Once a group of us were on a business trip to Anaheim. “If any of you want to take clients to Disneyland, I can get you tickets,” the boss said.
“I can’t even imagine myself wanting to do that,” I replied.
The others laughed, though I wasn’t trying to be funny. I get that a lot.
I have always had deeply mixed feelings about Walt Disney and his creations. How could I not? A place that bills itself as The Happiest Place on Earth vs. Bipolar 2 That Has Caused Depression Since Childhood. (To be fair, I used to like “Wonderful World of Color,” particularly the nature films, even when we had only a b&w TV. Gray Tinkerbelle is a metaphor for. . . well, something involving depression.)
So what explains this picture of a dear friend, me, and my husband being photo-bombed by a Lego dragon?
The first thing you have to know about Tom (left) and Leslie (the photographer) is that their inner child is, let’s say, very close to the surface. They are DisneyWorld aficionados. And they know all (well, almost all) about my mental disorders.
We desperately needed a vacation, and they offered to be our guides for an adult-friendly, non-teacup visit. Also, it was the Millennium celebration and early in December, which promised no sweltering heat, interesting decorations (as much or as little as I could stand) and other spiffy stuff, including few children, who would not yet be on Christmas break. (Ah, the high-pitched shrieks of laughter from children meeting their cartoon heroes. It cuts right through me like a knife.)
Here’s what I learned.
• The restaurants there are incredible. Eat your way around Epcot.
• I dreaded the Tower of Terror because I thought my stomach would drop out. This proved not to be the problem; my inner ear objected, though. Our friends got me on it by telling me to repeat the mantra, “Disney will not kill me. They want more of my money later.” It was one of those things that I’m glad I did and now Will Never Do Again.
• The Explorer’s Club is extremely cool.
• There are lots of nifty tiny things that aren’t rides and attraction that you can try to spot – bits of the sidewalk that light up randomly like a surprise Dance Dance Revolution, Mouse ear shapes in unexpected places, such as the wing nuts on shelves in the many gift shops, and so on. This is where knowledgeable guides come in particularly handy.
• At night, you can see the stars from the top of that mining train-roller coaster thing, something I didn’t expect, given all the ambient light an amusement park puts out.
• Also, we all won giant purple-and-red plush armadillos at one of the games. That’s one thing my inner child can appreciate.
• STAY AWAY from the teacups and It’s a Small World. They will turn you into a whimpering, burbling puddle of regret and sugar-shock. When your mother asks later, just say, “Oh, yes. They were nice. You would have loved them.”
If you go with the right people, do not try to make it into the Bataan Fun March, and rest and eat or retreat to the hotel when you need a break, it’s survivable and even – dare I say? – enjoyable. Sufficiently medicated with Prozac and Ativan, I could handle it.
I’d have to give this round to Disney, but really it was all Tom and Leslie.
P.S. Also, the Food and Wine Festival is a great experience. I spent three months in Orlando and a co-worker got us tickets. Cute guys with devastating Australian accents chatting about Australian wine. What could possibly be more satisfactory?