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MICKEY BUSINESS

Thousands of years from now, when archaeologists unearth the ruins of my home, they will no doubt assume they've stumbled upon a holy shrine constructed by a small but fanatical sect of cartoon-animal worshipers.

And they won't be far wrong.
I am married to a woman with an insatiable Disneylust--which is much like heroin or cocaine addiction, only a lot more expensive to support. If there are five square inches in our home unoccupied by statues, figurines, music boxes, clothing or other merchandise stamped with Unca Walt's famous signature-logo, they're hidden by the Disney posters, Disney artwork and Disney wallpaper.

On the bright side, this woman actually thinks a Donald Duck-emblazoned bottle opener makes for an exciting and thoughtful birthday gift. On the bleak side, it is my suspicion that the only reason she chose to have children is so we'd have a reason to spend all our vacations at Disneyland.

Pardon me. To the missus, a trip to Disneyland is not a vacation. It is a religious journey. Some families visit the Wailing Wall or the Vatican to celebrate their faith. We go to Pirates of the Caribbean. No matter our actual destination.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned how nice it would be to visit my mother in Northern California. My wife's natural response was, "California!?! Hey! Disneyland is in California!" Of course, it's also about 500 miles due south of my mother. But teensy-weensy details like that mean nothing to a Mouseketeer-for-life.

Although I am cynical by nature, I will admit that the Disney theme parks offer a one-of-a-kind family adventure. Nowhere else can you plunk down hundreds of dollars for the privilege of being jostled by mobs of rude, testy people; spend more on lunch than you did on airfare; stand in line two hours for a thirty-second thrill; take turns marveling over how clean everything is; and strive to get through the day without throttling a short, increasingly cranky loved one.

Those are the things I always remember about Disneyland. But there are others that slip my mind until I return.

1. Never tell your children in advance that you're taking them to Disneyland. Spill the beans early and they will not sleep from that moment until you pull into the Disneyland parking lot, at which point they will fall into a deep, comalike slumber. Let them snooze and they'll never speak to you again. Wake them up, and they'll behave as if you're dragging them into a 48-acre torture chamber overrun by fuzzy, six-foot cartoon mutants rather than "The Happiest Place on Earth."

2. Taking an infant to Disneyland is like taking a nun to an orgy: If there is a point, no one knows what it is. Babies don't know Disneyland from Dizzy Dean--and if they did, they still wouldn't give a damn. Yet there isn't a procreator alive who doesn't dream of lashing Lil' Baldy to a rented Magic Kingdom stroller for an entire day. This, of course, guarantees that at no time will Mom and Dad enjoy the privilege of standing in line two hours for a joint thirty-second thrill. At all times, one baby-minding parent will be benched on the sidelines while the other is driven insane by the baby's older offspring, who aren't quite old enough to understand why they can't go on all the rides at once.

Thanks to an early-childhood trauma, No. 2 is not a problem with my five-year-old son. When he was three, his mother talked him into his very first roller-coaster ride. Alas, the attraction was Disneyland's Space Mountain, a warp-speed hair-whitener that dips and darts through total darkness. The poor kid didn't stop screaming for three days. Even now, all it takes to get him started again are the words "roller," "coaster," "space," "mountain," "fast" or "Mommy," uttered separately or in any combination.

But you've got to give him credit for courage. After two years of refusing to line up for anything but the wimpiest Fantasyland rides, the lad finally mustered the moxie to endure Star Tours, a simulated space adventure inspired by the Star Wars trilogy, which just so happens to be his second-favorite movie series after the Godzilla saga. Walking in, you'd have thought he was being led to the electric chair. But walking out, it was clear he'd discovered the happiest corner of the Happiest Place on Earth. Obviously, my wife experienced a similar transformation years ago. It's just my luck that hers took place in a gift shop.

Taking an infant to Disneyland is like taking a nun to an orgy: If there is a point, no one knows what it is.

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Michael Burkett