April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

I didn’t visit the Harry Potter theme park this past week with my family looking for profundity, but in lieu of an acceptance letter from Hogwarts, I decided to take it. We were standing in line, one that held just about three thousand other people or so, to enter the castle. Mum had just likened it to either standing in line at a temple in India, for its spirit of commotion and religious fervor, or a DMV (she couldn’t decide). My sister debated spending $30 on a wand. “I think it’s worth it,” she said. “I held it in my hand earlier, and waved it around, and I felt magical.” “You are such a Hufflepuff,” I said. “Only in America do people spend this kind of money on sticks and brooms,” my father bellowed.

People walked past us, sipping at their Butterbeer, cloaked, staving away the cold with their new Gryffindor scarves and beanies. As we shuffled past Scrolls & Quills, I considered purchasing a new journal with its graded parchment paper. “Hey maybe the journal will suck your ink in like Tom Riddle’s and someone will answer!” my sister said. I gave her the look. She breezily ignored it. In Dervish and Banges, I had picked up a magnet that read: Educational Decree No. 82: All Students Will Submit to Questioning About Suspected Illicit Activities. Dad read over my shoulder. It was awkward.

And then I remembered seeing this quotation earlier outside a different attraction:

This is not my attempt at a commentary a la David Foster Wallace about consumerism and America and flashy lights and the pursuit of happiness. (Tangent: in the cookie aisle of the 99 Ranch Market, you’ll find Sweet Time cookies for just $3, but Happiness cookies will cost you double. Happiness don’t come cheap.) Nor is it some inward meta-meditation about myself and my family, standing there squashed behind a heavily tattooed and pierced couple on the one end, and in front of a gaggle of six kids that looked very much more age-appropriate for the park on the other.

It’s this: F. Kincaid couldn’t be more wrong. Reality may be bare and hyper-reality spare, but fantasy is wonderful and helps us parse through both. Vacationing with my family was fabulous. Reliving my childhood, even more so. But looking around and watching how one story had enraptured millions of people from every which background, and got them to imagine and dream, was just the most amazing thing in the world. No, I didn’t feel embarrassed to be standing in that line for close to half an hour. No, definitely not, not at all.

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