Is there really going to be a whole page devoted to
But you have to go through the foyer, and then upstairs, and then down a long hall.
Pull the candelabra that says “Pull me.”
And then you’ll find you’re somehow in the foyer again.
Look for a strange old lady drinking sidecars in the red velvet chair with a stack of books nearby, if you can find her. Say “Excuse me, do you know where Disneyland is?”
And she’ll look surprised to see you and answer brightly “I think it’s in Anaheim maybe?”
But then I’ll probably come along and show you this room and say conspiratorially “Here it is, but maybe don’t tell anyone.”
Then I’ll laugh at myself. “Who am I kidding.” I say. “Tell anyone you want.”
“Would you like a cherry soda?” I’ll add. “Or maybe something a bit harder?” Then I’ll add in a whisper. “I hear the one in Tokyo is the best one.”
You will wonder if I mean the Disneyland or the cherry soda.
I mean the Disneyland.
Here is my Disneylandish solution for the problems of Venice:
When the cry goes up that some storied vacation destination is being ruined by its visitors I have some sympathy, but I am also skeptical. My sympathy for the residents of said places, Florence, Bruges, Venice, Barcelona, is tempered by the fact that those people do get to live there. Those are beautiful, interesting places! I am also wary of this impulse to blame the visitors to begin with. While visitors have a huge impact on these cultural wonderlands, they don’t actually have very much power as to how they are run. That power lies more with the local government, which, hopefully, in democracies such as these, are chosen by the people who live there. The tourists don’t get a vote. The impact of visitors is, I believe, almost entirely controllable by the cities themselves.
Now the elephant in the room is that there are some people making an awful lot of money in places like Venice or Florence. And if there are dire problems with the disappearance of Venice as a real city it probably comes down to them far more than to their largely goodhearted and well-heeled tourists. But for the sake of brevity and simplicity I am all for setting that aside here. Perhaps we’ll revisit it some other time. But today we are simply taking a practical look and are making our first steps towards fixing problems.
And as our test city we will use Venice, as it is the most impacted, decultured, and Disneyfied city in all of Europe. Also the fact that it’s an island works easily with our plans.
Before I go any further I want to say that this is probably going to horrify you. So brace yourself.
1. Admit that Venice is a Disneyland of sorts, and start treating it more like one.
Venice has long since been subsumed in its tourism. Instead of trying to manage all the greedy cash grabbing of businesses and the tourists seeking cheap and easy thrills all while trying to pretend Venice is a real Italian city, Venice needs to lean into what it actually is and leverage that to make it more what it wants to be.
2. Charge an admission fee.
I like a couple different scenarios here. On the one hand a flat rate of 100 euros per adult to enter Venice seems reasonable and especially effective with what might be Venice’s biggest problem; day visitors. I like even better a larger entrance fee, 250 euros or so, that would make all transportation and museums free to anyone in the city, which would further benefit locals. A flat fee is essential, having the effect of encouraging longer visits and taxing short ones. Making the entrance free or cheaper for young people, students, and locals should be worked in as well.
3 Tax policy
This could get complicated and be applicable to a far broader array of cities than just the heavily touristed ones. But we can start with the more businesses a person or company owns the higher their tax rate should be. If an owner does not live in Venice they should also pay higher taxes. Air bnb’s and partially unoccupied second homes should further be taxed at special, higher rates. The main goal here is a capitalism that hobbles big businesses and corporations and all that is generic, lowest common denominator, cookie cutter culture, but, in the best spirit of capitalism, invites small, unique, clever, and quality, local, mom and pop businesses to get modestly rich.
4. Spend all that money!
All of this creates a lot of new money for Venice while also easing the crowds a bit. This money still needs to be spent properly. Here are a few ideas:
A. Subsidized high minimum wages and housing for people who work in Venice.
B. Lots of very good, well tended, free public bathrooms. An excellent plan for any popular city that doesn’t want to smell like pee.
C. More civic employees working unexciting jobs at very good wages in an extraordinary place: garbage pickup, vaporetto drivers and mechanics, janitorial work, information kiosks, first aid, customer service, inspectors, and security. This will not only make the city safer, cleaner, and easier to navigate and enjoy, but it will help contribute to a local economy and community of people working and living in Venice.
D. Longer museum hours. Spread the joy.
E. Grants, opportunities, and tax breaks for both local craftspeople and artisans, and for more practical shops and stores.
And that’s my plan for a start. What does it do? It makes Venice a little less crowded due to some people not finding the steep admission worth it just for a day or two. It creates or encourages a middle class local culture that lives, works, and is invested in the city. It encourages a more inventive tourism culture. It makes the city better kept, easier to enjoy, better spread out, and more like a natural city, even if it isn’t one.
It’s worth a try before it sinks.
8/12/21: Weird experiment day!
Today I am going through every page I have in Life is a Fountain and adding something hopefully relevant to it from the annals of Clerkmanifesto. It’s my desperate attempt to freshen up everything after being away for a couple weeks. So here you go:
Soon enough my wife and I will be in Paris for a brief week. And nothing I say about that trip quite makes people roll their eyes like when I tell them we’ll be dashing off to Disneyland for a day. “But, you discuss Proust. How can you be going to Disney Paris?”
I don’t discuss Proust hardly ever! One time I say something about Proust and people think I can’t have a cheeseburger or go to Paris Disneyland! So unfair!
I hear Paris Disney is very prettily made because they were afraid the Europeans would be used to such a high standard as to the look of the park that they’d settle for nothing less. It is called the most lovely of Disney parks. But I have also read that people wander around Disneyland Paris smoking and littering all the time, and that Disney doesn’t staff the park enough to keep up so it’s a bit messy. The bathrooms are all supposed to be an inch deep in water as well. They say lots of bulbs are out in the Small World attraction. I wonder if you can put in a Euro to turn the lights on for a bit, like in the Roman Churches.
Frankly it all sounds interesting. You know, European. Like, here’s the prettiest, most charming little street you’ve ever seen in your life, but these shutters are covered in ugly graffiti no one has managed to clean off in ten years. “You don’t like our ugly graffiti covered garage? Ah well, look just a tiny bit left there. Gorgeous, no?”
Yes, it’s gorgeous.
It’s awful when a bunch of tourists go to these lovely European cities and think it’s just an amusement park. These are real places with real people living their real lives!
I will try to keep that in mind when we go to Disneyland Paris.
A couple days ago we opened a discussion of the library sub pool which led to a silly joke about submarines. My imagery for that joke was based on a Disneyland ride that I loved, The Submarine Ride. It required an E-ticket! I grew up in L.A. with a fierce and hungry, nay, desperate, love for Disneyland. The E-ticket, as the highest level ticket, was a very precious commodity in my youthful trips to Disneyland because my family was of the horrible sort that would never consider getting more tickets than those that came in the standard entrance book. The submarine ride was a touch overvalued as an E-ticket, but would have been brilliant as a D-ticket ride. Not least because there were almost no good D rides. In the Submarine Ride one walked down into a submarine, sat at a porthole, and went on a thrilling adventure in an underwater world. I believe there were mermaids, shipwrecks, an octopus, a squid, polar ice caps, a sea serpent, fish. Plus I think it was one of the cooler (temperature-wise) rides, or gave the illusion of being cooler due to its watery nature. This was a great benefit in the hot summers when we usually visited. The Submarine Ride closed in 1998, which is later than I would have guessed. It was originally supposed to have real fish back when it was built in the fifties. I am thankful that that didn’t pan out since I don’t think it would have been in the proper Disneyland spirit.
When I was eleven and a trip to Disneyland was in the offing (it happened maybe once a year) I would make obsessive lists and plans concerning my time in Disneyland. This is actually something that carried over into my adult plans for trips to Europe, which, come to think of it, are just versions to me of trips to Disneyland, complete with their E-ticket rides (Villa Borghese, Sant’Ivo Sapienza). And why not. After all, what was Disneyland in the sixties and seventies but a synthetic vacation tour of the world, and one with many stops in Europe. One simple thing I might do, in my youth, just for starters, is list the E-ticket rides in order of quality. It would run off of the above E-ticket like so, though the commentary is modern:
1. Pirates of the Caribbean
The greatest amusement park ride ever made. It’s the mood, no, the fake sky, no, the shanties, no, the rapids…
2. Haunted Mansion
I was never entirely keen on the crowdedness of the rooms at the start of the attraction, or the stuff jumping out later on. Other than that it is all dark, glowy, spooky magic.
3. Matterhorn Bobsleds
The thrill ride that a slightly timid ten year old can handle the second he is tall enough.
4. Jungle Cruise
A comedy performance! A boat ride! Wild animals that are fake!
5. Submarine Voyage
Hey, this is our topic today!
6. It’s a Small World
The only thing that allows this ride onto the tail end our hallowed list here is the fact that it is in a boat. I feel passionately about any ride that takes place on the water. Plus it gave one something to sing incessantly for the next month.
The other “rides” listed on the ticket are pure chaff as “E” attractions. Do these people seriously think I would want to go to America Sings more than getting another precious visit to The Pirates of the Caribbean? Did I ever go to America Sings? Certainly not while there was a ticket system. There was also one C-ticket ride that was good enough to be an E-ticket ride, maybe about on par with The Submarine Ride. That was Adventure Thru Inner Space (1967 to 1985), the ride where one shrinks smaller than an atom. You shrink smaller than an atom! And there was no movie tie in! Actually, come to think of it, there was no movie tie in with any of these. And everything was analog, illusions, yes, but existing in the real world. I love it to this day.
The last thing I should be doing on Life is a Fountain, when it is so full of chaos, needs so much tending, and I have to leave for work in half an hour, is to poke about here in the Disneyland Room. But as with so many things around here I was headed somewhere else, took a wrong turn, and found myself here. Then I just wanted to do this one thing, and then I kind of got involved. For some odd reason I added the piece above you, all about the E Ticket rides of my childhood ventures to Disneyland. Then I remembered an old pieces I wrote of an imagined journey of Pirates of the Caribbean. I realized that eventually I would kind of like to do that for every ride I like at Disneyland- kind of make a Disneyland right in here!
So to start with here is a journey through my historical favorite of all rides, The Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland, Anaheim. Don’t leave the boat or stand up while in motion:
Because I am at Disney World, or just about to go, or just returned from Disney World, all depending of your particular view of time, I thought I might like to share the joy of it all with you.
I know that half of you haven’t the faintest interest in Disney World, and the other half harbor varying levels of affection and interest in Disney World ranging from “I’d go there” to “My heart bursts before you even finish pronouncing the ‘Diz’ part of Disney World!” But perhaps it is because of this great diversity that I want to bring everyone together. Also, really, I wanted to bring everyone together because in the end I believe it’s a small world.
So we’re all going to get in a boat!
Don’t worry, there are plenty of seats. This blog isn’t the Smitten Kitchen or something. We can fit all my blog readers into one or two boats. Just step all the way down to the end of your row. We are going on a remembered ride through Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean, the greatest amusement park ride ever created. Since the ride is in my memory, it will be at the better Disneyland version, it will be before any Movie tie-in stuff was added, and it will not so perfectly correspond to the actual ride as it exists, but rather to its alchemy in my soul.
Our boat drifts slowly out into the southern swamps, the Louisiana Bayou. It is late dusk. Clouds smear across the moon and fog rises from the water. It’s quiet and the smell of swamp and expectation is so lovely and powerful that the first time I went to the real southern swamps of America’s Southeast I already knew them, from this. Old shack houses sit on stilts in the water among great cypress trees hanging with moss. The first stars appear in the sky. Fireflies are blinking about. An old man rocks his chair on his porch watching us float by. He knows more than we do even though we have been on this ride 40 or 50 times and he is just a robot.
I will tell you that many, many exciting things lie ahead of us beyond this quiet swamp, but nevertheless, this, this, with its moody evocativeness and leisurely anticipation, this, is the best part of the whole ride.
We enter a tunnel, a cave, darkness, and our boat plunges! Everything changes. It is our first shift. We are now deep in lost sea caves. The tone is quiet and haunted. We see scenes of past pirate disaster, a murder on treasure island with skeletons and jewels to tell the tale. All that is left alive here is a black bird. But what is life? A skeleton sits propped up in bed pouring over his maps. Down in lost lands of mythical treasures and terrible curses, picked clean corpses still go about their debaucheries, though there is no satisfaction left in them without flesh.
Now A skull, a talking skull adorning the entrance to the next tunnel haunts us with grim warnings.
And I will interrupt here, because the pace of this ride is slow enough, to note one amazing thing: Of course we don’t think this is all actually happening, these tableaux, these tiny one act plays, or that any of it is real, but nevertheless we never question the space. We never think “Ah, we are merely traveling in a clever building. There is a wall. This is a set.” We believe the space. We are someplace other, with undefined limits, neither inside or outside. We know it is proscribed, but also in our hearts we believe we are on a journey.
We plunge over another falls as the skull warns us and then…
Pirate song! Ribald revelry! The half chaos of rich and wild and amoral and silly and mad pirates. We see them feasting and wenching and drinking and enforcing their powers and lack of supervision, their absurd freedom. We see the florid drunkenness of their lovely, busy Caribbean town. And make what condemnations you like about pirates, but their music is excellent, and rousing! We wander into a ship to shore cannon battle that is fascinating because we are so safe and it seems so gentle. The way a 16 lb. cannonball plunges into the water is so quietly fascinating. Even gunfire and battle and people idly shooting guns and cannons off and lighting barrels of explosives is just more fuel for the party.
Until, of course, it all starts burning down.
The whole town end to end is now burning. Trapped pirate prisoners beg a dog for their keys. Flames roar and how amazing it is that we can pass through them immune to heat. Our boats are immune on the water, but Pirate Town is burning to the ground!
Here too we have plenty of time to admire the disaster. We look into the deep glowing embers of the great beams of wood. We watch the licking flames that are made of something other than fire in the way that Michelangelo’s David’s hand is not a hand, but marble. Only somehow this is sillier, and includes a boat ride.
And then, and then, and then!
it’s over. Our boat goes uphill! We see the line where we started. There is a fake parrot and real people and the world we know and understand. We get ready to leave our boat, ready for the next thing.
But I ask you this: Where exactly were we?
Please exit to your right.