Last night, while Facebook scrambled to come up with the most poignant and painful memes on the passing of Robin Williams, I had only one thought, and for a while I was convinced it would have to remain captured only in my lonely memories. In 1989, a scant year after Dan and I honeymooned in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida (upon which announcement a dear friend quipped, “That must be like going to the Holy Land for you” — and the Holy Land it remained, irreverently and sacrilegiously, for twenty-five years) the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park opened.
My first impression was that it was HOT. As new construction, and designed to look as much like old-style Hollywood Boulevard as Walt could have ever imagined, it lacked the old-growth trees (laboriously trucked in); the Seven Seas Lagoon (man-made) and the shady pavilions (concrete facades) which adorned the other two theme parks, The Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center. In later years the architects and designers and their advanced technology would create even in new park areas a feeling of well-settled old property, comfortable just because it was so, not engineered in any obvious way. But not that summer. The queue area for the Animation Studios Tour was so concrete and sun-blasted it looked like Mos Eisley at noon, which of course would come in handy some years later when Star Tours was built. But it was hot and unsheltering and the wait time was long, and then we slipped into blessedly cool darkness to the “screening area” — a common park feature where one load of guests watched a short feature or presentation while the earlier one occupied the main theater area.
I have a prodigious auditory memory; if I hear something several times I can often repeat it, not only word for word but with cadence and inflection. I’m no mimic — I don’t sound anything like the speakers — but I get the rhythms exactly right; the pauses, the elongations. I am a bitch to watch old movies with. (Dear students: don’t ever write a sentence like that in your papers. I am a professional and this is not an academic audience. Now go proofread.) I can utter (and spoil) the best lines. At the same time as the actors.
I just realized, I’m going to be alone forever, aren’t I?
Anyway, with Dan’s obsessive need to re-visit favorite park haunts (although none quite so frequently as the famous Potty Pavilion) I pretty well have most of these short intro features memorized. I can do a passable Rizzo the Rat, in Muppets 3-D, explaining that everyone needs to crowd in “real close — we’re doing a test on deodorant strength.” At which point Scooter admonishes, “Rizzo, that’s disgusting,” and Rizzo chortles, “It’s a gift!” Also, I can hear clearly Sam Eagle admonishing everyone to move all the way to the end of the row. “Stopping in the middle,” he abjures, “is Distinctly Unpatriotic.” I still tell Daisy-Dog this when we’re trying to get down the stairs and I have laundry.
Last night, trying and failing to sleep, I held close to my heart the sounds of Robin Williams begging Walter Cronkite to let him visit Neverland with Peter and Wendy, via animation magic, at the beginning of the tour. I cried a little (OK a lot) contemplating that anybody who would understand why MY favorite Robin Williams line was, “Can we, Uncle Walter? Can we please huh?” is dead.
Hawk: Have you noticed how everybody seems to be dead lately? — Space Cowboys, dir. Clint Eastwood, 2000.
But I reckoned without YouTube. (Bleeping) everything is on (bleeping) YouTube. Not only had somebody broken one of Sam Eagle’s most dire rules (NO video cameras) and recorded the entire “Back to Neverland” opening segment with Walter Cronkite and Robin Williams, somebody had even beat me to it this morning to write RIP Robin Williams.
I’m glad I saw the pirated (get the pun?) clip but at the same time I felt a little cheated of a sacred memory that I thought only Dan and I could possibly have had. Only I, ancient sage, am supposed to remember all these years later that, before Hook, Robin dreamed of Peter Pan; before Aladdin, he had visited Disney World in a Goofy hat and yellow Hawaiian shirt.
Robin (on beholding Tinkerbell): She’s so bright! It’s like being in the presence of Barbra Streisand!
Sure, I’m egocentric. Everybody else’s grief is only a metaphor for mine. Nobody else, no happy couples or amused families, ever made the connection of the Goofy hat or recollected Robin’s imitation of Uncle Walter’s cartoon cat self, Walter CronCat: “And that’s the way it is, meow meow meow, meow meow.” Just me and my love. Buried lonely in my heart. Except it’s on YouTube.
Group hug, everybody.