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Disney World was never an illusion to me as a child; I could see right through it. ?It's a theme park,? my mom would explain to me. What an interesting idea. It was tangibility's final step in the evolution of imagination. First there were the playgrounds I knew as a child, consisting of swing-sets and slides, bare-boned tools that required our own minds to fill in the gaps if we wanted to be transported somewhere else with our playmates. Then there was the amusement park, requiring less imagination while still retaining all the valid symbolism. When we reached the top of the Ferris Wheel, it was as if we had conquered the globe, looking down on all the continents and the waters, all the life below us. The carnival games represented the ?you-win-some, you-lose-some? aspects of our lives, demanding risk for rewards. The theme park, however, had the greatest edge. Whatever lied in our imaginations, whatever we took for granted on the page or from the screen, the theme park made these fantasies into visible realities in front of our eyes. The land of imagination existed; it was at the theme park.
I have been to Disney World in Orlando, Florida five times. I was four, seven, ten, eleven, and seventeen. I feel like it's been a big part of my life; I have memories of the shows, the rides, and the innovations. Disney World is not just a theme park; it's its own separate world of clean grass and trees, glossy highway strips and the warm glow of the sun. Indeed, a utopia hidden within the state of Florida. As we drove for twenty minutes through the resort, it was apparent how much land, how much space, the Disney empire had enveloped as its own.

[...] I love Disney because it is as large as it is. I love Disney because of the way it takes the American Dream, places it alongside all our other dreams, and mends those dreams into a perceptible place for humans at all different points in their lives. I love the excitement, the hard-work, the precision, and the magic Disney World so clearly (and cleanly) allows us to experience with all five senses. There's no way anyone can leave a vacation at Disney World without feeling happy because it has something for everyone. [...]


[...] Lethem's problem with reality is that all he can see is the truth of Hoyt- Schermerhorn: old-women jumping in front of trains, even a violinist's hand getting pulverized after being pushed from the train platform (435, 438). Hope is rare. Disney provides all we see as what we want, but what we want costs much of our own money, and we can never keep these exhibitions of imagination (and imitation) permanently. Our hope of the fiction comes from the idea that we might be able to quickly move from country to country such as in Epcot, or be in a hall with every president of the United States at once. [...]


[...] Perhaps for the wrong reasons. On several occasions, I recall Disney's experiences forging memories in my head similar to the ones that Andre Aciman describes in ?Shadow Cities.? Aciman describes a visit to Straus Park in Manhattan, a small, elevated square that not too many people cherish, but Aciman did because it reminded him of his home in Alexandria. He discovers it is ?being dismantled, demolished? and he reasons perhaps it was that Straus Park was such a wonderful place to begin with? (365). [...]


[...] Chris Wright theorizes about this type of control in his essay ?Natural and social order at Walt Disney World; the functions and contradictions of civilizing nature?: The Disney Corporation organizes and controls the movement of the guests at Walt Disney World in a civilized manner that presents the guests to themselves as full members of the setting who are making free, uncontrolled choices. This is achieved through the symbolic use of representations of nature that draw on common cultural meanings (435). For me, this was all clear. We do not get up on rides to walk around the scenery. Disney does not explicitly tell us what is or is not off-limits because it doesn't have to. [...]


[...] The futility comes from his obsession with what could have been the Hoyt-Schermerhorn and New York City subway system. Where is the ?utopian longing? or ?squalid practicality?? (432). His fears and negativity in Hoyt-Schermerhorn reach back beyond the time he was born, a time he has researched, a time he desires. Because Lethem could never live in the era of the first subway system with the classiness and safety of early twentieth century New York City, he is missing experiences that he feels are necessary for him. His inner self is not fulfilled by his outer environment. [...]

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