(This is a heavily modified version of a poorly, hastily written, crazy sounding fragment of email I wrote to someone a few years back, completely true.)
Monique and I went to Disney World in 2008, and it was in some ways her first time there since the only other time she went was occupied mainly by standing in 90 minute lines for 3 minutes rides. Before, during and after the adventure I repeatedly related to her my memories of the amazing time you and I had down there with the art and theater classes. You and M___ (who after high school became a singer/songwriter and was discovered a few years ago by Sonic Youth somehow, I don’t know if you had heard this) and I carefully avoided the other students and their attempted incursions into our party so that we could ride Splash Mountain as much as possible with our sensibilities uncompromised.
Disney World succeeds for me on a few levels… I’m sort of a Disney apologist. Proles love the place at face value, then there are those sophisticated enough to (rightly) deplore the place entirely because of the patronizing nature of it, the merchandising, the heat and long lines, Walt Disney’s supposed anti-Semitism, etc.; but beyond this is a still more exclusive group, the one to which I belong, which sees the place simultaneously as a vast anthropological and sociological experiment, museum of archaic prejudices, dreams and optimism of a time long past where the future was seen as an empty place, of spotless cement concourses lined with steel, glass and turquoise enamel. Many have noticed that visiting Tomorrowland is like taking a rocket trip to 1974, but my absolute favorite is the languid, cool, intergalactic tour on the TTA— Tomorrowland Transit Authority, formerly called The People Mover. But I also love It’s a Small World and the visible signs of Disney’s failing efforts to keep the place Optimistic. This last time I noticed a segment of the ride near the beginning that wasn’t being used at all… it was a kind of strange, unlit room with gray business carpet, just sticking off to the side. I feel nostalgia for a time when it was ok to be corny and sentimental and optimistic. John Waters said a few years ago that kitsch wasn’t fun anymore because everyone was now in on the joke— but I’m personally at least cynical enough that I’m totally exasperated with cynicism itself, and there’s no doubt to me that kind of way of experiencing Disney World is truly far better than it ordinarily would be for me because it has been salted with other dark associations.
Specifically, I had been telling Monique about how you and M___ and I had lunch one day at Columbia Harbor House in the ironically named Liberty Square, at a somewhat secluded table up on the second floor of a little Colonial-era restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. After a few minutes you quietly directed our attention to a man sitting alone at a nearby table with his head in his hands who was obviously highly disturbed or aggrieved. Do you remember this? We wondered what it could be… did his wife just leave him? Is Disney World simply too sublimely depressing? Anyway, I told Monique over and over about having seen this person and what a horrible place Disney World must be to have a nervous breakdown in. [Or terrific place, now that I think about it.]
So I wanted to take Monique to see this same place where we had seen this guy 15 years before. We got there, ordered our lunch, went upstairs, and found a table on the other side of that same room where we sat so long ago…
In a different area than before, but in a remote, empty part of the dining area near us…
…was a solitary man WITH HIS FACE BURIED IN HIS HANDS.
The server told us that there are people who come there by themselves every single day, order the same exact thing, and just… sit there alone. She said one man had done it for 11…or was it 19 years…? I can’t remember. If we fall out of touch and you don’t know what ever happened to me, maybe I will have become that guy!
What timeless, deterministic ride is any of this?