Saturday, February 18, 2017

What is so great about the Dumbo ride?

Since Disneyland has been sort of a theme this week (please check out my podcast this week on the subject) I thought I would share an entry from my book WHERE THE HELL AM I?  TRIPS I HAVE SURVIVED about the day my wife, Debby and I went there.   Today is also her birthday (Happy Happy Birthday!) and I think a celebratory return trip is in order.
My wife and I went to Disneyland. Since becoming an adult this was the first time I was ever there without kids or a joint. No strollers, no giant diaper bags, no getting home and realizing we had left somebody. Also, we had never seen the adjacent California Adventure so we wanted to go before it eventually shuts down or is completely rethought.

We figured: go before the summer begins and kids are out of school. I guess that now means February. Disneyland was packed. There were lines for everything. The biggest: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Waiting, Space Mountain, and churros. The Small World attraction is closed for renovation (thank God). A big fence surrounds it. So the line was only a half an hour.

I wore a golf shirts and long pants. I was waaaay overdressed. Come on, people! At least the ratty t-shirts and torn plaid shorts should fit! You’re going to be taking pictures in those rags.

As always, the park was immaculate… although I could swear one of the 60-year-old maintenance men in an elf suit was a former producer of TAXI. And the teenagers who work there remain the nicest, perkiest, helpfulliest David Arhuleta and Carrie Underwood clones you could find this side of Stepford.

I’m guessing the teens with major imperfections like acne or no dimples are assigned to wear those bulky heavy character costumes. It was 90 degrees and Winnie the Pooh was staggering around, tripping over strollers, kicking little tykes, occasionally sticking his head in an ice cream pushcart for relief.

Happy to say that the new Pirates of the Caribbean ride wasn’t ruined by the improvements. There were a few Jack Sparrows added and a nifty Davy Jones hologram but otherwise it’s pretty much the same. Oh maybe a little less raping but the spirit of fun is still there.

To avoid standing in endless lines Disneyland now offers “Fast Passes” for most major rides. It allows you to return for wait-free boarding. We got our Fast Passes for Space Mountain at 1 PM. Our reservations were for 9:30, thus saving us fifteen minutes had we stood in the normal line.

I was a good boy this trip. I did not stand up and ask Mr. Lincoln a question nor did I buy a Mouseketeer hat, have them scroll “Vincent” then rip off one of the ears.

With all the spectacular photo-ops Disneyland provides, all day long I saw people taking pictures of each other while standing in lines. We are truly a country of idiots.

Then there are the women trying to walk all day and night in ankle strap wedges. And they wonder why they’re crippled by Fantasyland.

Gas prices are so high that for the Autopia, the cars are now just being pushed by Disney employees.

In a nod to health conscious California, Disneyland eateries now serve healthy food along with the usual fast food junk. My wife ordered a salad. It was the third one sold this year!

The irony of the Indiana Jones ride is that Harrison Ford probably can’t ride it. It’s way too violent and rugged for a 66 year-old man.

We moved over to California Adventure, which is like going from Times Square on New Year’s Eve to downtown Flint, Michigan a year after they closed the GM plant.

The only thing worth seeing is “Soarin’ Over California”. It’s a simulated hang glide tour over the state. If only I could simulate flying on American Airlines instead of actually having to fly on American Airlines.

Wandered around the park. Don’t know the names of the “lands” per se but there’s one that’s kind of rustic that my wife just called “Wilderness Shit”. They pipe in this real stirring John Williams type music and I must say, coming out of the restroom I thought there’ve been times when I could have really used this.

Next we encountered a beach boardwalk themed land. The John Williams music gave way to Beach Boys tunes on a calliope. All these years I never knew that “Surfer Girl” was a circus song.

Disney – the company that brought you “Song of the South” and tar babies now presents “Pizza Oom Mow Mow” on the pier at California Adventure.

There’s a big classic Coney Island style rollercoaster and something called the “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror”. Not wanting my first major stroke to be in a place where the paramedics all wear Peter Pan costumes I passed on both.

We returned to Disneyland, nostalgic for the days when California Adventure used to be a parking lot.

Night fell on the Magic Kingdom and it got a little chilly. No worries. There’s a clothing store every hundred feet. Me: “Excuse me, Tracy/Stacey/Kaysee/Lacy, do you have a men’s sweatshirt that doesn’t have Tinkerbell on it? Or Mickey in a wizard’s cap? Or Mulan? Or a fucking fairy castle!?” I bought a Davy Crockett coonskin cap so at least my head was warm.

Even in the evening when the crowd thinned out there was still a 45 minute wait for the aptly named Dumb-o ride.

No trip to Disneyland would be complete without a harrowing bobsled ride down the Matterhorn. It always takes me back to my idyllic childhood, going on it once with my dear sweet grandmother and hearing her drop the f-bomb.

The Haunted Mansion is now inhabited by a bi-lingual ghost. He gives spooky instructions in both English and Spanish.

Never got to Toontown. There were enough over-stimulated, sugar revved, screaming, out-of-control little hellions in all the other lands.

Following the fireworks and “Disney Dwarfs on Parade” or whatever the hell that noisy thing was, we dutifully reported to Space Mountain to take advantage of our Fast Pass. Wow! Space Mountain was always great but this new revamped version is awesome. You know they mean business when they tell you to take your glasses off. As I was crawling off the rocket sled on my hands and knees I said to my wife, “Now THAT’S a thrill ride!”

Finally, it was time to leave. Where did twelve hours and hundreds of dollars go? A half hour to catch the tram and another half hour to find our car in the parking structure the size of Liechtenstein, and we were merrily on our way (to hit massive traffic on the Santa Ana freeway at midnight).

I have always loved Disneyland. I’m not ashamed to say it. I am ashamed to wear any of those sweatshirts but even as a five year-old curmudgeon I marveled at the imagination, scope, and vision of this wondrous (albeit highly profitable) world. So I will be back. Soon. My Fast Pass reservation for the Little Nemo Submarine Voyage is November 21st at 6:30 AM.


slgc said...

I remember being in Walt Disney World when my daughter was two years old. She desperately wanted to ride Dumbo. It was the middle of the afternoon, it was ridiculously hot, and there was a 45-minute line. That gave me two choices - wait on the line, or have my daughter's lasting memory of the trip be "Mommy Didn't Let Me Ride Dumbo!"

You know I stood in the freakin' line.

B Smith said...

What are the queues for the toilets like? Can you get Fast Passes for them?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Ken: I hope you're OK. I just read about southern California's "weather bomb" of rainstorm.


Mike said...

No strollers, no giant diaper bags
You should have kept the giant diapers for Space Mountain.

Little Nemo Submarine Voyage
If you're allowed a Winsor McCay - Jules Verne mix, I'm allowed:
Sherlock Holmes, Merchant of Venice.

Mike Barer said...

Happy Birthday, Mrs Levine!

Mike Barer said...

Wendy, I'm here in LA for the weekend. It was as bad as anything we've had in Seattle. Maybe worst!

Jeff Maxwell said...

You brought me back. I used to love Disneyland. Haven't been in at least fifteen years. In high school, the most dangerous ride for me was the hour-plus drive home on the freeway after twelve hours of fun. Very hard to keep my eyes open. Really scared my date.

Can't wait to do Space Mountain. I'll let my wife drive home.

Breadbaker said...

I have to admit that when I finally got to Disneyland as an adult (having grown up in Michigan, and not gotten to SoCal until the midst of an energy crisis in 1979, I was well over 30 by the time I finally got to the park), the one thing I insisted on doing was the Dumbo ride because I had seen it on film when I was a child and Dumbo was always my favorite Disney cartoon. It's better in one's imagination.

MikeN said...

Another ride that is impressive is in the nextdoor studios, they have built the desert race from Cars with Lightning and Doc Hudson. Looks great.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Mike: The ground is (I assume) so dry that this kind of torrential rain will just flood off it and not get absorbed.


Anonymous said...

"The irony of the Indiana Jones ride is that Harrison Ford probably can’t ride it. It’s way too violent and rugged for a 66 year-old man."
I assume you're talking about yourself and not Harrison Ford.
66 went by a few exits ago for him.

Unknown said...

LOVE your blog.
Combines comedy and baseball (GO BUCCOS).....nothing better.
My favorite show of yours was WINGS. Loved the concept and the
execution. But PLEASE.....tell me that the stars and featured actors were as nice as they seem? BTW: What will it take to get David Schramm back on TV? What? Is he in the witness protection program?

Roger R. said...

Must recommend to you Adam Resnick's story of a family trip to Disney (Orlando); it is truly one of the funniest essays on the subject. It can be found in his wonderful book "Will Not Attend".

Betty said...

No mention of Cars Land? The best-themed land in all of Disney? (Was it not opened yet when you were there?) No Toy Story Midway Mania? No Monsters, Inc. ride (okay, I'll give you a pass on that one, but I personally love it)? No Grizzly River Run? You'll ride Matterhorn and Space Mountain but not Tower of Terror? (I agree with you about California Screaming.) No wonder you're not crazy about California Adventure - you missed 2/3 of it!

I went to Disneyland when it and I were both 5, and I was back again 53 short years later, and loved every bit of it. (Except the rides I won't get on, like Mickey's Wheel of Death.)

The Notorious J E F F said...

The second time i went to Disney World I was 8 years old. The line was about 2 hours long. Get on the ride itself and it goes for a minute and 50 seconds. Nearly 2 minutes. If the line had been four hours long, would it have been 3 minutes and 50 seconds I wonder. Even at 8, when I didn't know the word rip-off, I knew one when I saw one.

If you get stuck in the line at Dumbo try to find ways to pass the time. Bring an Ipad with earbuds. Try singing something like "99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall" or whistling the music form the classic movie The Bridge On the River Kwai. That might help at least make it bearable or might even get some people out fo the way.