Monday, February 22, 2010

Why I Heart L.A.: Disneyland

As a kid growing up in Los Angeles, you tend to take for granted that the happiest place on earth just happens to be in your backyard. For the first 12 years of your life, you don't realize just how lucky you are. You go once, maybe even twice a year, if you've gotten good report cards...or whined enough.

At first you go with your mother or your grandmother, then eventually you start going alone with friends or boyfriends. If you are a nerd like me, you go senior year of high school for a thing called Grad Night. If you are a nerd like some of our friends, you go for weddings.

The older you get, the less you tend to go. Work and life and being a jaded adult get in the way. And if you don't have kids, it starts to seem a little Michael Jackson creepy if you do go alot.

So a few weeks ago, I realized it had been about 12 years since I'd gone to Disneyland and probably 20 years since I'd gone with my mom. How did that happen? When I pitched the idea to my mom, she couldn't contain her excitement. It was like the tables had turned and I was suddenly the planner mommy and she was the surprised little girl. LOVE!

I remembered Super Bowl Sunday tends to be a great day to go to amusement parks and so that's when we trekked out to Anaheim. After a week of rain we got lucky with gorgeous weather.

And though Disneyland was by no means a ghost town, the longest wait we had was 25 minutes!!! Which is just right when you are creaky old ladies with bad backs. And it sure beats the pre Fast Pass days when you'd wait 3 hours in one line in the hot summer sun.

From 10 am to 7 pm, my mom and I tore around the park, gobbling everything up like little kids in a candy literally.


I was struck by how things looked just a little bit different than I remembered. There was good different. Like the new Soarin over California ride and eating tortillas with my peeps at California Adventure (which was the Disneyland parking lot the last time my mom visited the Magic Kingdom!)

Realized as my mom marched proudly into the Conversations with Lincoln building that maybe it wasn't just the setting that had changed. The last time my mom came to Disneyland she wasn't a US Citizen. Now she is. The last time she came to Disneyland the United States had never had a president of color. Now it has.

My mom got more than a bit teary looking at the Capital replica. She reminded me that the first time she brought me to Disneyland was the first time she had ever been there too. I was 3 and she was 33.

She remembers thinking at that time that she had made it...finally. She had escaped the horrific civil war in Guatemala and was in the United States at Disneyland with her daughter. It was the fulfillment of one of her lifelong dreams - her American dream, if you will.

It's such a bittersweet blessing as an adult to see your parents for the beautiful complicated human beings they are. To contextualize their struggles and their aspirations, to understand why they did the things they did when you were a child, to grasp why they are who they are.

Though it can be hard to see them look so much smaller and vulnerable then they used to back in the day. When you realize that they've always been only barely taller than the "tall enough to ride" height but once upon a time seemed larger than life to you. Kinda how Sleeping Beauty's castle looked so much bigger and more imposing when you were little and didn't know any better.

Another difference I noticed around the park: the new slogan "Celebrate Today" emblazoned everywhere. Um, is that seriously the best they could do? I mean I GET it: be present and celebrate this moment.

Believe me after my mom's surgery I've been doing nothing but celebrating today. But the marketer in me thinks the Disney machine could have come up with something a little more razzle dazzle.

Two other differences that stood out: Johnny Deep plopped into Pirates of the Caribbean and the Little Mermaid swimming around in It's A Small World. Think the Disney marketers might have taken it a bit too far updating those two venerable rides with movie tie-ins. I mean, is nothing sacred?

One new marketing ploy that I am ALL about is the Disney Princesses concept. Unfortunately the new Princess Fantasy Faire show is not currently in season.

But my mom and I were able to take pictures with Jasmine and Snow White. And we bore witness to the Beattle-like mania the princesses incite with little girls. Seriously my mom and I were doubled over cracking up, hearing the gutteral cries of "PPPPPPRRRRRRRINCESSSSSSSSSSSS" that came out of little toddlers. I totes would have been one of them.

I would have also been one of those little GIRLY girls that demanded going around in a frou frou pretty princess costume. And not just once a year on Halloween or at Disneyland. I would have wanted to wear the sparkly polyester morning noon and night, every day.

Most of the day my mom managed to refrain from pointing out the elephant in the room. But after hours of looking at cute kids, she broke down. Practically begged for a grandchild on bended knee. Poor thing but UGH!

When she pointed out that I am now the age she was when she first brought me to Disneyland, I felt as though she had knocked the wind out of me. Seriously when did my 20s pass me by? When did the givens in life become just maybes?

Tried to distract my mom by navigating her away from any kid's department and into the housewares. Which actually isn't much better because I realized if we lingered there too much she'd start pointing out how I should cook for Mr. Diabolina more. Oy vey this not-very-domestic princess sure became a disappointment.

The two rides that didn't disappoint: The Haunted Mansion and the Teacups. They ended up being our favorites of the day. My mom was a screaming laugh R-I-O-T on both.

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But dinner at the Blue Bayou was the absolute highlight of the day. My mom and dad would take me there for dinner every time we visited Disneyland. It was our tradition. And I always thought that was the height of decadence: to eat inside a ride. Which of course I did because I was a piglet princess in training.

When it came time to pick up souvenirs, it felt quite odd to not have to negotiate with my mom for something. Realized I could get anything I wanted since I was paying. Yay to some parts of being an adult. Decided all I wanted was a set of mouse ears. Not the new fangled ones. Or the hidEOUS Ed Hardy ones.

Just a plain old head band with Minnie Mouse ears. After all animal ears have been quite the fashionable accessory over the past three years. They've graced magazine spreads and the runways at Commes de Garcon, Proenza Schouler and Moschino. Even Lady Gaga is a fan.
Plus they just make me smile and remind me of my childhood.

But as I was deciding between a regular old pair of ears and a sequin pair, my mom deadpanned,"Yes, you should totally get a pair of Minnie Mouse ears. It's not like you are going to be years old or anything." I would have killed her if she wasn't so cute and I wasn't so busy laughing at her delivery. BTW, I won't be 40 for another 7 years, thank you very much.

Ended up getting a little pair of mouse ears for my actual ears instead. Super cute, no?

Perfect thing to be wearing when we ran into this stud just as night fell and my mom had scored a churro for the ride home. Happiest place on earth, indeed! We'll be back before I'm 40 fo sure!


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