I learned a few things at Disneyland, mainly about myself, but also about Disneyland.
1. I don't like roller coasters.
After getting in the car to drive back from Disneyland to Harbor City, I told Lauren, "It turns out that if you want to make me miserable, you can put me in a vehicle I can't control, stop be from being able to see which way it's going, and then make the ride turbulent and really loud." Basically, a roller coaster is everything I hate about air travel (except for 'security') and everything I hate about going to the movies, rolled into one.
Lauren suggested this was mainly a psychological issue about control, but to me a key factor is perception. If I can look forward and out of a vehicle, I don't mind it. I like boats, for instance. I enjoyed being in a teeny tiny two-seater prop plane. I don't mind being a front-seat passenger in a fast-moving car, as long as I can predict where the vehicle will go and can see where it's going and it's not incredibly rough. Take one of those away, and I'm less happy. Take all three away, and you've got a foolproof recipe for making me miserable.
2. I really like carousels.
I had no idea. I'm not certain I've been on an honest-to-Moose carousel before, because I think I would have remembered. Carousels always looked like pleasant, but rather dull, rides. Indeed, it wasn't thrilling riding the big Mary Poppins carousel, but it was much nicer than it seemed it ought to be, if that makes any sense. For as simple and un-thrilling as it is, just going in a circle, it was inordinately pleasant.
3. Disneyland's main purpose is to sell you Disneyland.
I suppose I should've seen this coming. After all, I'd read Peter Steeves' "A Phenomenologist in the Magic Kingdom" before, and remembered his sense of the packaging and sale of experience as a fundamental feature of Disneyland. But I wasn't prepared for the full reality. Every major ride ends in or immediate in front of a souvenir shop selling you ride-related crapola. Famously, Space Mountain ends at a video display of stills of you riding the thing, and a booth where you can plunk down 15 bucks for a copy of the image - selling you your own experience.
Steeves also points out the obvious self-referentiality of the place, which if anything is apparently on the increase (Small World now includes Disney characters, for instance). But more than that, what Disney sells you is your trip to Disney, your being in Disney - at every single moment. It's rather like ads on TV telling you to watch TV, or ads in the mall for the mall, telling you how great it is being in the mall. The big tagline all over the place was "Celebrate Today."
4. Ultimately, amusement parks don't have anything I need.
This is rather sad for my loveliest, because she grew up with and adores Disneyland. I can see that, I really can. I didn't grow up with it, or with other amusement parks. We went to Cedar Point in Ohio all of two or three times when I was a kid. I went to Disneyworld sick as a friggin' dog when I was 9 or 10. I don't have warm childhood associations with it, and unlike Mexican restaurants (the only childhood memories of which were of traumas at my parents' favorite dive in Toledo, called Loma Linda), there isn't something inherent to amusement parks that I can learn to love.
I don't mean that it was a terrible experience, or even mostly bad. I liked Pirates of the Caribbean. It wasn't disturbingly Disneyfied to the point of being hard to take. I was never accosted by a guy in a Mickey suit.
Plus, you know, it's $69 to get in to the place.