Tuesday, May 15, 2007

THE GENTLEMAN FROM JASPERWOOD, PART ONE. The Gentleman from Jasperwood -- neither at Minneapolis St.Paul International Airport nor at Orlando International Airport could any one recall his name -- with his wife and daughter, was on his way to Disney World, where he intended to stay for one whole week, solely for the pleasure of it.

He was firmly convinced that he had a full right to a rest, enjoyment, a long comfortable trip, and what not. This conviction had a two-fold reason: first he was rich, and second, despite his forty-eight years, he was just about to enter the stream of life's pleasures.
Not to spoil the story, but having spent four days in the realm of the Mouse, you could cut my wrists and I’d bleed Disney Kool-Aid. Because that’s how much I drank. This is going to take a few days, so let's begin.
Of course, it was first of all himself that he desired to reward for the years of toil, but he was also glad for his wife and daughter's sake.
If you have any doubts about anything in the world – the purposes of money, the transience of joy, the point of it all, frankly – it is swept away the second you watch your daughter running barefoot through the grass in the dusk to see the fireworks burst over the lagoon.

It’s the best place ever she says, awestruck.

It’s Disneyworld...
The manner of living was a most aristocratic one; passengers rose early, awakened by the shrill voice of a bugle, filling the corridors at the gloomy hour when the day broke slowly and sulkily over the grayish-green watery desert, which rolled heavily in the fog. After putting on their flannel pajamas, they took coffee, chocolate, cocoa; they seated themselves in marble baths, went through their exercises, whetting their appetites and increasing their sense of well-being, dressed for the day, and had their breakfast.
It’s clean. It’s so clean and perfect you wonder why everything doesn’t look like this. But why is it clean? You see no one picking things up. Maybe the very fact that it’s spotless and pristine makes people hesitate to ruin the perfection. Then again, you placed a small piece of paper on the ground and walked away a few yards, just to see what happened. It vanished in a puff of smoke.
Immediately, life at Orlando began to follow a set routine. Early in the morning breakfast was served in the gloomy dining-room, swept by a wet draught from the open windows looking upon a stony garden, while outside the sky was cloudy and cheerless, and a crowd of guides swarmed at the door of the vestibule.
We stopped at the Port Royale food court, and got something to keep us from falling over. My wife selected an Oriental salad; I chose a small, pre-packaged salad, and Gnat had a small bag of chips.
Next on the day's program was a slow automobile ride along crowded, narrow, and damp corridors of streets, between high, many-windowed buildings.
Monorails. Sigh. part of you thinks this is so cool and part thinks this is so lame. The rails themselves, with thier pylons and stained we concrete, have a deadening effect on the landscape, but the moment the cars slide past they look cool again. Then they leave, and the rails look like an abandoned aqueduct.
While the steamer was anchored at Space Mountain and Frontierland, the situation was more cheerful; but even here the ship rolled terribly, and the coast with all its precipices, gardens and pines, with its pink and white hotels and hazy mountains clad in curling verdure, flew up and down as if it were on swings. The rowboats hit against the sides of the steamer, the sailors and the deck passengers shouted at the top of their voices, and somewhere a baby screamed as if it were being crushed to pieces.
Gnat was a little unnerved by the preliminaries, and held my hand quite tightly. This from a kid who took Space Mountain without blinking. We shuffled down a dim corridor, lined with amusing symbols of Victoriana; apparently for all time, the late 19th century domestic style is fixed as the preferred model for haunted homes. As I’ve said before, it’s like waking up 70 years in the future and discovering that the post-war rambler is now the standard model for domiciles cursed by the dead.
A wet wind blew through the door, and from a wavering barge flying the flag of the Hotel Royal, an urchin kept on unwearyingly shouting "Welcome! Foolish Mortals! To the Haunted Mansion! . . ." inviting tourists. And the Gentleman from Jasperwood felt like the old man that he was...

We were crammed into a dim octagonal room with 70 other damned souls, and the doors were closed. It appeared that there weren’t any doors at all, and there had never been any door.

Then the lights went out.

I think this is as good a time as any to reveal that I am severely claustrophobic.

(Text from Ivan Bunin and James Lileks.)

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