Leaving Disney World
Just left Disney World today with my wife and daughter. For one week, we vacationed in an alternate universe where all the rules of human engagement had changed. Fake castles and canals; alligators and water mocassins extracted; amazing landscapes and architectural wonders. And hotels that seem to stretch out onto authentic Caribbean coves. But the happiness. Vacationers from all walks of life and representing every possible ethnic group–many of them extended families–let nothing get them down. Occasionally, buses were late and people were waiting for them, and some became irritated. That first night in the Magic Kingdom, in an unrelenting downpour, I joined in the mild complaining that ensued when we stepped onto the bus that was there to take us to Port Orleans, our hotel. The bus driver smiled and put on a comedy performance and there was nothing we could do. Two days later and there wasn’t a thing that could bother me. My daughter was fully enthralled. This world was real to her and to children much older. Teenage girls couldn’t wait to pose with princess characters at the Magic Kingdom breakfast. At a moment’s notice, their mothers jumped into the picture frames. I sat in the boat that sailed down a lazy little river surrounded by jungle foliage and stereotypical disney natives threatening passengers with shrunken heads and skulls, and I felt tears in my eyes. I remember the day my parents took me to see “Bambi.” It was my first movie in a theater. It was an experience I’ll never forget because there was that magical ether every great Disney feature was infused with. To this day, the death of Bambi’s mother is a moment as real as any other. The collective loss of imagination from the heart and soul of our known world leads us to seek places where such things can be found. At the end of this week, with Libya on the precipice, Washington completely unable to make even the most modest of corrections towards solving a seemingly endless economic crisis, and two wars continuing, (not to mention the East Coast earthquake and an oncoming hurricane), vacationers were leaving Walt Disney World’s Port Orleans hotel with their heads down, pulling their suitcases behind them. It was in near darkness and a jazz funeral dirge was playing hauntingly over the loudspeakers. For one week, total strangers were talking about nothing else but their experiences at WDW. And what an experience. It will take several weeks, hopefully, for the cynicism to return.