Disneyland Resort: American dream lives here
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The presence of this dark, military figure in the heart of popular culture seemed to reflect the fact that America had left the innocence of Mickey Mouse far, far behind. I almost expected the Darth Vadar mask to lift to reveal an even scarier face beneath it: George W. Bush, the most terrifying of our current cartoon cut-outs.
While I was contemplating my homeland's murderous leadership, my five-year-old sussed out the landing we'd arrived at, trying to determine if he was safe. As we reached our destination, a room with five space age doors, he made his decision. "I don't want to," he said.
"It'll be great," I said.
"No," he said.
"Yes" I said.
It hadn't been that long ago that I'd had to take him out of theatres during the previews because they frightened him. I had looked askance at a father who had taken his crying son into the theatre, overriding his fears. What had happened, I wondered, that had added up to me now overriding my child's fears.
Oh, yeah. Four hundred dollars.
Anyway, I told him, there was no way out. Except through a huge throng of humans, some supersized and all eager to be where we were now, boarding the Starship. Once the ship was loaded with human cargo, the Disney employee, a young, skinny guy with a wry smile, announced that the flight to the moon of Endor was about to begin. Eek!
He warned us to stow our carry-ons under our seats and to buckle up. This is for real, his expression indicated. No kidding. Batten down the hatches, we're going for a ride. I buckled my seat belt and gritted my teeth.
The doors closed, but before they did, the Disney employee scuttled out. "Huh?" I thought. That seemed worrisome. But we were going on this ride. Endor or bust.
Curtains opened. An R2D2 cartoon explained that he was going to be our pilot, and gleefully added that it was his first flight. "But don't worry," he said.
Now I was terrified.
The room tilted to one side, righted itself, jerked up, then down, then rocked violently from side to side. It lurched forward. Then a 3D simulated flight film made us feel like we were travelling at the speed of light while being piloted by a monkey, faking out our reptilian brains into believing we were dropping through a black hole, careening insanely, almost crashing into a weird space city, nearly getting sucked up into a Death Star, then throwing us out into the stars like a ball volleyed out into infinity by a drunken giant. I don't remember the rest.
I was too horrified. And delighted. The mixture of sickening fear and total excitement had me screaming at the top of my lungs. I wanted it to be over more than anything. I wanted it to go on.
I was vaguely aware of the little person to my left white-knuckling it as the room bucked like a rabid rodeo horse. We spun through another black hole, righted ourselves and prepared to die. Then it was over.
"Great," I thought as we unsteadily walked out of the spaceship.
"That wasn't real," my older son informed my younger son. "We didn't really go anywhere."
"I know," my younger son said.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
He nodded vigorously. "I want to do it again."
Everyone around us looked sick. We looked sick. "I want to do it again, too," I said.
"Later," said my older son. Somehow, he had taken charge of our Disneyland destinations.
We hurried off to the next attraction.
Wherever we went, it was mainly like being in a cartoon come alive and, at some point, they all got scary. Roger Rabbit's Toon Town Spin had darkness and horrors. Even the Winnie the Pooh ended with our little honeycomb train passing through a Heffalump area where, in a re-enactment of Pooh's nightmare, psychedelic figures rotated around the car, making me feel like I was on a very bad acid trip.
We ended the day at the Lego Store in downtown Disney, where a two-story Lego giraffe towered over hundreds of neatly stacked Lego boxes and my son's went into a state of prolonged consumer confusion, trying to make a choice in the face of an overwhelming number of good options.
The next morning, as I drove our Enterprise rental car from one freeway to another, making tracks back to LAX, my younger son was nursing a fever and headache while my older son stared out the window at the bumper-to-bumper traffic. He marvelled at the number of lone drivers seated in the parking lot of the freeway, while we, in the carpool lane, sped past them.
I had just finished Stupid to the Last Drop, a book by investigative reporter William Marsden that spells out how America's need for oil will destroy Canada.
Marsden's book had left me with the feeling that the world was coming apart. The landscape of trucks and cars idling as far as the eye could see drove the point home.
A small dog on the Enterprise Rental Car shuttle drew my children's interest.
But when the dog turned its head, its squished nose had a surliness that quieted them. The dog belonged to a family of three. The daughter appeared to be in her forties but mentally challenged. She had short, black hair streaked with gray.