RWA Nationals 2010 took place at the Swan and Dolphin Resort. I’d booked my conference room too late to sleep on site, but I was cosily ensconced in the nearby Disney Yatch Club. Believe me, that was no hardship unless you counted the twice-daily walk I did outside to and from the festivities. (July Florida weather certainly explains why Southern women used to use the word “glow.” I don’t think my wattage hit less than “halogen-quality” the entire trip.)
Anyway, there’s so much to say about the conference itself I don’t know where to begin. Some of it’s up already on Writer Unboxed. More is to come when I’ve processed it. I learned a ton. I’m grateful for the experience. But the easy part of my trip turned out to be lessons about craft. More challenging were the insights about people, including myself.
Did you know it’s possible to believe you are humble when your ego is the size of the universe?
I mentioned earlier that Disneyland is not my favorite stomping ground. Despite being pampered, cosseted and cheer-cheer-cheerily greeted everywhere I went, there’s a festering hole in my psyche which resists being cajoled into happiness. You probably knew this about me already, yes?
Let me be clear: there’s a lot to admire about the Orlando theme park and environs. Had I visited it a decade ago when I had small children, I would have appreciated their orientation to safety and service, the cleanliness and predictability. From the vantage point of adulthood, though, those very attributes began to…chafe.
For instance, one night we had a thunderstorm, which was glorious. I love storms. Love. I won’t risk my safety, but when there’s wind stirring my hair, rain on my face and everything feels so elemental, it hits a sweet spot in me. So I watched the storm for a while from the safety of the veranda. I got high on the smell of ozone, the lightning strikes I could see from beyond Universal Studios. When all hint of danger had passed and the rain had slowed to a soft drizzle, I decided to make a circuit of the Boardwalk.
Never happened. It couldn’t. Positioned at each doorway, walkie talkies in hand, were smiling but resolute “cast members”, determined to save me from myself. I reasoned with them. I reassured. I had a hairy arm placed across the doorway at chest height, just in case I thought to make a break for it.
I don’t know about you, but that attitude makes my teeth hurt. It constitutes a sneaky form of aggression. I immediately want to push back. And I really wonder what they would have done if I had. Probably nothing more sinister than make me sign a ten-page contract, promising not to sue them if I caught pneumonia, but still… (If you’re not catching on yet, this next part’s your hint I wouldn’t flourish in a totalitarian regime.)
Other signs of condescension:
- Disney sells no gum on its property. None. But feel free to buy the $7 breath mints sold in the convenience stores. And no, I’m not joking about the price. Don’t get my cheap, sorry self started on the price.
- If you handed a female staff a hijab or veil, you’d be hard-pressed to distinguishe them from a devout Muslim woman or nun. All I can guess is that Disney wants no guest troubled by a hint of messy sexuality.
Also, I found the lack of wildlife downright creepy. Crescent Lake is beautiful, but other than weeds, I saw no living creatures in its depths. There are no mosquitos, even at dusk. The ducks present can be found about three feet from your ankles, where they docilely await their next meal. The bunnies nibbling on the grass won’t flee until you’re within arm’s-length. The only sign I saw that Nature hadn’t been primped/pruned/compelled into strict conformity was during a morning walk when hundreds of centipedes crossed from one side of the path to the other. Oh, and the sun and humidity! Alas, Disney can do nothing about that. 😉
The entire set-up reminded me of my practice, where the too-perfect always concealed something ominous: anorexia, sexual abuse, domestic violence… Or the set of a horror movie — you know, where the gorgeous girl and guy are getting it on in the backseat of a car, and the psychopath or monster appear? Pretty soon, my Jan-mind began to look for cracks in the facade and enjoy smug satisfaction upon finding them:
- The centipedes
- The elderly gentleman who booked my transportation to the airport. When I asked for clarification of my schedule, to ensure he understood I had an international flight with all the time requirement that implied, there was a second when the crack became a valley. Behind the determined cheer, that man was seething with hostility. I would not be in the least surprised to know he smiled at clients all day, then beat his wife at 9:03 every night. In fact, I wish he’d simply told me to go fuck myself. It might have spared her some bruising.
So *laughing* that probably wasn’t what you expected to hear, was it, even if it was honest?
And now, please be truthful with me. Tell me about your trips to Disneyland and how much fun you had. Tell me about your souvenirs. Tell me about the crocodile who grabbed a tourist in front of you with bone-crunching alacrity. Speak of the gristle extruding from his maw, and—