Dasad, I discovered had never experienced the beautiful chaos that is the Disney theme parks. This realization shocked me a little, as Dad has our yearly exodus to Florida planned and booked at least a year in advance (Typically, the week after returning to Maryland, growls are heard, demanding our schedules for next summer). Visiting the familiar turnstiles and tourist-packed ‘lands’ percolate the senses the way home-baked cookies must entice wayward travelers. The cries of children, the scent of sugar roasted almonds, and even the sight of swollen lines carried the sweet warmth of remembrance, of past adventures en mass: nearly twenty or so brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, mothers, fathers, and grandparents. Nearly a continent away, I walked through the park nevertheless enervated, ready to show my friends an excellent time.
Yet Operation Zip-iddy-do-dah – as I christened it – nearly ran aground, encumbered by a few unforeseen issues: 1) Dasad suffered from severe motion sickness and 2) Jay constantly believed he was boarding some infernal deathtrap. Luckily most of Disneyland’s attractions are relatively loop-free, thus saving my shorts from Dasad’s projectile vomit. The second proved much more awkward. Jay appeared quite intent to avoid any and all attractions. The fact that five-year old girls giggled as they disembarked from their rocket or jeep or flying-elephant without any visible scarring or burns did little to convince him.
Honestly the risk of severe injury and dismemberment were a hundred-fold more likely in the backseat of the Sebring. Curling along the coastal cliffs . . . in the fog . . . at night . . . nearly twenty mph over the speed limit . . . with Dasad behind the wheel, we skirted Death so many times that I swear to exploding fists with St. Peter. Heck, there were periods when the fog drifted down from the mountains, yellow lines and steels railings faded into the darkness; had we sailed off the edge of the world no one would have noticed.
Still good Catholic boys that we are, Dasad and I took advantage of his brother’s anxiety in order to offer some consoling words:
“Murph’s more likely to get laid than you are to get hurt, Jay.”
“Seriously?” Jay asked, gazing ahead. Screams of children echoed down the fiberglass tunnel to the Indian Jones ride.
“Wait a tick, my chances are that high?!” I stammered. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
My eyes alighted on the cute Disney girl in the safari shorts, ushering guests into the Indiana Jones jeep. Jay’s eyes alight to the adjacent sign that mentions something about pregnant women, severe backache, and possible blindness.
“Uh . . .” Jay stuttered. “ Still I don’t know about this, guys. Maybe I should get off and grab a drink or something.”
“Don’t worry man,” I said soothingly. “You have my word, you won’t die. Broken and shattered in several key locations sure, but never dead.”
“Yeah,” Dasad agreed, patting his little brother’s shoulder. “We’ll ensure nothing bad happens to you. Even if you fly from the vehicle, this hand will never let you go, okay?”
“Well, unless you have to yawn,” I remind helpfully.
“Sure. Or maybe blow my nose.”
“Or scratch your . . .”
“Exactly. Otherwise, this hand,” he said holding his fist high in the air. “Is like iron. Tougher and more dependable than the safety features in our vehicle.”
“Which are still quite formidable!”
“Shoot it fell asleep . . .”
“Uhh . . .” Jay groaned. “I feel sick.”
Needless to say, irony did not have its way, and Jay survived the sharp turns and sudden drops without too much internal injury or bleeding. As for the mental and physical strain, well . . . only time can tell.
Apart from the size, few differences exist between Disneyland and Disneyworld’s Magic Kingdom. Sure, the castle might be a little smaller – from my perspective akin to its relations on mini-golf courses – and two or three extra attractions may adorn the landscape: the aforementioned Indiana Jones ride and the Matterhorn to name a few. Yet the entire park felt familiar, homely, and for the first time during the entire trip – notwithstanding the local Borders – a wave of calm washed over me.
Since I can remember (and probably before) Mom and Dad packed up my siblings and I in an old twelve-seater Ford van for our yearly exodus to Florida and Disneyworld. Returning to the familiar Main Street, assorted ‘lands’ and hour-long lines recalled memories of my family and our various adventures together. And when you’re twenty-two hundred miles from home, such reminders are very welcome.
Dasad must have perceived my enthusiasm or caught a fraction of it himself, as we toured the local souvenir shops, tried on hats, and jumped from ride to ride. At any rate, apart from the commenting on the price of lunch, his cynicism drained away and we talked excitedly about past vacations in Florida. Jay for his part seemed constantly on edge, fearing that we might attempt to board a vehicle more thrilling than It’s a Small World.
We had planned to visit the theater again that afternoon for one last flick, so we passed the time exploring the parks and engaging each other in various tests of will. Most of the remaining attractions did not present a threat to Dasad’s sensitive stomach, such that he eagerly anticipated the Tower of Terror, intrigued by my stories of Dad grappling with my little sister as she floated out of her seat belt.
“There is no way a ride can induce weightlessness,” he asserted, daring the experiment. As I explained, the ride rapidly rockets your ‘elevator’ up and down thirteen stories in total darkness.
“By the second or third fall, you feel as if you’re floating in the air.”
“Okay, we’ll see about that,” he said. “Come on, Jay.”
Jay of course wanted nothing to do with any more rides and opted to play with his iPhone while we tested our experiment, thus failing the first test. Dasad learned about induced weightlessness and I annoyed several old ladies, while waving my arms in the air (Just before plummeting, my hands obscured their faces entirely in the souvenir photograph. They were not especially pleased about that.).
The second challenge proved nigh near impossible: besting Dasad and a frozen chocolate-covered banana at the ‘awkward game.’ Don’t ask. Trust me, some foods should never be consumed by men publicly (or any other occasion for that matter).
Lastly, Dasad and I concocted pick-up lines while waiting for our turn at the Matterhorn ride, daring each other to unleash them on the unsuspecting ride operators escorting us into the snug bobsleds. The results proved too hilarious and absurd to repeat (most involving some combination of ‘mountain,’ ‘Dumbo’ and ‘magic kingdoms’). Arriving at the gate, we both chickened out, lest we upset the cute Mouseketeer or alert the Disney guards stationed nearby, fingers itching to taser some unsuspecting guest – or fire-bombed by fairy dust as they tell the kids there.
We left the park shortly after two or three o’clock, to catch Julie and Julia at the Downtown Disney theater. A decent flick (After Mama Mia, my respect for Meryl Streep has wavered but her role as Julia Child is redeeming), the movie delved into the process of creation: books, food, and online diaries. Afterwards I considered investing in another blog.
“Guys,” I said, waving my arms back and forth excitedly. “What do you think? Five-hundred recipes in a year. Awesome idea. I could journal something like that!”
“Yeah,” Dasad agreed. “But you need focus. Documenting something interesting . . . and original.”
“Travel?” Jay offered.
“Nah, too vague.”
“Plus too expensive,” I sighed. “Though hitchhiking my way through the ‘1001 places I need to go before I die’ does sound fun.”
“It’s been done before,” Dasad mused. “You need something more unique. Some personal assignment that interests you. No food though . . . That’s been done to death.”
“Agreed. Cross off movie and book reviews too. Everybody has opinions. Mine are no more intriguing than countless others.”
“Yeah . . .” my friend mumbled. “But it should be something interesting to you . . .”
“Hey, what about today?” Jay asked. “Why not visit various theme parks and write about your day there?”
“Hmmm . . .” I considered. “Not a bad idea, but you’d need to come with me . . .”
“Wha . . .? Why?”
“It’d be no fun otherwise. Your awkward moans and groans would make for some awesome reading. Plus, not all theme parks are as respected and well-maintained as Disney. There’s a good chance one or both of us may die gruesomely, ripped to shreds by mechanical arms or steel gears. That’s what makes it so interesting. The drama.”
“Maybe we should take another look at food, sushi . . . After all why break from what works, right? I’d feel much safer with poorly prepared blowfish than carnivals, anyhow.”
Next time, taking Jay’s advice: more food and our final days in California.