Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Let the Storm Rage On

Six years after walking into the underground cast maze of Disneyland, I walked out for the last time.

I watched the park change a lot during those years. When I first arrived, there was no Toy Story Land, Grizzly Gulch or Mystic Point. With the expansions of Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, the park is bigger than it used to be, but still the smallest Disneyland in the world. In the next few years, Tomorrowland will get even bigger and there will be a Frozen Land.

I was there during the Celebration in the Air 5th anniversary and the Happily Ever After 10th anniversary. I watched 4 different parades and participated in 1 1/2. I watched the Disney in the Stars fireworks show become the Nightmare in the Sky for Halloween, as well as other dressing changes for Christmas, Halloween and Chinese New Year.

The biggest change to Tomorrowland was when it was remodeled into a Star Wars Tomorrowland, but oddly enough, the Star Tours ride was changed to an Iron Man ride. They will add more Marvel themes in the future, with an Ant Man ride replacing Buzz Lightyear, and some other Avengers ride in 2023.

Working at Disneyland was never meant to be a lifelong career. Most performers rarely work more than a year or two. Being a face character was always a temporary gig. I got too old to do that pretty fast. Fortunately, there were always plenty of stage shows, which also changed a lot over the years.

I met a lot of people working at Disneyland. Most came and went quickly. Some I already don't remember. A few are hard to forget. One became my roommate and best friend.

When you work at Disneyland, you're not allowed to talk about any behind the scenes details. Facebook and Twitter were specifically mentioned in my contract. They want to keep the illusion alive as much as possible. Talking to people who work at McDonald's can make you sick to your stomach. Talking to people who work at Disneyland can spoil some of the magic. Telling a child that Mickey is really a small Chinese woman in an itchy costume is like telling them that Santa only goes to rich kids.

As a former cast member, I'm now free to spill as many beans as I want. One friend told me that I should write a book about it. But there are already too many of those. I don't have any axe to grind or unique hook. I have nothing especially bad to say about the place and publishers don't want happy tales about a happy place. My experience was mostly positive and I'm sure I'll go back to visit sooner or later.

The downside to quitting is that I lost that sweet free pass. Disneyland is very expensive.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Yonnies in the Wind

I'm back home. Just in time for the Lantern Festival. That's the official end of the New Year. It doesn't really have any other significance, but it's a great day to watch the sky for thousands of floating paper lanterns. I don't have any plans this year, but a few days after Lantern Festival is Valentine's Day. I have plans for that one.

Last Valentine's Day, I did absolutely nothing. My ex was long gone and there was no one new on the horizon. Valentine's Day can be cruel to single people, but living in China makes it easier. I don't know what the official statistics are, but it seems like there are a lot more single people here. Americans are more obsessed with being paired off. And also, in general, the Chinese are not especially romantic people. That will probably offend somebody, but just compare the poetry.

Butterflies in Love with Flowers
by Liu Yong

While I lean against the banister of a tall tower
The breeze gently blows
As I look into the distance
The end of Spring arouses melancholy in my mind
Surrounded by dewy grass at sunset
I wonder who is able to understand my longing
I would rather drink to intoxication
One should sing when one has wine in hand
But drinking to escape offers no reprieve
I do not mind that my clothes are getting looser
My lover is worthy of desire

i carry your heart with me
by ee cummings

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

This year, I have someone to spend Valentine's Day with. I'm not ready to call him my boyfriend, but we're spending a lot of time together. He made reservations at some restaurant that he wants to keep secret, so I definitely have a date Tuesday night.

We also just got back from our first trip together. We didn't actually go together. I went to Tel Aviv for a couple of weeks and he came for the last few days. That was also a surprise. Had I known he was coming, I could have gotten him a room at my hotel. He wanted to keep it a secret, so he had to stay at the Sheraton on the beach. It's a great location, but I thought the hotel looked like any other generic business hotel. One of the things I like about my hotel is that it has character. It never feels like walking into one of a million cogs in a giant corporation.

There are a lot of great things about Tel Aviv, but one of its virtues is how Mthandeni and I could walk down the Promenade hand in hand and absolutely no one stared at us. If you're a foreigner in China, people will stare at you. Mthandeni is stared at wherever he goes. It has nothing to do with whatever he's doing or wearing at any given time and everything to do with how he looks nothing like a Chinese person. People stare at me often, but it's not as constant. Unless we are together. Then we can expect every single Chinese person who passes us on the street to stare. That's not considered at all rude in Chinese culture. We have started to wave at people when they stare at us in restaurants. This only embarrasses them, which is strange. If you're not embarrassed to stare at someone, why would you be embarrassed when they notice you?

But I'm not knocking China. Everyone will stare, but absolutely no one will go beyond that. In parts of the United States, we could get shot. Or at least have horrible people say ugly things to us. In China, they do not hate us for how foreign we look. We are simply a curiosity.

In Tel Aviv, no one gives a shit. It might be the only city in the world where a man in a tallit and a man in a thawb can walk hand in hand making goo goo eyes at each other and no one would care. I vividly remember the first time I saw a demonstrably gay couple in Tel Aviv. I was shocked. Not because they were wearing short shorts and tank tops, which is not a good look for any man, but because no one else seemed to notice them. In China, they would have been the center of attention. In America, they would have been in danger.