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Author and journalist

A melancholic’s guide to Disney World

This is my eighth trip. The first was when I was 19 years old.  The two daughters I bring with me are older now than I was then.

“This might be the last chance we get before we have to bring grandchildren,” I say as we board the Magic Express at the Orlando airport. “You said that last time,” the 25-year-old replies.  A second-year law school student, she has avoided telling her friends what this trip to Florida is for.  The 21-year-old is graduating from university; that’s why we’re here this time, I tell them. They smile, trying to be nice.

We are staying at Disney’s Grand Floridian. In the past have stayed at every resort on the monorail—the Polynesian, the Contemporary–and a couple that are accessible by bus.  One, the Wilderness Lodge, we had to get to by boat. I think that’s eight trips; I’m afraid to count. We know how to use FastPass, Magic Your Way, Extra Magic Hours and bribery so well we can canvas the Magic Kingdom’s fastest rides in less than three hours. Ten years ago, on an Amazing Race that seems insane in hindsight, we went by taxi from the Orlando Airport between flights to visit.  My husband stayed at the airport. We only got on Pirates of the Caribbean, but it was worth it.

Here’s where I mention in a sidelong kind of way that I have a master’s degree in English literature from one of North America’s premier universities, that I was a journalist for 15 years and won two national writing awards, that I have authored two books, and that my favorite writers are people like D.M. Thomas or Virginia Woolf or Lauren Hillebrandt, people whose writing is so stellar the literary conversation saddens you as it ends.

When a conversation ends with people who work at the Magic Kingdom, they say, “Have a magical day.”

I know you’re thinking that going to Disney World means pursuit of some plastic magic, a synthetic joy that comes with too much sugar, speedy rides, stunning lineups and cranky people. Nope, as Goofy would say. You maybe think it’s chasing nostalgia, but my parents never took me to anything Disney because it was the Spawn of the Crass American Devil.  Canadian television had Bugs Bunny cartoons, not Disney, and our TV trays on Saturday evenings (hamburgers, potato chips, celery sticks) were angled towards to the cynical, out-of-focus futilities of Wile E. Coyote and Ralph and Sam.  My dad loved Ralph and Sam. He said it reminded him of being in the army.

I go to Disney World because I am a melancholic person by nature.  It delivers a silly serotonin to which my brain responds (Silly Serotonin would have been a much better title for the Warner Bros. cartoons than Merrie Melodies).  It gives us the selfish, give-me-the-Mickey-shaped-chocolate-potato-chips childishness that growing up with people who believed in the Spawn of the Crass American Devil denied.  It bleeds the adult right out of you–all right, that’s enough.  Which is what I say every time I leave this magic kingdom. Until next time.

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