When I was younger I was a great fan of Disneyland. Wherever I happened to live, if I was anywhere near to California I made it a point to spend a day in Disneyland. It really was the magic kingdom . . . at least back then. How many people living in California today even remember the meaning of the exclamation, “An E-ticket ride!” [In the old days Disneyland sold ticket books for rides and attractions. The book contained a selection of tickets from A to E. The A-tickets were for the most wimpy things, but the E-tickets were for the really cool things.]
As I had children and discovered the devious ways of the Mouse . . . charging families exorbitant rates to spend an entire day in Anaheim standing in one long line after another for rides that made Disneyland more and more “just another old amusement park” . . . to say nothing of the overpriced junk merchandise crowded into stores through which you were forced to walk just to exit the park . . . As I discovered the Mouse was really nothing more than a giant, fat rodent, more of a “rat” than a mouse, I cooled on Disneyland considerably.
I think when my kids were about eight or nine, and we had spent all day in the park waiting in endless winding lines, eating blah overpriced food and generally paying a premium to be herded, I declared that I was finished with Disneyland, world, whatever.
But in the early days, before the greedy Mouse and his legions of lawyers took over, Disneyland was magical. And one of my favorite attractions since the first time I ever visited Disneyland was the Enchanted Tiki Room. Today it kind of gets lost alongside of Space Mountain and Pirates of The Caribbean. But back then, even if it was kind of insipid and dumb, it was magical. For one thing Audio-Animatronics was something new and amazing. Well, not that new. I remember back in the 60’s walking through a dark corner of Tivoli Park in Copenhagen and seeing in a little glass box a bird that when you stuck a coin in would sing and move almost life-like. I commented to one of the guys working there that it reminded me of Disneyland and he said, “Oh yes, Walt Disney used to come here a lot and he was fascinated by that bird.”
The Enchanted Tiki Room was a little different from the rest of Disneyland in that it was always owned by Walt Disney personally. Originally sponsored by United Airlines to push its Hawaii routes, Dole took over sponsorship in 1976. The show today is exactly the same as when it opened in 1963 because of the sponsorship agreement that has existed with Dole all these years. Although today the whole thing could be run from a laptop, when it opened the original Tiki Room was controlled by a large room located underneath the floor of the main show room that was full of floor-to-ceiling computers that operated the birds with data on magnetic tapes.
One of the joys of returning home to Palmira after four months on the ship is fresh air! Our house is designed to be open and let the breezes flow through and I just can’t get enough of the fresh air. Yesterday afternoon I was laying on the hammock on our back porch watching the sky darken as the humidity soared. Over the volcano there were some rumblings of thunder. The birds were chattering excitedly. Then I could hear the rain approaching up the valley. Hearing tropical rain approaching in the distance and coming closer and closer is magical! The sky darkened. The temperature and humidity dropped. Lightening streaked across the sky and suddenly it was pouring rain. Not drizzling. Not raining. But a tropical downpour. Like God was dumping oil barrels full of water down from the heavens. Rain pounding on the roof. Thunder cracking. Baru my timid Dalmatian jumping on the coach with my wife. The rest of the dogs huddled down on the floor.
And I found the rain mesmerizing. I love watching it rain in Panama! And I love the rainy season in Palmira! Seattle it is not! Mornings are spectacular with blue sky, amazing light, birds singing . . . heaven! By noon the winds from the ocean are pushing the warm air up from the coastal lowlands. Hitting the volcano clouds begin to form. By two or three in the afternoon the rains have started. They may last 30 minutes, an hour, a few hours. At the height of the rainy season it may rain on and off, heavily at times, until 8 or 9 pm when the sky turns cloudless and filled with stars.
Yesterday was a comparatively short rain. After about 45 minutes of downpour the sky lightened, the rain tapered off, the birds began to sing and the sunlight broke through the clouds and all of a sudden it hit me . . . I am living in the Enchanted Tiki Room!