Chapter 427: In which our hero whines and whines about something that no one put a gun to his head to do (it may have been a better option, though...)

For two of the last three Halloweens – the count of said holiday celebrations, up until last Friday, since I moved here in 2005 – I have spent my evening hours in the comforting arms of Disneyland. Not having my old network of friends here has greatly reduced my chances of hitting a Halloween party, and thus, costuming has become a non-factor and I have fallen into merely going to some appropriately decorated environs and enjoying the evening riding some rides, watching the parade, looking at pumpkins and getting a kick out of the variety of costumes on display from the younger denizens of the park. I usually make a goal of riding a full set of what I call “the skeleton rides” – Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, the Jungle Cruise, the Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – any ride that has a skeleton or at least a skull on display, of the three-dimensional variety only, somewhere in the attraction (Peter Pan’s Flight does not count, even though the ol’ skull-and-crossbones is readily apparent on some of the flying ships). I also attempt to purchase the season’s first gingerbread cookies at one of the candy shops, of the most excellent type that make my knees buckle as I walk whilst devouring them. I don’t ask much, just a handful of rides and some pleasant atmosphere, and I am good to go. It has proven on the previous two trips to be a very relaxing experience, of the sort of fall day I never really got to taste when in Alaska, where fall is almost an afterthought at times, since the initial downfall of snow that signifies winter seems to actually beat autumn to the punch on occasion.

Last Friday, on Halloween 2008, jumpy and almost bursting to be let out of work, I went to Disneyland.

It was the worst three hours I have ever spent at the park.

I’ve been at the park when it has been pouring rain through driving winds, to the point where everyone else in the place is scrambling frantically to be let out of the park, while diving under canopies or leaping inside shops for fear of even getting hit by a single drop of water, and I have been absolutely fine. It just meant less people in line for the rides to me. A little rain, even a shitload of rain, is nothing to me. I’ve also been at the park with a sinus cold and a rising fever, and with my head threatening to cleave itself in twain in order to relieve itself of the immense pressure building up behind my eyes, and while perhaps after a bit I did retire to a hotel room to rest up, or perhaps even caught myself napping on one or two rides due to my illness, I still managed to keep a smile going while bopping from attraction to attraction. I’ve even limped through an entire two days of park time while my knee filled up with fluid after wrenching it once more stepping off a ride, and still had a terrific time at the park level, even while biting my lip from the pain. I can take a lot at or into Disneyland in order for myself to simply enjoy Disneyland.

I lost it on Halloween 2008.

Here is a partial list of what went awry when Jen and I went to the park that evening with my erstwhile working companion Raw Meat and his girlfriend Raw-Chel. Keep in mind that this is an extraordinarily superficial list, of the sort that only someone who has been immensely spoiled rotten as regards the Disneyland experience can put together. The point is, I turned into a whiny baby that evening, perhaps not fully in front of everybody, but it certainly led to my wearing a full-on monster-sized pout throughout much of the evening.

1. THE WEATHER: It was reported throughout the week, and all through the day, that the weather on Halloween in Anaheim was going to be windy and rainy. Windy and rainy, everywhere you looked. The day, at 6:00 am, may have started out that way, but it was pretty much gone by the time we left for the park at 4:00 pm. Just in case, with dark clouds scattered throughout the skies threatening more of the same, it seemed like we were in for it. This would have been fine with me (note my previous mention of enjoying rain at the park). When it rains at Disneyland, most people turn into pussies. The tourists understandably split for the hotels or restaurants (or both), and the less hardy locals, which is most of them, hightail it for home. This leaves myself and Jen and a group of the more waterproof amongst us to bop on and off the rides all we wish. We were actually hoping this might be the case, and I wore a light jacket and my Jack Skellington scarf just in case. It proved to be too much, as the weather actually got warmer and warmer into the evening (perhaps due to the Santa Ana winds), and the fact that the crowd on the Disney streets kept swelling due to the rides constantly breaking down, did not help the temperature factor either. I sweated through most of the night, even after removing the jacket and scarf early into the proceedings.

2. THE RIDES BREAKING DOWN: Oh, I am sorry. Didn’t I just mention that the rides kept breaking down? Well, they did, and always at the worst times, too. We grabbed a Fastpass for Indiana Jones once we got inside the park, and were supposed to go back between 6:40 and 7:40 pm to hop on it. We rode Pirates (and not without incident; more later), but Haunted Mansion was broken down on the worst of all possible nights. So we got dinner (which was the only thing that went well) and then went to Mr. Jones. Our Fastpasses got us to within about forty feet of actually getting on the damn thing – and then they told everyone to evacuate the building as soon as possible! Everyone inside the ride had to make the massive trek back to the front, hundreds of people all filing out, and every one of them grouching about it as they did so, including us. A fire department official entered the ride as we had just left it, but we never found out what happened. So we made our way back to the Haunted Mansion, which by then was open again, but so many people had been waiting to ride it, that the line rolled out through the front gates and over towards the New Orleans train station. The sign flashed a full 50 minutes wait to the impatient reader (composed, this time, of normally patient me), and so we decided to find easier prey. We first walked around the corner to check out the candy store and were met with a massive wave of people departing Splash Mountain, which had also just broken down, and wouldn’t be back up again, they announced, for at least another hour. All of the disappointed riders of that attraction poured into the streets of New Orleans Square and into the lines of the all the other rides in the area, which made everything hotter and more crowded. We hit Big Thunder, and met a longer than usual double set of lines there, but managed to get through it relatively quickly, all things considered. We took another pass at the Mansion, but the line was even longer than before, and while the sign still said 50 minutes wait time, we knew from a glance that it was even worse than that. With the prospect of getting out of the park before the crowds blocked Main Street for the impending fireworks, we decided to just catch the train at New Orleans station and get the flock out of there. Thankfully, even though we had to wait for two trains, at least they were running on time.

3. THE CANDY STORE: So, you go over to the candy store in Critter Country to get away from the whining crowd streaming out of Splash Mountain, and you figure if everything else is going to go wrong this evening, certainly you will at least be able to continue one of your new Halloween traditions, and make off if the most delicious gingerbread man cookie (with Mickey Mouse ears dipped in chocolate) in the world. Alas, it was not to be. Not a cookie in sight, not even an empty tray where they used to live earlier in the evening. I had gotten one of the cookies a couple weeks earlier when I took my parents to California Adventure, so I knew that the gingerbread had hit the park for the season. But nothing in sight. That was nearly the breaking point. I sat down on the rabbit bench outside of Pooh Corner and pouted briefly, in much the same style I did back when my friends used to call me “Tigger” (before the name was stolen away from me by a mustachioed weirdo). Following that, we marched over to the Mansion, where, as I said before, 50 minutes turned to a possible 75, and we left, sans gingerbread, sans happiness in the Happiest Place on Earth. Even seeing Primeval World on the train did little to quell my anguish. Oh, tortured soul…!

4. THAT FAMOUS PIRATE RIDE: The less said here, the better. The ride was fine, but a relentless onslaught of flash photography in the front of our boat caused one of our party to stand up while we floated through the pirate caves, and then to yell quite sharply at the clicking moron to knock it off. There was an attempt to calm down our party member, then I had to tug on their shirt to get them to sit down, and then Jen spent the rest of the ride fretting about being met at the ride’s end by a suit or a security person, who would then lead us out the park. Jen was afraid, too, that said behavior would come back at her in a more corporate form, as she was the one who signed we troublemakers into the park. As Pirates was the first thing we did, it definitely set a certain mood of anxiety and frustration over the rest of the evening.

5. THE FIREWORKS: I wanted to see the fireworks, but we had to get out of there. I briefly mused that perhaps it was best to not stay for the ‘works anyway, since our luck that evening would probably demand that the event be cancelled. We were gone by nine, and honestly, I am not sure if they ever did go off. Raw Meat says he didn’t hear them from his apartment, and he usually can, as can we, though Jen and I went to the store to find something to cheer us up.

The cure that evening for me? I nearly righted the ship by watching three movies – The Devil Bat with Bela Lugosi, and a pair of Herschell Gordon Lewis gorefests, Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs – before retiring for bed. I finally got some semblance of a decent Halloween, but I had to meet it on my own terms, and on my own field of battle. And man, did I get whiny. Spoiled rotten? You bet. Spoiled on the Halloween Disney experience from now on, and time to seek out new party opportunities instead? Only time will tell. I’ve got a whole year to figure it out.

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