Better Than Disneyland

When I was young, my family lived in Tijuana. So we weren’t that far from Disneyland in Southern California. Once in a while, my dad would pack us into the station wagon, truck us across the border, and take us to the land of the giant mouse. My sister and I would sit in the fold-up way-way-back seat, making faces at the poor people behind us in line at the border or playing those road-trip games of childhood pre-smartphones and pre-internet.

Once disgorged from the wagon in the hundred-acre parking lot of Disney, we’d beeline for Space Mountain (yep, with the urban legend of the kid who got decapitated on the quasi-roller coaster), but after the thrills of Space Mountain, and after the absolute amazement of Star Tours, we’d head to the Pirates of the Caribbean. The 1980s and 1990s Pirates of the Caribbean—with the dog holding the key ring outside the jail cell, and the dark bayou canals, and the fake fireflies. Perhaps it has changed, but back then, a cafe sat beside the ride, so visitors could have lunch in the faux night of lightning bugs with the ride’s boats slipping by in the not-real bayou.

Tonight, as the Bosun and Boat Dog and I took the dinghy out into the early dark to “circumnavigate” the nearby island community of Clear Lake Shores, the calm water, the palm trees and palapas and tiny patio party lights, the sounds of prehistoric night birds, and the abandoned feeling of the canals all took me back to that old Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

No one was out having a drink on their deck or sitting at a firepit. Only a few bright green fish lights disturbed the dark, with schools of shrimp and dark fish gathering and circling. The water was so flat you couldn’t see it ... the boats at their docks simply had butterfly-wing twins stretched beneath them where watery, wavy reflections should have been. Boat Dog sat up sniffing whatever it is a boat dog can smell of land that we miss. It all felt a tiny bit eerie and wholly quite perfect.

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