I was looking back at some of my memories on FB today. So many anniversaries this month when it comes to the Mouse House. My first official day in the park was May 1999, though technically I was hired in February. The 50th anniversary of Disneyland officially kicked off May 4th & 5th of 2005, though again things started happening in February, setting off the craziest 18 months; so many great memories, so many great experiences, and people.

    But one of my favorite things working at Disney was early mornings in the park. That may come as a big surprise to many who know me well as I am NOT a morning person. Noooo I’m a late-night, dawn is my cue to wrap it up type. And there were plenty of those times too. But there was something magical about mornings opening the resort. Getting there hours before guests arrived, the rising sun heating the freshly washed grounds creating a soft steamy mist that rose up with a wonderful clean smell. Then there was the routine from pre-hydration and breakfast, getting in costume, ride checks, and that build of electricity as the guests started queueing up outside the gates. Each location had slightly different routines and feels. The Tiki Room, with its frosty theater when you arrived slowly warming with the day and first few test shows, much like a Hawaiian beach. The smell of the first Dole Whip powder going into the machines at the Tiki Bar wafting on the air through the lanai. The gentle silence of the Jungle, the serene sound of the falls and the real animals starting their day in the distance, mist dancing on the water around the boats. The Opera House with its old theater smell and echo, and Walt’s Offices behind the glass, it felt almost as if you were breathing in history. On mornings when the Fire Department would leave the coffee in the pot out back a little too long, the smell of dark coffee would waft in the back doors and on those quiet mornings you’d swear you could almost see Walt sitting at his desk pouring over his latest project, or standing over the piano as the Sherman brothers played.

    Still, nothing was quite like mornings at the Steam Trains. A unique blend of rush and mosey. Just like a steam train, a slow steady start building that head of steam and once rolling, a powerful steady driving force, with a rhythm and flow of a grand waltz. And on those mornings there were opening rides on the train or walks to the roundhouse through a waking park. The hustle and bustle of cast members deftly moving through the park to their locations, or going through the morning checklists, the clicks of the turnstiles being unlocked, the squeaks and clangs of gates and their hinges with their first swings and sides of the day; rides coming to life. The rustles and clacks of stores opening their doors and rolling out stock. The music and sounds of the park coming to life one by one as if Disneyland itself was taking a deep breath and stretching with an invigorating yawn. On second train mornings were the trips to the roundhouse, with its boisterous bangs and clangs and the yelling of the men who maintained those trains. Within that roar of engines and engineers, there was a special ritual all my own, a moment of inner peace among barely organized chaos. A cup of coffee, brewed dark and strong like the oil that covered everything there, tempered with a little cream and sugar and a packet of rich chocolate cocoa (which is no longer available). Those were special cups of coffee that even when copied to near perfection outside that space could not be truly replicated.

    Today in 2013, several years after what I didn’t realize would be my last morning ritual at the Steam Trains, I wrote this after finally, nearly achieving that near-perfect cup of coffee;

No cup of coffee can come with all that those cups cherished on so many a morn imbued. No hollow echo mixing the sounds of the trains both silent and loud. No smell of fuel, steam, metal, and wood. No sounds of male voices mixed with laughter and frustration. Nor can it impart that unique peace that only that special blend of chaos can bring.

– Me, May 6th, 2013