When I was three years old, my parents took me on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. It's probably no surprise to anyone, but I was a frightened child, and even a slow-moving boat was too intense for my little brain. I spent the entire ride screaming my goddamn lungs out. My behavior was so volatile that, afterwards, strangers asked my parents why they felt it was acceptable to take me on the ride.
I, of course, have no memory of this, but my mom has told the story numerous times, and although we (she) can laugh about it now, our family never went to Disneyland again.
So, for all intents and purposes, I've never been to Disneyland, and when my wife Jessica's extended family planned a vacation there, I'm filled with a mixture of excitement and desire to rewrite my legacy as a person who doesn't fuck up a Disneyland trip.
This trip would also coincide with Jessica's sister's engagement to Lewis, a Brit in the special forces overseas. Basically, Lewis is a dreamboat.
I decide early on that I'm not going to let feelings of inadequacy ruin my or anyone else's Disneyland trip. Not again. I'm not going to let it bother me that Lewis' charming British accent casts an immediate spell on all who meet him ("I wanna kiss him!" Jessica says, #jokingnotjoking). I'm certainly not going to dwell on the fact that I was once this family's golden boy. No, none of that should get in the way of a 31-year-old having a great time at Disneyland.
Enchanting music fades in as we walk toward entrance, pumped out of hidden speakers. Its presence is so subtle that I almost miss the transformation from real life to the curated Disney life that exists within the walls of the theme park. Magical, I think, passing through the security. Magical, I think after being picked for a secondary pat down. Disney pat down: A
Space Mountain: I've gotten to that age where I can no longer handle prolonged exposure to Six Flags-intensity rides. Space Mountain (or, Hyperspace Mountain as it's called now, because: Star Wars) seems like it was made for me—not too big, not too fast. Of course, those reasons make me sound like a wuss and therefore I don't share them with Lewis. The greatness of the ride makes Jessica cry. "First, water came out of my eyes and then snot came out of my nose and then drool came out of my mouth," she says. We walk past the screens displaying mid-ride action-shots and I look absolutely terrified. Space Mountain: A!
Indiana Jones: Jessica calls shotgun in the fake car that we ride through ancient ruins. I make a joke about putting our destination in the GPS, but not loud enough for Lewis to hear. Jessica laughs, but I don't care. Indiana Jones: A+!!!
Pinocchio/Mr. Toad's Wild Ride: A doubleheader of classic Disney rides that were apparently built before the invention of adrenaline. A cart pulls us slowly through scenery attempting to tell the story of Pinocchio, but images of donkey abuse and Pleasure Island only depress me.
Due to the uneven number of people in our group, I ride Mr. Toad's Wild Ride by myself. The titular toad takes me through a bar, where a bartender with spinning beers in his hand boozes us up. It may be the most pro-drunk driving escapade in existence. We speed past cops, drive through boxes of dynamite and basically give the DUI judge the middle finger before crashing into a train, dying and going to hell. Numerous times throughout, I whisper, "Oh, shit," to myself. It's fucked up, but then again, that's life. It's probably best to teach kids early on how sad and inconsequential you really are. Both rides: A+++!!!!
Carousel: At one point during our trip, I learn how many burpees, sit-ups and pushups I can do. I ride the carousel to feel like a tough guy, certain that I could beat up at least 80 percent of the kids riding with me. Carousel: A+ squared
Pirates of the Caribbean: This ride turns out to be closed for the foreseeable future, so I can't even exorcise the demons from my first trip. It's cool! I'm not gonna make a big deal of this! If this doesn't bother anyone else (Lewis) then it doesn't bother me! (Closed) Pirates of the Caribbean: All the "A's."
Tower of Terror: After a wine-infused lunch, we venture across the plaza to California Adventure. The enchanted-ness of Disneyland feels gaudy and hallucinogenic over here. "It feels like I'm on some fucked-up drug," Jessica says, looking down the vintage Los Angeles set that appears to stretch forever. I notice more beards over her: Disney riff raff. My kind of people. The wine buzz makes me impervious to the suspense of waiting in line, despite the fact that we're going to be dropped from 13 stories in a free-fall.
The ride's amazing. I can't stop laughing as I feel my stomach lift into my throat. Jessica screams for a solid five seconds after the ride ends. Upon exiting, Lewis and I can't stop bro-ing down about how cool it was. Honestly, he's a very brilliant chap. Tower of Terror: All the "A's" times infinity.
Splash Mountain: It's the last ride of our vacation. I sit in front and it seems like water rushes into my seat at every little drop. On the last fall, a wave floods into my shorts. Splash Mountain? More like Destroy Your Phone Mountain. Nobody else gets wet, especially not Lewis. Splash Mountain: AAAAAAGH!