Things started to go wrong on the new Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. What a park. Dinosaurs spit on you, Hogwarts paintings talk to you and Vin Diesel tells you he loves you. Each attraction comes with a long and boring list of warnings. You can't board the attraction if you have back problems, heart problems, neck problems, emotional problems, seasickness, nausea, if you're easily frightened or scared of heights, speed, artificial mist or water. Also, no one too old, fat, smelly or short.
Being the judgmental type, I always thought those warnings were for pathetic, weak people. What kind of no-hope wuss can't handle a rollercoaster? Me, as it turns out.
Riding with your kids is joyful and terrifying. Harry Potter's The Forbidden Journey becomes ten times more frightening when you're concerned your beloved little child will be smashed to pieces on the virtual side of the Quidditch arena.
This was especially true on our fourth ride when our broomstick car stopped short, leaving me and my son hanging face-down in the middle of the ride. The 3D images disappeared, a warning message played and I nearly spewed on a robotic Dementor. It got as far as my mouth. But I held it in. My partner reckons three days in Vegas beforehand may have been involved but I doubt it. I think it was more about my strong parental instincts. Anyway, things started up again no harm done and I didn't throw up there. That would happen at the happiest place on earth.
Universal studios is great, but Disneyland is magical. Go to the nightly World of Colour display. It's Disney's history projected on flying water at The Paradise Pier in California Adventure Land. The message of peace, love and happiness is so strong, by the end you're saluting and chanting "Disney, Disney, Disney!" You'd shoot someone in the face for not following their dreams if host Neil Patrick Harris told you to. It's so indoctrinating I took my Universal Studios cap off for the walk home: I thought I might get assaulted.
It felt good. Like a release. It made the ride more fun.
Anyway, there are some fast, exciting rides like The Hollywood Tower, California Screamin', Hyper Space Mountain and The Matterhorn. I got through these fine. It was Mickey's fun wheel that did me in. From the outside it looks like a ferris wheel with a mouse face on the front, but it has a swinging feature that makes for a terrifying ride. You go right to the top, 30m up, and then you roll over the edge and your cart falls down and forward. That's when I vomited at the happiest place on earth, into my son's bag of breakfast waffles. It felt good: like a release. It made the ride more fun. Not for the others in the cart of course - we had a whole other revolution to do before we got off.
With the pressure released, the fear was gone and I was back on California Screamin' with my kids three times in a row. Turns out it was the fourth piled plate of baby back ribs, clams and five-cheese poutine at the buffet, not the parental instincts, that were making me feel nervous.
Happy, enchanting and thrilling as Disneyland is, bad things can happen there. On Friday I watched a rotund man on a mobility scooter repeatedly ram a family who had accidentally cut him off in Critter Country. A few years back, a friend of mine was thrown in Disney jail after he attended the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad steamed. Things went wrong, there were half-a-dozen misunderstandings and he was hauled off by Disney cops. He woke up in the happiest drunk tank on earth, pictures of Pluto, Goofy, Mickey and Minnie smiling down on him from the his cell walls.
Disneyland and its best friend California Land are the happiest places on earth. Worlds of imagination, hopes and dreams - enchanting and magical. Especially if you get a chance to throw up at the apex of Mickey's Fun Wheel.
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