When I was eight years old, my family took a Vacation-style road trip from Denver all the way to Orange County, California. While it was a two week journey with plenty of action, there are only two really crystal clear memories I have of that trip. One is of my mother and I taking turns talking to truckers on the CB radio. The other is, of course, Disneyland.
A family can't go anywhere near California without the kids asking about Disneyland. Heck, a family can't go on a trip at all without the kids asking about Disneyland. It's mecca. I was never much into Disney, except Herbie the Love Bug which I was obsessed with because my mom drove a VW. Still, even I lost all rationale thinking about Fantasyland and Tomorrowland and that giant Cinderella castle.
Disneyland didn't disappoint. I remember playing on Tom Sawyer's Island, which I never wanted to leave. I remember riding It's A Small World and giggling with my mother because we were both kind of terrified. And I remember waiting outside the Matterhorn as everyone else went on the ride because there was no way - absolutely no fucking way - I was going to ride a roller coaster down a mountain.
But mostly I remember Great Moments with Mister Lincoln.
Follow the jump for the humiliating part....
My step-brother and I were only about a year apart, and we were very different people. That meant we were constantly emotionally tormenting each other. One of the most aggravating things he would do was to slowly eat and savor candy. He could nibble two bites of a Snickers bar and set it aside for an hour before touching it again. Mine would be gone in 30 seconds, and I would spend the rest of the day eyeing his candy bar jealously, wishing I still had sweetly goodness to savor. Sometimes, yes, I would eat his candy, then lick the wrapper clean and throw it on the floor next to the dog. "Uh, oh, the dog ate it." Nobody believed me, of course.
During our visit to Disneyland I decided to change this trend. We kids were each bought colorful lollipops the size of our heads. My step-brother broke his usual pattern by opening his lollipop and sucking on it right away. This was finally my moment! I kept mine carefully wrapped and carried it daintily. I was saving this treat until we got home, and then I was planning to slowly savor it for days. An evil satisfaction welled within me as my step-brother became more and more sticky from his lollipop, relishing my sweet revenge. (rim shot!)
Then we went to that goddamn Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln exhibit. There, in a little town hall building on Main Street, you could watch an inspirational film about the 16th President of the United States, then watch an animatronic Lincoln recite some of his great speeches. The whole exhibit was pretty simple, and nothing remotely as thrilling as all the other rides and activities that day. But when I was a kid I really thought Abraham Lincoln was cool (and I still do. When I visited Washington DC a few years ago, the first thing I did was go to the Ford Theatre), so even though the rest of my family yawned their way into the building, I was tingling with excitement.
There in the auditorium was Abraham Lincoln sitting on stage with his eyes closed. The lights come up and he opened his eyes and looked around. I'd seen animatronics all day, but this time - holy shit! - my own personal hero was right in front of me!! I was tingling with excitement.
And then he began to stand up. The way the animatronic Lincoln stood was creepy - stooped over and rising slowly, then jerkily straightening out - moving like a ghost. And that's what did it. It was quite simply more than I could deal with. I screamed and let go of my lollipop, which fell to the ground and shattered.
I don't remember exactly what happened after that. Maybe I blacked out.
When I was 23 I went back to Disneyland with a good friend during a grand post-collegiate cross-country irony-fueled road trip. I found it to be less of a childhood dream world, and more of a surrealist nightmare. Drinkin' flamin' pirates. Buzzards telling me that I had a "laughing place". Flowers, dancing waters, and Tiki-head walls coming to life and singing. Not to mention the incredibly spooky Haunted Mansion (we had to ride it thrice, it was so awesome).
I didn't get to face Mr. Lincoln again in person. His exhibit was closed for repairs, being refurbished for an all new version (in 2005 the exhibit closed and was replaced with a film of Steve Martin and Donald Duck celebrating - what else - Disneyland). But I did purchase another all-day size-of-my-head lollipop. I carried it with my strong adult hands and nothing scared me into dropping it. No, not even the creepy guy in the Goofy suit.
But as I was leaving the park, my giant sucker got caught on one of the metallic rungs of the full-body turnstiles. I felt it slipping from my hand just as I was making my final irrevocable exit from the park. It was a serendipitous moment, and I like to think that I willingly let go - which I'm not entirely sure is true. Either way, the lolly fell to the ground and shattered once again into tiny shards of sugared confection. But this time, as I stood outside the turnstile and looked inside the gate where the lollipop lay in shatters, I didn't cry and wail and refuse the replacement lollipop that my mom had offered to buy me, like I did all those years ago.
But I do think that Disneyland is out to get me, somehow.