Rumors and Commentary

Our Favorite Kind of Magic – 2021

Part 1

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One little spark, of inspiration
Is at the heart, of all creation…
A dream, can be, a dream come true.
With just that spark, from me and you.

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In late summer, we had started to settle down in our new home city of Anaheim. There were parts of it that were thoroughly enjoyable – the pristine beaches being miles away, incredible amounts of good food and, of course, multiple theme park trips per week. Conversely, my personal life imitated the broader state of the world. No one seemed sure of how close we were supposed to stand to each other and interactions with those not in your inner circle were foreign, an art that had been lost for about a year and a half. It’s hard to meet new people, especially when you aren’t sure if those new people are comfortable talking to you for health reasons.

It seemed like life, not just for me but for the whole world, needed a flashback to remind us of normal. For me, that spark came in the form of a kind photographer from Florida and a host of others.

Main Street on Disneyland at 45 minutes after park closing is not a lonely place. Security slowly corrals all guests to the park’s hub in the first half hour after close and then waits in the hub until an hour after close. If you ever want to see multiple tripods in one spot, oh boy, do I have a place for you!

I was walking back toward the Train Station on the left side of the street, admiring and photographing some of the new window displays that had been switched out for Halloween. Maybe I looked lonely or maybe this lady was just very kind, maybe both, but after a few minutes she came up to me and asked about my camera. It’s common icebreaker among photographers but it’d been so long since I had a full blown conversation with a stranger that I was taken aback.

It turned out that she was from Florida and had come out to the west coast with a group of photography friends. This was only her second time at Disneyland but we traded remarks about how much we loved the place. After a couple of minutes of conversation, she invited me over to meet her friends – a group of about 10 photographers, some local to the area and then a few others from Florida. They were all warm and introduced themselves, each smile more welcoming than the previous.

Before long the park was closing and the lady invited me to dinner with them, as they were doing a big meet the next day. Unfortunately, I had to decline as other plans had already been made for the next day. Even so, I was touched by the kindness of inviting some random, somewhat shy, guy to dinner with a group of people who all seemed to be good friends.

While the dinner invite was declined, the world seemed to find a steadier tilt. We don’t know what our interactions with strangers, friends or family could mean to them on any certain day. Sometimes, it’s a forgettable interaction. Other times it’s a spark, a reminder of the kindness that people in the world offer.

Photo Supply moon DL

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You are the magic

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A few days after Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, we were back in Magic Kingdom watching Disney Enchantment. The new firework show hadn’t wowed us but we wanted another watch. On second watch, we felt as lukewarm as ever.

Once the show ended, we waited for the masses to clear as I packed up my tripod. We waited by a little fence, trying to get out of everyone’s way. While there, another lady came and stood by us with the same plan. We asked what she thought of the show and she said that it was fine but seemed to be missing something. She was right. Our talk moved to Epcot’s Harmonious, she said that one was worse. We agreed. The lady also said that she tries to avoid crowds and doesn’t go on many rides.

We all went on our way eventually but before we left, we asked if she would be coming back to the park anytime soon. Without hesitation, she said, “Oh yeah, I’ll be back all the time. I love it here.”

Disney Enchantment sparkly MK

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Our magnificent production is yet to come,
So strum the guitar, and beat the drum.
We’ve been a hit, and we know you adore us,
So come on, and join us in another chorus!

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Over the course of 2021, I’ve roughly gotten about $150 of value in my Knott’s Berry Farm season dining pass. If nothing else is going on, I’ll stop in for a quick lunch or dinner because I’ve already paid for it. This is especially true when everyone else around is busy. While just the sight of the high heights and swift drops of Knott’s coasters might leave me shaking in my sneakers, the Carne Asada Fries or Boysenberry Chicken Wings are better than they probably should be.

On one late summer afternoon, I had stopped by for lunch and to avoid some terrifying thrill rides. I did have my camera with me, because I always have my camera with me, and was walking around Fiesta Village thinking about what to take a picture of. That’s a lie, I was really just thinking about what flavor of soda to get in my refillable cup while absent mindedly pointing my camera at inanimate objects. It sounded better when I was considering art instead of the merits of Sprite vs. Coke.

A few minutes later, my difficult mind puzzle was interrupted by two teenage boys. “Hey, can you take our picture?” I’ve had people mistake me for a Disney PhotoPass Photographer at times but I wasn’t at Disneyland this time. With slight confusion I responded, “Sure, but I don’t really know how to send it to you.” To their credit, neither of them seemed particularly surprised by this and it turned out that they really just wanted their picture taken.

I was harkened back to childhood in an instant, spending the summers without a care and walking around with my best friends. Those guys didn’t care about having some memento from a memorable day of riding roller coasters. They just thought it’d be cool to have a stranger take their picture while they stood in the afternoon light, arm around the other’s shoulder, and slight curls on the side of their mouths. I think they were right.

Taking photos of people is not my favorite thing. I prefer landscapes and don’t think I’m particularly good at portraits, somewhat because I’m not interested in them. But this remains one of my favorite photos of the year. I’m reminded of youth and baseball and summer vacations and being carefree. I’m reminded that a generation of teens had a summer ripped away from them and this year they got some of it back. I’m hopeful they made the most of it, just like these two, and I’m excited that the best is yet to come.

Two friends Knotts

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The magic is calling, calling, calling us
It’s calling, calling, calling us
To the place where our dreams come true

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Uncrowded nights at Disneyland remain a very favorite thing of mine even if I am able to experience them more than ever. One night this fall was especially uncrowded and it was essentially me, one other photographer and whoever was inside of the Emporium after park close on Main Street. The Mickey Pumpkin had just gone up for Autumn so that was the focus of our photography. Naturally, we ended up in the same spot.

We started talking and I found out Michael, the photographer’s name, had just come to Disneyland for the first time two weeks ago and had already returned. He must be local! Nope, Michael lives in North Carolina. He explained that he went to Disney World often, loves solo trips and had just picked up photography. There are certain people you run into where you can just tell that they’d love to talk about Disney Parks all day. Michael was one of those people.

In breaks in the conversation, we’d snap a few photos but I was mostly curious how this man from North Carolina had been to Disneyland twice in two weeks and was planning to come back in less than a month. He said he could fly for cheap and had a pass so he might as well. I thought that it sounded slightly lonely but then he started talking about his family, friends and fiancé. He just genuinely loved being in the parks.

On the way out of the park, he told me about his love of characters and that was part of the reason he picked up photography. He was more extroverted than I am but would happily return questions and was curious about what being local to the parks was like. I walked the opposite way of where I needed to go on the way home, not wanting to cut off the conversation abruptly.

Michael might be a little crazy for flying across the country so often. I’m sure many people would question it, including me for a minute. But by the time I was headed for home, I thought about how cool it was for him to follow his passion that way. Deep into any fandom, you find the die-hards, the crazies. I’m writing on a Disney Parks blog daily, I know what crazy looks like. Thankfully, those ties unite us in a year where connection was needed. It seems like I might come across Michael again sometime and I’ll look forward to hearing how many trips across the country he’s taken.

Mickey and the band DL

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Thank you to everyone we’ve encountered on our adventures or those that have read the blog over the last few years. You have made our travels personal, beautiful, and purposeful. More importantly, you have made our love for humanity grow. Taking photos and writing on Wandering in Disney has been incredibly rewarding and will continue to be. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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