Thursday, January 17, 2013

See You in Disneyland #4: Tahitian Terrace Hula Dancer

 "See You in Disneyland: Tahitian Terrace Hula Dancer"
Artwork by Dan Cunningham, © The Walt Disney Company
Medium: Vector Art in Adobe Illustrator

A conch shell bellows, echoing through a rattan canopy! Nope, we're not gonna watch Survivor... it's time to warm up these frigid days of January and head deep into the wilds of Adventureland. The next illustration in the "See You in Disneyland" series focuses on another beloved dining entertainment attraction: Disneyland's Tahitian Terrace Restaurant.

Our lovely hula dancer tells a story through her delicate movements, swaying to lilting melodies. Bright yellows set off the figure and suggest a bright, tropic environment, while the small flower vignettes that surround her are based on decorative images that once festooned the original Tahitian Terrace marquee in the 1960s.

There's some delicious, stylized illustrations of Polynesian Wahines on the vintage Tahitian Terrace menu pictured below. While I'm partial to that graphic style, I'm sticking to the self-imposed rules for "See You in Disneyland" in that the style must remain consistent when viewed as a whole.* You can view the continuing series on Flickr HERE

Disneyland's Tahitian Terrace 

Located to the rear of Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room, The Tahitian Terrace operated during summers and busier times of the year from 1962 to 1993. Guests lined up to enjoy Polynesian-style dishes and live, island-themed entertainment.

Vintage 1960s-Era Tahitian Terrace Menu Cover & Interior
© The Walt Disney Company, Image Courtesy of Daveland Web

The continental United States maintained a substantial fascination in Polynesian culture by 1960, primarily due to the inclusion of Hawaii as the 50th state the prior year. The most telling instance of the craze that sustained for over a decade were the ubiquitous Hotels, Motels and condominiums themed to the South Seas across the 48 statesmore so, the seemingly overnight explosion of exotic Tiki restaurants and bars such as Trader Vic's.

 Still Operating Today, Bali Hai Restaurant on San Diego's Shelter Island,
Circa 1958
Image Courtesy of Charles Phoenix

It was only natural that the appeal of such far-away tropic locales would find its way through the main gate of 1313 Harbor Boulevard. The Tahitian Terrace became a must-see dinner show, engaging diners with savory fare far west of the standard hamburger platter amid live dancers, drummers and fire walkers enshrouded by a placid waterfall curtain.

Your Hostess Oversees the Graceful Storytelling of a Hula Dancing Trio 
Image © The Walt Disney Company & Courtesy of Sam Gennawey via MiceChat

An original sponsorship by Stouffer's (and later, Kikkoman) kept the venue's life healthy, as operating costs go. By the dawn of the 1990s, live in-park entertainment was scaled back, and synergy-driven tie-ins became de rigueur. The Tahitian Terrace was placed on the endangered species list.

Original Tahitian Terrace Marquee With Stouffer's Sponsorship Prominently in Place
 Image Courtesy of Gorillas Don't Blog

After all, thirty-one years is an admirable run for any dinner show. As the Tahitian Terrace served up their final meals in 1993 to make way for a dining experience featuring Disney's Aladdin, there remained a strong core group of fans whose only wish would be for the Genie to vacate and restore the former tenant.

Live Polynesian Entertainment Returned to Adventureland on October 13, 2012
Image Courtesy of The Disney Project

As recently as 2012, there was a one-night restoration of the Tahitian Terrace: a fan-based movement in co-operation with Disneyland management was hosted by the folks at culminated in co-operation with Disneyland management successfully returned the dinner show for a special event. You can read all about the special evening on October 13, 2012 here at The Disney Project

The Happiest Reference on Earth

Disneyland the Nickel Tour:
A Postcard Journey Through a Half Century of the Happiest Place on Earth
by Bruce Gordon and David Mumford

Two of the most invaluable resources for visual reference in creating these illustrations deserve due credit and recognition. It is fair to state these blogs are the online equivalent of Disneyland the Nickel Tour.** Each site maintains repositories of Disneyland photos unparalleled in variety of historical breadth and content.

The Daveland Blog is an Online Photo Archive
Banner Image © & Courtesy of Dave DeCaro

Dave DeCaro's Daveland Blog gathers vintage slides and photos from personal collections that would have never been available for public viewing, and posts them almost daily on his blog, then organizes them neatly at Daveland Web within an index categorized by area and attraction. Disneyland is the primary focus, but there are many more photo subjects at his blog, it's a great stop if you enjoy other locales such as Palm Springs or New Orleans, and subjects like old Hollywood.

 "Doña Diabla" (2013) Commissioned Painting by Dave DeCaro 

Besides being a skilled photographer, Dave is also an accomplished traditional artist. You can view portraits and more traditional painted works at The Art of Dave DeCaroas you can see, he's quite the renaissance man.

 The Stuff From the Park Blog is Packed With Photos and Ephemera
Banner Image Courtesy of Patrick Jenkins

Patrick Jenkins, known online as Matterhorn1959, also maintains one of the finest Disneyland-centered collections of rare personal photos and slides. In addition, Stuff From the Park presents high-quality scans of rare Disneyland ephemera such as menus, flyers, operating manuals and other documents from the Anaheim park. The lion's share of this online collection focuses on Walt's original park, but a generous sampling of other theme park imagery is featured as well. You'll find documentation of places such as Knott's Berry Farm and the long-shuttered Pacific Ocean Park. Frequent updates make his site worth a daily visits.

Stuff From the Park Offers Rare Images of Items Such as Long-Gone Signage 
"Sunkist, I Presume" Image Courtesy of Stuff From the Park

If you are interested in more vintage images of Americana from the past century, Patrick's sister blog Corner Cafe Images consists of glorious photos that capture everyday life and people in the United States.

Patrick Jenkins' Corner Cafe Images Provides a Slice of American Life 
Image Courtesy of Corner Cafe Images

* This doesn't mean we can't have fun with stylized imagery elsewhere.
** Long out-of-print, Disneyland the Nickel Tour is widely heralded as the greatest book on Disneyland history published to date.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Q&A with Laryssa Wirstiuk, Author of The Prescribed Burn

Cover Art for The Prescribed Burn
© 2013 by Laryssa Wirstiuk

A new year, a new blog post, and a new ongoing series we'll touch on from time to time here at I Can Break Awayto wit, book recommendations and reviews of notable tomes. For the first selection, we are very fortunate to gain some exclusive perceptions from the author by way of an informal Q&A session.

Now, I doubt any these posts will ever score Oprah's Book Club kind of numbersbut, hey, we can all benefit from a bit of culture and literary awareness.

"Reading" (2003) by Dmitry Samarov
 Medium: Watercolor © & Courtesy of

Reading has always taken center stage in my own life, the ability to enjoy doing so remains the most valuable gift I'll ever receive. I owe the most gratitude for this gift during my formative youth to the early efforts of PBS children's programming, and (more importantly) my Mother, who faithfully read to me daily, helping to sound out words and sentences. Over time, it became easy to distinguish good writing, and the path to discovering such is part of the fun. There's a passive excitement to browsing vintage and retail bookstores, or flooding countless periodicals and online resources through a mental sluice, trapping for literary gold.

No Better Browsing Than Bookstore Browsing
Fulton Street's Greenlight Bookstore, Image © & Courtesy of Time Out New York

I've been equally fortunate to communicate with some interesting people via the social interactions of Twitter, some of whom I may never have the opportunity to meet in person. One of these interesting people is a vivacious author and professor named Laryssa Wirstiuk, whose talent and compassion are matched only by her zest for life. It seems Wirstiuk is always involved in something new and interesting—when she does take some downtime, the occasion is often documented with photos of her adorable miniature Dachshund, Charlotte Moo.

A Gaze From Charlotte Moo Wields the Ability to Melt the Coldest of Hearts
Image © 2013 by Laryssa Wirstiuk

Some weeks back Laryssa mentioned she was working on something new. Upon a request to read a sample of her work, I was pleasantly surprised when she replied an entire collection of her short stories had recently been published. Samples viewed, an amazon Kindle purchase opened wide the full collection of inter-connected stories. Less than ankle-deep in the first chapter, a solid connection between reader and writer was established. Here is the formal review I gave her book on

The Prescribed BurnA Fresh & Well-Conceived Collection

The Prescribed Burn utilizes an atypical story structure, painting an engaging, ever-building portrait of the central character, Veda. Delivered as a first-person narrative, Veda's non-linear time line unfolds a compelling look into a young woman's formative-to-adult years, that strays from the usual conventions of its type.

Veda is neither outcast nor introvert: her strong Ukrainian heritage and a stronger creative drive are central to positioning Veda slightly askew from what her peers would consider ordinary. Her whisper-quiet brio is the very heart of Burn, as is the setting of the state of New Jersey (cheekily associated with Veda as being slightly askew in comparison to neighboring New York).

Laryssa Wirstiuk's writing method wins you over by lightly drizzling character-building events within the scenes of the mundane and everyday. The standard method of chapter-busting suspense and cliffhangers is disposed of, in favor of Veda's daily routine being shifted or interrupted with the moments that re-arrange her thinking. Wirstiuk sets up each scene masterfully in Veda's voice, drawing the reader into her mindset seamlessly. In doing so, the recurring theme of the book's title becomes powerful and clear by its conclusion.

Reviewers seem to have crafted opposing takes on the overall theme of the the book. Though some of the stories magnify her insecurities, I find Veda is always perfectly satisfied with her identity, searching only for the places and people to comfortably wrap around it.
The book struck a such an honest chord, it was a natural fit to have Burn kick off the book recommendations here on the blog. Though we've never met in person, Laryssa enthusiastically agreed to answer some questions about her book, her work and herself—so here's a bit of Q&A with author Laryssa Wirstiuk:

Author Laryssa Wirstiuk

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions. Before we get to the book: I know your area was affected by Hurricane Sandy, and you recently took part in a benefit to raise relief money. Has much of the damage been taken care of around Jersey City?
Thankfully, most of Jersey City was not badly affected by the storm, especially in comparison to other areas throughout New York and New Jersey. Some neighborhoods in Jersey City were without power for a week. Hoboken, which borders my neighborhood in Jersey City to the east and is located on the shore of the Hudson River, was very badly affected. I have never seen so much flooding before. Many businesses are still suffering there. When I decided to host a benefit event, I was thinking mostly about raising funds for areas like Hoboken and the Jersey Shore.
 The Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Hoboken, NJ

The Garden State plays a central role in The Prescribed Burn, which you’ve captured perfectly. I’ve often contended that New Jersey gets a bad reputation in that most people judge the state strictly by views off the Turnpike. MTV’s Jersey Shore hasn’t helped garner much goodwill either—yet everyone I know there is proud to call it home. Do you hope to remain, or are there greener pastures?
I grew up in New Jersey and couldn't wait to go away to college. I felt so strongly that I needed to live somewhere elseI fantasized about California and other states with warmer climates. I ended up in Baltimore, MD and remained in Maryland through graduate school. Surprisingly, throughout that time, I wanted nothing but to return to New Jersey and couldn't wait to finish school so I could move back home. As it stands, I feel very satisfied living here and don't see myself moving any time soon, but I'm not closed to the possibility of living in another place. I'm just the type of person who has trouble establishing a "home" in a location different from the place where I was born and raised. I think about that a lot: the concept of "home."
The Author Shot Photos Representing Each Chapter of The Prescribed Burn, Above Image From The Chapter "Not Homecoming"
Image © 2013 by Laryssa Wirstiuk 

The stories that make up The Prescribed Burn seem to reflect much of your own personality and experience. Veda’s love affair with her home state of New Jersey, her creative drive, compassion and Ukrainian background appear as unfiltered snapshots of your mindset. The summer camp chapter in particular, is beautifully textured. How much of the framework is autobiographical?
I've definitely based some of my stories on real things that I've experiencedlike going to an all-girl's high school, being in love with a place, growing up Ukrainian, etc. But Veda also represents my ideas and emotions that I haven't necessarily lived, at least not in those specific ways. For example, Veda is an only child, but I have a brother who is one of my best friends. Those situations that are only partially based in truth reflect more of what memoirists call the "emotional truth." In "Flame-Retardant Fabric," my story about 9/11, Veda is in art class with her best friend. It's true that I was in high school during 9/11, but I was in biology class without my best friend. The way I wrote the story is the way I wish it had been, the way that I can find the most truth in the situation. Sometimes, manipulating a memory is the way we find truth in it.
Veda's Creative and Ukrainian Roots Merge Frequently Throughout the Stories
Photo © & Courtesy of Flickr User dorinehouston

Small details of environments, moods and clothing shade the dialogue perfectly. While reading, I found myself comparing your writing style to an adult-oriented Beverly Cleary (intended as a high compliment!) Was there a particular author or authors that influenced your work?
I don't think I consciously try to emulate any author as I write, but I can't deny that the work of writers I admire must influence my writing. Around the same time that I fell in love with fiction writing, I fell in love with Lorrie Moore, a short story writer and novelist. Her protagonists are almost all females in rather awkward situations. They are normal women navigating the mundane details of life. She is a master of humor and language. I think reading her work gave me permission to write about flawed female characters.
Home Page of Wirstiuk's Writing Instruction Site:

Absolutely: flawed characters are everything! As a cartoonist who writes his own stuff, I do understand when story must drive characters and vice versa. I’ve taken on my own “prescribed burn” in that I don’t let myself get precious with the characters: finding it’s far better to give them a rough time, followed by an unusual or sensible outcome. Do you write within those types of rules, or do you tend to let things flow?
Of course! Perfect lives are boring. Everyone, no matter how perfect they might seem on the outside, has something that troubles them. I like to explore those troubles, even if they seem insignificant or selfish or naive. And I like to be kind to my characters too, even though I'm torturing them.
Do you plan to revisit the character of Veda, or do you feel her story has been told?
My friends and family have encouraged me to keep writing Veda, but I feel like I have moved on from her. She was a character I created to explore ideas and concerns I had about a certain period of a young woman's life, and I'm now interested in writing about different subjects. I'll have to create a character who will help me navigate and explore these new interests. However, I'm very interested in writing about women and don't see myself straying from strong female protagonists any time soon.
A Relaxing Read With Charlotte Moo
Image © 2013 by Laryssa Wirstiuk

What type of writing do you navigate to for your own, recreational reading?
I like to read everything! My passion is writing so I want to know how it works on every level. My current challenge is to finish Anna Karenina during my winter break from teaching. But the next book on my list is a nonfiction book called Uncreative Writing, which is about the role of the Internet and digital media in creativity, especially in poetry writing. I read both to help me grow as a writer and to help me grow as a teacher. I'm always looking for the next best thing to share with my students.
The Prescribed Burn: Available in Paperback and Kindle Formats
© 2013 by Laryssa Wirstiuk

Thanks again to Laryssa for sharing her valuable time and insights. For those interested, a generous, multi-page preview of The Prescribed Burn is viewable at amazon.comif you enjoy the sample text as much as I did, the book is currently available in both paperback and Kindle formats.

I'll be back with some new posts very soon, now that the Holiday season has come to a close. Check back here for the next illustration in the See You in Disneyland series, followed by a break from the cold weather with a visit to the South Seas!