There’s a scene in the movie Nation Lampoon’s Vacation that I never saw coming. After fighting their way across the United States, through horrible tragedies, dead grandmothers & dogs, the Griswold family station wagon barrels into the completely empty parking lot of Wally World – a thinly disguised DisneyLand – only to discover the park was closed for maintenance.
At that moment, I sat transfixed. Someone else had been there, too. Someone else had felt the crushing defeat just as I had when I was nine years old in 1974. Unlike the Griswolds, my father and I barreled into the massive parking lot, not in a station wagon, but a vintage Porsche 356B, but just like them, the lot (which is now Disney’s California Adventure) was eerily empty. Back in those days, DisneyLand was closed one day a week, and no doubt many a well-meaning father delivered their excited children unto the doorstep of disappointment.
That has, perhaps, colored forever my perception of DisneyLand.
We went back in 1977, and, while I remember having fun, it wasn’t so much so that I’ve had any reason to go back until 2010.
And so now we’re here with our children and I’m having fun. It’s hard not to have when so many people around you, and especially your own children, are having a blast. Fun is infectious.
The analytical part of me is dissecting each ride, marveling that what was cutting edge 1955 technology is still very much in evidence and musing as to why the rides are supposed to be fun, but I must acknowledge that they are fun.
I am, perhaps, too jaded (or cynical, as some have said) to completely switch off Mr. Analytical and enjoy myself unreservedly as a kid might, but I can nonetheless enjoy it in my own way, and I can enjoy, and even empathize, seeing that unreservedly joy in my kids’ eyes, laughs and smiles.