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50 Years of Ersatz Junk
Last week we sweated it out at the big A, reveling as the Angels whomped the Yanks in the incredible first game of that series. We were embarrassed by how many Yankee fans showed up, a disappointing number of them with California plates on their SUVs. But that has nothing to do with this story.
Leaving inches ahead of the crowd, racing for our car a quarter-mile away, we had seconds to reflect on an ad we'd seen on the long screens at the stadium. "Disneyland:" it said, "Celebrating 50 Years of Magic." The message was especially poignant, dashing across that parking lot -- across all the magic that Disney bestowed on Anaheim. Because while Orange County might still cling with blue rigor mortis to inbred, Anglo-Saxon myths about angels in the outfield, or a smiling Walt Disney standing next to Saint Peter and Jesus on a puffy cloud just left of the pearly gates, the rest of us are well aware that Orange County's a backwater nazi shithole just right of the Third Reich. And while Anaheim was always a big Ku Klux Klan town, no one is more responsible for the continuation of that tradition than Walt Disney.
The most massive hole in Disney's ideology - the one that you can drive a truck through - is that like all other fascist sympathizers, like all the heroes of his animated films, like all "Futurists" from Marinetti to Hitler to Robert Moses, his vision was one of a completely sterile, sanitized, categorized and corporatized future. This kind of compulsive-nihilistic disorder was a prototypically 20th-Century pathology, a reaction to rapid technological advances and social changes that people just weren't ready to deal with. And Disney's early undertones of stereotyping, exclusion, female submissiveness and white supremacy are tropes that characterize Orange County to this day.
Disneyland and the I-5 came to Anaheim in the same year, 1955. Virtually overnight, the town mutated from a small citrus community to an ugly, sprawling tar pit of motels and gas stations which, in that enlightened season of American history, was what passed for a "city of the future." The stadium opened a decade later, in 1966, and since then Anaheim's been the blandest tourist center on the Pacific Rim between Viña del Mar and Pyongyang.
The irony in the fulfillment of Disney's dream wasn't lost on us, hoofing it through that huge parking lot. Disney, the predatory capitalist, sitting on a mountain of burned-out trolley cars, sprinking fairy-dust -- leaving all us mannequin climbers on a rusting Matterhorn as he ascends.
We discussed stopping for fast food; the garbage sandwiched in garbage that nourishes us, the peasant cuisine of the modern, feudal OC. How did we come to this? America was a nation built by snake-oil salesmen, who built it by exploiting the hell out of an ignorant population's bottomless faith in opportunity. It's little wonder we've poisoned ourselves to death, physically and intellectually. Little wonder half our people suffer acute anxiety attacks, while the rest of us muddle along in a general unease. Little wonder the electron waves passing through our bodies tonight are encrypted videos of Erik Estrada peddling hilltop real estate in Arkansas. Once Disney convinced a majority of us that he was our friend, it was all over. Disneyland, that knowingly-plotted wrong end of generic vacation hell, bookended always by reconstituted, microwaved plastic beef dinners and screaming infants on airless air rides between Corpus Christi and John Wayne, is a vast monument to the cheapness of our culture. It hunches like a great pink and purple elephant at the center of our civilization's decline, and thrusts up its Matterhorn: A giant, papier mache turd, implacable in the smoggy night sky.
As we ran from Angel Stadium that night, we glanced back to see her bathed by countless yellow lights shining upward, still flying an American flag. The throngs roared muted down her decks, thousands of tiny dark shadows, and wavering in the compressed heat across that black ocean of tar, the stadium looked like an enormous ship, sinking slowly into the sea.