As I celebrate my 41st year as a part of this universe, I consider myself fortunate to have had such an experience as I've had this past week. You see, I've found where wonder still exists. And it's this wonder that keeps those of the creative temperament firmly rooted to the unreal, real word of their imaginations.
There are many tricks to getting older, and depending on what it is that you do in the universe, approaching these transitions is different for everyone. Of course there are the medical problems, the sore and aching backs and shoulders, the eyes and ears that gradually lose their factory settings. But these things are all usually treated with medicine and exercise and procedures that are designed to get you through to the next year of dedication to whatever vocation you have been fortunate enough to discover.
Jobs are jobs, and I have had many and long to have more, but my vocation is my writing. And when the wonder starts to go away, in yet another more undetectable symptom of aging, there are places like Universal Studios in Orlando to apply once daily. In my case, it was once daily for two days.
When I was a kid, my family used to visit Walt Disney World in Orlando every year for what I am only estimating was seven years in a row (the number seven is arbitrary in my mind, as it may be the number of bikes that I'd had stolen as a boy). So I have a pretty good frame of reference as to what a theme park should be, and I mean down to the smells of the place. Disney has a "facility" smell, a maintained world that is heavy on technology and the research of "vacationing" that all add up to total escapism.
It is why when I first got to the first of the two parks that make up Universal -- the section simply referred to as Universal Studios -- I was feeling as though it was all a bit ineffective. I'm almost certain in retrospect that it had all to do with the sequence of what we'd chosen to ride or walk through first, because when we got to the "E.T" ride, I was reminded of what this was all about as I sat in a car hanging from a track and drifted past speakers and animatronic figures that told me I had indeed arrived.
The day picked up momentum as we went to all of the attractions we could jam in, including "Men in Black," "Twister" and "Despicable Me," and every one of them was more thrilling than the next. I felt the wonder again, regardless of knowing that there was an entire world beyond the facade that as I kid, I knew nothing about. It all worked, and it all brought back feelings of what I now refer to as "accessible wonder."
But it didn't stop there.
The next day we visited the second of the two parks, the aptly named Islands of Adventure. And it is here that we turned a corner and saw what you see pictured above, "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter." Just the walk to this area of the park was amazing, but as we walked through the recreation of Hogwarts to get into the ride itself, I realized that the technology has become heavy on the melding of CGI and motion-simulated cars that are no less real than the real thing. I was flying through the school, on broomsticks with Harry and his friends during a rainy Quidditch match, and I had the motion sickness to prove it.
The rest of the day was a total surrender to the freedom of moving around inside of one's own imagination, as we used our Express Pass to explore "Spider Man" and "Jurassic Park" and other sights and sounds that quite honestly put me in a trance. I knew when I'd had enough. I was exhausted and satisfied.
Maybe I just needed a vacation, a reminder that there was such a thing as a vacation where people go and do things during times away from their lives. It was a very hectic week as I went to my first hockey game in Tampa right before our Universal whirlwind tour, and right before that I'd done three shows in two days in two different states with the Eskimos. But I couldn't have had a better time and gone to a better place, a place where not only was I able to reintegrate with my fellow humans and do this strange thing they called "vacationing," but also where I could remember a part of the universe where "accessible wonder" can still be found and even stored away for later use.