Featured Article: Carolyn Busa

Dads! The Wacky Men Who Helped Create Us

Carolyn Busa is the creator and producer of Side Ponytail, a stand-up comedy show in Brooklyn rated a Time Out NY Critic's Pick, and the Instagram account OnlySeatTaken featured on Gothamist and Daily Mail. She may also have unsuccessfully auditioned for America's Next Top Model. Twice.  Here, she discusses her quiet father and the one surprising place he feels most at home.

My dad is a very serious, very tall, very quiet man. He hates Facebook and the ‘ding’ of a text message drives him crazy. If he had a catchphrase, it would be “Pfft.” It is almost impossible for him to express an opinion without a precursory “Pfft.” He speaks like he’s firing you from a job you didn’t know you had.

“Hey Dad! How was traffic getting here?”

“Pfft, it wasn’t good, Carolyn, ok? Not good.”

“I’ll collect my things.”

At any mention of our neighbor’s lawn, you’re guaranteed a complimentary eye roll. Speaking of lawns, my dad’s is perfect. In the summer, his sprinklers, perfectly timed, dance at just the right moments and in just the right places. Even in the winter, when my dog takes a piss on the slowly browning grass, he’ll make note of where, remembering to rinse it off later.

My dad worked hard my entire childhood and continues to work hard, despite his ‘semi-retirement.’ Retirement for my father means 30 hours a week instead of the 50+ he was used to. Those extra 20 hours are now spent on random day trips with my mom and taking care of our entirely too big house. If his father were still alive, he’d save a few of those hours for visits taking care of him, visits that his younger brother and sister wouldn’t make themselves for reasons I’m still not 100% sure.

My dad is a hard person to break. As a teen, I felt the need to defend his demeanor out of embarrassment for my reputation. When picking up me and my friends from the movies or mall or play practice, we were never met with a Danny Tanner “Hey girls!” Rather, a few words from my dad and me desperately trying to keep the conversation alive. I wanted my friends to know it’s ok to talk. He’s not mad!

I get my red hair from my father. His hair, despite some grey, is no doubt still very red. I love my red hair and I am proud to be a ginger girl. But, ginger boys are never represented as cool or tough. Maybe my dad has been putting up a front his whole life so that when the sun undoubtedly hit his hair, people would still take him seriously even though he looked like a beautiful, burning matchstick. I don’t know.

There’s a lot I don’t know about my dad. But, there is one thing I do know. The thing that added together with strict lawn care and stern replies makes the least sense of all: My dad fucking loves Disney World.

There’s something about Disney World that makes my dad shed his rough exterior. And believe me, it’s not just any place that serves meat on a stick. It has to be Disney. There’s no passing off Six Flags as “The Happiest Place on Earth.” To that, he’d say, “Pfft!”

When any discussion of vacation comes up, my dad never wants to go to an island or European getaway. He wants to fly the two hours to Orlando and spend his seven days in the section of Florida that I imagine is its own little world, separate from the rest of the state that keeps us on our toes.

When my dad is home, he tinkers with cars and washes his hands in the separate ‘work’ sink he installed in the basement. So, his favorite Disney hotel would surely be The Campsites at Fort Wilderness, right? Wrong. When he goes, he stays at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa because not only does my dad love Disney, but he loves it a particular way: Luxury. This is the hotel. It’s lavish, Victorian-themed, there’s a grand piano in the lobby playing ragtime, and there’s small, detailed soap! It’s everything my father isn’t.

As for the rides, he does them all. Somewhere, there’s a VHS tape in our house with The Hall of Presidents in its entirety. That is some dedication for a notoriously boring AF attraction. The thrills don’t necessarily matter to dad. Dad’s interested in the story and history and how the waiting queue is designed, which, yes, is even documented on a video. It’s the experience before, during, and after. But, that’s not to say he doesn’t love thrills because he does. And it shows.

I may not see my dad smile often, but catch him on The Tower of Terror or Splash Mountain and all of a sudden there’s gums and grins, and I didn’t realize he had a gap in between his teeth! Some of my dad’s best photos are Disney souvenir photos.

There’s a spot in Magic Kingdom, specifically Adventureland, where each trip my dad hunts for the stand that sells his Dole Whip. The Dole Whip is a frozen pineapple ice-cream treat. It’s something to enjoy while he waits in line for Big Thunder Mountain or another go at Splash Mountain. It’s his tradition.

Thanks to our father, my sister and I are also Disney-obsessed. We can recite the script of the Monorail, we fantasize about the smell of the Grand Floridian lobby, and we can easily work each other up to emotional, teary messes by humming the music to Epcot Center’s Celebrate the Future Hand in Hand parade. I spent two of my five days in Japan exploring Tokyo Disneyland. I have nightmares where I’m given only two hours in Magic Kingdom and need to make quick and rash decisions about where to spend my time. For the record, I would do a half hour of sightseeing and then attempt both Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder Mountain. Also, for the record, I wrote and rewrote that sentence at least three times because of the anxiety that fictitious situation still gives me. My dad sure did a number on us.

When the holidays are coming up, I know I’m going to attempt a family photo. My mom will probably say something like “Please don’t post that!” and I’ll post it anyway. People might see my photo and wonder why Dad’s smile looks strained or maybe they’ll create stories in their head. I don’t care, I’ll defend him either way. But, not of embarrassment anymore. I’m no longer embarrassed about my dad being who he is. Especially when so much of him is now becoming a part of me. You see, my dad has his lawn, I have my hair. My dad says few words, I stand in corners at parties. My dad enjoys his Dole Whip tradition, I enjoy my pumpkin-spiced latte tradition. And, most importantly, my dad loves Disney World just as much as I do.


Carolyn Busa

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