As a child I had to be removed, screaming, from Disneyland's Rocket to the Moon attraction. I fell in the water on the Jungle Cruise. It was on the Fantasyland motor boats that I learned my parents were capable of deceiving me: "Jimmy, your frenetic steering saved us again!" they'd cheer, knowing all along it was hidden tracks that kept us from dashing on the rocks. The Teacups still make me sick, and I'd only go through the treacly It's a Small World ride again if I had a flame thrower.
But I love Disneyland still. I love the rides and the memories. I can recite the narrations from several of the rides. As I get older I revel in Disneyland's creations and fantasies, forgetting that when I was young I was as cynical as one kid I saw on a recent trip there, who on the submarine ride declared, "Aw, that's not real water!" This after the wee fellow had waited in line for longer than an entire Mutant Ninja Turtle movie with nothing but adults' hairy legs to entertain him.
Reaching the "You Must Be This Tall to Drive" line for the Autopia cars is an accomplishment I've chosen to coast on for the rest of my life. And whenever I'm stuck in traffic behind some jerk's Mercedes, the smell of its diesel smoke immediately calms me with memories of an idyllic childhood in those little Autopia cars. Then I ram the guy.
Speaking of smells, nearly my favorite thing about the Magic Kingdom is the unique perfume of the rides in Fantasyland. It's subtle, but unforgettable, and that's the only place on earth I've come across it. Maybe it's the paint, maybe gear oil. Maybe it's the scent of toiling dwarfs, I don't know. I've placed some calls to the park, and we'll let you know if we find out what it is.
My very favorite thing, though, is the lore that has built up about Disneyland and our other amusement parks among locals.
The most persistent rumor about the Happiest Place on Earth is that Walt Disney's cryogenically frozen body is interred there. When I was a kid the word was that his chilly remains were hidden in the newly opened haunted house. In this, the cost-cutting Eisner era, they probably just truss ol' Walt up and sling him down the wire as Tinkerbell every night.
Lore has is that a hose of thick Coca-Cola syrup runs under the park to the Tomorrowland Terrace, the busiest burger stand on earth, and that much of the park's food preparation takes place underground. That there is a basketball court in the lower structure of the Matterhorn. That the Viet Cong flag once flew over the fort on Tom Sawyer's Island (during an early-'70s YIPPIE anti-war protest that had helmeted riot police charging through the park).
One bit of lore among youths that proved patently untrue was that the late lamented Monsanto "molecule" ride was the best place in the park to accomplish illicit deeds, due to its darkness and the semi-enclosed two-person pods. The ride was supposed to simulate our being shrunk to a sub-atomic level, and some folks elected to speed the process by sparking up a joint. Meanwhile, security staff were on a walkway right alongside, and one such Disney employee I knew picked up some pretty good stuff by scaring smokers into chucking their stashes overboard.
It also was a ride where folks got intimate, and this same fellow was working the turnstile one day when a randy-looking couple asked him how long the ride was. "Oh, about 35 minutes," he said, and alerted the rest of the staff to be on the lookout when the couple hit daylight four minutes later in an acrobatic state of undress. Without making any endorsement of such kissy-face activities, I'd recommend the skyway gondolas between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland as the only ride in the park that's even semi-private.
With enough kids in tow, even responsible parents may wonder, "Where can I get a good stiff drink in Disneyland?" Practically anywhere, if you bring a hip flask. Otherwise the only hooch poured in the park is in New Orleans Square's exclusive Club 33, though you probably won't get in the door unless you're at least as famous at Telly Savalas, no matter how much you beg.
There's the occasional rumor of ghosts in the park. Certainly there's been enough of the raw material for spirits, since, despite Disney's best intentions to the contrary, folks do get squished there from time to time. Years ago, one teen checked out on the People Mover, an inglorious way to go considering that the ride moves about as fast as a refrigerator. Then, there was that bright guy who stood up on the Matterhorn, whose last words must have been something like, "Hey, watch me shear my head right. . ."