"You're going to Disneyland alone on a Sunday?!" Half a dozen people looked at me with a mixture of pity, disdain, and curiousity. At a dinner party in Hong Kong on Friday night, I excitedly mentioned my plans for the next few days, one of which was to be photographed with Minnie Mouse in Disneyland Hong Kong. Despite the valiant efforts of pretty much everyone to dissuade me from a weekend trip to any amusement park, my excitement refused to wane.
The last time I visited Disney was in the early 1980's. My parents drove three children for two days from Cincinnati to Florida. It must have been a long trip for them because it was interminable for us. I remember the excitement of entering the park to the tune of "It's A Small World After All," and being greeted by a cast of well-dressed vermin. We spent days spinning in teacups (I do not recommend this at ALL), eating lime sherbet, and waiting for Space Mountain to re-open from repairs (which it never did). Like many childhood memories, the fragments of memory are what stick, years later. I boarded a Disney train bearing Mickey Mouse-shaped windows and sat next to a Chinese man wearing a Cincinnati Reds t-shirt. A good omen, I thought.
In 1928, Walt Disney was travelling by train from New York to Hollywood. En route, he drew a mouse. Then he animated that mouse. And in 1928, that's right, the same year, Mickey Mouse was an overnight success as the world's first sound cartoon debuted in "Steamboat Willie". Hong Kong Disney opened in 2003 with the distinction of being the only Disney in the world to be modeled after Walt Disney's original vision.
After buying a few souvenirs (I've replaced my Gucci wallet with a shiny red Minnie Mouse change-purse), I boarded the train for "Tomorrowland" to attempt, twenty-five years later, to finally ride Space Mountain. The entrance to Space Mountain suggested returning around 8pm to avoid the line. Small problem: it was about noon. Just as I was on the verge of sobbing in despair, a well-dressed vermin asked me if I was single. "Err, who wants to know?" said I. "Single riders separate line," he patiently explained. Ah! Things were looking up! I literally pranced down the "single" line and immediately boarded the ride. Benefits to lack of membership, I say!
Space Mountain was everything I'd been waiting my adult life for: it was scary, fast, there were lots of stars, and I nearly threw up. There is a photo of me, taken by an automatic camera, showing just a little too much fear for someone my age. In short, it was a great ride. I stumbled out of my plastic seat, bolted to the door for some fresh air, and made myself sick-er by eating a rather loose definition of a Chinese cheeseburger and ice cream.
Just as I was emptying my "cheeseburger" into the trash can, I noticed a small crowd gathered in a gazebo. There was no doubt, at least not with all that red-and-white polka dotted fabric: Minnie had arrived. I too-quickly for an adult sprinted to the front of the line, hugged Minnie as tightly as I could while she curtsied, and got my photo snapped. The crowd laughed with me (no, no, not at me) and I wandered over (slowly, for the sake of my dignity of course) to Snow White, who, how do I say this, was rather cantankerous and rude to the little children. I guess if I'd been forced to wear that outdated clothing she's gotta wear, I'd be in pretty low spirits, too.
"Attention pilots: keep your legs INSIDE the flying saucer!" Now, let me ask you, how often do you get to hear that? Nope, not too often. I rode a few more rides, "Orbitron" in particular, where I got to pilot my own four-seater spacecraft (way cool). I then finished my eventful afternoon at the Philhar-magic, which was priceless. As I'm a big fan of the Philarmonic, the idiosyncracies of this experience were adorable: at the entrance to the Philarmagic, a note to Mickey to remember to "tickle the ivories" and to "sweeten the sour notes". Donald Duck featured as the "Conduckster", which for some reason I found hilarious. The performance was 3-D, as all performances of the Philharmonic variety should be. At one point, a gigantic cartoon apple pie flew into my head, while the theater was sprayed with apple pie scent. Same went for a bottle of champagne: as the cork was popped, the audience was sprayed with a mist of (presumably) water.
Five hours later and I'd forgotten to even look at my watch. As my adult side unwillingly dragged my child side back to the Mickey Mouse train, I saw a little Chinese boy passed out cold on his mother's lap. Mouth open, drooling. Man, he looked beat. His mother chatted on her cell phone while I surreptitiously took a photo of what I remember as the best part of Disney: the end of the day when you dream over and over again about all those experiences. It's what the childhood fragments are all about.