I’m not old, but I do sense its inevitability. I am also aware of my increasing participation in “I remember when…” type conversations that indicate nothing but the swift passage of time, a hurried vehicle that I can never get off of. Upon a recent trip to Disneyland I admitted to myself some observations that have been nagging at me since I was twelve.
1. The Entrance
The Disneyland parking lot used to be accessed only after a wide road of perhaps eight or so lanes banked left and then dipped down ever so slightly. As a child, I used to fancy it something of a preamble to a rollercoaster. It was something so minor and slight that I doubt anyone over the age of ten would have noticed it. But to me, the sensation was quite like flying. The parking lot fee was paid to one of many attendants sitting under their pseudo car ports, with a “Disneyland” sign above in its magical kingdom typeface. Excitement would build as we scoured the lot, parking under a Mickey or Minnie or Pluto sign. I interpreted these signs as ways to express what character you preferred, not just an easy way to remember how you parked. Parking under a lame duck character might set my day off on the wrong foot. From the parking lot we would walk quickly to the ticket gates, coming in with a tide of other families and watching as the highest points of the park jutted into the sky at more impossibly viewed angles. This was the process. This was how we arrived.
Today, what once was that glorious asphalt field of anticipation is now a sorry excuse for a sister park, California Adventureland or something like that. We are now required to park in what is quite possibly the biggest parking structure I have ever seen, provoking latent anxiety about earthquakes.
2. Main Street
Once into the park, passing the train station and marigolds planted in the shape of Mickey’s smiling face, I went straight for the window displays. Now when I was a kid, these featured intricate diorama’s of Ariel swimming in her magical underwater kingdom, Aladdin flying over sand dunes, Peter Pan kidnapping little children, etc. It was like the best 3-D pop up book I had ever seen.
Today, where there were once engaging scenes of wondrous whimsy there are now displays of coffee cups and D-Land dishware you can buy in the store behind it. I can’t imagine this inspiring children in the same fashion, although my shot-in-the-dark guess is that this is one of the many ways to groom young kids to be healthy consumers in adulthood. Sigh.
3. The Castle
I once viewed this castle as a template for which I would mirror my own real estate choices as I grew older. Screw a white picket fence; I wanted a moat. In fact, my favorite neighborhood house was one that featured stained glass windows and ample faux turrets. It was the closest thing to medieval grandeur I could find in the San Fernando Valley, albeit there was no real stone masonry and the stucco was painted a kindergarten-room baby blue.
When viewed through a more worldly/ experienced/ spoiled lens, the Castle now looks modest, shrimpy even. I can’t even be sure it’s actually three stories tall or just a one story building made to seem gigantic through clever architectural trickery. If it were for sale in Burbank, it would easily be within my price range. In theory, I could buy Sleeping Beauty’s house.
4. Dietary Concerns
Once blessed with the bottomless pit metabolism of an active child, I’d chow down powdered sugar dusted funnel cake at every opportunity. Cheeseburger overcooked to oblivion? No problem. Vegetables? Waste of time. Having grown older and more aware of the hazards of cellulite, high blood pressure and heart disease I have lamely subjected myself to the hazards of a healthy person. This means that all carnival-like faire is now out of the question. I won’t indulge in the offerings at Disneyland ice cream parlor. I refuse to eat the fried fish in Adventureland. I ignore the tantalizing head-sized lollipops on my way out. Again, sigh.
5. On Safety
I have mixed feelings about plowing through Space Mountain in pitch black darkness. Although I can’t see the structure I’m whizzing through and past, I get the sense that it is always dangerously close to my large head. My paranoid fears were confirmed last week when someone told me that a few years ago someone was decapitated after they stood up (idiot) while riding. Subsequently, Disneyland had to redesign the rollercoaster to be a bit roomier. This could be myth, but it still allows for some validation on my behalf.
These admissions mean that I am dangerously close to becoming my mother.