Going to Disneyland
As a child, I learned about Disneyland from several lucky, lucky kids I knew who had been there. They described a magical place full of nothing but rides, games, toy stores, junk food, fireworks, parades, and cartoons come to life--in short, kid heaven. The address of my fantasies quickly moved to southern California.
Alas, my parents' idea of a good, affordable family vacation tended to run more along the lines of car trips to visit relatives. Looking back, I was far from deprived. We got to go some cool places, like visiting my cousins in Colorado, and I got sent to every sort of camp imaginable: church camp, Girl Scout camp, 4-H camp, sports camps--yes, even band camp. All of these experiences probably provided at least some of the fun and a great deal more educational value than a trip to Disneyland. But I was still jealous of my mouse-eared friends.
Eventually I got over this by deciding that Disneyland was for babies. In college, caught up in newly discovered ideals about corporate greed and cultural sterilization, I even bragged about never having been there. By the time I developed the financial ability to go, I had convinced myself that Disneyland was not for "my kind." We were intellectual and sophisticated; our vacation spots would offer fabulous museums, amazing artistic performances, and historical character. And when our brains got full, we could always shop in darling little mom-and-pop boutiques and dine in a nice bistro.
A funny thing happened, though. An increasing number of people I had already firmly designated as "my kind" turned out to be big Disneyland fans. And they kept wanting me to go with them. Every time I'd say, "Nah, that's not really my sort of thing," they'd point out that I do, in fact, own and enjoy a number of Disney movies, or that most of the rides aren't designed to induce vomiting. They'd start speaking of the place in the same hushed-yet-excited tones that my childhood friends had used, and I found myself thinking, "Well, maybe it wouldn't be so bad. But I don't really care if I go or not."
Enter my friend Kathy. When my other friends said, "Let's go to Disneyland," they meant, "If you organize a trip to Disneyland, we'd love to tag along." When Kathy says, "Let's go to Disneyland," she means, "Unless you stop me, we're going to Disneyland." I haven't stopped her, so it looks like this October we're going to Disneyland.
Part of me is still nervous that I'll find the whole thing too busy, too cheesy, too tacky, too much. But if I get overwhelmed, I've decided to think of it as anthropology. I can explore and analyze an American pop-cultural icon while secretly finding out what kind of place could inspire grown, intelligent people to the excitement of children. At the very least, the next time I'm accused of being an elitist intellectual snob out of touch with the mainstream, I'll be able to say I've been to Disneyland.