Repeated viewing of any movie allows you to catch things you didn’t notice the first time, and so when one has seen a film enough times to recite it ad nauseum, one is bound to look beyond the suspension of disbelief most viewers enjoy, dissect its every nuance, and discover gaping holes in the story’s logic. If there’s any movie that fits this description for me, it’s Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
Not only do the Twins request it at least three times a week, it was also a VHS my two younger sisters would loop at least three times a day when we were growing up. (Fun fact: When the Twins are at my mom’s house, they watch that very same VHS. It still plays perfectly.) It has recently occurred to me that–by my half-assed calculations–this incessant exposure to The Little Mermaid places it comfortably at the top of my all-time most-viewed movies list. While I’d prefer my chart-topper to be something badass like The Empire Strikes Back or Back to the Future, I guess it could be worse, right? (I’m looking at you, The Chronicles of Riddick.) Anyway, apparently watching The Little Mermaid has become my life’s work, so I feel it is my duty as an expert in this field to share the following observations I’ve made over the years, to further enhance your own Mermaid-viewing experience:
1. Managing personal finances
2. Remembering whether or not they are running out of milk at home
3. Creating iTunes playlists for road trips
4. Knowing the name of that one actor in that one movie you are talking about
5. Saving seats for you in the movie theater that are not behind the tall guy with a head the size of Jack in the Box’s CEO’s
1. Right in front of the f*cking bathroom entrance.
2. Right in front of the f*cking FastPass dispenser.
3. Right in front of the f*cking Pirates of the Caribbean exit.
4. Right in front of the f*cking place I’ve been saving for 45 minutes so my kids can see the parade.
5. Right in front of the f*cking camera shot of my wife and kids in front of the Sleeping Beauty Castle.
“Should we do it?”
“I don’t know–they could really like it, but they also could really hate it.”
“Yeah, I know. But how often are we here?”
“Exactly. If we don’t go now, we might not get to at all.”
We were so close. The timing was almost perfect. Sure, it could end horribly, with double toddler tantrum a cappella until it was over, but that line of thinking would imply that any new experience with the Twins has such potential. Pessimistically speaking, the whole trip was a risk, but we’d gotten this far without a hitch, and now, in The Happiest Place on Earth, the optimism was running high. And there was just no way we were going to leave Disneyland without going on The Pirates of the Caribbean.
You see, to us, this wasn’t just a ride. It was a pilgrimage of sorts, a half-decade in the making.
One the earliest conversations my wife and I had when we first started dating in January 2007 involved divulging each of our Favorite Things Ever–you know, one of those late-night heart-to-heart sessions common to the super-duper thrill of a new relationship. I had learned early on about her incredible sense of smell–we’re talking vampire-caliber here (to this day she can literally detect a poop-filled diaper from the opposite side of the house). With that in mind, I eventually wound up asking her what her Absolute Favorite Smell was.
Without hesitation, she replied, “The smell in The Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.”
I was taken aback–I hadn’t expected something so specific. “Really? THAT’S your favorite smell?”
“Absolutely. It has this sweet, musty, kind of old side, but also this fresh, watery feel. And then there’s all the pirates and singing. It reminds me of simpler times, when I’d go to Disneyland with my family and being on Pirates was just the best thing ever. It just…The thought of it makes me happy.”
I then imagined myself riding it–the thrill of the pitch-black drop, the splashing cannons, the singing scalawags, the way the faux night sky looks so damn real…and that smell…
“Yeah, you know, now that I think about it, that is a pretty awesome smell.”
“I think I’ll take you there someday.”
We should have known better.
I don’t know why we expected our son to make it all day on an outing to Santa Monica Pier without a flip-out. With t-minus two days until our big trip to California, he had spiked a fever and started barking with croup, but we didn’t have any choice but to go with it. Bags were packed, hotels were booked, and my wife’s vacation days were locked in.
And so here we were at the Pier, fielding a high-decibel complaint from him as he refused to walk, be carried, or sit in the stroller. My wife and I took one look at each other and knew what needed to be done–get the f*ck out of there and get him a nap.
But first, we needed to calm him down so as to mobilize him.
As is customary, we looked for “Ruh-Ruh” (a toddler pronunciation of “Ruff-Ruff,” which is what our son calls his favorite toy, a stuffed Pluto). Surely, I thought, his go-to plush canine would again bring balance to The Force. But when I reached for its usual place in the diaper bag, I came up empty-handed. I dug through each pocket and checked the storage pouches on each umbrella stroller, but still no Ruff-Ruff.
“Hey,” I projected to our caravan of travelers, including my wife’s mother, stepfather, brother, sister, and grandmother. (We’d taken turns pushing the Twins’ strollers all day, so anyone could have had it.) “Where’s Pluto?”