disney essay


Michael Chabon

Note: This essay was originally published in 1996 at Phos4.com. However, that Web site went offline in 2002. For the sake of preserving this essay, this Web site is republishing it in its entirety.

There was a time in my life when its pinnacles and false mountaintops rose in my imagination like the prospect of Heaven. I was almost a teenager, and I was looking for a good place to which I could run away from home. Every night before I went to sleep I would unfold the brightly colored, cartoon souvenir map that I'd brought back from the last great vacation my dissolving family all took together, and lie on my stomach for an hour, making plans for a furtive and nocturnal existence in the secret places of the Magic Kingdom. I figured I could sleep during the daytime, in some forgotten garret of Cinderella's Castle or in the tangled and artificial wilderness of Tom Sawyer's Island, emerging at night to melt into the crowd, picking pockets and rifling handbags left unattended, feasting endlessly on frozen bananas and French fries.

This fantasy sustained me for nearly a year, growing more elaborate and detailed. I imagined that I might encounter other runaway children hidden in the corners and stairwells and leafy shadows of Disney World; together we would hunt for food, and run the rides for our own amusement, and help one another to elude the grim-faced men I had seen, in their telltale red vests and barber-shop armbands, who carried walkie-talkies and did not wear name tags.

I heard that there were tunnels and concealed passages beneath the gleaming sidewalks of the Magic Kingdom, and my dreams of escape took on a new and subterranean splendor. Then, suddenly and with a heartbreaking slowness, I grew up, and surrendered my plans of escape. And now here we all are. Isn't it strange? I can scarcely remember what it was like around here before the folks at Disney took over.

Copyright 1996 Michael Chabon