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The need to believe 

Visit to Disney proves it's a hard world after all

Well, this is a whole new hell, isn't it? Christ, if I wanted a bunch of sweaty strangers bumping against me, I would have gone to the Heretic with Grant, where I hear on "Lights Out" night everybody merges into one big pulsating pile of limbs and oiled skin, all melded together like an undulating M.C. Escher painting.

But no, instead I'm at Disney World, where the strangers are a lot less good-looking and ... Oh my God! What is that? Is that a teenage girl picking strips of crispy flakes off her mother's sun-boiled back? Jesus God! Is this place a complete petri dish of everything odious or what? A few minutes ago, I saw a woman peel down her son's pull-up diapers and instruct him to pee against the wall. We are in a food court, for chrissakes. I'm trying to choke down a $10 turkey sandwich, and I thought I could get a minute without being reminded that it cost me $50 to spend the day in what amounts to be, in more ways than one, a total toilet. And 10 feet away, the Hatfield family continues to groom each other like gorillas. God, I hate this place! I hate it with the intensity of a hundred suns!

I can't believe I thought this would be fun. Chris was against it from the beginning, but he's against everything. "Mae is barely 1," he pointed out, "she's not going to remember anything."

But she'll remember it for a little while, I figured. Plus I have this here camera he bought me for Christmas, so I can document the memories for her. "It'll be fun," I chirped. Nothing he could say would keep me away, because almost ever since I found out I was knocked up I was thinking how great it would be to take Mae to Disney World. I used to come here as a kid when my family was complete and, oh, hell, after today I can't even remember what it was I loved about this place. It was the wonder, I guess. Corny as it sounds, Disney World was wondrous to me. And I don't think I was all that gullible as a child. I was always rolling my eyes at fake shit, way too inquisitive and ponderous for my own good. Even today, if you look at one of the pictures my father took of me on our vacations, you can see I have the weight of the ages in my eyes.

But still I believed in Disney World. I bought into all the shit it had to shovel. All those mechanical puppets, the talking Abraham Lincoln, the Haunted Mansion -- I always wanted to adopt that skinny Blood Hound shivering on the outskirts of the graveyard. I knew it was a robot, but still. And the Pirates of the Caribbean! I dreamt about hopping off the boat and wallowing with all the dead buccaneers and their treasure. I knew it was fake, but the fakeness was so complete. I mean, if you believe it's real, it might as well be.

And that's what it all boils down to -- belief. Sorry to be so sweeping, but if you don't believe in anything, you might as well brick yourself into your basement and let your body atrophy like your spirit. Sometimes I see Benny Hinn sermons on TV, and I marvel at the people who fall backward after he slams their forehead with the palm of his hand, at how they flop around like freshly hooked trout. They think they feel the glory of the Lord coursing through their bodies. Watching them, I usually feel contempt, but not always. Sometimes I feel envy, because I wish it were that simple for me.

Instead, my crap meter is pretty much constantly in "kill" mode. But I always kind of allowed myself the thought of Disney World as an escape not just from reality, but from my own smarmy cynicism. Not today, though. It's gone, the escape. All said and done -- the concentration-camp crowd, the precious-stone prices, the mottled, dusty old It's-A-Small-World dolls dancing with all the fluid grace of a condemned wooden roller coaster -- I must say this place sucks like a supermodel. If I need to believe in magic, I'll have to look for it elsewhere. Someplace where the fakeness can fool even me.

As I write this, Mae is twirling herself in the window drapes hanging in the room of our Disney resort hotel, a Caribbean-themed compound so realistic in construction it could fool absolutely anyone who's been blind since birth. Mae is laughing joyously. Watching her, I realize I have an incessant need to believe the world won't be such a crap basket when the future comes. I realize I need to fake myself into finding some safe ground where the starlight is bright and the endings are always happy. I realize I don't care what it costs.

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