It’s a very quick flight to Los Angeles for the longest ever wait for bags. But we’ve got a ride – the brother-in-law is outside and waiting. And he takes us to see some sights, on a quick-quick tour as we’re really only in L.A. to facilitate a trip to Disneyland. We’ve talked this up for most of the year and poor Oscar’s had to wait a couple of weeks of holiday, when he seemed to think he was stepping straight off the (first) plane and into Disney’s magic kingdom.
A First World/First Holiday problem if ever there was one – sure. But anyway, the time is beckoning now.
So we drive from the airport over to Venice Beach for a brunch and a stroll on the pier. And from there it’s over to the Griffith Observatory, get a decent gawk at the Hollywood sign a bust of James Dean’s head. And then a drive down Hollywood Blvd, and a park up poolside for a quick cocktail. This is whirlwind sight-seeing, boxes to tick. A quick flick through the Hollywood suburb, and then on to Los Felice. Los Angeles is a hot sprawling mess of mini-cities to make one mega and undefined land mass. My head won’t get around it this trip. And I have no real desire to return. No purchase felt. Or needed.
We have sorted a place through Air B’n’B for this leg of the trip (well, it’s more a foot, an ankle at best). And get this: the woman who owns the joint says in an email to my wife Katy, “So is your surname really Sweetman, or is that a glitch? Cos that would be a weird coincidence, since that’s my name too”.
We are staying at a place in L.A. that is owned by a woman named Katie Sweetman. What are the chances of that?
It’s a cool wee place, some funky artwork on the walls and walking distance from a bunch of stuff we won’t get to see. We all set up our computers instantly and start updating anything and everything we can…
Then, up early to get to Disneyland. The trip is marked out and we’re hopeful we’ll make it for when the park flicks its switch and starts spreading its news again. No traffic issues and so we’re there, one of a few hundred in the queues for the bus to the venue from the carpark and then for the bag-checks. But these queues are nothing like I had anticipated. They’re a breeze – the only breeze in fact on this hot, hot day.
We’re in – just after 9.30 and we have until midnight if we need it. Just us and tens of thousands of others. And we have the treacly magic of an insipid soundtrack following our footsteps.
I was slightly unprepared, slightly baffled and amazed at how many people would be at Disneyland on a Tuesday morning some 60 years after it first opened. It’s not just a town or village but a whole world, several worlds even. As struggling actors hide in animal suits, the fourth wall built up and over their head. A minder-type will tap one of the huge heads and send them out back for a quick five after 15 minutes of “titty-titty, strutty-strutty”.
Oscar is overwhelmed. He smiles most of the day. He lines up for a photo with Pluto and we run off to get our first Fast Pass, a slightly convoluted but necessary system. You can only get one Fast Pass every two hours but it allows you to queue-jump and save up to 90 minutes of ride-loitering. I don’t know how anyone waits for one or two hours but almost everyone does it. Fortunately, many of them have that fucking Pokemon game to play while they wait. Others are nose-down in that as they navigate their way around the park. And you wonder why they’re bothering with one of the activities – since the other is being ignored.
We sit in for Minnie Mouse’s Breakfast which is a buffet and allows Oscar the chance to see even more characters, they come to the table for photos and it’s a good chance for us to plan the day a bit more and for Oscar to delight in the photos with the “Sad Donkey” and “The Chipmunk” and even some characters where he correctly knows the name. He gets to practice his line too. For some reason, not really known to anyone, he has decided to say to each and every character, “Yo ______ , what’s cooking?” So he says it to Woody from Toy Story and to Minnie Mouse and Goofy and Pluto and the Sad Donkey too. They’re mute and smiling politely via a pre-arranged grin so he never gets an answer but it doesn’t stop him on this quest.
To Thunder Mountain which we all hit up, in a 20-minute wait, which by Disneyland standards is nothing. And so we do it. Oscar is exhilarated as the wee train-carriage is pulled up the chain but when it hurtles off into the world of roller-coastering he is petrified. We feel like bad parents. But good park attendees. Today it will be a difficult balance to strike.
To Pirates of The Caribbean which is a frankly underwhelming ride. A long, slow boat trip. The puppetry and modelling is very cool – but it too gives Oscar the shits. And there’s no decent pay-off on that boat road. Another 20-30 minute wait.
But now I get to hoon off for Space Mountain. A flagship ride, it’s now remade as Hyperspace Mountain as the whole corner of the park where it resides is a Star Wars world. Not that I’ve been on Hyperspace Mountain when it was just Space Mountain but the new theme is cool. It makes sense. You’re in a rollercoaster in the dark and you have shots being fired at you as if you’re in a spaceship. It might as well be Star Wars sounds and themes and voices you hear. Pretty cool. Great ride too. Really wakes me up.
Splash Mountain is the log flume ride that finishes with a drop so big I lose my hat, but not my lunch. Oscar cries and we all end up soaked. “Why did you take me on that?” he bawls. But he is brave. He is digging the scenic parts and most of the twists and turns. On this one it’s that final hurtle that shits him up, and well, why not. It’s a good time on a hot day. And it’s nice to get totally soaked too.
We slow things down for him with the Teacups and a carousel ride and a break for a bite and a few more sight-seeing tours of the Toon Town and other cast members, a bit of New Orleans jazz from a wandering orchestra, popping our heads in some shops – mostly for the brief blast of air-con. And then we get back to the Main Street for the parade.
Oscar waves at Mickey and Minnie then Pluto and Donald Duck, The Little Mermaid and Lion King, and an unnamed black Princess who is there for diversity, but has a storyline invented for her float that features a sassy hip-hop infused track, some dancing crocodiles and rich whities dancing with monocles. It’s as if we’re all supposed to go, Oh – THAT’s RIGHT!?! And pretend we remember this imaginary storyline but tell ourselves we can’t quite place the actual film.
It’s a good parade. A lot of fun. Jugglers and stilt-walkers and all the colourful characters selling the day.
Disneyland is one big shill. Barbaric. Revolting. It’s consumerism gone fully mad. To go from Las Vegas to this is barely one extreme to another, more like bed-hopping.
But the trick plays itself so well and you’re a Grinch to go there with a kid and complain. We have a great day.
The little guy loves it so much and he says, several times, “Is the day over yet?” And, “Is this the end?” And by the end he’s saying it as if to point out that he’s got no more energy to give to this even though (and because) it’s been like nine Christmas mornings all at once.
I convince Katy to have a hoon on the Hyperspace Mountain and so I get another go at it too. And though she had promised to dig her fingernails into my arms the whole way around she pops up out of it fairly elated, pretty exhilarated, a fan. Well worth it. Meanwhile Uncle James takes Oscar to Mickey Mouse’s house. They wait in the hope of finally getting a one-on-one, or something close to that. Turns out you enter into the house with a few others, Mickey greets a small crowd. When it’s Oscar’s turn, in there with a dozen or so other kids and adults he just bowls straight up, his best line still intact: “Yo Mickey, what’s cooking?” A huge laugh from mostly baffled adults and a few of the kids too. A great way to go out. Comic timing is as good as a pre-school education I say.
We exit through the gift shops, as one – of course – must, and park up in the service station down the road for a celebratory alcoholic drink for the adults. We are cranking The B-52’s Cosmic World on the car stereo. And though it wasn’t planned it feels like a perfect Disney comedown. And what a shit-hot and terrific album anyways.
Back to Katie Sweetman’s place for the night and then up early and off the next day. We’re all shattered, 9am-7pm in Disney’s Unique and Overpriced World is a big ask. But a total blast.
We hit up Lil Don’s for brunch the next day, the inflight mag had even told us you might see a celebrity or two there. Not sure this counts but Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in there eating some feed, taking some kind of meeting.
Off to Hollywood’s Amoeba Records where I get to buy the exact Los Lobos record I was listening to in the car as we drove to Amoeba Records – finally swapping the Mp3s out for the vinyl. And I could have spent several hours in that store, but no time on this trip. It’s off on the road, and back to San Francisco. Well, Oakland in fact.
It’s about a six-hour drive and just over the half-way point Oscar is carsick. We are just pulling over for what was going to be a quick rest-stop, instead the three adults spring into action in the Californian desert. Costume change and seat washing, it’s like a pit-stop with Oscar being the car we’re all assigned to.
Poor wee lad. He’s almost never vomited in his life. So he couldn’t warn us nor work out what was going wrong or why he was doing that. He bounced back pretty quickly, and so did the car.
We cranked Jakob and the new (as yet unreleased) Dinosaur Jr album and Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk and a bit of Lionel Richie. And next thing we were coming back to Oakland…
It’s been a whirling dervish of a week through Seattle and Las Vegas and then L.A. And now we’re back to the part of The Bay Area that feels familiar enough even though it’s to a new town we’ve only seen a little peek of previously. Still more holiday in the bank.
To read Tour Diary # 1 – The Streets of San Francisco click here
To read Tour Diary # 2 – A Great Day To Turn 40, No Poo at The Zoo…click here
To read Tour Diary # 3 – Past The Mission – I Don’t Believe I Went Too Far…click here
To read Tour Diary # 4 – We Hardly Even Seattle But I Like It click here
To read Tour Diary # 5 – Vegas Baby Vegas click here