big al and liver lips mcgee

If you'll recall, we took a family trip to Disney World a few months ago. Overall, this trip was filled with good things and enlightenment; however, in this post, I'll plummet into the grumpy throws of pessimism to visit a few other observations (sorry Coley). Among the many things that stood out during our trip, was the reminder that realness can be hard to come by in this world.

As we walked to the conference room at Disney’s Coronado Springs Hotel where we were to meet 60 STXers, we passed by hundreds of business men and women wearing their best faces. I know the masks they wear very well, as I wear one all of the time. The business world doesn’t allow the real world in. There is even a whole team of people that get paid to keep the real world out, called Human Resources. Anytime things get human, it’s the job of Human Resources to step in and snuff it out. 

As we walked through this business bubble and we broke through the other side to be greeted by a community of people filled with the reality and empathy we traveled there to find. For me, the experience of walking into a conference room filled with STXers was real, raw and resolute. There were people dancing to live music (on their feet and in wheelchairs), lying on the floor with their legs crossed, yelling out in joy or frustration, hugging one another, telling stories, bonding over shared experiences, laughing and crying. All of it very real and happening in one of the most artificial places one could imagine: A business conference room at Disney World. It was such an obvious and interesting juxtaposition to me.

During our stay in Orlando, we visited Epcot, The Animal Kingdom and The Magic Kingdom. These places were built to nurture imagination and dreams within the minds of children and I remember the magic they gave to me as a child. Now, as I walked through all of the concrete and plastic buildings, the wires and metals of automatrons, Disney felt like a version of Vegas for kids. It’s a great place to nurture dreams and imagination, to indulge in our fantasies, but the real world is far more unpredictable and imperfect. In a way, the real world is more dream-like than Vegas or Disney. 

As we walked through Frontierland one day during the trip and passed by Big Al and Liver Lips McGee from The Country Bear Jamboree. These bears look about as close to reality as any other characters I'd seen. Then there were Mickey, Minnie, Snow White, that lady from Frozen and the whole gang. 

As we walked passed Frontier Mickey, I imagined a fat alcoholic on his last leg underneath the big ears, the blue jeans and the flannel shirt.  I imagined a man who had been worn down by jobs, mediocre tasks, routine, depression, anxiety, survival, and a big heavy mouse suit in the middle of summer. I imagined a man who would go home and toss some tuna on the floor for his cats before heating up some for himself in the microwave on a paper plate. He'd be sliding his feet along the filthy laminate floor like he was trying to avoid stingrays, but it'd just be fatigue. He'd sit down at his T.V. tray with a whiskey and tap the buttons on the remote until he went beyond consciousness and along into another day where he'd spend his time carrying someone else's smile around.

In some ways, I imagined myself. I wear my own mask most days, like we all do. I walk around smiling with a bunch of weight on my shoulders. I act like it doesn't bother me. I play the part and post pictures on Instagram. And I don't do it for anyone else - I do it for myself. I do it so that I can look back and see life through it's filters. It's just easier that way. I'm not always living in the real world. I don't think most of us are able anymore. We are living in the Disney's and the Vegas' and the Instagram's out there that let us take it in little doses.

As we all walk through Disney World, we pass by hundreds of thousands of people. Some of them struggling, crying or dying. We don't even seem to notice. We just keep on walking, until we see Goofy's smiling face. We take a quick picture and we move on to a different place.