Thursday, May 20, 2010

Disneyland - Scant Observations From Main Street

Due to a shortage of time, today's post is presented, ala James Joyce, via stream-of-consciousness observations based upon my 1983 Disneyland wall map, among other things, and more trips to the Park than I can ever fully hope to remember...


"Your attention, please! The Disneyland Limited now arriving..."
Speckled leaves.
Ghouls beckon from the wall poster in the tunnel.
I hear a squeaky stroller wheel. The warm sun makes the green benches smoothly shiny.
Feathered hooves coconut clop and the white pole is so high amidst the bright flower faces at its feet.
To all who come.
The blue sky domes highly and the shops bustle with a by-gone sensibility.
Hello, Mr. Dinglinger?
Miss Flump? Auralee Flump? Will you please get offa this line? Now, I know you're there 'cause I can hear your clock tickin', and it sounds like it's slow, too.
The smell of the roasted beans mixes with wrapped sucker sticks and taffy.
King me!
A bell "ding dings" outside the doorway.
Across the small street, candy canopy umbrella tables grandly dance o'er the huddled patrons in their midst. Toasted smells waft down the small alleyway.
The old gray mare she ain't what she used to be swirls in the background of one's hearing from the keys of an unseen piano.
Trolley tracks under foot, mind your ankles!
Glass and crystal sparkle castle-ly shapes and spidery lines.
Green satin bloused Esmeralda floats her hand over the deck and whispers of future things unseen.
Green metal posts twist like candy canes to gas lit bowls draped with triangle banners and fringed with balls of flowers.
A trolley bell rings "pardon me, coming through" while the lights chase each other around Coke Corner.
Crunch and toffee, caramel and fudge, waft unseen to one's nostrils.
Yellow and white.
Pink and blue.
Red, white and blue.
Skinny trees along walkways spatter shade and leaf.
The Hub spreads its arms like a splayed octopus at the foot of the Castle.
Pink and blue again.
Red and white.
Carnation flowers and ice cream.
Water flows 'neath wooden planks.
Swans drift.
I'm wishing.
I'm wishing.
For the one I love.
To find me.
To find me.
Logs stand tall and pointed and rustic.
The long steam whistle haunts the distance with its mournful happy call.
The white peak erupts a roar.
Screams and laughter flash by.
Funny plastic boxes on wheels glide over the entrance.
Glistening points shoot skyward at either side.
Will I go on shrinking...forever?
Yellow and purple and green flowers almost blind the eye in their brilliance.
A green, tall bus full of faces chugs by.
Rainbow balloons cling together in an inverted pyramid clutched by a yellow and red clad girl with black hair and blue eyes.
Green iron railings hug beds of flowers and shrubs.
"Let's go this way!"
"Wait for me!"
The smell of coffee and pretzels and popcorn and old green water and duck and swan mix with pineapple and waffle cones and diesel and heaven knows.
People and laughter and children and crying and strollers and hats, funny shaped hats, all moving and walking and spreading over the scene like wayward sheep or dandelion stems on the breeze.
Wonder and peace and joy and sweat and aching feet with tearful tired children scooped into parents' arms and onto shoulders and into stroller seats.
The night darkens and the trees develop tiny sparkles of light.
The street is aglow with yellow lights.
Outlining the buildings on either side.
The crowd grows and fills. Anticipation pants and breathes and looks skyward.
Bursts of color splash the night sky and spread into a hundred arms of flickering, shimmering flecks of light.
Drifting and smoking and falling.
Music is everywhere.
The children ooh and ahh with their parents.
The crowd wells up as the sparkling little spirit glides o'er castletop.
There she goes!
More bursts of color and booms that resound in your chest and make the little ones clap hands to their ears.
Then silence and wafting smoke.
Yawns and sleepy small faces.
Cries and more yawns.
"It's been a big day."
"You're tired."
"Let's say good-bye for now."
A horde ambles on heavy feet toward the tunnels, filling the street and the curbs and marching, exhausted, onward---toward home.
One more line.
A child dazed and drooling dangles over a shoulder, eyes rolling under heavy lids---trying not to let go of the day and the sights and the excitement.
Just a minute more.
The roar of a big diesel rends the night and yellow and blue seats beckon the weary.
Please keep your balloons in your lap so the driver can see.
We hope you had a wonderful and memorable time in this happy place.
"Were we in "Pinocchio" or "Goofy"?
"I see it! There's the car!"
Key in ignition.
Lights on.
The engine hums and the car heads homeward, as though it knows the way.
Children slumber in seats.
The road smoothly bumps and sighs beneath.
Aching calves and backs of knees remind parents of their advancing mortality.
Father turns to mother, and knowing, tired smiles are exchanged.
This was a happy day.

(With deep apologies to Mr. Joyce and all who love literature).


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Disneyland - Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls...

The words "electro-synthe-magnetic musical sounds" once gave me goosebumps nightly on Main Street U.S.A.

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Disneyland proudly presents our spectacular festival pageant of nighttime magic and thousands of sparkling lights...
and electro-synthe-magnetic musical sounds.
...Main Street

It was with great sadness that I saw the parade end its run at Disneyland.

Now, alas, it has even left California Adventure, ending its run there this past April.

If you wish to see it, you can still catch it though.

In Florida.

It is at the Magic Kingdom for an extended stay. Thankfully, it has returned to Main Street, where it belongs! It is too bad Disneylanders now have to book a flight to Orlando in order to catch it.

That said, the Electrical Parade beats the complete tar out of "Spectro Magic," a parade that I could never stomach. Ack. It was like watching an inept cover band try to sound like the "real thing" at a Holiday Inn Hospitality Lounge somewhere in the mid-west. Perhaps worse.

Again, I digress.

I have long missed the warm summer nights as the crowd built along the Hub and down Main Street. Cast Members would banter and chat with guests as they jostled for positions along the curb. The throng would fill the sidewalks several people deep.

There was a festival spirit in the air. Kids sat wide-eyed with anticipation---even the 40+ year-old ones. A long day at the Park was about to close out in spectacular fashion---a brilliant light parade with bouncy, joyous music and beloved characters followed by the "Fantasy In The Sky" fireworks extravaganza. The crowd knew it and sensed it.
It almost hummed with anticipation.
People would finally sit for a while after running around the Park all day.
Some would sit for two hours or more to get the best seats!

Working guest control along the parade route in 1987, still ranks as one of my favorite Park experiences as a Cast Member. We would walk up and down and make sure that ropes were up, people were seated in the right places ("Uh, sir, I'm going to need you to step out of the planter, the viewing area is inside the ropes. Thank you!), strollers were collapsed (so there was more room and everyone could see), and guests were having a good time.

Often I worked Parade shifts in my Jungle costume, so guests would instantly start joking with me.
"Are you lost, skipper? Adventureland is over there!"
"Hey, where's your boat?"
"Where's your gun?"
"You aren't from around here, are you?"


Believe me, I gave it right back to them, spieling and playing and goofing around---all the while getting paid for it (I could never get over that part!).

The anticipation grew steadily.
Teaser announcements would help build the drama, letting everyone know the Parade would soon be coming.
When the night settled in and the street lights went down, section by section, along the parade route, the robotic, techno-sounding musical intro announcement would surround the waiting horde:
"Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls..."
The crowd literally would go wild.
Kids cheering!
Adults cheering!
Everyone clapping in rhythmic unison.
In those moments, Disneyland along the Parade route truly was the Happiest Place on Earth.
Then the Blue Fairy would come into view and the Parade was on!
If you never saw the Electrical Parade on Main Street in Disneyland, I am sorry.
If you get a chance, book a flight to Orlando and catch it at the Magic Kingdom.
Perhaps, of course, it may someday return to its rightful spot in Disneyland.

For now, this is Mike, wishing you all a fabulous rest of your day or evening, wherever you may be!

Publish Post

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Disneyland - Cold, Damp Nights

A closing shift at the Park during the winter, Christmas season or New Year's Eve can be a cold, damp and wonderful thing.
Let me start by patiently explaining that California's "winter" can manifest itself in an icy moisture that breathes frostily deep into your joints.
It gets your toes cold to the point where only a warm bath will bring them back.
No snow, for sure.
No twenty below.
No windchill worth mentioning.No ice scraper for the windshield.
No plugging in your car so your radiator and battery won't freeze.
No gummy snowboots or galoshes.

But it gets you.

I'm from western Pennsylvania.I have lived in South Bend, January.
I have been on the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, tiny icebergs at my feet, a ceaseless gust in my face and snow several feet deep all around.I have been in "lake effect" snow.
Freezing rain.
Ice storms.
Winter mornings before dawn when my jeans were stiff from ice.
So were my socks.
Been through a whiteout on a lonely stretch of central Indiana interstate during a blizzard.
Watched a Notre Dame game from the top of the stadium on a day when the sheets of rain turned to sleet and then to mushy snow.
I have stepped off my grandmother's porch as a tiny lad and been swallowed into snow drift there off the porch steps.
I can still feel the fluffy, icy and muffling snow around me.
Good thing my uncle happened by, just as this occurred, to safely pluck me from my predicament.
I am not a California creampuff.
Neither was Mark Twain.He toughed out some of the coldest weather one could imagine and yet he found California to host the most chilling. He famously noted, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."
What I am trying to hint at is that I am no stranger to the cold winter thing.

Now, I offer the foregoing for those Easterners and Mid-westerners who swear to high heaven that they can tough out any winter in shirt sleeves and shorts. They smugly smirk at Californians who bemoan a dip into the 40s and a little sprinkle of misting rain.
Yeah, I'm talking to you in Buffalo and up there in Green Bay.
Let me tell you.
California winters are amazingly,
cold and damp.
You see, in Green Bay, or Pittsburgh, or Buffalo or South Bend, when you step into the house or your car from 15-below-zero temperatures, you are instantly warm.You immediately tear off your parka and sweatshirt and long underwear once you are back indoors because otherwise you will die of heat stroke.
This is "dry" cold.
In California, along the shores of the Pacific, an oceanic wetness sets into the winter air.
Especially after about 1o:30 p.m.
It sets a chill that seems to come from the inside out.
It can even get at you indoors.It finds its way through sweaters and most jackets.
It creeps numbingly into fingers, toes, ears necks and noses.
A damp cold.
A reach-for-the-beer-at-the-bottom-of-the-ice-chest kind of cold.

...I think you get a sense of what you face at the Park on a closing shift during a California winter's night.

Over on Jungle, the scarves and gloves come out, along with the jackets. The condensation glistens across your boat's bow. Your .38 revolver chills your hand as you reach to reload it with numbed fingertips. Your breath clouds around the P.A. mike. If you are on the dock, you try to keep your body moving between boats---which are fewer and farther between at night, especially in the winter (after all, a charging African Bull Elephant does not leap into the minds of most guests as an attraction option when the weather gets cold, dark and damp).

On Main Street, if it was a fireworks night, the guest control cast members would be bundled in the most fabulous of Disneyland costume pieces---the heavy wool peacoat---which is modeled perfectly and shamelessly below by a certain member of this blog's editorial staff.You would see these old peacoats on the Mark Twain operators and Disneyland Railroad conductors, too. It was one of the few clothing items that could combat the cold well. The peacoats had not changed for years, though the Park has now gone to a "fleece" version that is no doubt cheaper, but definitely less insulating. If there was one item I wish I could have taken home with me when I left for the last time---it was the peacoat. I dug the "Disneyland" patch stitched into the left breast of the coat.

Since most cast member positions within the Park are of the outdoor variety, standing outdoors in a chilled dampness for six or eight hours can take its toll. Fortunately, we got to move around a lot if we were on guest control. Indeed, the main reason for the coned flashlight on such nights is not so much to direct guests, but more to generate warmth by the constant back-and-forth motion of one's upper extremity.

After closing or the end of your shift, you would trudge back to your exit (which for most of us was Harbor House), stopping by your locker on the way to grab your backpack or whatever you brought with you before your shift began. In the old days, you would walk out into the cast member parking lot along Harbor Boulevard and watch your breath fog ahead of you as you found your car. Its windshield would have a film of dew. You would open your door and sit down (often for the first time in over six hours). The seat would be cold. The inside of the windshield would be fogged. You would start the engine, hit the windshield wipers, and wave a goodbye to fellow cast members walking to their cars. Put it in drive and pull out onto Harbor Boulevard, heading homeward.

About five or ten minutes into your trip, the car would warm up and you could actually turn on your heater. The streets would be empty after a closing shift. You would feel the warmth slowly build around you. Back to the "real world." Still, I miss those quiet, late evening or early morning commutes home from the Park on cold nights. More so, I remember how great it felt to get home to a warm bed or a brandy (or both). Some things, of course, never change.

Let the East Coast versus West Coast "who has the colder winter" debate begin.

I tossed in my two cents.