I am a pilgrim. My destination? A Mecca revered by millions - a ShangriLa where time dallies and youth returns in all its wonderment and joy.
I begin my trek as a pale August dawn awakens the valley of San Fernando. I join others as we patiently crawl many miles down what locals call The Five.
An eternity later, I arrive. My ancient foe and lifelong confidant, sister Pam, greets me at the gates. We embrace with knowing expectation, for we have both been here before.
Following other seekers, we enter this sanctuary of dreams. Girlhood rushes up to welcome us back. It all seems so familiar, and yet, smaller, and yet, still magical, and yet, more expensive.
Sweet celestial harmonies entice us into the swirling crowd. Four fine gentlemen in colorful striped shirts and flat-topped hats sing a cappella. A joyful noise, indeed.
We gorge gleefully on cuisine sacred to our youth, but shunned in our daily lives: mystery meat slathered in condiments, anything deep-fried, punch, Dibs, and Goobers. The taste of these forbidden morsels take us back to a more innocent, cholesterol-free time.
In the distance, we behold The Shrine shimmering through a hot, sepia haze. We pause to prepare. Our minds must first be altered. In darkened chambers, we whirl like dervishes. Our bodies quake and jerk and slam. Ego vanishes. We emerge awakened, disoriented, nauseous.
We weave our way toward the beckoning temple. Supplicants, moist and fragrant, shuffle around us. They don golden caps that glow like haloes in the southland sun. These marvelous headdresses commemorate fifty years of joyful existence here.
Pam and I reverently cross the sacred waters and stand in exaltation before the alter of our youth. Be-jeweled spires reach up to tickle the heavens. According to legend, a beautiful, but lethargic princess dwelled within these castle walls. A familiar melody touches us with tender memories of our forgotten childhood.
Tears of joy, or smog, roll down our sticky cheeks. Our hearts swell to bursting. Age falls away like New Years’ resolutions in February. We are miraculously transformed by this enchanted place – this happy place – this
Happiest Place on Earth.