THE MAGIC KINGDOM
I once worked at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida. I bussed tables at a place called the Crystal Palace, which was located at the end of Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. I went on at 4 P.M. and got off at midnight. Since I had no car I fell into the habit of either hitching home (I lived about five miles away), going to all-night parties, or crashing at a friend's apartment - the friend had six roommates. One morning I woke up on a couch at the apartment hung-over and worn out after drinking bourbon in the complex's Jacuzzi with some girl, to find one of the roommates, Dan, watching Disney's version of Alice in Wonderland. Dan's job was to dress up as Tigger and dance around the Magic Kingdom welcoming and shaking hands with children. Sometimes I thought the job made him simple in the head, but Dan held a BA in communications with a minor in theatre arts, so legitimately, according to society's standards, he was educated.
"Alice in Wonderland," I said rubbing my head as Alice drank tea with the Mad Hatter and the field mouse nearly drowned in the pot.
"Yes," Dan said. "I love this story."
"Carroll was off-balance."
"Huh?" He said quickly not quite paying attention to me and began singing ?Happy Un-Birthday.' He waved arms around as if he were conducting and stood up and twirled around on the tips of his barefoot toes. The song and scene proved too acute for my hangover. I closed my eyes and I waited till it ended.
"Lewis Carroll wasn't right in the head," I said, "though very creative."
"Who's Lewis Carroll?"
"What do you mean?" Bourbon hangovers made me believe that there existed some violent criminals in my head who used pickaxes against my skull in an attempt to breakout of their bone imprisonment.
He turned and looked at me, "Who's Lewis Carroll?"
"He's the guy that wrote Alice in Wonderland."
Dan started shaking his head back and forth and pointed at the television. "Lewis Carroll didn't write Alice in Wonderland."
"What do you mean?" I said flabbergasted as if some secret had been held from me.
"Walt Disney wrote Alice in Wonderland."
He truly believed it, and I couldn't argue with him. In Orlando, Disney and fantasy were everything - along with commercialism, brainwashing, and stupid people looking for robotic thrills. Dan was not alone. I confronted the rest of his roommates and secretly asked them, "Who wrote Alice in Wonderland?"
"Disney," was the repeated answer. When I told them that I was under the assumption that Lewis Carroll had written the book, they told me it didn't matter.
"It doesn't matter."
"It just doesn't. It's like who remembers anybody who happens to write a movie?"
"But he didn't write the movie."
"That's my point."
"That he didn't write the movie?"
"But he wrote the book."
"It doesn't matter."
"Is there anything to drink in the house?"
Before I left Orlando I did buy Dan a copy of Alice in Wonderland, but I doubt he read it. He owned no books, and I never saw he reading. He probably believed the myth that Disney was frozen in one of the tunnels below the Magic Kingdom awaiting for the day technology could bring him back to life so he could turn the entire planet into an amusement park - we'd all be stuck in his world, living in a fantasy sort of like the movie The Matrix (that's an allusion - in case you didn't know - to pop-culture).
Zora Neale Hurston once wrote in the AWP (American Writers Project) Travel Guide on Florida that Orlando was named after a character in William Shakespeare's play As You Like It. The irony was not that people believed her, but few knew what she was talking about. I moved to Orlando because of Hurston and grew tired of explaining who she was to people, and even more tired that no one understood how ironically funny her joke had become. Orlando was the guy who wrote bad-cliched poetry and hung it though-out the forest. Disney was Orlando: cliched and stolen stories put on land that once was forest and swamp. Alice in Wonderland was no longer Lewis Carroll's; The Jungle Book was no longer Kipling's; Peter Pan was no longer Sir James Barrie's; everything now belonged to Disney. Literature was forgotten, and I felt like staying drunk in order to reduce my I.Q. and fit in. People loved Orlando and believed in its magic and I never got far in telling people that the Seminole's believed that the area of Orlando was magical ("Aren't they those people that wrestle alligators?") or joke that Ponce de Leon's problem was he didn't come far enough inland in his quest ("Who's P'once de Leon?") because the fountain of youth existed in Orlando ("Wha t's the fountain of youth?"). It was the youngest city in the country with a median age of 30.2 years (go one county to the south and the median age jumps to 74.6). Of course, the fountain of youth not only made you younger but it made you stupid.
So am I saying that you can't enjoy Disney? No. Disney can be an enjoyable place, but it is a symbol of American commercialism and it wants to take our cultural dreams and resell them to us in neat packages. If we began to forget where these dreams originated and begin to take them all at face value we lose put of individuality, part of our heritage and we become accessible to be used or manipulated. We buy Disney because Disney is right and good-spirited and American. Right? Well, Disney was an opium freak and didn't like children. Very American? Only if you consider that we're all human and all have our own problems to deal with. It's the illusion or propaganda of America that makes us believe people are evil or wicked if they aren't perfect. Take nothing ever at face value.
A good friend of mine, Rich, worked the part of Goofy. He went in at 7 A.M. and worked until 12 P.M. He worked what was known as Breakfast-Sets. A cast of Disney Characters - usually Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Minnie, Donald, etc. - would go to one of Disney's elaborate hotels and hug guests as the come down for breakfast. One night we got to drinking rum - drinking cause our dates didn't show - in the Jacuzzi and he let me in on a secret.
"You see there's a lot of them between like 14 and 18, budding you know - they come down barely awake and yawning and many of them are from out of the country and young and all excited about being in Disney and hugging Goofy and so I just feel them."
"Their breasts. I move my hands so they rub up against their breasts."
"Actually, it's a game. Me and the other characters have bets about how many breasts we can touch in a day. Once I touched sixty. Sometimes - these girls get up late and come down with loose fitting shirts and no bras and Goofy's head rests on my shoulders and I look out of his mouth so when I hug some of these girls I'm looking straight down their shirts to their nipples."
This scene actually changed Disney for me. I now had visions of Disney characters fondling young girls and performing orgies in the gardens outside of Cinderella's Castle. Alice in a gangbang with the Big Bad Wolf and Goofy while Dewey, Huey and Dopey watched. Disney was no longer funny, but twisted. I had been going to work early, and going to work stoned. Crossing the Seven Seas Lagoon in a ferry and catching the three o'clock parade with its marching characters - Snow White, the seven dwarves, Mickey, Donald, Tigger, everyone - and it's music Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo. Being stoned put Disney in a euphoric state of fantasy and goodness. It brought everything alive. It made the illusion real.
about the author
Kent Fielding's first book of poetry Chief Iffucan was published in 2002 by Wasteland Press. His work has appeared in journals and anthologies such as Prairie Schooner, Asheville Poetry Review, Modern Haiku, Pavement Saw, Frisk Magazine, Bottle Rockets, Wilmington Blues and others.