By Ed Harris
Recently, my wife and youngest son, Izzy, went to Los Angeles on midwinter school break. The first day of our vacation was spent at Disneyland. While at the Magic Kingdom I reminisced about my first Disney experience, at Disney World in Florida, which took place on a spring break road trip from New Jersey with my best friend Howard in my senior year of high school.
Back then, as scruffy, long-haired teenagers, Howard and I were extremely frugal travelers. A few hours into our theme park excursion we sat down on a bench and each of us retrieved from our trusty army-surplus canvas knapsacks a can of sardines, an always-handy staple for cheap nutrition. As we sat holding our 39-cent dinners, a strong odor emanated from the oily fish. I watched as an endless stream of wholesome families passed us, each of them probably wondering how such a pair of degenerates like us was even let into the park in the first place.
Today I’m part of that wholesome family crowd. While I’ve changed — a lot — over the years, some things in life never do. Entering Disneyland still requires a half hour of inexplicable processing at the front gate, same as in the old days. The main attractions, such as Space Mountain, the Matterhorn, and the animatronic President Abraham Lincoln remain timeless classics. The only recent innovation appears to be a new food item: Roasted turkey legs, about the size and shape of caveman’s club, and Neanderthal-like in appearance.
The visit to Disneyland and the ubiquitous turkey apparently whetted Izzy’s appetite for meat. So the other highlight of our Los Angeles vacation was the opportunity to visit a neighborhood filled with kosher restaurants, on Pico Boulevard, near Century City. Like pioneers on the Oregon Trail who endured great hardship to reach their destination, we braved grueling L.A. traffic in search of a rabbinically approved corned-beef-and-pastrami sandwich. Our family keeps kosher, which is not much of a hardship for either me or my wife, as both of us are vegetarians. It’s difficult to find a fruit or vegetable forbidden by the Torah, so the rules of kashrut don’t make much of an impact for the parental units in our family.
But our youngest son, Izzy, despite his Guatemalan heritage, is true a meat-and-potatoes American. Like most kids, he has many complaints about how things are run at home, a few of which I have to admit are valid, such as the extremely infrequent appearance of meat on the family dinner table, an event that occurs about as often as a solar eclipse. Actually, to be completely candid, most of his kvetching is valid. In a family of three kids, the last of the offspring to arrive on the scene is typically raised by parents already worn out by years of child-rearing toil and stress. My favorite daytime activity nowadays is taking a nap: I wouldn’t be fully satisfied with me as a father, either.
Izzy would tell you our meals on Pico Boulevard were worth every single minute of the three-hour round trip drive from our Anaheim hotel. Los Angeles is amazing: it has year-round sunshine and a wide choice of kosher meat restaurants. I realize Seattle’s geography prevents us from having the spectacular climate enjoyed by our Southern California Jewish brethren. Is it asking too much for there to be at least one local dining establishment in the Emerald City where you could get a kosher brisket sandwich and a can of Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda?
To a vegetarian like me, the sight of so many people at Disneyland holding those huge poultry appendages seemed like a throwback to more primitive times, when our early hominid ancestors roamed the African savannah as hunter-gatherers, without the benefits of showers, flush toilets or cable television. The turkey limbs are enormously popular, as every other park goer seemed to be holding one.
As I watched the primitive looking turkey-leg swingers pass me by I was consumed by a single question: How did they let those people into the park in the first place?
Ed Harris, the author of “Fifty Shades of Schwarz” and several other books, was born in the Bronx and lives in Bellevue with his family. His long-suffering wife bears silent testimony to the saying that behind every successful man is a surprised woman.