Monday, December 30, 2013

Give A Little Whistle Whilst Two Fathoms Deep

"Passengers taking this favorite river steamer will embark on a romantic story-book cruise of our American Rivers, enjoying elegant scenery and interesting views of many historical places."

ircumnavigating the waters of the Rivers of America in all of her graceful majesty, she was the first paddle steamer to be built in the U.S. in over 50 years - and simply because Mr. Disney and his talented crew made it so.  Well before the incongruous phenomenon of Disneyland's Dapper Day, there still existed the Mark Twain Riverboat – since four days prior to opening day in 1955, in fact - departing daily and nightly.  A quarter of a century later, the Mark Twain has persevered, offering generously to its passengers a plethora of one-of-a-kind experiences. 

    Besides the sheer kick out of actually being on a steamroller in Southern California, I offer you examples what else the Mark Twain Riverboat has to offer. Let's see if you've been fortunate enough to have enjoyed some of these: nightly musical performances of Monette Moore and her Dixieland jazz band (and with special guests like Louis Armstrong!), ragtime piano players tickling the ivory keys with Happy Birthday songs for celebrating Guests, 30th wedding anniversary parties, reveling in the beauty of the boat's midway lighting reflecting on the Rivers of America as it eases through the rural backwoods of the quiet Frontier, floating along with the Disneyland marching band rum-pa-pumming their soulful opus live from the bow, leaning against the railing of the Texas deck while watching the water tumble across the paddlewheel and allowing yourself to be baptized by the steaming stacks and good smells of food and kerosene, a birds eye view of the Plantation House Restaurant and then of New Orleans Square, appreciating a sightseer's paradise for spotting the Rivers' magnificent wildlife and a burning cabin and a cascading peak, too!, a deck to wave hello from above to paddling canoers, bobbing keel boat passengers, fort explorers and young fishermen alike, and being witness to one of the most beautiful and inspiring visuals a Disneyland show has ever brought us; Steamboat Willie piloting the Mark Twain in that unforgettable Fantasmic! grand finale. 

I'm totally waving, right now.

    And still, with all of these mentioned, there is one delight I have carefully left unsaid. Its reveal is something I share with you as one of the most sacred of Disneyland experiences and is honestly so significant, it's deserving of its very own blog post.

Just subtract about 40 years...
    Imagine, if you can, holding all of that rich history in your very own hands. Incredible that it could fit there, right? Well, get this - YOU CAN, and at no upcharge! Similar to being passenger on the Disneyland Railroad's Lilly Belle observation car (but quite a bit more appropriate if you're looking for an early taste of a bone fide Disneyland experience), you and/or a limited party are allowed to partake as first mate to the Mark Twain Riverboat's Captain while up in the wheelhouse for a route around the Rivers of America. All you have to do is request to ride with the Captain at the dock gate prior to boarding. You'll likely have to hang out on the dock few go-rounds while you wait your turn, because this surely isn't a secret, but I promise you, it's wholly worthwhile. I know this, because Eric and I have recently had the pleasure for the very first time.

    The experience on this Mississippi stern-wheeler is unique in its isolation of civilization and also in its isolation from the passage of time. Though some parts of the Mark Twain lie mysteriously quiet while fraught with almost-forgotten moments from the past, standing in the wheelhouse of this legendary riverboat only solidifies that a trip on the Mark Twain is one of the last truly authentic and originally intended experiences of Walt Disney's Disneyland. In true WED style, the Captain's Quarters of the Mark Twain is an all-inclusive class act and revives not only the spirit of the romantic era, but also the golden days of Mr. Disney's empire. Complete with bed, sink, and wall-lined photos of Mr. Disney enjoying his time on the paddle steamer he mortgaged his summer home for, the energy in the wheelhouse is heartfelt and reminds you first-hand that in that little space, the park that Mr. Disney built is still very much alive.
... and voila!
Not only is there a giant wooden ship's wheel you can steer, a view from every angle and a working door that leads straight out to the roof (that is off-limits), you also have the opportunity to sign the guestbook and leave your sentiments for years to come. As an added bonus, just when you're ready to make your way back to land, you are awarded with your very own Captain's Certificate! My favorite part of all, however, are the dangling pull-chains (you know, the ones that also go straight to my heart) that trigger the Mark Twain's bell and whistle - and my dream came true when I learned that they allow you to personally operate them, per instruction, too!
  I must say, besides the undeniable feeling of genuineness up in the wheelhouse and enjoying the Rivers of America from a never before seen perspective, nothing will quite beat the thrill of ringing the bell and blowing the whistle of the Mark Twain Riverboat alongside Mr. Disney and with my very best friend.

    Disneyland has become respected and established enough to reach is goal of preserving and transcending the history and global awareness it was purposed around, and is now just as historically significant in its own rite. We have things like the Mark Twain Riverboat to thank for that, and also, the elusive fans on the inside that still fight for Mr. Disney in a time when gross commercialism suffocates a once factually magical oasis of artistic craft and impossible ideas come to fruition. Every time you hear the bell and whistle of the Mark Twain Riverboat, remember, it is most likely a sound prompted by a fortuitous Guest helping to keep Walt Disney's Disneyland alive, whether they realize it or not. Make sure that at least one of those times, it's you!

Plainly, all this excitement has my world completely upside-down.

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