Unfit Father

Published on April 13th, 2015 | by Richard Black

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Going Disney: Prologue

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The happiest place on earth that is not a a shady massage parlor.

After determining that there hasn’t been enough upheaval in my life (rehabbing a home, moving into said home, possibly poisoning my daughter with lead and evacuating the home until it and all of it’s contents can be properly cleaned) I’m going to Disney World. That’s not a euphemism for anything else by the way I’m really going to Disney World.

My wife Laura has been planning the trip for the better part of a year and I felt as if it’s the least I can do to come along after all of the upheaval I’ve caused. I don’t generally travel well and I anticipate large crowds in much the same way a veteran suffering from PTSD looks forward to a really good fireworks show. I’ve put my family through enough however and we need a break even if it involves dragging me, the crabbiest 90 year old man in a 40 year old body, to the Happiest Place on Earth (a slogan that has always reminded me of something one would read over the door of the back room in a shady “massage” parlor).

I have been told that I will love it.

No really I’ve been told by my wife under the implicit threat of divorce that I Will LOVE THE EXPERIENCE!!! and I fully intend to despite the fact that I do not work well under pressure. The trip is, after all, for my daughter Darcy. I feel compelled to mention that fact and not just because I’m a fantastic father. I’ve always believed that couples who vacation in Disney World without their children to hump themselves silly on a wedding anniversary in an amusement park designed for minors are creepy people. Unless of course you’re into that sort of thing and reading this in which case I’m sure you’re a fine upstanding and attractive tax paying citizen who is not inclined towards pedophilia in any way shape or form or fucking Goofy (see what I did there, enjoy it, love it). The fact that our wedding anniversary falls during the timing of this trip is really happenstance at least that’s what my wife keeps telling me.  No matter what the reason however the celebration is moot as I’ve heard that erections have been banned in Disney World since the late 1990’s.

Laura has spent quite a lot of time planning this vacation and I have been a reluctant participant in the process. Standing in line for hours with a bunch of portly sweating fellow Midwesterners to watch the creepy animatronics of “It’s a Small World” or slide down a log flume in water that hasn’t been changed since the park opened in the 1970’s isn’t generally what I’d call a good time. Despite my qualms I’ve woken up at four in the morning with Laura to secure reservations for dining, learned that there is in fact a dining plan for Disney World and consoled my wife with martinis when we learned that we were 24 hours late to reserve fast passes for Mister Toad’s Barfing Teacups ride or a boutique that might as well be called How to Make Your Daughter Look Like a Disney Princess Whore.

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Apparently you can rent one of these for your trip to Disney World. I’m totally talking about the wheelchair, not the person in the wheelchair or the sign. That would be weird and probably cost about $1,000 a day.

Disney World has changed since I was a youngster and planning for it is really a part time job. There are the aforementioned meal plans and fast passes and there are even bracelets that store one’s pertinent information and credit cards to more easily separate one from his or her money. There’s even a photographer who can take pictures (for a fee of course) of the process while it all takes place. One can even apparently, and I should mention without Disney’s consent, rent the use of a disabled person for a day to skip through lines if one is unscrupulous enough to want to do that sort of thing.

The last time I was in Disney World I must have been about ten or so and my sister Frit was around nine. I don’t remember much about the trip aside from the fact that I didn’t want to ride anything more exciting than a carousel that ran around at a blazing two miles an hour. Frit followed suit and our timidity, although somewhat appropriate, maddened our parents and probably had something to do with their subsequent divorce a few years later.

My sister and I grew up in rural Indiana and our entire experience with any sort of amusement park ride was limited to the county fair. There’s really no was to replicate the experience of going on a ride, really any ride, at a county fair in the 1980’s but they were horrifying. Crystal meth wasn’t all that big at the time but if it was the carnies would have used it in copious amounts. Most of them were also missing a leg or an eye, numerous teeth, perhaps a finger or two that had been presumably torn off  while operating heavy machinery in a drug addled haze or lost in a cage match. These were the people entrusted with erecting the rusted and aging equipment, as well as properly connecting the hydraulics necessary to stop and start the chaos (if they saw fit), that would ostensibly delight and more often than not scare the living shit out of small children.

Through years of heavy drinking I’ve managed to repress most of those memories but one however remains at the forefront of my mind at times like this. I haven’t seen the ride for at least two decades. It was called the SuperLoop and aside from the word ” loop” the rest of the name was quite misleading.The “ride” (please forgive me for the use of quotation marks. I generally like my sarcasm to stand on its own merit without the use of cheap literary devices but I’m tired and really feel that, in this particular case, they’re appropriate) consisted of a set of roller coaster cars on a track that went around and around in a loop. Sounds innocuous right? It wasn’t. Combined with the aforementioned dangers one might generally expect from an aging device assembled by a group of people with a collective IQ slightly higher than a brain dead ferret was the fact that the ride was also operated by a related group of people with a sense of humor that would have made Charles Manson run for the hills.

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Please do not note that this picture was taken in black and white and might reflect upon the age of this ride or my own.

The only safety feature on the SuperLoop was a small three quarter inch bar intended to hold the occupants of the car in place but stopped at the bulkiest person’s gut which in rural Indiana was usually quite ample. The end result was that most children had a good six inches of space between their legs and the “safety” bar which might have worked out well if the operator didn’t delight in letting the entire set of cars hang upside down for a few minutes while we all screamed in absolute terror with our arms locked into place as our change fell forty feet straight down into the smoking gears of the ride. Most of us left the SuperLoop broken in spirit as well as our body and none of us were ever really the same.

It was with this background that my sister and I approached Disney World. Parents are often told that children are remarkably resilient when it comes to healing from past trauma but that certainly wasn’t true in my case. After wandering around the park for the better part of three hours and backing out of at least four rides each more dull than the last my parents dropped the hammer. Enough was enough they said in unison and then declared that we would leave the park unless each of us picked something more adventurous than four foot slide to ride. It was an odd moment of solidarity between the two of them and one that probably added a few months to the life of their marriage.

If memory serves Frit ended up on a double ferris wheel and I was forced to go on a roller coaster that, in retrospect, was probably didn’t have a hill on it higher than three feet. Frit loved the ferris wheel and rode it again and again and again. I sobbed through my entire ride. Instead of coming around to the thrill of being scared half to death I white knuckled the “safety bar” of the cart on the coaster on every hill while my father threw his hands in the air and whooped it up.

Despite my past experiences my intention is to be as pleasant as possible for my family’s sake. Over the course of the next few days I’d like to chronicle our trip for your reading pleasure and my edification. We’ll see how it goes.

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