Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
“What was the best part of your vacation?” asked my friend. My husband and I just completed a play week in one of the Disney resorts in Orlando with our daughter and her children—an anniversary gift. I was embarrassed to admit my jet lagged brain responded to the question with visions of delicious food not available locally (fresh fish, dinners from Morocco, Germany, the U.K. and Italy, yummy and creative vegetarian breakfasts and lunches). How pathetic is it to summon memories of food as the best part of a vacation?
“I don’t know,” I answered, copping out.
That evening my husband and I chose to relax with a DVD we had rented long before we left: GOING IN STYLE with Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine. I don’t usually rent comedies—especially comedies about aging people facing their final chapters. I caught myself laughing…out loud. The movie was well done (those actors always elevate their material), and for the first time in…I don’t know how long…I was laughing out loud. My husband, whose laugh is contagious, was asleep. I was laughing alone. Suddenly I knew the answer to the question my friend had asked. The best part of my vacation was regaining my laugh.
Those who’ve followed my blog know I’m an idealist on whom the last couple of years have weighed heavily. I suppose I’d cite the morning after the last presidential election as the moment when my laugh finally disappeared. The best I could manage was a sarcastic chuckle. The world felt angry, spiteful, and dark.
AVATAR is one of my favorite escapist films. I, too, want to soar above the beautiful Pandora wilderness on a magnificent beast with whom I share a unique permanent bond—such as the creatures the film’s humans call banshees and the indigenous call ikran. Hands down my favorite ride in the parks (and yes, we visited all the Disney World activity parks plus Universal Studios Amusement Park) was called Flight of Passage. The design of both the ride and the extensive path leading to it is exquisite in its attention to place, time, and detail. A friend told me even the wait was magical, and she was right.
The ride itself consists of the illusion that each participant is being matched to an avatar who will fly an ikran, giving the human the physical experience. Then each participant is seated on a contraption that looks vaguely like a racing motorcycle with a back brace that moves forward to press you into your seat. Before you, a huge screen displays your visual experience, made more compelling by the 3-D glasses you wear. Between your legs, you can feel your banshee or ikran breathing. The illusion is so good that people readily devote two or three hours to waiting for a chance to experience it. Even when I went a second time and could anticipate the swooping surprises, I loved pretending that my fantasy had, indeed, come true. It wasn’t as personal as riding my horse used to be, but it was close enough to reignite my laugh.
I embarked on our vacation with cynical thoughts about exposing myself to an entirely fabricated happy place. I know the invariably friendly Disney personnel are paid to be open. The gorgeous grounds are meticulously groomed each night. Yet we all need to believe that one day we really can create a reality that contains more kindness, smiles, beauty, and imagination. As I watched my grandchildren go nearly orgasmic over meeting their fantasy idols, I knew there’s something good about pretending magic happens. As long as we can laugh and imagine bliss, it’s real. We can find bits of it waiting around us. We can create more.