Disneyland Resort: American dream lives here

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Her mother,who had the jovial demeanor of those who have struggled through a great deal of disappointment and survived to become accepting, chatted amiably with the driver who ate a donut, even as he helped passengers aboard with their suitcases. He joked as he lifted each heavy bag, "This'll burn some calories," he said.

The father was extraordinarily large. Okay, maybe not so extraordinary. This was day four of my America journey and my eyes were starting to adjust to a new norm in body weight.

Like too many people I'd seen in the last few days, this man's body would require two airplane seats. He looked exhausted, maybe even ashamed. No, I told myself, that was just my own projection, how I imagined I'd feel carrying so much weight as I moved through the world that merely walking was a chore.

He eased himself into the seat across from me and the kids beside his daughter and wife. The shuttle pulled out of the Rental Car parking lot and headed for the terminal.

The man asked my older son where we were from.

"Vancouver."

"Must be cold up there."

My son smiled and nodded.

"We're from Buffalo. We had four feet of snow and then the weather turned. It was sixty degrees yesterday."

"Global warming's going to turn the whole world into LA," I said, only half joking.

"Don't believe that propaganda," the man said, growing excited. He took off his glasses and wiped his hand across his forehead, then put the glasses back on.

I tried to imagine what he had once looked like, back when he was in his twenties, as he focused again on my son, told him how weather goes in cycles and how current patterns have nothing to do with the habits of human.

I imagined him svelte and handsome, hopeful and light, as he explained that the dinosaurs had all gone extinct and it had nothing whatsoever to do with human beings. "We weren't even around then," he lectured, hardly stopping to take a breath.

I could conjecture that a series of disappointments had caused him sorrow and perhaps accounted for him putting on so much weight.

"It's like the ants in the anthill thinking they're in charge because they annoy humans a little," he continued, leaning forward. My son nodded, dutifully, as he would to a teacher. Still smiling. I thought of the Marsden book and its expose of how corporate greed mixed with government corruption was destroying the Alberta's rivers and water table, sickening residents who lived near oil pumps, while people in urban areas didn't know or didn't care. I thought of how the oil rich Albertans represented a Canadian overindulgence that might be likened to American obesity.

My son went on smiling. Beneath the smile, I recognized the look of a prisoner who was trapped and pinned down, tortured by the man's rant. I wanted to intervene, but I have always been susceptible to listening with a smile when I want to run away from them.

I was raised in the South, and the tendency to smile and placate out of a misplaced sense of social grace had been hard to shake despite years of feminist tendencies and allegiances. My son was merely behaving as he'd been taught to behave. What I'd give to cut that demon out of my psyche forever, I thought still smiling along with my son and nodding my head, as if we were listening to Nobel Laureate. Was it too late to teach my son how to extricate yourself while remaining considerate of another person's feelings? I made a note to self: try.

"Alaska Air," the driver called back.

"Yes, Siree," the man said, undaunted by the fact that we'd reached our destination and were getting up out of our seats. "Don't you ever believe that propaganda about global warming."

At Alaska Air, a friendly clerk checked us in. We found our way to a complex maze. Institutionalized stupidity, I thought, making one turn, then the next, finally arriving to where a security man was checking people's boarding passes before letting them go up on an escalator.

We got to the next check and I began the awkward dance of managing my computer bag, my purse, and my sick and whimpering 5-year-old, while, at the same time, unzipping my boots and trying to help both kids get their shoes off and in the bins along with their jackets. Without holding others up.

Struggling with my boot zipper, I silently cursed Richard Reid, the Brit who had tried to set off a shoe bomb, failing at exploding the airplane, but succeeding at forcing millions of travellers to take off their shoes at security checkpoints forever more.

As I wobbled on one shoe and put the other in the plastic box on the conveyer belt, I could only think he'd succeeded at destabilizing me, for one.

The evolution of security, the increasing numbers of people labouring under so much weight it seemed painful for them, the war in Iraq going on and on, the cartoon fantasy world: it all made me think about how America had changed since July 17, 1955 when Walt Disney opened the doors to Disneyland.

As he consecrated the park, that father of all American fantasy had made a nod to reality and dedicated his wonderland "..to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America... with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world...."

I could only speculate about which "hard facts" he was referring to at the time. The Cold War? McCarthyism? Or had he meant earlier "hard facts," like the genocide of Native Americans. Maybe he had meant slavery. Whatever. I appreciated the nod to reality by the greatest wizard of unreality to live in the last century.

On the other side of security, we got our shoes back on. We found our gate and sat down over hot dogs and fries. As we ate, I looked around at our fellow travellers, all consuming hot dogs and hamburgers, too, and then up at the TV at the segment on the Iraqi war. The American dream hadn't changed since Disney's dedication, I was thinking. But the fact of hard facts hadn't changed either. They just may have gotten harder.


Lunch at Disney: Supersized "Turkey Legs"

Copyright 2008 by Linda Solomon

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