The Angriest Man in the Happiest Place on Earth [California Seething]
There’s nothing particularly happy about the Anaheim train station. It’s a tiny little depot in the parking lot of Angels’ stadium with a couple of tired vending machines, concrete benches and one small ticket window. There’s also a sign on the door that reads “Station may be closed at points throughout the day for 30 minutes or more to accommodate meal breaks.” This is a significant improvement over their previous sign: “Closed whenever I’m hungry, bitch.”
Of course, this is a tiny underutilized train station in Southern California, so they could probably close down long enough to roast and consume an entire pig and no one would notice or care. After all, commuting by train is only slightly more popular around here than commuting by yak – which is actually surprising, since you can take the yak in the carpool lane on the 405 – but only if the yak has a sticker. Man, I’d kill for a 2006 yak.
Anyhow, after spending eight hours in the bowels of the Happiest Place on Earth, it was pretty jarring to be suddenly spat out by taxi into the joyless Amtrak ennui of the Anaheim station. I sat on the platform in a daze like a wadded up towel on the Penn State locker room floor after a Second Mile event – sopping wet and rumpled and wondering if I really just saw what I thought I saw and how the hell I’m going to tell anyone about it.
I’d never been to Disneyland before, because I always just sort of took for granted that I’m the sort of person who would fucking hate Disneyland a lot. I’m not really sure why that is. I guess if I really think about it, it’s because Disneyland represents everything I find evil, loathsome, repulsive and vile about the world today. Yeah, that might be it. Plus it’s expensive.
I mean, of course Disneyland is evil – it’s in Orange County and that’s the epicenter of evil in California. Orange County is the underwater lair where evil strokes a cat and plots to take over the world. You know it’s bad because it’s the only place in the whole state where Mitt Romney can go to raise money. In fact he likes it so much, he’s actually building a house there. Come to think of it, Kobe Bryant has a house there, too. Now if I could just convince Tim Tebow, Jan Brewer and the New England Patriots to move there we could blow the whole place up like the movie theatre at the end of Gremlins and solve all our problems at once. I mean, sure, some innocent people would be blown up, too – but are Republican voters ever truly innocent? I think not.
Plus, I seriously object to all the mouse worship at Disneyland. Mice are not big, loveable creatures with white gloves and red shorts and oversize novelty shoes – they’re vile little furballs who shit everywhere, carry diseases, get into everything and reproduce at lightning speed like Tribbles with plague.
The problem with teaching kids that mice are adorable is that they grow up to be adults who bitch and moan about animal cruelty every time they see half a bloody tail torn off on a glue trap and say idiotic things like “we should trap them humanely and release them in the wild” like there’s some tweeting bird singing princess happy fucking Bambi forest wonderland we can take them to in West LA where they can run free and sing songs and live happily ever after – and even if there was such a place, you bet your torn off tail they would leave it just as soon as they possibly could and run right back into the city so they could live in our garbage.
Seriously, I spend half of my day at work trying to figure out how to kill the little fuckers (the glamorous half) so I’m hardly going to schlep down to Orange County to go to a place that teaches impressionable kids to venerate vermin. If they were concerned at all with authenticity at Disneyland then there would be heaping piles of shit everywhere Mickey went, and Minnie would be stuck to a glue trap by her cute little bow and Disneyland would be awesome, and I would totally go.
But, of course, they are not the least bit concerned with authenticity at Disneyland. There’s a reason why no one ever called Disneyland the Most Plausible Place on Earth (that’s Belgium.) And that’s my real problem with it. There is absolutely no one better than Disney at mass producing and selling synthetic experiences of childhood wonder and joy. Just like the Cheesecake Factory can take any exotic dish from around the world and make it taste like a shitty flavorless meal at the Cheesecake Factory, Disney can take any book, place, story or experience crush it down, boil off all the undesirable elements like risk, authenticity and complexity, mix in a princess, throw in some singing animals, reconstitute it back into a vague approximation of its original shape, wrap it in plastic and sell it to the public at an enormous profit. It’s Vegas without the booze and there is nothing more evil than that.
Okay – so, at this point, you might be wondering why I decided to go. Well, of course, the answer is simple – my nieces and nephew wanted to go and that’s the sort of sacrifice you have to make if you want to be a good uncle. And, let’s keep it real here (like Belgium) it’s one of very few sacrifices that uncles are expected to make. I mean, that’s the best thing about being an uncle – you get all the benefits of having kids in your life with none of the sacrifices.
I can hang out with the kids all day long on a Saturday – read them stories, play tag, make faces, tell jokes, laugh like crazy, get into burping contests, feed them treats and bask in their love and then…go home, sip chardonnay, watch a little Murder She Wrote (if DirecTV ever gives me my fucking Viacom channels back), have adult conversations where I liberally use the word “cocksucker” without wondering who’s going to repeat it at pre-school, go to bed when I feel like it and wake up at 10 AM on Sunday. Unless, of course, that stupid dog needs to pee – in which case I might have to wake up at 8 and then TRY to fall back asleep. It’s brutal.
And, sure, I don’t really have any say in their lives or any influence over the sort of people they will become – but, guess what – I don’t care! My sister and her husband are bright, capable, lovely people,and they are perfectly able to raise bright, capable, lovely kids – why would I want to screw that up with my own stupid opinions – I feed the dog bacon from the table and think it’s adorable when he goes through the garbage. There’s no way I should be trusted to mold young minds. They’d all end up digging corn-cobs out of the trash and taking them back to their bed to gnaw on.
Plus, being an uncle is the bargain of the century. Parents spend thousands of dollars every month on housing and Cheerios and ballet lessons and kayaking camp and braces and iCarly DVDs and gummy vitamins and a bazillion other things and all they get from kids is grief because they have to wait for Hanukkah for the latest 3D Nintendo DS system. Whereas I can swoop in and buy a couple of ice-cream cones and pink hats with mouse ears on them and all of a sudden the greatest goddamn philanthropist since John D. Fucking Rockefeller.
I mean, sure, there’ll be no one to take care of me when I’m helpless and old but at least I’ll have money in my 401(k) because I didn’t have to pay for college and honestly, as long as I can afford to pay the LifeAlert bills every month, I know somebody will come and get me if I’ve fallen and can’t get up. Honestly – paramedics – a lot more reliable than children and you don’t need to buy them cotton candy when they are young to earn their love.
So, considering how little is asked of me as an uncle, taking a trip to Disneyland was quite literally the least I could do. So how was my trip to the House That Cynical Exploitation of Childhood Wonder for Massive Financial Gain Built? Well, here’s a brief (ha!) account
I love Union Station. I love the deep tan leather seats in the waiting area with the dark wood art deco armrests, the Moorish (well, Moorish-adjacent) architecture, tile floors, high ceilings, and tucked away courtyards. It’s a true 20th-century cathedral of rail travel and an authentically great Los Angeles landmark.
I love everything about it except when I’m trying to catch a train when I realize what a frustrating, dysfunctional nightmare it is. The automated ticket selling machines work great right up until you put in your credit card and ACTUALLY try to buy a ticket like some kind of moron, and then they fail completely. There’s no A/C, half the bathrooms are out of order and only one of the twenty ticket windows actually has someone working at it while the other windows stand silent and still like the chairs in Oklahoma City – a touching memorial to a fallen economy.
And, of course, I foolishly thought when I saw that my “gate” was open that my train was actually boarding, but, hey, guess what – it wasn’t – and I walked all the way from one sweltering side of the boarding area to another desperate to pee cause I couldn’t find a men’s room that was working, fuming with rage because I spent twenty minutes trying to use the automatic ticket machine before someone bothered to tell me that it wasn’t actually working before spending another thirty minutes waiting in line for the one person selling tickets to condescend to sell me one (thank god she didn’t have to go to lunch) before I finally found someone in an Amtrak uniform to tell me that my train wasn’t boarding after all, and would I please go back to the station and stop yelling “cocksucker” at the top of my lungs. As tempting as it was to continue freaking out like a lunatic, I decided that Amtrak jail would actually be a worse place than Disneyland to spend the day and that I didn’t want to lose favored uncle status by missing the trip, so I pulled myself together, walked back to the station and waited for my train to board and mumbled the word cocksucker instead.
I hate Union Station. Train ride was nice, though. No one was on it. I guess everyone decided to take their yak to Disneyland instead. Can’t say I blame them.
Yesterday’s World of Tomorrow, Today!
As you enter Disneyland there is a sign posted with a quote of Walt Disney’s: “Here You Leave Today And Enter The World Of Yesterday, Tomorrow, And Fantasy”. They really need to update the sign to read: “Here You Leave Today and Enter the World of Yesterday So You Can See All The Stupid Crap They Used To Believe Back Then About the Future. Man, What A Bunch of Dumb Shits They Were.”
Tomorrowland is based upon the 1960’s idea that the future would be exactly like the present, except we’d all be in space and the buildings would be round. I shared these prescient insights with my nieces who responded thoughtfully by asking me to buy them popcorn. So I did. Turns out eating popcorn is more fun and interesting than listening to me talk (but you all probably know that already). It was in Tomorrowland that I had my Big Shocking Revelation about Disneyland and learned my Really Important Lesson of the Day.
Big Shocking Revelation About Disneyland: It’s hard work! I always assumed the park would be like a conveyer belt of pre-packaged entertainment for lazy American travelers who just want brainless entertainment shoved down their gullet– but no. This park was built back in a time when people were expected to walk for long distances and use their brains- even on vacation!
What the fuck? That’s not my America. I mean, the centerpiece of Tomorrowland is “Innoventions” – a large circular building (of course) with a bunch of interactive displays on the second floor that can only be accessed by climbing up a long circular ramp along the outside of the building, which is only slightly shorter than the Large Hadron Super Collider (am I a bad nerd for caring more about the Dwight Howard trade than the discovery of the God particle? Both are elusive and purely theoretical at this point.)
Evidently, in the world of Tomorrow, everyone likes to walk uphill for really long distances in the sun, because in the world of Tomorrow we’re out of fossil fuels and we have no damn choice. But hey – for the world of Today here’s an “Innovention” for you – it’s called a fucking escalator – or if that isn’t Innoventive enough, just call it Magic Rocket Stairs or Astro Gliders (better not go with Astro Gliders) because in the world of Today, nobody wants to haul their fat ass up a ramp in the sun just to play with some interactive touch-screen displays about health and wellness that wouldn’t make the cut at the Albuquerque Museum of Science and Indians.
And what’s more, when I’m in the midst of a mild coronary because I had to climb up a 2 story ramp is hardly the time for an interactive display about just how fat and out of shape I am because I just crammed my mouth with a bucket of buttery popcorn that I bought FROM YOU ASSHOLES right at the foot of this fucking ramp SO DON’T FUCKING JUDGE ME. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my left arm is tingling and I need to sit down. Oh wait, there isn’t anywhere to sit down in Disneyland unless you’re on a ride or spending money. How brilliant! I guess I need to haul my ass down the huge ramp so I can buy a $9 slice of pizza and a $4 bottle of water at Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port (they make rocket fuel from the oil on the pizza) so I can sit my ass down for a minute and catch my breath. Hey kids, does anyone want some more popcorn?
Really Important Lesson of the Day: There are only two words you need to know in Disneyland. No, they aren’t “Magic and Happiness” or “Mickey and Minnie” or even “Imagineer and Innoventions” (is there a douchier job title than Imagineer? Well, maybe Mixologist. I mean, dude, you put some gin and vermouth in a glass. Clap, clap, clap, you’re NOT A FUCKING SCIENTIST.) No, the only two words you need to know at Disneyland are “Fast Pass.”
The Fast Pass puts the Happy in the Happiest Place on Earth. The “Fast Pass” is like an appointment you can make to come back and get on a ride at a later time. Now, you may think this sounds like a serious pain in the ass because you’ve got to walk ALL the way over to the ride to get the Fast Pass and then ALL the way back later when you want to ride it – but the real secret is to have someone in your party who is terrified of going on any rides at all. That way, you can sucker this person into going to pick up the Fast Passes for everybody for the popular rides like Space Mountain while the rest of the party is riding a less popular ride like the Astro-Orbiter. Everybody wins! The person getting the Fast Pass gets to feel like a hero and not a lame-ass for not riding the Astro-Orbiter, and the rest of the group gets to have fun and doesn’t have to schlep to Space Mountain twice. This is why, if you’re going to Disneyland, the most important supplies you can bring are water, sunscreen and a close friend with vertigo.
Speaking of Space Mountain – that is one ride you absolutely cannot miss. I mean – going to Disneyland and not riding Space Mountain – that’s like going to New York and not seeing the Empire State Building or going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower or going Vegas and not seeing the Eiffel Tower – totally unthinkable. Not only is riding a roller coaster in the dark just huge fun, it also has absolutely THE best air conditioning in the entire park (seriously – it’s as refreshing as an electronics store in Manhattan on the hottest day of July or a cool handful of Gold Bond down your boxer shorts right before the chafing starts.) I mean, sure, between the throbbing music, flashing lights and shifting equilibrium it’s more like doing poppers at Studio 54 than flying through space on a rocket, but Amyl Nitrate Mountain didn’t quite have the same ring to it and besides there’s no Discoland at this park yet. That’s really more of a Euro-Disneyland thing- and hey, Mickey already has tight red jeans!
If it’s Such a Small World After All, Why Is It Taking So Fucking Long to Get Through?
It was around Greece that I noticed the boat start to slow down. At first I wrote it off to austerity measures, but then it just kept getting slower and slower until we finally crept into Mexico and heard the announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are currently experiencing technical difficulties. If you are currently inside the ride we ask that you please remain inside your boat at all times as the ride may start up again at any moment.” And then the boat just stopped.
If “fast pass” are the happiest two words in Disneyland, then “technical difficulties” are surely the most terrifying. Especially when you’re inside a ride. Especially when it comes to a grinding halt. Especially when you’re trapped for an indefinite length of time inside Walt Disney’s psychedelic salute to racial stereotypes that passed itself off for a tribute to diversity back during the time when ignorant, well meaning white people used to make all the decisions for everyone (Small World, BTW is located in Fantasyland, because nothing is more fantastical than a world which is tolerant of ethnic diversity.) And especially when that song just keeps playing over and over and over again – you know the song I’m talking about- the one that was recently voted by The Most Annoying Song of All Time not Performed by Ace of Bass or Chumbawumba.
And just when you think you can’t take it any more – just when you think your head is going to explode if you hear one more fucking time how it’s a world of laughter and a world of tears. Just then – the music stops. And it’s totally quiet inside the ride. And for one quick second you are relieved because you don’t have to listen to that song any more and then, right away you are more terrified than ever because now you realize that you’re REALLY stuck in that ride for the long haul and the staff have absolutely no idea how long it’s going to take to get you out so they took a tiny bit of mercy upon your condemned soul and turned off the muzak in Purgatory.
Now, usually this type of thing would send me into an absolute foaming tizzy of rage. I’ve been known to scream and stomp and swear like an overtired infant with a sailor’s vocabulary. In this case, though, I was fine. Maybe I felt like I had to keep it together for the kids or maybe I just would have felt like a complete idiot losing my shit with all those adorable little Mexicans dancing everywhere (though that never stopped me at Home Depot.) All I know is – I relaxed, enjoyed the air conditioning, played I Spy with the kids and pointed out all the tiny little details in the immaculately-crafted world of the ride and just waited for the boat to get going. And when the boat started to move and we heard that song start to play again – that was the sweetest music I had ever heard. For about a second. And then I just wanted to kill myself again and I could only wish I was listening to “Tubthumping”.
Turned out, actually, that getting stuck in this ride was the best thing that could have happened to us because we got three free fast passes that we could use on any ride in the park at any time for the rest of the day.
After that, the rest of the day was a blur – I remember buying matching hats with mouse ears for me and the kids (imagine – me joining in on the repulsive rodent worship – man, I must really love those children), seeing the Star Tours, the 3D Star Wars-inspired droid movie flight thing, which was the best installment of the Star Wars franchise since the Ewoks danced on Endor.
At one point, we were riding Splash Mountain with me at the front of the boat with my glasses off, which was terrifying since I couldn’t see a damn thing as the boat was climbing up the ride through the caverns in the dark and all I heard were the sounds of diabolical creatures singing and laughing and taunting me: “Zippidy Doo Dah you’re gonna die / ha ha ha ha you’re gonna die / Jew jew jew jew jew you’re gonna die / ha ha ha ha ha you’re gonna die” and then we burst into the daylight and plunged headfirst over an enormous cliff and smacked into man-made river below as gallons of over-chlorinated water splashed into my eyes setting them ablaze with searing pain. It was great! I totally would have done it again except it was already 6 PM and I had to get to the Anaheim train station to catch the last train out of the day.
So there I was – wet and dazed and bloodshot on the platform of the Anaheim train station, waiting for the 7:15 PM back to LA. Even though I took my mouse ears off, I knew that anyone who took one look at me would know exactly where I had been. They would see my splotchy tan, my rumpled shirt, my matted hair and, most importantly the goofy grin on my face and they would know I had just spent the day with kids in the Happiest Place on Earth and, despite my absolute best efforts to be a total cynical bastard, some of that happiness rubbed off.
Thank you very much Disneyland, now my credibility as a miserable, angry misanthrope is totally shot to hell. Thank god the train went to Union Station so I was able to get good and pissed off again when I arrived because of what a irritating, miserable shithole that place is. See, I told you I loved Union Station! Next time, though, I’m getting a friend with a yak to give me a ride. That way we can go in the car pool lane no matter what and I’ll totally be able to ride Splash Mountain again. Yeah, I said next time, you got a problem with that, mouse hater?
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