I don’t consider myself a nostalgic person. If you want to get a glimpse of my personality, think of Belle as she yells, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere” from the top of a hill literally located in the great wide somewhere. Meaning, I’m always seeking the next adventure while I’m currently swimming in my current adventure. Maybe I need therapy. Maybe I’m a weirdo. The more I run from one adventure to the next, the more my nostalgia for Disneyland has started to force its way into my life.
I’m the type of person who doesn’t keep in touch with my high school friends. I only didn’t throw out my high school yearbooks because my mom stepped in to intervene. Something about how my future kiddos may want to see what their mom looked like in braces and a sheer blue top. I’m terrible at hanging photos on the wall. I will literally decorate my entire apartment for every mundane holiday, but I can’t bother with hanging photo documention that I have a boyfriend or a family. I have moved 10 times in the past 5 years. 5 of those moves happened within 1 year. I lived in Boise. I lived in 3 borroughs of New York. Through the entire process, my homesickness started to grow. And it was weird. Because I’m not the type of person to get homesick. When I lived in New York, I assumed that I was homesick for California, because duh…that’s where I’m from. Then, one afternoon, I wound up at Coney Island with a couple friends. I was enamored with Coney Island, but more specifically, with Luna Park. The tiny and wonderful carnival that exists on that treasure of a beach.
We went on the ferris wheel.
We rode the classic Cyclone. A wooden rollercoaster that literally gave me a screaming headache, but so worth it.
And of course, my favorite, the Ghost Hole.
Which is the most classic type of dark ride I’ve ever been on. It was so simple. So perfect. I would’ve ridden it 100 times if the admission wasn’t $6.00 per ride.
After leaving Luna Park, I felt re-energized. Full of life. Like a kid that just completed a full day of Disneyland. I later found out that Luna Park was my grandma’s favorite park growing up. The cyclone was also her favorite rollercoaster. And she spent her summers hanging out at that very park. Here’s a woman who took me to Disneyland growing up, and her love for theme parks was rooted in this little treasure that I had finally discovered.
I was hooked on the place. I used to ride the orange line in the middle of the day just to head back by myself and be around it.
It was intoxicating. It felt like home. In this realization, I had about a thousand other realizations. No matter what adventure I go on in my life, the concept of the theme park, carnival or amusement park will forever be rooted into who I am. It will always tug at my heartstrings. I could be living in Italy with a set of triplets with a play opening on Broadway, and I would still get insanely homesick for Disneyland, and would have to escape to Disneyland Paris every month or so. It seems ridiculous that I need this in my life to feel like a fulfilled human. But for me, it’s the only thing that makes sense.
Since I left California, the main thing that I’ve come to realize, is that the only people who I keep in touch with (aside from blood relatives) in California are friends I’ve met working at Disneyland and occasionally Universal. These are people I actually still talk on the phone with. People who I try to stay updated on what’s happening in their lives.
When I think back to my college years, I think of working at Disneyland. College itself was a blur. Especially the last 2 years. I was antsy and bored in most of my classes. My true college experience was the excitement I felt being in a theme park every single day.
When I think back to my childhood, most of my memories come from Disneyland. Visiting Disneyland for me, is more powerful than ever revisiting my old high school, childhood home, or literally anything. There are so many specific moments of my life that were developed in that theme park. When I walk down Main Street, it’s like I’m returning home. When I go on “Peter Pan,” I remember both how that’s the ride I used to cherish visiting with my mom, but also the fact that I worked over at “Snow White’s Scary Adventure” just across the land. I can deny it all I want, but that park is 100% a part of who I am and who I will always be.
So, being away from it is kinda terrible. I’m a reasonable grownup. I don’t know what I thought would happen. It’s not like I wanted to spend the rest of my life within a 30-mile radius of Disneyland. In fact, when I originally left California, I was so tired of California itself. I wanted to live someplace new. I wanted to be the new kid in town. I wanted to throw myself into a new situation. I wanted to see more than what I grew up seeing. I got exactly what I wanted, and the high price to pay, is that the element of joy from my childhood is far away. And yes, I can take trips there. But it’s always too fleeting. It always makes me want to live in the stairwell in the castle and never leave.
So, to move on with my life, I’ve had to tap into something new. I’ve had to tap into what it is about Disneyland that I adore most. And to be honest, it’s the form of escapism. In all the times that I’ve moved and wandered, all I’ve ever really needed was a way to escape. And while Disneyland is the crown jewel of theme parks, there are literally so many others that I haven’t given a chance. And when I visited Luna Park, it proved to me once and for all that I’m not simply a Disney snob, I’m a theme park lady through and through. I’m trying to plan a trip to SilverWood in Northen Idaho this spring.
Their mascots are Garfield and Odie. The park sits on 413 acres of land and has over 65 rides. It’s original attractions consist of Main Street and a steam train.
They even celebrate ScaryWood in October. I’m so excited to open my eyes a little bit and give other places a chance. I’m certain I will love it. Because it is a theme park. And because my name is Erika.