Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Day At The Park

I should have seen it coming.

After scheduling and rescheduling the trip, we finally decided it—the second Saturday of November this year, my family was going to Disneyland! True, we live only a short drive from Anaheim, but a visit to “the happiest place on Earth” still brings with it careful planning accompanied by a youthful thrill. One doesn’t just show up to the place. No sireee. You build up anticipation and then you go and go until you can’t stand a moment longer. That’s how it’s done in my family. Plan. Play. Throw up.

And, it was to be a particularly exciting trip this time since my parents were joining us.

I know. You think you see it coming already. But trust me, you don’t. Though I’m sure you can already tell, it wasn’t gonna be just another “day at the park.” Pun intended. I can do that. My blog. Intended puns are allowed.

Longtime fans of this lil’ ol’ blog will know that Disneyland has proven to be the source of much irony for me over the years. Look no further than my October 2007 or May 2008 blog entries to see what I mean. Yes, that was a moment of shameless self-promotion, but once again, it’s my blog. So, I can do that, too. What’s to stop you from getting your own blog? Do it. I dare you.

Now, where was I? Oh yeah. Happiest place on Earth.

Those who know me well know that Disneyland seems to press my mischief button, where I find myself marveling at the minutiae that Disney seems to foresee while simultaneously imagining just what I could do at the park to subvert their foresight. That’s quite a challenge. But it’s how my mind works. It always seems to be asking, “At this moment, in this place, what’s the absolutely wrong thing to do… and what would happen if I did it?” It’s a terrible trait and I’m not proud of it. But there it is. An honest moment of self-deprecation. And for free. Ain’t the blog the thing?

Add to my natural mischievousness, a certain surliness prompted, no doubt, by my proximity to my parents. The effect of this proximity is not unlike matter joining anti-matter, or dogs meeting cats, or Obama meeting McCain. It's all nice until it isn't.

It must be said that trips with my parental units have always invited a certain je ne sais quoi, where I revert to the irritable, impish teenager I once was and they become hyper-emphatic exaggerations of themselves. Tell me I’m not the only one this happens to. Jeepers, I’m over 40 and still….

So, with my natural badness enhanced by my regression, you have, my friends, just the right/wrong confluence of earthly forces which has been known to prompt natural disasters, topple nations, or at least make foreign visitors re-think the wisdom of visiting the old U.S. of A.
But on this day, I was behaving. It was all under control—no Tourette's-syndrome-like outbursts from me. I had found some sort of existential zen place, or maybe it was just the calm before the storm.

Either way, it was all business—until we began to notice that this Disney day was looking a little different than usual.

After dropping off a hundred coats and fifty bottles of water at the nine-inch square locker on Main Street, I started to notice that some of the other guests were looking a little bit… well, undead. In fact, a significant percentage of the patrons were wearing some sort of black garment, some manner of facial jewelry, gloves, makeup, bat ears, devil horns… you get the picture. It was like Count Chocula’s birthday party without the crunchy marshmallow parts.

People in Gothic-wear were everywhere! We’re not talking dozens. Not even tens or hundreds. My friends, we’re talking a sea of thousands. Mickey and Minnie were not the only characters in the park that day, but no one was taking pictures with the dude who had a ring through his nostrils.

The others like us—let’s call them “the non-Goths”—were catching on, too. Old ladies, children, foreign visitors, all had befuddled looks on their faces. Was this Disneyland? I’ve been there often enough to know this sort of death march down Main Street is not on the usual menu, but the newbies must’ve certainly been thinking, “There was no one with a skull belt buckle or lip rings in the brochure.”

I couldn’t help but smile. It seemed, after all, I wasn’t the only one who pondered the ways a person (or a horde of people!) could subvert the Disney order of things. I seemed to have an affinity with people who looked like they went bare-face bobbing in a tackle box. And I didn’t mind it. This was funny.

It turns out this day was called, “Bats Day.” It’s an annual event where “Goths” from all over the world (underworld?) come to Disneyland to be themselves, to roam the park amongst the living as though the Haunted Mansion ride had belched up its animatronic inhabitants.

The real humor for me began when a man (I think) who looked like Edward Scissorhands walked by us, fingering his pentagram necklace while walking with his girlfriend (I’m guessing here) who was dressed in a white bridal gown, black Doc Marten boots with buckles, and a top hat. Tres chic. Like Brad and Angelina after a dirt nap.

My 65 year-old mother turned to me and said, “What are they?”

“Goths,” I said.

“Is that their religion?” She was puzzled.

“Not exactly.”

“Well, what do they believe?”

Now I was puzzled. “I think they believe in wearing funny clothes and going to Disneyland. Kinda like us.”

She rolled her eyes on account of my making fun and stopped asking questions.

We went about our day, sharing rides and tables and places in line with these folks, and I soon came to realize that there were even Goth subcultures:

Pippi Longstocking Goths—characterized by the horizontal pigtails and penciled-in freckles… or was that the plague?

Dr. Suess Goths—the ones with the red and white striped leggings and the droopy gloves. Would you eat them with a fox? Would you eat them in a box?

Matrix Goths—long leather coats and the apparent desire to fold backwards as though dodging slow-motion bullets.

Mad Hatter Goths—those with giant top hats and inexplicable insanity. A very merry un-birthday to you, my pale little friends.

Renaissance Goths—the ones with the frilly shirts and collars. Ironic since “Renaissance” means rebirth and they looked dead. Ha! A little English major humor, don’t ya know?

Pin Cushion Goths—more piercings than a trout farm fish’s lip. Sorta like that guy from the “Hellraiser” movie—the human voodoo doll.

I’m sure there were more Goth subcultures, but to discover and catalog them all would have required more staring than I was prepared to do. They were nice, but I wasn’t gonna push it.

All said, the day was a raging success. It was both Disney and anti-Disney all in one great package. And I didn’t get in trouble once! No outbursts. No insults I couldn’t take back. No sideways looks from suspicious park security people. I was all on my best behavior. But, let’s face it—I had minions to do my evil for me this time around!

And, I’ll tell you this. Before the day was out I got myself an annual pass.

I can’t wait for the next Bats Day. I wonder what I’ll wear…

© 2008, Herb Williams-Dalgart