Disney World Postscript: Brainwashed by the Perfect Girlfriend Channel

You might wonder why, if my vacation in Disney World was supposed to be about, in the immortal words of one Elmer Fudd, "west and wewaxation at wast," why I spent so much time snapping out dreamy-eyed mashnotes about the place (always laced, though, with my usual snarky little diatribes against this and that personal injustice). The truth is, I didn't spend that much time writing. I sleep, even on vacation, relatively little -- six hours tops, most nights -- and so I would wake up far before anyone in our cabin, and not wishing to rouse them all too early, I would just sit in a corner of the bedroom in the darkness and type away. As the notes may attest too, most of the writing was mere muscle memory -- hey, remember these letters on the keyboard? -- and much of it flowed out almost automatically. But there was a purpose behind the facade of merely writing, something I discovered last year when I spent six days and nights at the park.

Mainly, I had to keep writing because of this simple fact:

You cannot think at Disney World.

Let me qualify this statement. It is nearly impossible to think about anything else but Disney World at Disney World. They don't let you. The shuttles from the airport, the buses, boats and monorails around the parks, and the lobbies of anyplace even remotely connected with Disney World are filled with the sounds, music and advertising of Disney World and Disney products. This is fine, since I chose to be here willingly, and outside of a little corporate creepiness in all of this, I was there to lose myself in a fantasy land. The real point of going, to which most patrons of the park would attest, was not to think.

And yet, I kept wishing to think. I just wanted some peace and quiet. Sometimes, not even to really think, but just a little peace and quiet. The way I achieved this last year was to go out early in the morning, and walk around the Fort Wilderness environs on a walk/run/trot which would encompass anywhere from three to five miles daily. I zipped around everywhere, along the bike paths that cross all over the surrounding woods and camp areas, and backtrack again, and then go down dead ends with signs saying "Cast Members Only" and weird, too too quiet areas where you were sure there was some sort of swamp creature lurking, or at least an alligator (which I never saw, damn it). I would watch ducks and egrets and herons and ibises in the reeds by the lake for half an hour sometime, with the only sounds about their chirping, a faraway motorboat, and the occasional, and ironically, far too industrious leaf blower. I would take pictures, stare at the calm waters of the lake, and then run off in some random direction until I felt it was time to see if the rest of my party were rising for the day.

This year, I attempted to recreate that mood on my third morning at the park -- and I turned my ankle over in a stupid accident. Didn't break it -- just broke my spirit. A mild strain, but enough to make my ankle swell up every day, and to cause shooting pains up the inside of my right leg for the rest of the trip (and even this morning still). Granted, my strained ankle pace is still faster than anyone else that normally has to keep up with me, so it didn't really slow me down much. It just made me wearier faster, and needed constant attention. So, we ended up in the cabin every late afternoon for icing and rest sessions, and with one's leg raised up above their heart, lying prone upon the bed or couch, one is often stuck watching a bit of television. At Disney World, this means a poor selection of local channels, a handful of Disney-owned cable channels like EPSN and the Lifetime Movie Network, Florida's crazy mix of religious offerings, a couple of Asian channels -- and all channels even remotely connected to Disney itself. No pay-per-view at all, no HBO channels offering movies that might actually make your spare cabin time even somewhat enjoyable. (At least you have a DVD player in your room.) Just relentless Hannah/Miley stuff and the Cheetah girls and the Wiggles and the Jonas Brothers.

And somewhere within this mostly boring mix is the Stacey Channel.

If you turn off your television and leave your cabin for any number of hours, you can come back later and turn it back on -- and there will be the Stacey Channel. It's not actually called the Stacey Channel, but that is what we have called it for two years running. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Stacey J. Aswad, a bubbly and energetic actress of only relatively mild success otherwise in the industry, shows up on every television in every hotel room in Disney World as the host of a show called The Top 7 Must-Sees at Walt Disney World. It is the only show on the Stacey Channel, and it plays constantly. And you can't escape it. I don't know if the televisions are automatically set to start up on the Stacey Channel, or if the maids reset every television every day back to it. But Stacey is always on. And, boy, is she on...

There came a point (and it happened last year, and I was reminded of it this year, even though I had forgotten about her in the interim) where one realizes that Stacey, at least in this Disney infomercial, might be the most Perfect Girlfriend in the world. Perfect Girlfriends don't really exist, and the people who are prone to believing in such an archetype are the sort who really believe the Cleavers were a true representation of the perfect 1950s family. (How many families do you know have had their kids go missing because they fell asleep inside giant bowls of soup? Exactly...) No such animal. Well, OK, yes... Jen is an example of a Perfect Girlfriend, but I am saying this partly out of contractual obligation, and with the understanding that it is through the appending of the words "For Me" to the statement "Perfect Girlfriend." You see, there are no perfect people, only standards of perfection which are impossible to meet because there are no perfect people. We each have wants and needs in certain areas, and no one person can meet all of those.

But there is Stacey, whooping it up on coaster after coaster, water ride after water ride, and getting all crazy over every restaurant in the place. Her #1 Top Must-See, Expedition Everest, is my #1 Top Must-See, so it must be kismet (even though I know she is just going by the script). Her buoyant energy makes her seem like she could easily keep up with me, especially with my decrepit ankle, and she is fetching enough to probably be able to convince me to do all of the things I really don't want to do, like clubbing at Pleasure Island or the water parks (or even get a makeover at Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boutique). I am a stubborn sort concerning certain events and places, but I think she could get me past them with some well-applied pressure, peer and otherwise. And yeah, after about the 72nd time through the Top 7 Must-Sees at Walt Disney World (and really, after the first) it starts to dawn on you that such non-stop effervescence is truly strangling-quality annoying after even five minutes -- but you forgive her because -- ahhh! -- she's so cute and bubbly, like Tuffy in the Tom and Jerry cartoons. You want to dress her up in mouse ears and just a diaper.

And then you realize that you are being brainwashed!! Brainwashed by the Perfect Girlfriend Channel! You hobble out of bed and run to the living room, but Jen and Sande are watching it too. True, for reasons less prurient and sick as yours, but still! They are watching it, sucked into the same Vortex of Rampant Sweetness that you have been. And you can't escape! You will leave your cabin to attend Fantasmic, leaving the channel on ESPN to see what happens when you return, and when you do -- MORE STACEY! You cannot escape... and you don't want to escape... the only escape is to leave her behind at Walt Disney World, there on the deviously built and unceasingly adorable shrine hereafter known as the Channel of the Perfect Girlfriend... the Stacey Channel.

Until you wake up in your apartment in the middle of the night, and there, in a bloc of paid programming on some random channel that Jen switched to in her drowsiness, there is Stacey. Yes, I have seen her show on late night television, and if you think you can at least switch her off momentarily at a Disney Resort, but only because you know you can return to her any moment you wish, here, in the darkness of your own bedroom, you watch every second of the Stacey show. You don't know if you miss her or the park most, but there you are. There is nothing sick about this, and nothing dirty going on. You are just watching Stacey, and it must be done.

She will not stop until she is everyone's Perfect Girlfriend. And all thinking has stopped. Which was why I just had to keep writing, to keep sending out signals that all was OK, and that I still hadn't totally lost my mind yet.

And now, here I am back in California, still thinking about the Stacey Channel. I am surely lost...


Mark Otis said…
You know, I am getting a little upset that she hasn't yet returned my calls, and her email address just bounced back.

Is she trying to avoid me?

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