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The Mickey Mouse Club

05/31/2008 05:00PM ● Published by Super Admin

I am not a Disney-phile. I do not have Mickey Mouse decals on the back windows of our Tahoe. And I don’t own mouse ears (contrary to this month’s illustration). But, I love the place anyway.

Growing up in soggy Olympia, Washington, Disneyland to me may as well have been Oz, and most of my grade school friends felt the same way. The sun and surf of southern California seemed a million miles from our lead-gray skies. Not many of our parents had the inclination (nor the money for that matter) to ever plan a trip there. All we knew of the “Happiest Place on Earth” was what we saw watching The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights. It was magical, though – a castle, rising majestically in a land where it never rains...? Oh, man.

Which is why, if over summer vacation one of our classmates had gotten to go, the rest of us would crowd closely around him, for he had been to the Promise Land! With chins dangling near the frayed knees of our Toughskins, we listened as our elementary emissaries spoke in hushed, reverent tones of Pirates of the Caribbean, the Matterhorn and Submarine Voyage. We were awe-struck, dumbfounded and envious.

We all asked, “Did you go to Space Mountain?”

“Six times.”

“No way!”

“My sister threw up her corn dog!”

And in unison we shot back with, “AWESOME!”

For the rest of the school year, that kid could strut around the playground of South Bay Elementary like royalty. I still remember some of them – Robbie Campbell, who was shaving in fifth grade; Jeff Goobe, a kickball legend; Chris Pleasant, whose parents were rich; and Garrett Sailor, whose parents were not at all. Even Kit Sunsten, who had the unsavory reputation as a paste-eater, became cool overnight when he showed up from summer break wearing the coveted Mickey Mouse shirt.

The first time that I went, I was 26. I was recently married and focused on being a true adult for the first time in my life. But the moment I set foot on Main Street USA, it was as though Tinker Bell took her wand and punk-slapped me back to the 1970s.

The castle wasn’t quite as big as it seemed on TV, but it was still, you know, The Castle! And there was Adventureland, Frontierland and the Monorail! I went on the Matterhorn and kept my corn dog down, but the Teacups almost brought back it up. I knew enough to avoid a global-scale song suckering by taking a wide berth around Small World. Space Mountain was every bit as cool as Jeff Goobe said. And while somewhere in nearby Hollywood, a young Johnny Depp was taping the third season of “21 Jump Street,” I became smitten with Pirates of the Caribbean, which is still my favorite ride. The only bummer of the whole day was finding out that they don’t sell beer. Well, that and the Country Bears.

I’ve been back with my family a few times since, even though by the time we leave, the ribs on my wallet are always showing. I mean, let’s be honest, Mickey pretty much attaches a big cartoon vacuum to your bank account from the moment you step off of the parking lot tram. Yet in spite of that, the park retains its sense of time-spared innocence. Maybe it’s because we want it to. Maybe it’s because we need it to. Or maybe it really is real. It doesn’t matter. All I know is, each time I’m lucky enough to go, I become that awe-struck kid again in the frayed Toughskin jeans, and the gray skies seem to be a million miles away. •

Catch Tom on the Pat and Tom Morning Show on New Country 105.1 KNCI.

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