The Heppiest Place on Earth

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After spending three days at Disneyland, I am pleased to report that the best ride is Pinocchio’s Daring Journey. At least, I assume it is, since we rode it five times.

The “we” in question was me, my research assistant/consultant Josh, and our friends Becky and Chanel, with whom we maintain relatively platonic relationships despite constant pressure from our other friends. We went to the Magic Kingdom as a respite from the drudgery of day-to-day life, and also to see if Josh could break the land speed record for consuming 1,000 churros.

The first night we were there, Chanel had to leave the park for a while to have dinner with some group of relatives, or something (we weren’t that interested, frankly). Not wanting Chanel to miss out on anything, Josh, Becky and I decided to go on rides that weren’t very much fun. Naturally, we headed straight to Fantasyland.

Now, I don’t mean to say Fantasyland rides aren’t fun at all. They are apparently quite entertaining to young children, who don’t realize, for example, that Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride ends with everyone going to hell (it really does!), or that the Alice in Wonderland ride was obviously designed with the aid of marijuana. Actually, these things kind of entertain me, too, now that I think of it. It must be the rides’ slow, repetitive nature that I get tired of, just like I got bored with Al Gore last fall.

Anyway, we went on the Pinocchio ride. As with the others, you drive through the story, and characters yell things at you, and a whale tries to eat you. At the end of the ride, when Pinocchio has been returned to the bosom of his family (instead of going to hell like Mr. Toad did), Gepetto says, “I’m so happy!” But he says it in a thick, old-man Italian accent, so it comes out “I’m so heppy!”

To the three of us, this was the funniest thing that had ever been said by anyone, ever, animated or not. It delighted us to no end. We walked around the rest of the night saying it. We wrote it down in Josh’s special book where you write down memorable things. We vowed to have it engraved on our tombstones.

Alas, Chanel had missed it. So when we got her back from her captors, we went on the ride again so she could hear it. We were positively giddy with anticipation and then … he didn’t say it. He said something else instead. Apparently, it’s one of those rides that has variations, which I’m sure the 4-year-olds really appreciate.

So we rode it again, and Gepetto uttered yet another variation. So we rode it again. We were going to MAKE Gepetto say “I’m so heppy!,” if it was the last thing we did. But he still did not say it. We began to fear the ride had an infinite number of variables, and that after it ran out of lines from “Pinocchio,” it would start quoting from other sources until it had exhausted every possible sentence combination in the English language. We envisioned Gepetto spouting random nouns and verbs in a nonsensical manner, like the people who post comments at HarkTheHerald.com, eventually saying everything EXCEPT “I’m so heppy!”

After sitting through this ride five times, and getting seriously weird looks from the lithe young man who operated it, we gave up and left it, swearing never to return again. Josh even put an Italian curse on it, between churros. So if you go to Disneyland and find the Pinocchio ride mysteriously burned to the ground, you’ll know why. As for us, we have moved on with our lives and hope one day to find true heppiness.

(Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that upon entering Disneyland, I was given, as were all the other guests, a full-color brochure describing the park’s rides and attractions. This brochure was provided free of charge. My subsequent coverage of brochures and brochure-making was produced independently of my receipt of this gift, however, and was in no way influenced by it. I thank Disneyland for its kindness in providing me with the brochure, but all reporting I have done on brochures since then has been with an impartial mind. Thank you.)

The Disneyland trip was very, very fun for the four of us. It was really a perfect trip: no major travel problems, the crowds were OK, the weather was great, no one died, etc. "I'm so heppy!" is still something we say a lot, and the fact that we never got to hear it again makes it all the more special.

The crack about "people who post comments at HarkTheHerald.com" was my first direct reference to those people. You may recall that during this period, the Herald's Web site allowed people to post comments on every story, anonymously if they so chose, and most people so chose. Ideally, being able to add comments after each article would foster debate and inspire conversation. Instead, it was always people saying, "You're an idiot," "No, YOU'RE an idiot," and so on.

The last paragraph of this column was also a reference to those people. With my first Disneyland column, it was mentioned that I had gotten free passes into the park, available to any media personnel who request them and who are writing something about Disneyland. It's no different from theaters giving review tickets to critics, or movie studios inviting reviewers to free screenings of their films. But the Herald Web site commenters -- especially the ones who hated me anyway and looked for any excuse to rip on me -- decided I had been bribed with those free tickets and that accepting them was unethical. They were mistaken about that, but being mistaken never stopped any Daily Herald reader from arguing.

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