The Happiest Place On Earth, Goddamnit!!

When Jack and Jackson's annual summer camping trip fell apart due to this year's particularly vicious fire season, Jack quickly booked us in for three nights at Disneyland. This normally impossible feat -- finding a vacancy at the happiest place on earth with anything short of three months' notice -- was made possible this year thanks to crazy gas prices, a flailing economy, and fading interest in a bunch of weird rides inspired by 60-year-old cartoon movies based on Middle European fairy tales. But, hey! Cocktails!

We saw this Mustang driving south on the 101 somewhere around Sherman Oaks. The pink stripe makes me so happy. I hope the driver is some incredibly macho guy who sold more Mary Kay products than anyone else in the western division.

We made it down to Anaheim in a record-breaking two hours. What's up, L.A. traffic? You're not so tough on a Sunday, hah!

This is Jackson waiting at the hotel check-in, doing his uncanny impression of Peter Fonda as an unwashed second grader.

We got our bags up to the room and then went straight to the monorail that takes you into the park. Jackson persisted in calling it "the monterey," which I let him do for a couple of days before correcting him because it's always amusing when children mispronounce things (we're still working through the hilarious breakfast/brefkast conundrum I initiated some years back), and also: damn, I'm raisin' me a California boy.

First in line for the monorail was a guy wearing a baseball shirt that said GROOM on the front and a top hat bedecked with mouse ears, and his cellmate, who wore a matching BRIDE shirt and a veil similarly adorned with the sign of the mouse. I used to pity the small-minded citizens who chose to enact the sacred bonds of marriage in a theme park, but now I'm like, whatever, kids, you look like you're having fun so what the fuck do I know.

Jackson's favorite ride from our last two trips was the Buzz Lightyear thing where you spin through the dark with a laser gun and try to blast the evil Emperor Zurg and his minions to kingdom come. So that's where we went first. It was a beautiful afternoon, lines were short, life was good, and I was just trying to snap a stealthy photo of the weird surfing Mickey Mouse embroidered on that woman's visor when holy smoking Jehoshaphat, a skeleton with plastic tits wearing pink baby doll pajamas walked into the frame. God bless America.

After Buzz Lightyear we headed over to Dumbo, where I indulged in a little self-portraiture. Get ready, because I won't be looking that rested and ready too much longer.

Jackson was really bummed because It's A Small World was closed for refurbishment and that's his second favorite ride. So in the manner of anxious, guilty parents everywhere, I bought him the junkiest, sweetest crap food I could find to cheer him up. I'm exaggerating, of course. Cotton candy has vitamins in it now, as required by law in the state of California.

What I really wanted to get a photo of here (but lacked the nerve) was the six-year-old kid behind greenie there who had metal teeth. I understand the allure of preventive dentistry, believe me, but what the hell does it cost to cap every last one of your child's baby teeth? The kid seemed to dig it, though. He kept cackling and threatening to bite his sister.

Eventually we made it back to Downtown Disney, where Jackson begged to go over to the magic kiosk and watch the counter guys do tricks and try to gouge the straights with overpriced packs of exploding gum. Jackson's not a shy kid, he kept pointing to the display wall and asking, "How do you do that trick? And that one, and that one, and that one," until the counter guys were forced into a W. C. Fields-esque paroxysm of grim botheration. Then Jack would saunter over and pay for some bit of magic paraphernalia and the salesman's jaw would slowly, gratefully unclench.

Man, I'll have whatever he's having. Which in this case was mediocre Italian food and the most intricate free balloon shark in all the land.

Now, wait a minute. Does there actually exist a monument of structural engineering so beloved of woman that the boldest way to attest to the poignant sway it holds over her heart is to wear its name ironically stamped across her ass?! My god, I love this country. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

This street musician was so desperate for attention that he set his piano on fire. Actually, it was just a smoke machine but Big Gulp there in the work boots was digging the "Chariots of Fire" vibe pretty hard.

The next morning we got up way too freaking early so we could be at the gates to the park at 7:00 a.m. This was all in an effort to get on the Finding Nemo submarine ride without having to wait an hour-and-a-half. Turns out about 600 other people had the same idea. But we got our hustle on and only had to wait about 20 minutes for a boring-ass underwater adventure with absolutely no surprises, just lots of restful bubbles and drowsy waving plastic sea plants and Albert Brooks moaning Nemo! and Ellen Degeneres laughing derisively. Or whatever, who knows, on four hours' sleep you can't expect much from my short-term memory.

However, one unexpectedly delightful result of the Nemo snooze-fest was that Jackson suddenly felt big-boy enough to ride the Matterhorn, a rattley old roller coaster that runs around mostly inside of a giant plaster mountain. Yay, Jackson! The growling yeti with the glowing red eyes freaked him out a little, but all in all it was a triumph of white-knuckled, woo-hooey fun.

The next logical step: spin mommy sick on the teacups.

Oh, no you don't, I'm staying over here. Wave, everybody! Everybody, hi! HI, LOOK! WE'RE ALL WAVING!
Disneyland Teacups from Eden M. Kennedy on Vimeo.

One thing that movie reveals that still pictures can't is the constant din of piped-in music every-bloody-where you go. Bars, restaurants, shops, the swimming pool, it's like the CIA infiltrated Disneyland to hone their torture techniques. Underneath it all are the usual subliminal messages. "Stop trying to think! Relax, goddamnit! Now open your wallet!" The only quiet place, ironically, is the hotel elevator.

Toon Town is mostly a place to wander around and look at acromegalic claymation-style buildings and wait for Donald Duck to waddle by. But, being Disneyland, there's always a gift shop nearby!

You know what he said when he put on this hat, seriously? "Mom, I'm all ears."

Jack bought him the oversized comedy mouse gloves as well, thank god. Then Tinkerbell had a heart attack and another mime was born.

On the last day we hauled it on over to California Adventure, which seems to be Disneyland's answer to Knott's Berry Farm, much to Jack's disgust. But the people watching continued to be phenomenal.

Here we see Jack menacingly waiting for the giant animated potato-head Don Rickles to tell a joke that's actually funny. Potato Head is feeling the pressure! Fortunately, Toy Story Midway Mania was hands down the best ride of the whole week.

Yeah, mom, looking a little haggard here. Nothing $100 and a pair of 3-D glasses won't fix. Sort of. At my age you learn to live with a certain amount of irreparable damage.

What's that you say? You're looking for yet another garishly designed souvenir t-shirt but are afraid there's not a gift shop within wallet-bleeding distance? Oh, pshaw! Come to the midway and bow down to the giant head hovering over the cash register! The nice real estate broker we met in line is using a cash sacrifice to keep the earthquakes at bay.

I guess he didn't dig deep enough because that was quite a little shaker we got.

In the end, we had to leave Jackson behind. Jack propped him up on a giant Lego in the hopes that the locals would feed him and allow him to remain in Disneyland forever.

Somehow he figured out a way to get down and demanded we buy him a grilled cheese sandwich and a Shirley Temple.

And so with sore feet, empty pockets, and swollen bellies, we bid adieu to the magic kingdom . . .

It was nice to come home.