You’re either a theme park person or you are not a theme park person.
I’ve stretched the stubborn elasticity of this narrow minded statement for more than fifteen years. Ever since my kids were old enough to want to partake in stupid shit, like thrill rides. The genesis was palatable enough to my land loving senses, as the girl was not tall enough for the big coasters and my son was just fine with the vintage chill of Ferris wheels and water rides. Chill is my remedy.
Our initial foray was to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. I planned on having an easy time of it until my daughter eyed Apollo’s Chariot and implored me to try it so I could share with her the glorious stories of my trip to the heavens. It was described not as a roller coaster, but as a ‘hyper coaster’, which ain’t civilized sounding in the least. I wouldn’t learn the specs of this steel monster until later, which is probably a good thing. All I knew was that it looked as if Satan had dug out of his finished basement and was flipping the bird to the heavens in a steel splint. I longed for the days when parks used to amuse us, because lemme tell you . . I wasn’t amused.
I’d done the Comet in Coney Island and Rolling Thunder at Six Flags, because those were roller coasters as per the definition. Apollo was Godzilla with a grievance. But it was a matter of Daddy please, and you just don’t refuse such a request. You’re better off telling Vito Corleone to shit in his hat. Looking back I have to admit . . it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. It was worse. Much, much worse.
Once the seal was broken, the kids eventually grew into the big kid rides and we were off. Over the years, we hit Six Flags parks up and down the East Coast, King’s Dominion, Hershey Park, Dorney Park and of course . . Disney World. It was a week long tour of duty in which fear of catastrophic injury was replaced with monetary servitude to the world’s most famous pickpocket, Mickey Mouse. The little fucker’s cash crib ain’t much for thrill rides, because they’re too busy filling the castle with ching. It’s a little known fact that every time a Disney guest screams, an angel gets its eviction notice. Magical indeed.
It had been several years since I last stepped foot in a theme park and truth be told, I didn’t miss “the thrill”. Because I happen to think the biggest thrills come in caramel colored bottles, impromptu dalliances and doctor visits. There ain’t no twist or turn or drop I ain’t covered in its most exquisitely provocative iteration, thank you very much.
Thing is, my daughter bought us season tickets to Hershey Park and we’d not punched a single hole in our dance cards yet. So, we got to stepping last week. And while the company was divine and the weather was Monet on loan, the observatory deck known as my brain wasn’t being seduced by the rest of it. At all.
We had a few hours with which to try the new rides on for size, grab a bite to eat and make our getaway before the monsoon of school, work and church groups launched their invasion into the park. The first stop was an indoor house of pain ride known as Laff Track; a steel coaster that manhandles you in near darkness and doesn’t even bother to kiss you goodbye. I was thankful I hadn’t eaten, since the closing act includes more spinning than a White House press briefing.
After that it was off to something called the “Triple Tower”- a set of three towers ranging from 80 to 189 feet in height, where riders are provided with a view of the entire park in mere seconds, before plummeting to the ground. It’s described as an aggressive thrill ride, because even when Americans are having fun they’re at war; in this instance with their common sense. I made it a point not to look up as we inched closer to the Hershey Bar tower (189 feet) whilst trying to talk my daughter into the Hershey Kiss (80 feet).
Daughter: (Laughing) No one’s going on the Kiss.
Me: Exactly! We have a ride ALL to ourselves, like Elvis.
Daughter: Elvis is dead.
Me: Yeah, but he went out the old fashioned way . . on pain pills and desperation.
Daughter: You ski black diamonds, rock climb . . you almost drowned in an undertow because you swim out so deep, and you’re afraid of this?
Me: Those happened to be my jam. If I’m gonna be toast, at least I know I buttered it.
Daughter: Look at all these kids in line, they’re not sweating it.
Me: Because kids are stupid.
My argument didn’t pass muster, but my common sense remained intact and I ditched the idea of accompanying her. I’ve been on enough creaky elevators to know a shit deal when I see one, no thank you.
After that, we made our way over to Sky Rush only to discover it was closed for maintenance. Thank. Fucking. Christ. Because I’m pretty sure I was gonna bag this one too, based on the specs coming back at me: 200 foot drop, 75 miles an hour, 5 zero-G hills . . and did I mention a 200 foot drop? Because I can’t mention that shit enough. Oh yeah, and a lap bar is all you get. Now . . I’m all for fun and games but I ain’t down with the possibility of instant death. And you know what’s even worse than that proposition? Non-instant death, where the only form of sex I would ever get to enjoy would be served up in applesauce through a sippy cup.
I’m not gonna lie, the vertical ferocity of these man made serpents is fascinating. Much more so when I’m researching them from a recliner with a friendly beverage. The actual experience of being treated like a Mike Tyson opponent by these muscular tumbling machines is not nearly as memorable.
But it’s a long summer and me and the girl are going back this week. We set a goal of twenty five trips, which means there is going to be plenty of time with which to change my mind and try something stupid, because it wouldn’t be the first time. There is the very real possibility that maybe Imma try my crazy hat on for size after all.
The other one.