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Quite unexpectedly I found myself going to Disneyland.

I was excited to go as much as a grown man could be, but I definitely expected to be a bit uncomfortable during my visit to “the happiest place on earth”. I find overly traditional things trite and stuffy, “The right way” to do things always questionable and to say I am a “creative thinker” is an understatement. (Please see sleeve tattoos and proclivity for wearing all black as a go to fashion move.)

Long story short -I was not only pleasantly surprised, but inspired during my visit. 

I quickly found myself realizing that beneath the veneer of tradition, Princesses, and cartoon mice Disneyland has a much darker tone of imagination present.

One of cemeteries, morgues, spirits, demons, witches, ghosts, thieves, pirates, horned kings, wizards, cannibals, nightmares, lost fortunes, dangerous artifacts, skulls and lurking evil.

To look at Disney as a whole and see a figurative nineteen fifties aproned Stepford wife holding a Better Crocker apple pie is too easy of a pull.

Just as to watch Alice and Wonderland stoned for the first time and realize there might be more going on with those pills making Alice change sizes in a lost girl’s fantasy may be lazy mental gymnastics. 

One needs to look closer at the park of wonders through the right glasses, to step back and see what fills the cracks between the glitter and fairy dust with an Underground set of eyes and appreciate the wink behind Walt Disney’s smile.  

Walt Disney as a dude was way more Joe Strummer than Herbert Hoover any day. 

I was astounded at how seamlessly Disney winds in its more underground fantasies with the common hero beats villain every girl is a Princess buy some mouse ears park vibes. 

At it’s entrance to the park one only needs to wait until sunset to see there are fantastic carnival lights and small store windows that create not an innocent American main street for buttoned up nuclear families to roam and buy tiaras…but a mysterious arcade full of dark wonder and imagination.

For example, if you look close enough on the main drag you will find a psychic’s office, a magic shop and a fortune teller. And perhaps that is what Disney intended all along. Not a monolithic tribute to American tradition in his park but a more accurate reflection of the America that has always been, of all forms of the imagination, dark corners and anti heroes included…but you know like really clean and next to an ice cream parlor with mint chocolate chip.

The closer I looked this attitude in the creativity I realized some glint of counter culture or to simplify it “punk attitude” touches every Disney tale. Youthful rebellion normally culminates in the rogue child “winning” the day. It could even be argued that anti-heroes with a heart of gold have shaped the free thinkers of the modern world right under our noses while selling us Beauty and the Beast.

Personally, I didn’t idolize the Princes. I was too busy singing along with Jack Skelington. I didn’t want to be King, I wanted to be the boy King learning from Merlin turning into squirrels and shit. And I didn’t want to live in the village, I wanted ride on Baloo’s stomach then out wit Shere Kahn and Kaa the constrictor.

Disney at it’s core advocates timeless youth, antiauthoritarian attitudes educating the stuffy old hierarchical social order, rebellion, free thinking, pacifism, the need for integration…hell you could even look at Snow White and the Dwarves as communal living if you stretched enough. Just swap the hut for a loft in Bushwick off of the Morgan Ave stop and voilá. 

A small detail and one I noticed on my visit that solidified my time there was a metal plaque hung on a low bridge, precariously placed that read “Here you leave today and enter the World of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy”. Damn Straight.

Like all things in life, experiences are 99% what you are looking for. Your perception will ultimately be affected by your mind set…But if the stones are there where you aren’t expecting, weight can be added to any experience. And I found plenty of the the strange and odd kind in my adventure at Disney leaving me with an odd sense of belonging to the Haunted Mansion, the Pirates of the Caribbean and carnival lit thoroughfair of the main drag. 

I had a close friend DM me while I was there saying that my trip to Disney was “off-brand” for me and she was right, I thought….until that is, I left the park unexpectedly full of imagination and counter culture. It turns out Disney is more triple black heart emojis in response to a good idea than I had imagined. 

Go to Disney Darlings, it even made an old washed up punk New Yorker fill up with imagination and wonder. If only for a moment I felt the unexpected innocence that lives in creative ideas… even if they belong to a dude name Walt.