One of my many podcasts pleasures from years ago was an interview held at the Los Angeles Central library with Toni Morrison. She’s an elder stateswoman of the literary author world.Her stories are beautiful and chasms of sadness…such that I warn people before recommending they read one of her novels.
At the question and answer section of the evening someone asked her something about accepting false comfort. She answered (I paraphrase) “At my age, I will accept whatever comfort I can get.” I am a woman of a certain age at this point, and I think I get it. Yes, Toni. It may be time to be less fussy.
When it’s all fresh, and opinions matter *so much*: the music I choose the authors I espouse, the friends I am seen with. As a young woman, I had the time to be so choosy. I was very ready to have my choices represent WHO I AM to the world.
I was not at all certain who I was without them.
Here’s Toni saying she is over that.
This week Chris took our family to Disneyland. This is not the first time we’ve gone there. Early in our dating (a year? you see how cautious I was then, evan a year was early to me) he took me to the home of Walt & Mickey. I was not sure of this at all, Disneyland was so bourgeois. He took me the day after Christmas, with all the decorations up, took me to the one sit-down restaurant. I looked all around and asked him “But is it art?”
We discussed it all throughout the day. It was of great concern to my 20-something sensibility. He had arguments that Walt Disney had a persistent vision that pervaded more than just the amusement park. Frank Capra entered into it as well, taking about asking people to look at the best part of themselves and the world.
But Disney perverts beautiful fairy tales! He supplants them–the Little Mermaid does NOT get the Prince! The lesson of turning into seafoam is lost. I didn’t know if I could forgive him.
And now we pause for the water to pass under the bridge. And for me to have a kid. I read somewhere that during pregnancy the mother gets invaded with the child’s DNA. Our foundations are reworked when a kid enters the picture. Talk about changing the debate.
I didn’t ask if Ronald McDonald and Grimace were art, I just knew that if Veronica woke me up at 6 am on a Saturday I could take her to McDonald’s playland and I could get a full cup of coffee inside me while she had fun. Art was a lot less important. Bring me more bourgeois distraction and consolation. I understand now.
Of course, I live in California. We are a hub of popular entertainment and trend-setting. And I live in the Los Angeles part of California, which is arguably the apex of superficial judgement on how people “look.” I often see people —ORDINARY people–who have signs of plastic surgery blaring across their appearance. It’s horrifying. The striving striving for perfection. To be more exactly like what is perfect, or more exactly like what is not, because that is what some people like. Where’s the target again? And how different is my cynical judgement of culture?
I really like a nice cup of coffee on a morning when I wish I were in bed but I can’t be. I’ll take it from am/pm or from McDonald’s or pay more at Starbucks if I have to. All these choices? They lead to a cup of coffee in the end. Which is what I actually find comfort in.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sorry Sigmund Freud. I tried to read you back in college, but you gave me the uber-creeps at your insistence that the patients you were seeing were thinking different objects were something other than their physical appearance. So heavy-handed! Let us have some room to come to our own conclusions. I heard that Freud is out of fashion anyway.
So back to basics. Dennis Prager, a radio host, has a recurring “Happiness Hour.” As a talk show host, he has a lot of strong opinions on a variety of subjects, but he’s picked happiness to come back to. In his weekly Happiness hour, he declares that we have a responsibility to our loved ones to try to be happy. He has a point. If I walk around persisting in misery, it’s an affront to all the people who wish me well. They want to help me, but if I don’t participate in their attempts to be happy I’m a problem for them too.
Happy is good for me, why should I put arbitrary roadblocks in my path to happy? And more than just selfish me, it’s good for my community to be happy. Individually and collectively, this is worthy.
So I spent some time in The Happiest Place on Earth(tm). My daughter is delighted past words to give plastic head Mickey and Minnie a hug. I would be a an unconscionable pighead to be cynical about this. I should judge the taste of a 4 year old? And then again I find myself breaking my face with a huge smile at the white glove waving.
We all gathered in the last shady spot on the curb to get ready to watch the 4 o’clock parade in the 100 degree heat. My brother and my parents were there too, so we all got ready. My daughter had never seen a parade before.
I’d never seen one like this before. Mickey and Minnie had the first float, preceeded by six marching drummers. I never went to highschool, was never in band, but I have heard how much of an identity being in high school and college band creates. Here were six young men, but grown, marching in time and flipping their drum sticks in perfect choreography.
I know there are so many graduates of band camp that don’t do that now…and here are six men doing it for a living for the masses. I feel an odd pull of incongruence. But they were smiling. And the beat was banging and Minnie was dancing in her circle skirt. My daughter had her fists balled up, mouth stretched into the O I know means delight, jumping up and down.
Then float after float, with real actor faces and dancers: Ariel and Princesses and Aladdin. I could remember the hard-drinking actors I know from cynical and hip Los Feliz, and think about their incomplete dreams of stardom. But Aladdin and Peter Pan are handsome and they are waving at me like they’ve never been happier in their life to see someone.
I’m waving back. The dancers are smiling in the same 100 degrees that I’m hiding from. And I’m crying.
Yes, I am crying. Let’s be happy, shall we? Let’s have friendly faces and joyful hands waving in greeting all the time. I don’t mind if they are faking. God bless them, they are actors after all; they are making a living.
So, in conclusion, I have the Disney bug. I can’t answer the question of whether it’s art or not, but I don’t care. I don’t have to go back there to experience happiness, I do have more than one source. All my annual pass-holder brethren, I get it now. That crafted and planned and manufactured experience reminded me of how I am supposed to be spending my life. I’ll take that comfort.