13 May 2006

DisneyWeird 1: Introduction & Captain's Discretion

We were a dangerous group for the saccharine pleasures of Orlando. There was the magazine art-director (me), a book editor (wife Marian), her supervisor (Terry, the tall one), a symphonic french horn player and brewmeister (Jay), and a graphic designer and marathon runner (Heather)...

The trip was anchored by Heather's involvement in DisneyWorld's so-called "Minnie Marathon", a 15K women's race which promised to attract a heady mix of serious runners and insane, costumed creatures.

The decision to make it a group outing arose during a typical Friday happy-hour on Capitol Hill, sometime between the third pint of Guinness and the first shot of Jameson... The spirit of adventure often comes alive in times like these.

More than simply giving aid & support to the marathon, we all had unique meta-reasons to visit that strange wonderland. I had never been to Disney-anything before. My own sense of dark humor normally protects me from such happy-chappy stuff. I was CERTAIN there was a psychic barrier at the gates of Disney; an invisible firewall that would detect people like me and deliver a mighty shock, sending all the cynical people scampering like humiliated dogs.

Saint Peter looks down from the gilded archway of paradise, sporting giant cartoon mouse ears, scowling... "christ, dude, I can't let you in here; you'd freak the children!"

No matter! The laws of irony made it IMPERATIVE! I must go to DisneyWorld...


The boat ride from our resort hotel to "Downtown Disney" was tense and smelled of danger. The boats were supposed to depart every 15 minutes, and we waited patiently at the dock. Below us in the water was a mallard duck, lapping the water and obsessively preening with a shattered bill. The top half had been broken clean off, revealing its jittery duck-tongue, giving it nowhere to hide. A strange omen.

The boat finally arrived (after an hour-plus of waiting), and the "captain" was a rough piece of work: Barrel-chested and stuffed into a crisp white shirt, stone-faced and staring silently through mirrored shades... he had the look of an drill sargent driven insane by sterroids. Raw hatred rose like steam from his body, and we quickly determined that, perhaps, we were about to die.

A timid tourist approached the Captain, asking if the boat could please stop at the next resort on the way to Downtown Disney...she had understood that such stops could be requested.

"No. That would be Captain's Discretion" the man replied. He carried himself with all the severity of a shopping-mall security guard lost in a fever-dream of authority. We all boarded the craft and proceeded to CREEP down the river at a pace that barely broke the water. Other boats shot past like rockets while we puttered along. He was doing this deliberately to infuriate us, we thought. Captain's Discretion... We whispered amongst ourselves about about staging a mutiny, a full-blown uprising. Would any of these tourists have the raw chutzpah to join the revolution, I wondered... a quick look around the boat confirmed my fears. We were surrounded by sunburned potato people, and the mutiny died before it ever had a chance.

The Captain ran his boat with all the subtlety of Mussolini, stopping the engine once to turn and glare at a tourist who dared to shift in his seat. "SIR...all persons must remain seated until we reach our destination."

We finally DID reach our destination some 90 minutes later than planned, and the phrase "Captain's Discretion" had become a new term for the Unstoppable Forces of Nature. I figured this captain was on the brink of quitting his job, and refused to babysit these whining, caucasian beasts any more.

Perhaps we'd see something in the news about a Disney boat captain that went mad, brain eaten by syphillis and caffeine pills, who scaled the tower of Cinderella's Castle with a bayonet in his teeth and an automatic rifle strapped to his back, unloading on all the world's tourists while beating his chest and making awful croaking noises at the blood-red sky...

--- Go to Part 2

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