(Note: this was typed with difficulty on the plane coming back. Tomorrow will be better, and much more visually interesting.)
It’s easier to sleep on the plane if you didn’t sleep in the bed. Most of the way to Florida I was a snortling sack, dimly aware of my surroundings – the drinks cart, the fellow behind me who periodically reminded himself that there was a small chance, however slight, that he might be forced to audition for the Rockettes, and would kick my seat with great force just to keep in practice. But I’d only slept four hours the night before. I only woke up when the descent got conturbated; otherwise, Hicks in the drop ship. Wheels down, screech; changed into shorts and rode the Magical Express, which, its name to the contrary, operates on standard internal-combustion engines with no necromantic after-market add-ons. Destination:
It’s Disneyworld. Yes, again. So soon? Well, it’s a points-and-time-share thing. It’s complicated. We decided earlier this year to “join” the Disney Vacation Club. Yes, I saw the Penn & Teller “BS” on time shares. Don’t care. We did this to give us a spur to take vacations, something we would otherwise put off, and to give that impetus focus. Why not immerse ourselves completely in the Disneyverse? As Samuel Johnson said, a man who is tired of Disneyworld is tired of life, and since you end every day tired of Disneyworld, you get a sense of what awaits you in old age when the lights and swirling crowds fail to delight.
The program covers several dozen other places around the country, so we’re not locked in. But of course we are, if only by the lengthening chains of habit. Natalie loves Disneyworld; I can only start to imagine what this must be like for her. This I never knew when I was her age. Never even considered the possibility of something like this. I love it, too – on nineteen different levels, from the coldest sense of amazement at the finely-meshed gears of commercial exploitation to the sappiest nostalgia for my own childhood to the general appreciation for the Americana that saturates the best parts of the operation. If you come here with one eye wide open, and one eye squinting with critical amusement and a sense of skeptical distance, you are guar-an-teed to have a grand time.
Technically I now have property in Florida. It’s this:
The statuary and monuments celebrate Mickey's fabled conquest of Egypt:
I don't own that building, of course. As with all these things, I have an actual ownership of nothing but the right to exercise tenancy somewhere in the system if I give them advance notice, and have sufficient points. It’s like having a house but you don’t live there and you have to make appointments to use the bathroom months in advance. The property is called Saratoga Springs, although we can use other places in the Disneyverse and its Valued Partners as well. The upside: you’ve already paid for your room. For the next 30 years, in fact. Downside: say goodbye to getting free shampoos every day.
Unless you pick a bone, as we’ll see.
I was worried how Natalie would like it, since it’s not Whimsical or Tropical like the other places, but she likes it fine. The pool is spectacular, there’s a big “community center” with events for kids, an arcade, and more than enough merchandising opportunities to remind you where you are – plus the Hidden Mickeys, of course. There are people who are obsessed with finding every – bleedin’ Mickey in the joint, and probably rip off the concierge’s blouse looking for three-circle birthmarks.
Like the other reports, it’s built around a lagoon; unlike the others, the décor and design is sedate and American. It’s based on the general recollection of the impression garnered from old postcards of the real Saratoga Springs, with horse-racing themes gently infused into the overall concept. The rooms are the reason you join the Vacation Club, I suppose; instead of the usual little boxes (which were fine, don’t let me speak ill of Hostel-Keeper Mickey) we have a suite with a living room and kitchen, a bath with a whirlpool, that sort of thing.
Checked in and hit the pool for bingo. Or rather wife and child played bingo; I did the Annoyed Guest routine at the front desk, because there were some things wrong with the room. The patio door didn’t lock; the curtain was hanging off the rail; the front of the stove was greasy, a drain was stopped up. Usually you tell them to fix it while you’re out having fun, but dammit I owned this, right? I mean, I paid maintenance fees. So maintain, already. The front desk manager was apologetic, but what I really wanted was something in the way of material satisfaction. I had noted before I left the room that some of the things you take for granted at a resort are actually extras when you “own” the place – like shampoo and coffee. Stands to reason, I guess. But I was in no mood to participate in Uncle Walt’s Ruthlessly Efficient Lucre Extraction System when I had to miss half of bingo to wait for the maintenance person. I should note that something is seriously wrong, or really, really right with your life when missing bingo is a matter of annoyance. So when the manager said he would make a note of these things, I said – with no irritation, mind you, more flies with honey, etc. – that maybe he could make things right by sliding some shampoos and coffee my way. Get my drift, pally? He immediately became ashamed for not having thought of it earlier, abased himself, banged his head on the floor, and asked how many shampoos and coffees I required. We parted friends.
After a nap we went to Downtown Disney, a good place to bleed money on your first night. Dinner was at the Rainforest Café, which is the best argument yet for burning the forest to the ground and replacing it with parquet flooring. Augh. It’s noisy beyond believe, it has chimp heads leering out from the faux foliage. When I see chimps I expect that poo-flinging is not far behind, so to speak. In a bizarre mix of the feral and the civilized, a staute of Atlas from Rockefeller Center is the centerpiece, with the words DEFEND THE RAINFOREST written on the band girdling the earth. I’ll get right on it, mate. First, salad. The menu is limited and expensive, and the portions Brobdignagian. My wife’s meal, when completed, looked like something that hadn’t even been touched.
Natalie said it was the best restaurant EVER. Who am I to argue with my sweetheart, then. Off to Goofy’s Kitchen afterwards to select with great care our bag of jellybeans, and enjoy the endless branding opportunities – although I remain disappointed that they haven’t exploited the early Silly Symphonies, and brought out Old Mill Malted Milk Bird Eggs, or something. Then the World of Disney, which contains every possible piece of Disney merchandising. I’m keen to see something new, and sure enough: last spring’s Undead Thumpers have company now. Zombie Chip and Zombie Dale.
Elsewhere, Vampire Chipmunks.
The strange faceless humanoids are still around, but they have formed a rather intimate bond with Pluto:
Natalie found a cluster of Poohs, all bound together some unseen force:
The Pooh-clump spun in the breeze made by passing shoppers:
We'll just say that's the view everyone had when he was stuck in the tree. Pooh does not present.
Back to the room, tired & happy. Sat down to watch the debate; discovered that the remotes have no batteries.
Back to the front desk.
“Welcome home,” the clerk said. They're told to say that all the time,
“Thank you!” I said. “Although, you know, at home, the remotes have batteries.”
All that aside, it was still a great first day; it’s always a great day here.
And yes, the Kool-Aid comes in new suppository form, too!
Tomorrow: your narrator goes to heaven. Before we leave, though - scene from a Disney movie, or late-night photo of a statue by the pool?
The latter, of course. See what I mean? The unreality is so wonderfully realistic.