This is easily the most popular photo I’ve ever taken. It has thousands of likes on Flickr; it’s made the Reddit rounds; It Could Haz Cheezburger. I snapped this at Off The Page in Disney California Adventure in October 2009, and yes, I moved the figurines together; they weren’t positioned like this when I discovered them.
I have two reasons for posting this image here today. First and foremost is that this shot has found its way into the Tumblr/Pinterest realm of hazy authorship, and I need to assert my claim to this thing before it ends up being credited to some other horny idiot. (At this time I’d like to express my gratitude to Heather at I Can Haz Cheezburger?, who responded to my pissy email with more politesse than it deserved.)
The other reason I’m posting here today is because I think the October 2009 visit that produced this irresistible image was my most recent visit to the parks. Three years ago. I can’t believe it, either. I’ve been to Walt Disney World twice in the last three years, and have enjoyed my visits there–but I haven’t been back to the theme park(s) that inspired the creation of this bl-g for three years, due to financial hardship and simple bad luck.
Obviously I miss it. I miss the ways it feeds, and feeds on, my imagination. Some criticize Disney’s theme parks for being tightly-controlled experiences; they compare it to stuff like Burning Man, where you can pretty much write your own dusty-dicked adventure from start to finish. I’m not criticizing that–in fact, I’ve just agreed to attend my first Burn next year, in spite of my intense dislike of portable toilets. But it’s unfair to criticize Disneyland or Disney California Adventure for telling stories in their own way. No two people hear stories the same way. And where someone else sees a shelf of expensive figurines from Disney’s animated movies, I see the inset photo.
In a way, that’s what Disneyland has always been about, to my thinking: It’s whatever you bring to it. If you’re a collector, you see the shopping. If you’re a parent, you see the Park through your children. And if you’re like me, you see the artistry, the detail, and the coincidences. You look for these coincidences, these strange connections, and if you’re lucky, every so often you get a photo of one of them.
I’m happy to say that I’m a full-time working journalist once again. (You can read my stuff at Vegas Seven, a Las Vegas alternative weekly magazine, if you’re into that sort of thing.) And I’m closer to Disneyland, financially and spatially, than I’ve been in years. If I wanted to, I could drive there right now; it’s only three to four hours’ drive from Las Vegas to Anaheim, and a 40-minute walk to the three-hour line for Radiator Springs Racers.
But today, I find it’s enough to want it. In a way, missing Disneyland fills the heart as much as actually being there does. The imagination stretches beyond the berm; you wonder what it would be like to go there with a friend who hasn’t been there yet (I yearn to be the Ray Bradbury-like guide to someone’s Charles Laughton), or you wonder if there’s something there you haven’t yet seen–some strange and wondrous coincidence, waiting to jump in front of you and challenge you to take its picture.