Mid-Life Crisis for a Theme Park

October 17, 2005 at 4:59 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
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Kim, if this comes out the way I intend, you may appreciate this, so I will try to get it right.  Much of the time, writing takes on a life of its own.  I try to direct it, but sometimes what I intend and what happens diverge.  It’s similar in function but different in origin to someone trying to draw a picture.  What you want to draw and what ends up on the paper is different, mostly because you don’t have the talent or experience, or control over your hand.  But in writing, for me at least, it’s very stream of consciousness, where it flows I have no control.
Six Flags. .. ..
  The name itself, like Disney Land, evokes a set of images and memories.  I seem to recall Six Flags Over Mid-America opening in the early-to mid-seventies.  In fact, In 5th or 6th grade our WHOLE SCHOOL went on a trip there.  I was going to Collinsville at the time, and it was 1975 or 1976.  The park was still fairly new.  I dont recall if I had been there prior to that or not, but I definitely remember this trip. It might have been a Saturday, and up at the School, 20, maybe 30 buses lined up, and we ALL went.  This is the best age to go to an amusement park:  12.  You are young, you have lots of energy, everything is fresh and new and exciting.  The park was MADE just for you.  The sites and sounds, colors and smells. 
  The emerging interest in girls.
  Especially Donna.  My first crush.  She acted like she hated me, and I hoped she secretly liked me, because I really liked her.  I never found out, although on rare occasions we found a common connection. But the mind of a twelve year old girl is a mystery to most, and doubly so to a twelve year old boy.  In a way, I suppose, it was the perfect relationship.  I never had a chance to disappoint her, and she never had the chance to break my heart.
  At Six Flags that fateful day was when my interest went from casual to pointed, after a fashion.  Her and some of her friends had gone on the Log Flume (still a classic–I recommend you try it) and had somehow managed to tip their little boat, or whatever it is, over.  Her and her friends, dressed in shorts and t-shirts of the standard ’70’s flair, where completely soaked.  Her hair was wet and straight down, her clothes were wet and clinging, Her face was wet and glowing. She was beautiful.
  Also completely ignored me, too, but I didn’t care.  I ran into her a dozen times that day, in passing, and it just thrilled me. One of my personal best days in that decade. I managed to go to Six Flags several times over the next few years, but none were as good as day.  Going with parents, who lag behind, and a younger sister, who wants you take her with you. . . .I was completely shackled.
  Once I got my driver’s license, however, it was a different story.  I then discovered the *other* best age to go to an amusement park:  17.  Probably the main reason is girls.  Older girls.  Girls our age.  A buddy to go with makes the difference, too.  Nobody goes by themselves, unless they are freaks or perverts.  But a couple of teenage guys, middle of summer, with wheels. . .The world was OURS.  And Six Flags was several sorts of playground.
 Of course, we never got any further than chatting or flirting with some chicks, but we really thought we were the shit.  One time, there was going to be a concert there.  Old Glory Ampitheater.  It’s not there anymore, I think.  The band was called Head East.  They had about 2 songs, one was a hit.  "Never Been any Reason."  Album called "Flat as a Pancake."  After this, they became a metal band.  This was, after all, early 80’s. 
  They had aspirations of being a hair band.  Long wavy hair, shiny clothes, hairbands–they looked very cool.  I can’t believe that look is no longer in.  We saw the show, at least 2 or three songs worth, then continued with the park attractions.  But later, the park was about to close, and we were in line to ride the Screamin Eagle, the big roller coaster of the time. 
  We are about the last, and these two girls asked if they could switch with us so they could go with their friends.  We said yes, and they went, and then we realized, "Fuckin Aye! We are going to be the last to ride, and we get to ride it by ourselves!"  And then, as we are waiting, the band and their babes came up, led by a park employee.  They want to ride the coaster.
  So it was very cool.  We got to ride with the band, and with their hot, unattainable babes, and, because they wanted to, we got to go on it twice.  And we chatted with the band for a few minutes, and then got to walk out of the park, in the dark, the last people there.  For a couple of young dudes, it was a very
rebel kind of feeling.  We glowed with internal coolness. 
  As I grew up, went away to college, flunked out, came back, moved, moved in with some different girls, and experienced a falling out with Six Flags through no fault of my own.  Or, to be fair, Six Flags either.  I mean, I don’t blame them.  I had no more than a passing interest in the Theme park, it was going
through adulthood pangs, as was I.  I followed with a mild disinterest the changes in ownership, additional rides, rides that changed, rides that disappeared because they killed too many people. 
  (And just how many is too many?  I think they follow the rule where, if just one person at a time dies, every 2 or three years, then the ride is okay.  Percentage-wise probably better than the airlines, considering the volume of butts in the seats.  But if a ride kills, say, 4 to 6 in one fell swoop–"fell" being the operative word here, then ix-nay on the ide-ray.  I am speaking of course, of the skylift.  The tram car that went from one side of the park to the other.  Like the train on the ground that stops at half a dozen places around the park, the skylift’s only real purpose was as a shortcut to get from one side to the other.  Apparantly that is not good enough for some people.  People who want more adventure in their lives.  People who rock a tram car until it slips off the wire supporting it and it plummets 200 some odd feet to the ground.
  (Here is my PC disclaimer:  I’m sure there was screaming on the way down, and I don’t mean to diminish the pain and suffering felt by the families of the victims, blah, blah blah.  But if there was one person in there, with a personality like my wife, it wouldn’t be enough for the guy who rocked it to die with
you.  He was going to get the living shit beat out of him on the way down.  One person screaming, the rest of them beating him until they hit the ground.)
  And then, of course, I get married, and have kids.  Dangerously approaching adulthood myself, Six Flags has matured and grown.  Added a waterpark, changed themes around, added more rides, got rid of others.  With the kids we already had, and the young one we just had, I would be returning to the park.  Much like an old girlfriend at a high school reunion, it was exciting and awkward all at the same time, at first.  Then after the initial getting re-acquainted, the discussion was mostly about the kids.  And then the fun is more vicarious.  Watching your kids have fun.  Being in the role of MY parents, seemingly holding
my kids back from having to much fun.  Fun is meant to be regulated.  Not too much, not too little.  Too much fun, all hell breaks loose and pretty soon you have anarchy.  Too little fun and no one will come to the theme park, because it JUST ISN’T FUN.  In fact, that is why, I believe, they have signs all over each ride, "No gum or candy on ride."  Because, especially when you are young, gum and candy can be equated to "fun."  And rides equal "fun" as well.  Therefore, if you have gum ON A RIDE, it is conceivable that you will experience TOO much fun, and completely explode into an orgy of fun-filled anarchy and disrespect for authority and ride rules, and they will have to sweep you up with one of those broom and butler things..  It is imperative to maintain the correct fun level. 
  Probably the purpose of parents at the park, too.  So I fell easily into the role of walking slowly, sitting down alot, denying money requests, and just in general saying "No," whenever a question was asked.  Just doing my part.  But the trips to Six Flags became sporadic at best.  Once one year, then not for two or three.  Busy in adulthood.  Much like myself, Six Flags became busy and burdened as well.  And then they added the Fall hours and the the Halloween season, we rediscovered each other, like old friends.  Autumn is my favorite time of year.  It is much cooler, and consequently, attendance is down from the summer peak.  Two BIG reasons why I like it more.  It actually seems more personal, and more personable, and the attendants could take a little more time with you when you need something.  But as the season so signifies in life, thusly, I suppose, it does with a park. 
  This last visit, this was the one that was like seeing an old flame from long ago.  We knew each, and both noticed that we had aged.  In some places, not well.  But we we both accepted each other.  I could no longer fit on some of the rides I used to fit on, the hills were long, and steeper.  The punks were more punkier, if that’s a word.  For Six Flags’ part, it seemed not as well kept, a little dirtier, a little run down, and the staff a little. . .lost. 
  But all in all it was a good time, and wistfully satisfying, like one last fling before I had to pick up my wife at the airport, and then get back to my regular life. . . .

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