The Horrors of Disneyland

Disneyland

“The tranquil water-way leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky–seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.”

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was on my mind as we made our way from one attraction to another at Disneyland. Your first assumption is that the Magic Kingdom is all sweetness and light. After all, it bills itself as The Happiest Place on Earth.

But that can be misleading. Walking through the cheery front gates onto a bustling Main Street inevitably leads you toward a darker subtext of the Disneyland story.

And that realization really hit me for the first time on our most recent visit. I’ve been to the park dozens of times as a visitor, and I worked there for a year during high school, but for some reason I never truly noticed all the death and fear that makes up the place.

The first thing that clued me in were the skulls. They’re everywhere! Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones Adventure, Pirates Lair, Peter Pan’s Flight. Piles of them! The Disneyland Hotel even had a gigantic skull-shaped rock to slide through at their pool before they remodeled and ripped it out.

If it’s not skulls, it’s scares.

The Matterhorn features two appearances by a ferocious demon-eyed Abominable Snowman. Alice in Wonderland is like some sort of freaky LSD trip. Indiana Jones almost drops you off a bridge into a pit of fire. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride actually concludes by sending you to hell, complete with blasts of hot air and a face-to-face meeting with Satan himself.

And then there’s the dead come to life.

The classic Haunted Mansion features a killer bride who wants to rip your still-beating heart from your chest. There’s a graveyard of ghosts and ghouls popping up from underneath their headstones, eager to come home with you. And then there’s that poor sap who is about to be buried alive and pleads with you to help him escape from his coffin. When I was a young boy, I kept my eyes closed the whole way through the Mansion. Sometimes I’d even plug my ears. That place was the stuff of nightmares to me.

There’s only one truly innocent ride in Disneyland — It’s A Small World. But the case could be made that cruising through room after room of unblinking, perpetually smiling, singing dolls is actually kind of creepy. You can very well imagine the place to be populated with the offspring of Chucky and Annabelle.

Okay, okay, don’t get me wrong. I love Disneyland.

In fact, I love the place so much I would make it an annual vacation destination if allowed by family and finances. I love every ride at Disneyland, and so do my kids. We’ve been to the park five times over the past ten years, and always for multiple days because you just don’t rush through it.

And those scary rides? They’re the best. Every time we visit, those are the rides we rack up the frequent rider miles on. Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder, Indiana Jones, Snow White. We get off and get right back on. The spookier it is, the more we want to ride it. During our last trip, my son and I set a personal record for Pirates of the Caribbean. 10 times in a 10-hour day.

We always have a blast being scared and bedazzled by the skulls and snakes and man-eating whales. Part of the magic of Disney is knowing that the things that frighten are just for fun. I’ve never seen bigger smiles on my kids’ faces than when they’re jumping out of their seats after something has shocked them silly.

Of course, as you get older you start to think that the best ride is in the little circle at the end of Main Street, next to the statue of Walt and Mickey. There you can find a lovely green bench, from which you can comfortably sit and watch the crowds go by. The way tourists act and dress might just be scarier than anything else you see in the park.

An undead pirate on the Pirates Lair

An undead pirate at the Pirates Lair

A denizen of the Matterhorn

A denizen of the Matterhorn

Skulls everywhere!

Skulls everywhere!

All photos by Idaho Dad

Be Good To Your Feet

feet-002Five years ago I was getting ready for my first long-distance walk, an 84-mile excursion in England.

And it was scaring me, because I knew something was wrong with my feet. I had broken in my new boots, but they still didn’t feel right.

This wasn’t new to me. As a kid, many decades ago, I hiked monthly with my Scout troop. My boots back then were stiff and unforgivable, with soles that felt and weighed like concrete. Every nail, eyelet, and grommet would stab into my feet with each tortuous step on the trail. We wore thin cotton socks that soaked up sweat like a sponge. It wasn’t a matter of getting blisters, but how bad they would be.

Back to five years ago, it was clear to me that boot-making materials and technology had changed dramatically since the 70s. My new Merrell boots were light and flexible, and I had the best synthetic moisture-wicking socks you could buy. But something was still wrong.

Thanks to the Google, I figured out that boot companies tend not to put much effort into their insoles. The manufacturers just assume that any serious walker is going to replace them with a pair suited best for their type of feet.

I had no idea there were so many types of insoles out there. Oh, I soon found out, trying out three different brands before finding one that fit me and my Merrells best.

Just before it was time for me to board a plane for England, I settled on a pair of gel insoles from Dr. Scholl’s. They weren’t perfect, but they helped.

And then security at the airport tossed them out. They weren’t allowing gel insoles on planes back then.

So, I ended up in the middle of London in a mild panic, until I came upon a backpacking store near Victoria Station. They took pity and introduced me to the Spenco Polysorb Walker/Runner insoles that saved my life on that trip.

I walked those 84 miles with confidence and comfort. I became a believer in quality insoles, whether you’re hiking, walking, running, or just standing on your feet for hours. Continue reading

Christmas Love/Hate

I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas.

I love setting up the Christmas tree, lights, and assorted decorations.

I hate taking them down just because they never seem to fit back in the boxes I took them out of!

I love looking out at the snow.

I hate driving in the snow.

I love giving fun toys and games to my kids.

I hate that nobody ever gives ME fun toys and games anymore.

I love listening to Christmas music.

I hate listening to Christmas music, ’round about midnight of December 25th.

I love the looks on my kids’ faces when they open their presents.

I hate having to figure out where to put all this new stuff they’re getting.

I love the cookies and treats.

I hate that my clothes won’t fit right for weeks after.

I love watching A Christmas Story, Home Alone, and Christmas Vacation with my kids. And, after they go to bed, watching Love, Actually with my wife.

I hate that there are so many horrible Christmas movies out there, like Deck The Halls and Jingle All The Way.

I love egg nog ice cream.

I hate peppermint ice cream.

I love forgetting about the world’s troubles for just a few days.

I hate that the troubles seem to always return in a worse way.

What do you love/hate about Christmas?

Our Culture of Fear

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge — even to ourselves — that we’ve been so credulous.” – Carl Sagan

I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m feeling a little bamboozled lately after reading various reports about the realities of crime and child abduction in this country.

After all, I have long recognized that America’s mass media thrives upon the Culture of Fear that it helped to create. But still, when it comes to the safety of children, I’ve been first in line to sound the alarm and spread the word about caution and awareness.

So now I learn that out of the roughly 800,000 kids that go missing in this country each year, the FBI estimates that only 100 to 200 of them are victims of the most serious type of non-family abductions, news of which fills parents with dread and distrust toward any stranger who looks twice at their children.

Better yet, violent crime in our country is at an all-time low and has been on a steady decline for the past thirty years. But you won’t see that in the headlines. TV and newspapers seem to be only interested in scaring us, rather than informing us of the real level of risk. And why would they want to do that?

Maintaining a certain level of fear and anxiety is good for corporate profits. Because behind every good newspaper, magazine, and TV station is a corporation that has something it wants to sell that will make us feel better about stepping out our front door into that great big scary world.

And the media is only giving the people what they want. Viewers are fascinated with stories of missing, murdered or abused children. It could be that busy parents, who shuttle their kids from one organized activity to another, may actually turn to these horrible news reports to comfort and allay their feelings of guilt over losing control of their own children.

Whatever the explanation, it certainly seems to be a vicious circle of corporate marketers, mass media, and viewers/readers. I don’t believe those first two entities are willing to accurately analyze and report the reality of our world, so it’s up to the audience, especially parents, to refuse to be bamboozled.

The first step is to stop watching TV news, the worst offenders of exaggerating the incidence of child abductions. After that, find news organizations that deal in facts and figures. Become more optimistic and seek out the truth about the world around you. It’s not such a bad place.

The Electric Shave

My first experience with shaving was trimming a few chin hairs with a pair of dull safety scissors. I was 14 or 15, and my cheeks were slow to start growing any kind of facial hair. The scissors sufficed for a few months, but eventually the 5 or 6 stray hairs turned into dozens, and then hundreds. I found my brother’s old electric shaver in a bathroom drawer and started using that to groom myself. 30 years later, I still value the speed and efficiency of an electric shaver.

Now, my son has signaled that he’s ready to join the long line of electricians in his family with a request for a shaver of his own. Luckily, Philips Norelco was willing to set him up with their new Click & Style. It’s an all-in-one shaving and grooming tool and, quite frankly, it’s the best shaver I’ve ever seen.

Norelco Click and Style

The beauty of the Click & Style are the three separate attachments. First, a shaver attachment, with rotary blades. Second, a beard trimmer. And third, a foil style shaver/trimmer. That really covers all the bases for whatever body hair needs to be groomed. All three attachments give you ultimate control and precision for a clean, smooth shave.

My son is finding it much easier to “manscape” with the Click & Style. So easy, in fact, that he can even multi-task while using it. Apparently, this is a thing. People don’t just stand at the mirror and shave anymore. They eat, brush their teeth, read, text, and play video games while grooming themselves. Continue reading

So You Want to Start a Dad Blog?

There are an estimated 40,000 mom blogs out there, giving mothers advice, support, and a place to vent.

How many dad blogs are there? It’s hard to get an exact count, although NPR estimated it to be in the “hundreds.” I would guess that the online dads number roughly 10% of the moms.

In other words, dads have a ways to go. So, if you’re a dad, help us out. Get busy and start a blog.

Making the decision to start a dad blog is easy.

Deciding where to focus your blog is also pretty straight-forward. Write about dad stuff, from the trials and tribulations of being a new father to the wisdom that comes with the experience of raising children.

The hard part of the dad blog comes with finding a title for your new endeavor.

Don’t think that all the good names have been taken. Here are some tips to choosing a unique blog name that will fit you and your musings. Continue reading

The Awesome Gift Guide For Dads

The season of giving and sharing is upon us. It’s a time of charity, of helping those less fortunate, and of extending a helping hand to our fellow man.

And when you’re done with that, it’s time to go shopping!

Whichever holiday you celebrate, from Christmas to Hanukkah to Kwanzaa to Festivus, my Awesome Gift Guide for Dads might help you find just the right thing for the dads in your life. Many of the items on this list were suggested by my fellow dad bloggers. Continue reading

5 Ways To Communicate With Your Teen

You know the stereotype of the uncommunicative teenager.

The indifferent look, the rolled eyes, earbuds firmly in place, off in their own little world while mom and dad try desperately to find a way in.

It’s not impossible to communicate with your teen. There are five guaranteed methods for getting through to them.

And by guaranteed, I mean they work for me.

Sometimes. Most of the time. Hey, they’re better than nothing. Continue reading

The Prize Inside

General Mills Cereals

When I was a kid, and my mom would let me pick out a breakfast cereal at the store, my loyalty to one brand or another was usually trumped by something else.

The prize inside the box!

That was some powerful marketing, because I remember trying out new cereals just because of the cool prize that was promised.

I always dug that thing out of the box with the first breakfast. You never just waited for it to come out on its own. Continue reading

You Little Punk! SOL REPUBLIC Review & Giveaway

It’s that time of the year. Only a few more weeks until Black Friday and the start of the holiday shopping season. Coming up with good gift ideas for friends and family isn’t always easy. Well, I’m here to help!

Sol Republic products have a great reputation in our house, so when they sent me a Punk, one of their new wireless speakers, to review as a holiday gift idea, I knew it would be good. Continue reading