Me and the Gov, Chillin’ at Disney World

The governor of New Jersey got some heat last week when it turned out he was out of town while the great blizzard blew on the Garden State. Not that he could have done much had he been there during Christmas week, other than make proclamations and see that the plows were out.

But the fact he was gone, and so was the lieutenant governor, it was up to a state senator to make the disaster declaration to the Feds.

Winter storms have been known to put an end to political careers, dating back to Chicago and the fate of former Mayor Michael Bilandic in 1979. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to face the lapses in his city’s response to the blizzard last week by admitting them right off the bat.

But to be down in Disney World with his family at the time of the blizzard didn’t go well with the constituents of Jersey’s Gov. Chris Chris Christie. But hey, I was down there last week as well and can attest to the fact that nobody was getting suntans.

With a cold snap that brought record lows to Orlando two nights in a row, I had to scrape ice off the rental car windshield the morning we went to the Magic Kingdom. No shorts on that excursion. And you can cross any water rides right off the list.

I didn’t personally see Christie on Main Street U.S.A. or in the Country Bear Jamboree, where the ursine lawmaker would have fit right in. That’s because there were about a million people at Disney World last week. Cold or not, it’s the busiest week you could possibly go to a Florida theme park because of the holiday weather and the urge of Northerners to get out of the cold when there’s a week of school vacation.

Well, the joke was on us, in that regard anyway.

And it may be a small world after all, as the perennial ride in Fantasyland endlessly repeated, but it ain’t that small.

But amid the scarves and overcoats along Main Street, U.S.A., there did seem to be a less of a line for some attractions in the frosty early hours of the day we went. But as the afternoon crowds built the crowds at Disney’s Hollywood Studios were such that the wait at the Tower of Terror was two hours, the Toy Story 3 ride, three hours. It was all we could do to just walk past that ride we gave up any hope of seeing, so packed were the bypassing streets.

The shortest line in Tomorrowland was for one of my favorites, the super-corny Carousel of Progress ride from the 1964 World’s Fair, full of herky-jerky audio-animatronics characters crowing about the latest electric appliances. But my kids hated how sexist it was – how the dad did nothing but ruminate, the wife did all the work and the teenage daughter only cared about makeup and dates.

The weird “update” on the final stage of the show (because it is the audience chairs and not the stage sets that revolve on this carousel) showing flat screen TVs, video games and voice activation, seems a little outdated too. Better to have had nuclear towers melting down in the distance out the window, or dad’s disembodied head narrating from the repose of cyber freezing.

But that would require a dollop of irony or the kind of cynicism that led the criticism of Gov. Christie. The assumption is that he was relaxing on vacation while the state was buried in snow. But standing in line for rides, fighting crowds and searching for decent food to eat, he may have wished he were back behind the desk that week as well.

Photo of Christie by my pal Mel Evans/AP

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