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Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Down and Drunk in the Magic Kingdom

OK, neither of us got all that drunk in Disney World but I had to come up with some kind of a riff on that Cory Doctrow book. Time for a slide show...

Say what you will about the Disney parks. That if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all. That they're overpriced and filled with the worst examples of American humanity imaginable. That they, perhaps even more so than the Circus Circus casino circa 1972 best exemplify the death of the American Dream or whatever Hunter S. Thompson was babbling about in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Despite all of that, the people running these places know their way around explosives. This photo was taken from a restaurant at the Japanese Pavilion during EPCOT's nightly fireworks extravaganza. The show beings with a four-story tall fireball in the middle of the park's lagoon. Why? I have no idea and I don't think the pyromaniacs running the show do either. It just looks cool and from the window of that restaurant it looked like the end of the world at the Itsukushima Shrine.

This is also pretty creepy. Feel free to mock them but, after few days of 90% humidity and a constant onslaught of singing robots in a paved-over swamp, Dale hats start to make a lot of sense in a Stockholm Syndrome-kind of way. Now why would I or the person I was traveling with subject ourselves to a week of this? Because, somehow, for reasons I can't explain, we consider this sort of thing fun. Or at least a lot more interesting than lounging around on a beach somewhere.

And did I mention the explosions?

Ok, on second thought I cold probably give you a thousand rambling words praising the merits of roller coasters like Expedition Everest or why I consider the Haunted Mansion one of the finest creations of the western world but, instead, here's a photo of an indoor drive-in movie theater/restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Diners sit at tables that look like old Chevys and some of the waitresses zoom around on roller skates. Brilliant!

This is from a mural in the queue line for the dinosaur ride at Animal Kingdom. Isn't that a subversive bit of something else? I'm sure it's led to at least 1/10th as many awkward conversations between parents and their frightened kids as the death of Bambi's mother. Imagine being four years old and, after this uncomfortable reminder of your parents' mortality, your mother leads you onto a three-minute jeep ride through a fake jungle filled with screaming animatronic lizards that leap out of the dark? The stuff of childhood nightmares? Sure.

One thing that sets the Disney parks aside from the likes of the Six Flags chain is the attention to detail. I've never set foot in a small village in the foothills of the Himalayas but after wandering through the recreation at Animal Kingdom I feel like I may as well have. Small Himalayan villages sell $8.00 kids meals and have people in Safari Mickey costumes wandering the streets, don't they?

If you ever feel up to spending a week at Disney World, for whatever reason, I recommend traveling in October. The heat isn't quite as unbearable as August, the crowds are lighter and off-season airfare and hotel rates are obviously cheaper. EPCOT also hosts an excellent Food and Wine Festival. If not for that, I probably would have gone the rest of my life without ever trying escargot or eating anything from New Zealand. I didn't even know people in New Zealand ate food until last week.

There's also the annual series of "Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Parties." During these events full-grown adults run around grabbing handfuls of candy from barrels in Jack Sparrow outfits. We spotted no less than four families dressed as The Incredibles. Outside the resort, the presidential election was in full force and the Dow Jones was jumping up and down like a rabid bear on a trampoline. I guess that's a good part of the appeal of a place like this. It's incredibly easy to turn your brain off at Disney World, a refuge of overpriced PG-rated fun surrounded by a few thousand acres of untapped swampland. I'd like to think my week-long theme park lobotomy did my blood pressure some good.

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