the chaos of Los Angeles and landing in a sort of timelessness that Disneyland has always been very good at protecting.  Walking with a randomly chosen next destination (“Haunted Mansion next?”) while in fully enthralled conversation, and grabbing a churro from a cart on the way giggling over nothing with a good friend.  Those moments are unbeatable.