17 August 2012

the 'happiest' place on earth (prologue)

It started in an office behind a medical clinic, with a nice, college-age looking young man with a backpack giving us a sweet deal on 'park hopper' passes.

It ended with sore feet, legs, back and head, an empty wallet, and a very full heart.

Nine years had passed since my family and i had last visited Disneyland. For someone like me, who grew up less than ten minutes away from the park, this felt like an eternity.

My choir-directing dad used to sign up our church choir to sing in the annual Holiday Pageant down Main Street USA every year, which included every participant receiving two free passes to the park to use at a later date. And since there were always choir members who didn't show for the gig, my family had accumulated a stack of free Disneyland passes as tall as the Matterhorn

And so, over the summers of my childhood and adolescence, i practically LIVED at the 'happiest place on earth'.

I didn't grow up going to the County Fair because the 'Magic Kingdom' WAS my 'County Fair'.

And not only did i enjoy riding every attraction at the park until i pretty much had every line of narration, every note of music, and every twist and turn memorized. I also discovered and uncovered the hidden little treasures that enabled adventurous (and precocious) kids to have some REAL fun there.

Like knowing where all the security cameras are (and aren't) on most rides, and thus, enabling my friends and me to sneak off the boat on 'Pirates of the Caribbean' at strategic places and act like pirates, stealing as many fake jewels and 'pieces of eight' as possible.

And onto which fake crystal to stick your pieces of already chewed gum on the 'Inner Space by Monsanto' ride, and thus, create a macrocosmic glob of goo (and where to sneak out of your 'space capsule' and wait for unsuspecting young lovers to roll by in theirs, and jump out of the dark and scare them half to death just as they were locking lips ;).

And where to stop your boats on the 'Motor Boat Cruise' so you could switch with your friends mid-ride, and thus, arrive back at the dock and receive a puzzled look from the ride operator.

And where to stop your cars on 'Autopia' to create a massive traffic jam, and thus, catch unsuspecting drivers coming around sharp corners, and transform a normal car ride into a bumper car extravaganza.

You know...good 'clean' fun ;).

The image on the right side of this picture pretty much describes most of my Disneyland experiences in my youth...

(I also got to go hear some of the greatest legends in the history of jazz for free...literally sitting at the feet of Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, and many others at the Carnation Gardens...an incredible source of musical education and inspiration bar none.)

But those days are long gone. And i now have two sons who together have been to the park a half dozen times total. In their LIFETIMES. So the 'magic' is still there for them, even in their teens, and they had been anticipating this journey through the 'Kingdom' for months.

And a 'journey it was...not only through a maze of 2+ hour lines and $5 bottles of water...but also through an archetype of images from the 'journey' i've been traveling in my life for the past 8 months.

Over the next few postings, i'll share some glimpses and snapshots (literally and figuratively) of the journey...in all its moments of frazzled frustration and 'fantasmic' flights of fantasy and freedom...and how a day spent in one of the most 'unreal' places on the planet actually became the context for some surprising, delightful, wonder-full and grace-full revelations of reality.

i hope you'll join me on the journey :).

And now, as Peter Pan would say at the start of his 'flight' over 'London' and on to 'Neverland' (whilst my friends and i were preparing ketchup and mustard packets to squirt at unsuspecting 'fliers' in the dark)...

'C'mon, everybody, here we.....GOOOOOOOOOOO!'


  1. I'm about to venture on to the same thrills with our kiddos in October. Can't say I did quite as many "insider" tricks as you growing up, but I know that park like the back of my hand as well and it does seem crazy that it will never be that way for my kids. But on the flip side, it's beyond wonderful to share the awe and wonder with them!

    1. that's an odd feeling, isn't it, Megs? but still wonderful and memorable, and even 'magical' for our kids (and maybe even us, too ;) and i DO have a favourite memory of trapseing around the park with you and some other giggly and wonderful 8th graders many moons ago... :)