Touring the USA 2001 – part 1 Disneyland & the West Coast

Day 1 – Sydney

Well, we thought Ange’s forgetting to take her keys was that little glitch that always flaws the best made plans, but we picked it up only a block or so from home. Then we got to the airport and realised that Veronica and Imogen’s bag was still in the upstairs bedroom.

We were lucky to have Barry chauffering us around at high speeds, making his second return trip back to Herbert Street, this time with only one passanger.
Perhaps we could just check-in everything else now and do the last bag later? Seems sensible to me. ‘Sorry Sir, but the system just doesn’t work that way.’

OK. That’s OK.. We can do this. We’ve got plenty of time. And we did do it, and we did seem to have plenty of time, until the check-in attendant pointed out to us that Ange’s passport was still in her maiden name, but that her ticket was in her married name.

‘Do you have your marriage certificate with you?’ he asked. ‘No’ we say. ‘Does it matter?’ we ask. ‘Well, it doesn’t matter to us, buddy, but in the US they’ll put you in cuffs for something like this and you won’t be goin’ nowhere fast’.

OK. After (quite) a few more tense minutes and a $50 fee, Ange has a whole new set of

Veronica displaying her USA T-Shirt

 tickets, and there’s only one more disaster to solve. Imogen is in crisis mode because she’s

Somehow we make it on board. Ange is having a sugar drop, but she hasn’t feinted (yet). Imogen has a new pack of lifesavers and is smiling. Our cabin luggage is stowed away, we’re belted in, and we’ve all been served complimentary drinks. Then Imogen spills hers all over her pants… realised that she’s left her life-savers at home.

Day 1 Again – L.A.

Well, we’ve just made it through a thirteen hour plane flight, but somehow we’ve ended up in L.A. three hours before we took off in Sydney, and so the whole day begins again!

It’s all to do with international date lines of course, but Ange and the kids are not impressed. They’ve had enough of Monday July 9 and are ready for bed. I, on the other hand, am champing at the bit to soak in the atmosphere of this exotic new city (metaphorically speaking of course).

Indeed, first impressions of L.A. is that it looks a lot like Sydney on a bad day – smog filled, choked with traffic, and no Opera House in sight.

I think I expected the locals to look a little less like Sydney-siders. Admittedly, the Yankee accents are a give-away, and the fact that I keep bumping into them on the footpath (they keep swerving right when I want to pass on the left). Apart from that though, we could be walking through Surry Hills.

Our hotel is in the Disneyland section of L.A.. Indeed, we seem to be in a whole suburb that exists entirely to service the Disney industry. This does not mean though that the place is without its spiritual content. On the contrary, this town also turns out to be the home of the famous ‘Crystal Cathedral’!

I have to see this place, and I have a map that suggests that it is only a block or two away from the hotel, so when the family takes an early night, I take off on a brisk pilgrimage towards the infamous obelisk.

Of course I should have realised that this was a hand-sketched map that was designed to show hotel guests how to get to Disneyland and how to find certain local businesses, who presumably sponsored the map. Disneyland was marked out clearly as being two blocks away to the North – entirely accurate. The Crystal Cathedral appeared to be about two blocks to the South-East, on the edge of the map. It turned out to be about 10 kms away!

The direction was correct, and within a few blocks I could see on the horizen the glow of a gigantic blue flourescent cross that I figured could only be the work of Schuller. About 40 mins later I reached it, only to find that it belonged to a hospital of some sort, but, thankfully, the Cathedral was next door.

It was 10 at night by now, and, to my surprise, the Cathedral was almost entirely unlit. The gates to the grounds were open though so I went in.

It was an awesome sight. The spire was a towering edifice that rose from a lush and well-manicured lawn that was dotted with sculptures.

The sculptures had a surprisingly Catholic feel about them. A very porcelain-faced Mary was sitting on a donkey, with a baby Jesus whose face and body were polished gold!

At the centre stood one very impressive sculpture of a man on the ground with his hands in the air, with three other men leaning over him aggressively, one holding a scroll.

This must be the stoning of Stephen, I thought, but then I noticed the figure of a woman standing behind the figure on the ground. This has to be Jesus defending the woman caught in adultery, I thought, though the person with the scroll looked so much like my vision of Moses that I wondered whether it might rather be some scene from the book of Numbers that I had forgotten.

I moved closer to the shadowy scene and saw an inscription written into a stone in front of it. It read “He who finds a wife finds a treasure, and receives favour from the Lord” Provers 16:22. This confused me completely, until I realised that it was one of a number of such stones, set up as memorials to those who funded the sculptures I think, rather than as commentaries on the works.

I eventually found my way to the base of the enormous Cathedral spire, which rose directly from the ground, and I found that there was a door on either side of it. At the centre of the spire was a glass display case with a revolving plastic cross in it – a figure of the crucified one deeply embedded in the plastic.

At the base of the display case was an inscription which told the story of the building of the Cathedral. The edifice had apparently been pieced together over a 35 year period :1955 to 1990. These were years that saw great technological advancement worldwide, we were told, but these were also the years of escalating nuclear weaponery and the Cold War.. Buried under the floor were apparently the collective prayers of all those who had buiilt the Cathedral as a symbol of hope for the future – prayers for a better world and for true peace.

I found this little shrine and its inscription suprisingly moving. Tacky but sincere. In Australia, we’ve managed to import the tacky side of American culture very effectively, but we’ve lost the sincerity.



Days 2 to 4 – Disneyland

Disneyland, Disneyland, Disneyland! That just about sums it up really.

Afther three days of Disneyland, there’s not much left to say really, but let me make a

Out front of Disney Land

 couple of quick observations about the local people:

1. they are all suprisingly overweight.

OK, I know I’m no bronzed Adonis, but I could come to feel pretty good about my body living in an area like this.


It really was very striking. Not just plumb, but seriously obese people were everywhere – black and white, young and old. Couple with this was the appallingly large number of people who were hiring little electronic cars to get around the theme parks each day because they were just too fat to walk!

2. Their cars are enormous

Combine the weight problem with the cheap petrol prices, and I suppose I should have predicted this.
girls with Mickey MouseEven so, I had assumed that Krusty the clown and the Canyonero was only a myth. Canyoneros were everywhere.

3. They all speak rather loudly.

This only dawned on me slowly. I actually thought my hearing had finally improved at first.
‘Must be something in the atmosphere’ I thought. Then I spent time in the hotel room with no one but my family, and the sad truth dawned upon me.

(Noone should come back from Disneyland without a pic like this)

Rev. David B. Smith

Parish priest, community worker,
martial arts master, pro boxer,
author, father of four.

About Father Dave

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four
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