December 31, 2011

2011 heads to Denny's

We'll put another year to bed in about an hour. When you're part of the Disneyland Show, though, time is relative. In the 24/7 world onstage and backstage, landmarks like "midnight" or "morning" don't really apply. Saturday and Sunday might be your Monday and Tuesday, and your "lunch" might be at 6 a.m.

Still, some of the hours that I spent as a Cast Member stand out more than others. The times when being in the Park was better than being just about anywhere else.

Say early enough so that the pavement still has puddles from being washed down as darkness just starts turning to dawn.

Or walking across a hub long emptied of guests and hearing Adriana Caselotti from the wishing well clearly.

Clicking the switch to turn off the lamps on a popcorn wagon as the Main Street Electrical Parade appears.

Posing for snapshots with guests while holding a fresh bunch of Mickey Mouse balloons. Stepping into the Character Shop to use the phone to call the balloon room for more. (The number was "5580." You remember it because you know that you're supposed to drive 55, but you wanna do 80).

Shuffling into X lot at 1:00 a.m. exhausted, then heading over to Denny's or Acapulco's or HoJo's because the people that you work with are all doing the same thing.

Driving the little white Outdoor Vending pickup around behind It's a Small World to stock lemonade at the ice cream train next to the Motor Boat Cruise on a summer afternoon.

Even getting stuck on that train as the sole vendor left on a private party night shift when the Small World clock and the (very) occasional couple of guests are your only company seems not so bad.

Of course, this blog wasn't around back then. And the occasional guests stopping by make now not such a bad time either. Thanks to all of you who enjoy hearing about the Best Possible Job. I hope to spend much more time with you in 2012.

Happy New Year!

December 25, 2011

Being in the present

With the low seniority that I had after becoming a permanent part-time Cast Member in 1983, my Disneyland working hours that year included eight on Christmas day. I lived with a roommate in Anaheim, but home was a couple of hours drive west in Ventura county. I stayed there on Christmas eve before rushing back after a compressed morning with my family to make it to Harbor House in time to clock in.

Heading to work along the nearly empty freeway that early morning probably felt a little bitter. After all, I didn't get to spend the day relaxing or enjoying all my new gifts. I barely had time to open them before I had to run out the door so I could work while others played. That's part of life as a Disneylander, but sheesh, this was Christmas.

After picking up a clean costume, I changed, hefted the canvas bag of rolled coin that my Outdoor Vending supervisor handed me, and headed toward the Plaza, where I worked the popcorn wagon at the far end of Main Street. And the longer that I stood at the hub of a Park that was part of a Christmas tradition for the many who made it a point to visit Disneyland on that particular day—the warmer any cold feelings of losing out on my holiday became.

It wasn't just that I was at Disneyland on December 25. That's always extra special, but by then I'd worked both a summer and nearly a whole holiday season. I'd been to the Park more times than I had as a guest in my life, including on Christmases past.

It was that for the first time I was part of Disneyland on Christmas, a permanent part of the experience that everyone who had paid to be there on that day had wanted to buy. Guests thanked me just for helping the Park to be open. One pair passed out candy canes to me and every host and hostess that they greeted. They said that they considered it their job to cheer us on. Along with the peppermint, we seemed to share a kind of identity; we were somewhat different from everyone who wasn't then working at Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom, and we were somehow better for it.

I started to feel like I should have volunteered for the shift, and I get the same feeling now thinking back on it. It's even making this Christmas warmer.

Quite a present, really. Quite a present.

December 15, 2011

December 15, 1966

Eric Sevareid said it best on the CBS Evening News on this day. Just forty-five years ago, but doesn't it seem like so much longer?

It would take more time than anybody has around the daily news shops to think of the right thing to say about Walt Disney.

He was an original; not just an American original, but an original, period. He was a happy accident; one of the happiest this century has experienced; and judging by the way it's been behaving in spite of all Disney tried to tell it about laughter, love, children, puppies, and sunrises, the century hardly deserved him.

He probably did more to heal or at least to soothe troubled human spirits than all the psychiatrists in the world. There can't be many adults in the allegedly civilized parts of the globe who did not inhabit Disney's mind and imagination at least for a few hours and feel better for the visitation.

It may be true, as somebody said, that while there is no highbrow in a lowbrow, there is some lowbrow in every highbrow.

But what Walt Disney seemed to know was that while there is very little grown-up in a child, there is a lot of child in every grown-up. To a child this weary world is brand new, gift wrapped; Disney tried to keep it that way for adults.

By the conventional wisdom, mighty mice, flying elephants, Snow White and Happy, Grumpy, Sneezy, and Dopey—all these were fantasy,, escapism from reality. It's a question of whether they are any less real, any more fantastic than intercontinental missiles, poisoned air, defoliated forests, and scraps from the moon. This is the age of fantasy, however you look at it, but Disney's fantasy wasn't lethal. People are saying we'll never see his like again.