jayellebee's Blog

January 31, 2012

With Fresh Eyes

Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 10:43 pm

     Mom made lavender “mother-daughter” cotton dresses for us to wear on our first visit to Disneyland in the spring of 1956.  Our family foursome spent an eternity taking the train from Oakland to somewhere in SoCal, where we stayed with good friends.  Even today, I can’t tell where Garden Grove ends and Anaheim begins.  Back then, just shy of my seventh birthday, I doubted we were still in California.  Or even America, for that matter.  I’d never been SO FAR from home.

The vacation racked-up a fist-full of firsts.  In addition to riding the rails and seeing Mickey on his home turf, I got a noisy pair of maracas from the farmer’s market (instead of the baby alligator I wanted).  I peered into the Brea Tar Pits, and experienced profound disappointment when not one single dinosaur stared back.  I learned about shuffle board beside our friends’ backyard pool, and was thrilled to receive my Junior Stewardess wings, presented with great fanfare, on the exhilarating (prop airplane) flight home.

I’ve returned to the Magic Kingdom many times in the years since.  Several trips as my parents’ child.  Another batch as the parent of my children.  Last week a friend and I did the unthinkable.  We two ladies strolled Main Street and explored California Adventure without any accompanying youngsters.  That’s right.  Two grown women who enjoy a good time and don’t care who knows it.

Our three-day passes went into play during an unusual January warm spell – even by Anaheim standards.  I traded my cold weather gear for short sleeves and upped my sunblock from SPF 15 to “Infinity and Beyond.”  Unbelievable.   A heavy rain the day before our arrival meant excellent air quality and something I’d never seen before: a view of the snow-topped mountains to the east of the Southern California basin.   Amazing.  Poised for action as the parks opened each morning, reluctant to leave when loud speakers announced the closing each night, my friend and I spent our days walking purposefully from one attraction to the next.  Fantastic!

     California Adventure was all-new to me.  Soarin’  is spectacular, especially when you get to sit front-row-center.  The Grizzly River Run is wet and wild, especially at night.  A seemingly innocuous, kiddie-size roller coaster called Goofy’s Sky School left me especially hoarse and shaky.  Goofy joined the Tower of Terror on my personal No-Ride list.  Toy Story Mania (aka  TSM to those in the know) is my current favorite addiction.

I’ve always been aware how clean the happiest place on Earth is.  Litter is non-existent and bathrooms, despite continuous hour-after-hour use, shine.  Meticulous landscapers toil unseen to compliment every aspect of the park.  Weed-less, blooming plants invite smiles.  A hundred foot high, white-barked eucalypts tree is pruned to accentuate delicate limbs.  Blinking “fairy lights” enhance the nights’ festive atmosphere.

By contrast, the omnipresent attention to detail throughout the parks caught me by surprise.  Somehow, I’ve always been too busy enjoying the big picture to appreciate the delicate network of supporting illusions.  Just as an author creates realism by including sensory information (the main character shivers in a chill breeze, subtle sounds populate the foggy dawn, salty air shrouding a cruise ship lingers on the tongue), so Disney Imagineers make unreal surroundings credible.

Visitors descending into the subterranean “It’s a Bug’s Life” theater pass through rock strata and smell musty, damp dirt.  Passengers weaving their way to the The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad boarding platform pass through a gold rush era town where a pelt dries outside the tannery shop and a scaled-down stamp mill stands ready to crush ore.  The weather vane atop the Haunted House casts a sailing ship-shaped shadow on the widow’s walk.  Neptune himself perches on the roof of The Little Mermaid’s building.  Little touches with a huge impact.

A marvelous, exhibit called The Disney Gallery occupies a storefront on Main Street.  Look to your right immediately upon entering  Disneyland.  This “Don’t Miss” attraction is for those of us who grew up watching Annette and Cubby on The Mickey Mouse Club.   Sketches hung throughout a spacious cluster of rooms illustrate Walt’s initial conception of how the park should appear.  Quotations provide insight to his philosophy, “Give people more than they can see all at once, and they will return again and again.”  Framed newspapers document the opening ceremony on July 17, 1955.   Photographs remind us of attractions we enjoyed but which no longer exist:  The canoes circling Tom Sawyer Island, the mule ride, the painted desert, the spaceship ride to the moon, the house of tomorrow….

I saw things on this latest trip to one of California’s most iconic destinations that were new to me.  I viewed familiar sights with fresh eyes, noticing details created and placed with such thought their presence was easy to overlook.  Best of all, even though I traveled SO FAR from home, I felt completely AT home, and spent time with some very special old friends.



  1. Great way to see the Magic Kingdom–kid-less or with adult kids like we did 5 years ago. See us on the California Adventure SunWheel on my YouTube channel http://bit.ly/zzsNTK. In addition to my growing year, I spent 3 years of of my college days working at The Happiest Place on Earth.

    Comment by Chris Pedersen — January 31, 2012 @ 11:39 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Joanne, I thoroughly enjoyed the power of Disneyland. Your vivid descriptions make me want to revisit the place. Now I understand why friends of my visit Disneyland every year. Fran

    Comment by Fran Wojnar — February 5, 2012 @ 11:09 am | Reply

  3. Totally delightful! And the photo of Mickey Joanne is charming.

    Comment by Jean G — February 17, 2012 @ 12:11 pm | Reply

  4. Hey lady…..the canoes are still there! You have to go in summer or on the weekends 🙂

    Comment by Fanny — February 29, 2012 @ 10:26 am | Reply

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