Like Zeus battling the Titans, the Angry Czeck pitted his volcanic rancor against Disney World’s effervescent happiness. Not since Rocky cut the Russian would such a heroic upset be recorded. I ditched my bigheaded secret service goons, sprinted up Splash Mountain and screamed, “Dis-NEEEEEE!” before a theme park of cringing toddlers.
Mine is the anger that melts cryogenically frozen cartoonists. Mine is the rage that zaps flying elephants out of the sky. Behold my homemade leather wallet of hate.
Disney would not break me. Disney would become my bitch, and Minnie Mouse my fourth best ho.
The first knee-to-the-nuts, however, went to Disney. Despite adhering to a rigid itinerary that had us arriving at the Magic Kingdom ten minutes before the drawbridge was raised, the Angry Family was still directed to a parking space approximately 100 miles from the nearest rollercoaster. Damn you Disney! We brought the Angermobile to a stop at a parking area called “Pluto 18.”
Pluto, I grimly noted, is the planet farthest from the sun.
But the Angry Czeck wasn’t here to park. The Angry Czeck was here to make Disney his bitch! Summoning a fresh burst of fury, I yanked the stroller out of the trunk and slam-dunked Angry Two into the seat. Meanwhile, Mrs. Angry and Angry Junior were already hopelessly infected with goofy joy. (To maintain my level of rancor, I vowed to limit my exposure to them.)
One death march, tram ride and a monorail ride later, the Family Angry arrived at the Magic Kingdom. “If you believe, it will come true!” claimed the testicle-free voice of Mickey Mouse. Bite me!
“New chills” were promosed at the Haunted Mansion, an attraction I enjoyed the first and only time I visited Disney World. That was 24 years ago, when I was only the Mildly Aggravated Czeck.
Angry Two is a year old and change. I wasn’t sure how he’d take holographic spirits and day-glo painted animatrons that sprung from behind rubber tombstones. I braced for screams and terror. My concerns were unnecessary. Angry Two waved politely at all the ghosts. Angry Junior articulated in exasperated words of wonder what Angry Two could only communicate through cherubic squeals.
A grin broke my face, and I begrudgingly awarded Disney another point.
It’s A Small World is the only world that makes complete sense to Angry Two. Everybody is less than two-feet tall. Penguins play drums. Hippos wink. That damn song plays on a continuous, seamless loop until it overwrites every MP3 that used to play inside your brain.
Normally a one-finger-pointer, Angry Two activated both chubby fists to pointing at everything his miniature mind could grasp. If he had suddenly grown a third hand, he’d have pointed with that, too. “Buh!” Angry Two announced, as if claiming the ride as his own kingdom.
“Buh!” I agreed.
At Disney World, everybody dresses like they’re spending the day trimming hedges in the backyard. Park-goers begin each morning selecting the worst t-shirt from their suitcases and putting it on. Forget concealing the flaws. Every bulge and horrifying skin condition is on inglorious display at the Magic Kingdom.
Disney World is a stage where personal philosophies are showcased on the chests and bellies of people more accustomed to using the English language for ordering French fries. “Life’s Too Short Not To Be Blond,” reads one woman’s shirt. “Get in line, Ladies,” invites another teenagers’ top.
An alarming number of people wear Disney merchandise to Disney World. It’s like they arrived to Florida without a suitcase. “Don’t worry! We’ll just hit the t-shirt shop for Mickey attire!” Nice plan.
I lose my eyeglasses at the Dumbo ride.
While sweltering in the thirty-minute line, Angry Two takes one-too-many swipes at my glasses, so I slip the specs into my pocket.
The Dumbo ride is just as boring as I remember it. Even Angry Junior refuses to be impressed. “Why didn’t that last longer?” he wonders as our anatomically incorrect orange elephant is lowered back to Earth. I point to the mammoth queue waiting jealously to take our place. Angry Junior understands without further explanation.
After emerging from Snow White’s Scary Adventure, I discover that my glasses are no longer in the pocket. I remember how much I paid for them and grit my teeth.
Damn you, Disney.
There are two kinds of people at The Magic Kingdom: people with a Fast Pass™, and poor bastards without a Fast Pass.
A Fast Pass is a ride ticket with a pre-set time. If you don’t feel like waiting in line for an hour now, you can get a Fast Pass for a time that will get you in much faster later. You just have to show up.
It’s nice waltzing by the stifled queue of humanity as you breeze through the crowd like Phil Donahue. For bonus points, Mrs. Angry and I say snarky quips in our best Vanderbilt voices. “Waiting is for the proles! Like paying taxes and going to jail. Ha.”
Of course, it became a Lenin-like coup when, at about 1:00, the Fast Pass kiosks began spitting out times for 6:40 and 8:00 PM. Suddenly, the Fast Pass elite were staggering between rides in complete panic, unable to function. “We have to wait? An hour? For Pirates of the Caribbean? Aw no!” Viva de Sweaty.
A Dad freaks out behind me.
He has a 1:40 Fast Pass for the Lilo & Stitch show, but he’s acting like it’s a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket. He barely hears the patient Disney attendant telling him that only 1:35 Fast Passes are allowed in at the moment. The Dad is too busy freaking out.
“Come on! I’m 1:40! I have a Fast Pass!”
He’s also got three kids hanging on him, and a three-foot tall wife who looks like she opened the closet door and was clobbered by the bowling ball. The Dad weighs as much as a cat and might have eaten a kilo of cocaine for breakfast.
“Who’s going? We’re all going! Wait! Are you coming in or not? Yes? No! Come on!”
He’s practically standing on my head.
Angry Junior and I enter the show. After some robotic brouhaha only Angry Junior fully understands, we’re whisked into a big round room where we are locked into our seats. “I gotta get out of here!” shrieks an eleven-year-old girl next to me. Eleven! She’s completely unstable. The seats are locked. There’s no getting out. The lights go out, and it’s pitch black. The girl shrieks for the entire show.
“Get me out of here!”
Disney is following (or perhaps it pioneered) the despicable trend of emptying rides into souvenir shops.
Angry Junior and I finish The Buzz Lightyear ride, which isn’t bad because we get to fire laser blasters at alien monsters and sinister robots. A digital read-out in our space car reveals our scores. “Did I win, Dad?” asks Angry Junior. His reads 1700. Mine reads 60,450.
“We tied,” I tell him. We exit our car and head out through a set of double doors.
And we’re deposited into a toy store. Hundreds of Buzz Lightyear crap and bric-a-brac surround us. General Akbar screams inside my head, “It’s a trap!” Damn you, Disney!
“What’s this?” says Angry Junior, perplexed.
I steel my loins. “They want us to buy something.”
Angry Junior pauses. “I don’t want to buy anything.”
I’m so proud of my son. A chip off the old Angry block! See there, Disney? We don’t want your crap. I win this round, Walt.
They’ve roped the streets off, and I’m trapped in Adventure Land. A float carrying some dork dressed like Aladdin passes by.
Angry Two has been snoozing in his stroller for half an hour now. While Angry Junior and Mrs. Angry toiled in the Pirates of the Caribbean line, I sat in the shade with my slumbering son and watched the odd human shapes pass by.
Some of the women, I note, are wearing headgear that almost resembles a wedding veil. I apply my keen powers of deduction and determine that these women elected to get married at Disney World. I’ve seen people get married in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, so I’ve witnessed sadder sights.
One wedding-veil lady outweighs a Volkswagen and appears to have been molded from a cast that was originally created to stamp out fire hydrants. I imagine receiving a devastating left- hook from her meaty fist. Like a good magic trick, her new husband appears at her side. He’s no prize, but I still feel sorry for him. A lifetime of unwanted nude encounters and trips to the 7-Eleven for more cigarettes and Ding Dongs.
It’s getting time to meet the rest of the Family Angry outside the Johnny Depp enhanced Pirates ride, so I adjust the canopy over Angry Two’s perspiring face and I truck forward. I almost make it out of Adventure Land before cheery Disney employees cut me off. Cordoned! Trapped! I needed a Tommy gun to blast my way to freedom.
But I was frisked for weapons at the ticket counter. Cinderella waves at me from a motorized island of gossamer and tin foil. Her heavily made-up face glistens in the mid-afternoon heat. Her lips grin but her eyes scream.
Buck up, babe. The parade’s just begun.
The last drop of moisture drips out of my body during our second wait in line at It’s A Small World.
There’s a water bottle in the diaper bag. The bag that doubles as Mrs. Angry’s purse. It now hangs like a corpse off my drooping shoulder. Angry Two sits in the crook of my arm. His index finger is pulling at my nostril. Knock it off.
I can’t reach the water bottle without releasing Angry Two into the wild. My tongue feels like a lint brush. A large family trundles by me, as if they don’t see me and my son standing in line.
“Go ahead,” I say. “I’m just standing in line.”
I remember Cocaine Dad, and I decide to let it go. One of the ladies who cut in front of me weighs more than the electric cart she’s riding. This woman represents about 10% of the people who visit the Magic Kingdom. Don’t tell me it’s a gland thing. I witnessed one such woman licking the chocolate off a candy bar wrapper.
The line lurches forward. Angry Two is flirting with the girls behind us, so my nostrils are safe. Forty minutes later, we’re seated in our plastic boat, Angry Two is pointing at singing Eskimo robots, and I’m pouring warm water into my body. Deflated tissue cells plump with new life! Suddenly, I’m Papillon after half a year of solitary confinement.
“I’m still here, you bastards.”
My back gives out while we’re waiting to meet Mickey.
The sky blackened, and we stampeded into Mickey’s House like cattle frightened by the lightening. The kids approved of Mickey’s taste in décor. All is immaculate, as though permanently handled with white gloves. Enormous white gloves.
Angry Junior especially liked Mickey’s kitchen. It seemed like a fun place to make a lunch, with its bright yellow rolling pins and the electric red oven. It reminded my stomach that dinner would be appreciated, provided that it come soon.
Mickey isn’t home. He’s signing autographs in the building next door. Moo! We shuttle forward. I carry Angry Two, and Mrs. Angry skillfully herds Angry Junior into the barn-shaped edifice.
My back is constructed of Jinga blocks. Remove the right block, and I collapse like the Walls of Jericho. To the cows assembled around me, I look like a man in his thirties having his first stroke. My knees cave beneath me, and I hold Angry Two close so that if I do fall, he’ll land softly on my belly. I don’t fall. I will the muscles around my spine to hold.
“What’s wrong with you?” whispers Mrs. Angry. I tell her. She watches grimly as I perform dorky exercises to loosen my lower back.
Minnie Mouse pops out from behind a door like a disgruntled butler wielding a knife. Instead of stabbing Angry Junior, she wordlessly takes him by the hand and we’re all lead to a secret chamber. The Secret Chamber of Mickey Mouse.
Mickey receives us with open arms that spoke in the words his sealed mouth could not. Angry Junior leaps to be embraced, while Angry Two points and mysteriously shrieks, “Beeeeeee!”
That’s all the love Mickey gets from Angry Two. He retreats to mother when Mickey lumbers forward. Mickey is just as good when observed from a distance.
Meanwhile, Angry Junior absorbs the discharge of flash bulbs, vulcanizing his face into a serious grin. Mickey pantomimes a treatise of welcome only small children can decipher. When we leave, Angry Junior glows.
The sky wrings a colossal wet beach towel atop The Magic Kingdom.
We stand resigned at a small play area, where Angry Junior and Angry Two splash happily with strange children. Mrs. Angry and I observe nearby, bemused. Mrs. Angry is especially delighted with the rain. She calls it “romantic.”
Despite my mightiest effort, I don’t feel the romance. My back gives every five minutes, my feet are wooden blocks, and I’m experiencing fresh chaffing between the thighs. Athlete’s Foot is plotting to colonize the moist spaces between my toes.
Mrs. Angry is beautiful in the rain. The mane of hair she takes so much care of is now matted to her forehead and neck. Her arms and collarbones shine, and the green tank top becomes a little snugger. Her smile is confetti.
I feel the romance then.
It’s 5:30 and everybody at The Magic Kingdom looks like they’ve been dragged behind a stagecoach.
I peer into the haggard faces of the parents shambling by, and I see myself. Survivors. The weak have retreated, leaving the lines a tolerable ten to fifteen minutes long.
In stark relief to the damp and wrinkled humanity who plod down The Magic Kingdom’s cobblestone streets are the Disney employees. Perfect and bright, as though steam-ironed upon the fabric of reality. They smile and wave serenely in the haze and heat.
Magic Kingdom employees are like a kind of Terminator. They feel no pity. They don’t feel pain. They only feel good cheer, and they absolutely will not stop until you’re eating sunshine and crapping puppy dogs.
The nerves in my lower-back flicker, like a Cub Scout singling Morse code with his flashlight, and I nearly collapse in front of the Haunted Mansion.
“Want to go in here again?” I ask, looking at Angry Junior. You bet he does.
For the third time in eleven hours, Angry Two and I are visiting It’s A Small World.
I don’t stare at the plastic Arabian princes or the British soldiers. Instead, I focus on my little son’s face.
His eyes are roller coasters. Reflected in the blackness of his pupils are hot air balloons and ducks that quack the chorus. His fists point to giant lollypops and Hula girls who will never stop dancing. This is his world, and for a moment I regret that he will have to grow up into mine.
I know that I am witnessing the moment that will represent Angry Two to me forever.
For the second time, a parade stands between me and the rest of my family.
Much in the way a dung beetle understands what must be done with crap, the visitors of Magic Kingdom instinctively know to line the streets at 8:00 for the final parade. Grinning employees unroll the ropes and the faithful assume cherry position along Main Street.
I realize that this is the best time to go. Visions of escaping Pluto 18’s orbit unimpeded flash across the synapses of my powerful brain.
Mrs. Angry and Angry Junior have a hankering for a cookie. I recommend that we split up. “Meet me at City Hall!” I announce. I toss Angry Two into his stroller, and together we pound our way to the end of Main Street.
I was told that the park’s Lost And Found was located at City Hall, and I still harbored hopes for retrieving my pricey eyeglasses. The parade started at 9:00. I had twenty minutes to accomplish my mission, reunite with the rest of my family, then make a dash for the exit.
I reach City Hall, and the Asian exchange student informs me that no eyeglasses matching my description had been returned to the Lost And Found. I imagined a 400-pound hillbilly slipping my designer specs onto his moon-pie face. Damn you, Disney.
By the time Angry Two and I return to the sidewalk, the parade has just begun. My wife and eldest son would have to somehow cross the street to reach me. Damn you, Disney!
The floats are festooned with Christmas bulbs, but Angry Two is too exhausted to give a damn. He takes a swing at me, and I secure him into his stroller. Where’s Mrs. Angry? Our one opportunity to escape The Magic Kingdom was slipping away, and I could almost hear the frozen chuckles of Walt Disney himself taunting my bad fortune.
“If you believe, your dreams will come true!”
The philosophy of Mickey. With my will to live gone, I have plenty of room for hope and desperation. I close my eyes, and at first there is nothing. I try again, and this time, I believe.
I hear my wife calling my name. I open my eyes, and there she is, with Angry Junior in tow. An impossibly happy Disney employee had allowed them across the street, and now we are the Family Angry once more.
The floats dazzle Angry Junior. He wants to stay. Just for a little while. To see the floats. I don’t look at my wristwatch. I look at my son, the hues of electric gold and red and blue brilliantly reflected in the circular lenses of his eyeglasses.