My son and darling daughter-in-law ponder taking their 18 month-old son to Disneyland.
I must warn them …
2011. My youngest is 9. It’s a violation of federal law to have a 9 year-old who has never been to Disneyland. So, I pack my boy Joseph into the car and put Las Vegas in my rear view mirror, hitting the road for California.
Interstate 15 south – construction, more construction, Highway 215, South Point, some Mohave desert, then Jean and Primm.
Faux towns, Jean and Primm. You hoof it all the way from San Diego or Los Angeles to Nevada because you want to gamble. Err, because you enjoy “gaming.” You get within 40 miles of Las Vegas, but you compulsively pull off the highway at Primm or Jean instead because you simply can’t wait another 30 minutes to lose your money, breathe second-hand cigarette smoke and eat tepid Eggs Benedict coagulating under a heat lamp at a wretched casino buffet.
We cross the border into The Golden State and up pops Zzyzx Road, the name given to a Mineral Springs resort founded by the late Curtis Howe Springer, a world class huckster, fraud and snake oil salesmen. When it comes to impersonating doctors and ordained clergy, Springer has no modern-day peers. He even faked the mineral springs at Zzyzx Mineral Springs resort. He did all this squatting on federal land. Great guy.
Then … gridlock. Out in the middle of nowhere. For 40 minutes. Why? So we can ease through a California agricultural checkpoint and have a uniformed official nod authoritatively at our car and wave us through. And to think, for this I made Joseph leave his Gypsy moth/fruit fly terrarium at home.
Finally, Barstow. Every known fast food on planet earth is represented there. A zany thought comes unbidden: My middle-son joined the army in part to defend our freedom to build outlet malls.
Joseph and I roll into Anaheim around 11 p.m.
Monday morning. 6:00 a.m. We mount up. We “lock and load” for Disneyland. The man in the booth says parking costs $15. That’s $15 times a guhjillion cars. I ask if he will take Visa. “The Mouse takes everything,” he says, straight-faced, utterly missing his own cryptic double entendre.
Someday Joseph will tell his grandchildren that, on the morning of June 13, 2011, he was in the “first wave” at Disneyland. In the first 60 seconds, Joseph and I are naughty Mousekateers, duly admonished for running in the park.
My mother, consummate Keeper of The Family Memories, swears I was here at age 3, though I have no memory of it. I do remember visiting at age 6. Then waves of memories. Disneyland became for me consecutive years of adolescent romance. There was a perk to dating high school band geeks, because every year they went to Disneyland and could bring a guest – me! 9th grade. 10th and 11th. Colleen, Stacey and Joyce, respectively. I recommend The Haunted Mansion as the best ride for making out.
Pirates, Haunted House, Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones (my favorite!), Space Mountain – we’ve now been at the park for two hours, and the place is a huge can of slithering sardines. Bivouacking army ants. Seafaring lemmings have a clearer agenda.
Gotta wonder about bringing a child here much under age 5-6. I mean, you can push a crying 3 year-old in a stroller for 6 hours around your own neighborhood for free and, to my mind, have about as much fun. I lose count of the number of parents I see trying to console a melting-down toddler. Right – ask your 3 year-old to sludge patiently through a 45 minute serpentine line to ride Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride? Which, in the end, is loud, frantic, intense and makes the child cry? Hmm. Family entertainment or dark rite of passage? Hard to tell.
To hell with waterboarding. I think a great interrogation technique would be sending prisoners through endless loops of It’s a Small World until they talk. The older I get, the more beers it takes to make that song stop playing in my head.
As a boy, I remember virtually every Sunday dinner on TV trays watching “The Wonderful World of Disney” followed by “Bonanza.” But Joseph doesn’t know Donald Duck from Little Joe and Hoss. His is a Pixar world. He’s ready to go back to Las Vegas by 1 o’clock.
I’m glad we went. Me and my boy made some great memories. But, as The Matterhorn disappears in my rearview mirror, I think every 20 years or so is how often I’ll come to Disneyland. Unless I have a date who wants to go with me and make out at The Haunted Mansion.
Which, come to think of it, we could do at her house for free.
I deserve lots of credit here for not making a “Fast Pass” joke.
(Steven Kalas is an author, therapist and Episcopal priest. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)