Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Disneyland - Haunted Mansion - Rainy New Orleans Square

There was a shop near the Mansion in the late 1970s, early 1980s, that sold official, personalized Haunted Mansion tombstones. I'm betting a few of you out there have one like mine shown above.
Note: according to the tombstone, the Haunted Mansion is located "in Disneyland."
The Mansion is not in "The Disneyland® Resort" or in "Disneyland® Park."
It is in Disneyland.
The following story comes to you straight from Disneyland, too, though it has nothing to do with tombstones as far as I can tell.
Dateline: Disneyland, February 1985, New Orleans Square.
Picture, if you will, a cold and rainy day at the Park.
Damp sheets steadily fall from the sky. It is getting dark.
I am a sweeper assigned to New Orleans Square.
My yellow rain gear and matching hat give me the appearance of a storm-tossed skipper of a Maine lobster boat, or of a guy on the cover of a box of frozen fishsticks.
Guests, by the way, are nowhere in sight.
I am manning a large squeegee, which looks like a pushbroom without bristles---just a handle with a wide rubber blade on the bottom. We use these to methodically push puddles from low areas to nearby drains, including some along the Rivers of America.
I remember that I am cold, despite pushing around puddles in waterproof clothing.
My breath mists from my mouth and nose with the effort. The area music is muffled by the rain and clouds it seems. At this time there is no funky bridge in front of the Pirates of the Caribbean. New Orleans Square runs steadily downhill from Royal Street down to the Rivers of America.
Standing along the main pathway, I can see all the way into Adventureland to my right and back toward the entrance to Bear Country toward my left.
For some reason, I stop.
Squeegee handle in hand, I stand and take it all in.
The rain.
The quiet.
The gas lamps flickering on their posts.
Swisskapolka gently bouncing to my ears from the Treehouse.
The smell of wet walkways mixed with a tinge of hot cocoa.
The pattering of drops against my wide-brimmed hat.
A cool spray of rain wetting my cheeks as it bounces off my jacket.
I am facing the River and can see steam rising from the stack over at Big Thunder.
The area lights are reflecting off of the glistening walkways and the dappled surface of the river.
I feel like I am the only one there.
Indeed, I can see no other people.
The weather has driven them to seek shelter,
leaving me and my squeegee standing in the downpour---in the middle of New Orleans Square.
I feel the rain lighten and the wind pick up.
It is cold---really cold.
Yet I cannot bring myself to move for this moment.
I am transfixed.
It is a truly Disneyland experience, and I realize it to be something simple but deep.
Even as a young person, I feel a need to grasp it within my memory.
I am not sure why.
Why this moment?
I guess it is because the Park feels like it is mine---like this is happening just for me, just this once.
I know it will soon pass.
The guests will shortly be back out on the pathways and the background noise and regular bustle will resume.
So I breathe in and smell the smells amidst the moist, cool air.
I look and see that the Park around me is literally shining amidst the sky's gray backdrop.
My eye then catches the first sign of movement in this scene, toward my right, at the bend in the River near Cascade Peak.
Large white clouds of steam billow over the tree tops.
A yellow glow of light brightens the shoreline.
The Mark Twain, its decks asparkle with electric lights, slowly rounds the bend.
Its steam whistle blasts.
The familiar sound seems so sudden, so loud.
Its bell rings out loudly, too, breaking into the moment and almost shattering it.
But a silence follows.
The Mark Twain glides toward the landing.
More cool wind.
A whisper of rain.
I get one final glimpse of the whole scene: gray, wet, shiny, yellow, bright, green, white, black, steam, cocoa, treetops, river, red peaks, rain, no guests in sight.
I say to myself, I am not going to forget this.
I am not entirely sure why,
but I never have.
---Mike (who still exists and even posts once in awhile)