But hitting high school in stride, still a mere freeway journey away from all that magic, Disneyland became a frequent haunt. I was in our school marching band that played the Disney stages and parades several times. Me, not more than a buck 20, hefting and hooting the much-aligned Sousaphone in our clan of three, always bringing up the rear.
In those days when you entered the kingdom you were handed a booklet of rainbow colored tickets that ran from A to E. "A" rides were those reserved for grannies and toddlers: the Main Street trolley, the Merry Go Round, etc. "B"s were still pretty lame, and "C"s at least got you to Tom Sawyer's island (the easiest way to lose your parents!). But for an entire generation of normal rambunctious teens, the entire value of that ticket book was completely in the few gold and green "D" and "E" tickets. The Matterhorn, Pirates, Ghosts galore! The second those booklets were handed out I'd immediately start bartering and trading with both the older and younger folks, swapping "A"s through "C"s for "D"s and "E"s faster than a Monopoly banker! You see, it was all about time management. I had a set time within the kingdom, and I wasn't about to waste a minute sitting in some dumb teacup when I could be hurtling through space.
Fast forward (in slow motion) forty years.
The ticket books are long gone, replaced now by entrance fees larger than my first car payment. One day, both parks, for a normal family with a couple kids. Over $600. Now this isn't meant as a slight against Disney. They deliver on every penny. But if you live here in Southern California, Disney offers up a few tiers of Annual Passports that provide unlimited entry, around various blackout dates. And that is how I discovered the meaning of life.
When you have an annual pass, your behavior changes. Time limits virtually disappear. What I stumbled upon yesterday, while putting in 11,000 steps from the Goofy parking structure to the new Star Wars Launch and back, is this: For pass holders, Disneyland is now like Netflix. You'll begin browsing and selectively bingeing experiences throughout the park. When you have all of the options Disney has to offer in front of you, and time is no longer a factor, you'll find yourself strolling with just a little less urgency, literally smelling the roses as you pass Bug's Life, hearing the distant giggles and screams from roller coasters in all directions.
And that's what I realized yesterday, along with the pains from muscles I didn't know I had, that this was a grand analogy for life itself. I'm was no longer fixated on making sure I got my due allotment of E tickets, because I'd signed up for a lifetime pass. Experiences, adventures, taste treats, and rides are not mutually exclusive. That if I queue up for that silly Small World ride I'm not sacrificing being Indiana Jones or a Hitchhiking Ghost. It's all out there. All for the taking and tasting and telling and tempting. And all included in the cost of admission.