Well, I've been back on the Jungle for quite a while now.
So many things have changed for me since 1986-87.
Reagan to Obama.
Global economic collapse.
You get the picture.
But I still have a Mickey Mouse watch---you know, the classic, cheap one: red shorts, yellow shoes, gloves on the hands.
And I still have the Jungle. Sure, we lost the hornbill and the Swiss Family Treehouse, but the Jungle has remained pretty timeless.
There's a deep serenity in piloting its twists and turns. The familiar roll of the spiel and the hum of the engine as I throttle past elephants, gorillas, lions and hippos are links to a couple of wildly different points in my life: from being in my early 20s to my early 40s; from apartment dweller to homeowner; from childless to parenthood; from idealistic to realistic; from party-goer to breadwinner; from almost grown-up to fully grown-up (wondering what the hell happened); from die-hard energy to lower back pains; from a long time ago to now.
But you know what? I put on that name tag and costume, grab the microphone and throttle, and I'm back. Back to yesterday---in the middle of today! The same old jokes (for the most part), the same old boats (sans the colorful canopies and white hulls), the same old Adventureland (again, for the most part) and the same look of joy on the faces of the guests (not all of them, to be sure, but I've even managed to eke smiles from some grizzled Park veterans of late). For a few hours I'm a skipper again and the disparate ends of my life link together like being in a time tunnel. I'm still me. I still feel like that 20 year old on the inside. I still have the sarcasm. Still have fun hauling a captive audience into the Jungle and back. In many ways, today is even better. I have the added benefit of experience and perspective. I see more than ever the need to bring a little happiness into people's lives---to help them escape the everyday for just a few moments. This is a very good thing.
Hell. Life is an adventure. Stock markets are terrifying. Pink slips can call into question one's courage more than a charging rhino or a tribe of headhunters. But in Adventureland, the guests and I get to indulge in a little old fashioned playtime. We step together, literally, into the same boat and steam off into a "jungle" to risk life and limb. We need each other. I drive the boat, I guide them through the dangers and they listen, react and absorb it all.
Here's to the Jungle Cruise! Here's to life!
The more things change...
...the more they stay the same.
If you get the chance, stop by the Jungle and jump on board. We can share a cruise together!
If you enjoy the trip half as much as I do, then I'm the lucky one because that means I'm having twice as much fun as you!
Now, come on board! Better yet, as we are wont to say at the loading dock: Come on excited!! Better to be over-excited than over-board!
See you in the Jungle!