When I was 13, I loved amusement parks and listening to the same songs over and over. (My top 2 burnt-out songs of that age were “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men and “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” by Sophie B. Hawkins—the b-side of that song was dope, ya’ll. Just ask my friends Kim and Liz, who were subjected to it the whole weekend we spent at Lake Chautauqua that summer.)
Twenty years later, the only real difference is that I don’t have braces anymore. And if I really felt so inclined as to dildo my ego, I might even say that my hair is way more fabulous now. (Hi, I had a perm then.) But other than that, there I was in the car last Saturday morning, listening to the same 5 albums, rinse and repeat, for 4 hours on the way to Knoebel’s Amusement Park in Elysburg, PA.
“Uh….this CD is back to the beginning. Can we change it now?” Henry would ask futilely as the instrumental intro to Dance Gavin Dance’s Downtown Battle Mountain replayed. (Yes, I still buy CDs.) I’d answer that question by looking out the passenger window and smirking. God, it’s good to be childish.
I mean, child-like.
We arrived at the park 30 minutes before registration time, but luckily Knoebels is a free admission park, so we parked and did a preliminary walk-around. I needed to get a lay of the land and to scope out all of the rides, as if I hadn’t creeped on their website 87 times in the weeks prior.
I take amusement parks very seriously. If a park is particularly crowded and Chooch wants to stand in line with 60 screaming assholes to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl, I will calmly* count off on my fingers all of the other parks and fairs where he will be able to ride the ubiquitous Tilt-a-Whirl, at which point I will drag him over to a ride that we wouldn’t normally have access to at home in Pittsburgh, like the Looper or the Cosmotron (like an indoors Music Express — Metallica was playing when we rode it). Someday, Chooch will understand this and his future children will be better because of it.
The concept of an amusement park with free admission is just so precious to me. I remember when I was a kid, our local Kennywood Park was like that — you could just strap on your fanny pack and walk around if you were an old person or perhaps someone allergic to standing in lines, and not worry about it costing you $35+. And maybe later on if you wanted to just ride the bumper cars because maybe you’re 9 months pregnant and trying to put yourself into labor, then you could just buy tickets for that ride and call it an
Knoebels is still like that! You can either get the ride-all-day wristband, buy individual ride tickets, or not do either of those things and just eat yourself to death on caramel apple pork chops. KNOEBELS ISN’T GOING TO JUDGE YOU.
PETA probably will, though. Right after they make stickers with your caramel apple pork chop-stuffed face on it. I’m sure I’ll be signing some petition about it at Warped Tour this year, too.
Finally, it was 11am and we got to meet up with our peeps at the pavilion. The Handas were already there, so Chooch and their daughter Katelyn did their weird elementary school flirting routine (which is obviously still the same flirt set I belong to). Those two never stopped bickering like an old married couple for the rest of the day: Insult! Assault! Compete! Repeat!
A little 411 about DAFE (appropriately pronounced “daffy”): Back in November, I enrolled the three of us in the Darkride and Funhouse Enthusiast club because I was always checking out their website for trip ideas anyway, and then once I became friends with the Castle Blood family, I learned that they have an affiliation with that group as well. That was all the arm-twisting I needed. One of the coolest perks of being a card-carrying DAFE member (aside from bragging about it, of course), is that there are kinds of fun group events to attend at various amusement parks and we get exclusive ride time on the dark rides. In November, we got preferential treatment during Kennywood’s Holiday Lights event — a lights-on walk through of their dark ride Ghostwood Estate while the everyday commoners were still waiting to get into the park.
Shit, you know I rode that high horse the whole way home.
However, my work friends think that this is one of the most ridiculous things ever as far as my ridiculous life goes and have been making fun of me mercilessly. To that I say: u mad, work-bros?
I was so excited to get my own laminate that I didn’t even question the fact that “fourty” is spelled wrong. I LOVE LAMINATES. All day long, I was thinking, “Yeah, I see you looking at my laminate” to all of the non-laminated people in line. Somehow, Henry became part of the registration crew and sat at a picnic table, stringing together laminates. He is always identified as “blue collar volunteer” no matter where we go and always ends up helping people.
We are so fucking different.
I’m going to get him a bunch of “CREW” t-shirts for his birthday. I’m sure they’d be applicable every time he wears them.
After we were registered, we still had to get our hands stamped and wrists braceleted, which required us to stand in line with COMMONFOLK for an extended period of time because the park was just about to open for real and everyone decided to get there at the same time. That gave me time to scope out the non-DAFE crowd.
“I’m looking for my kind,” I explained to Henry, who knew immediately that I was looking for scene kids.
“Good luck,” he said dryly.
I thought I saw a guy later on in the day that I could possibly have an ill-conceived crush on, but the closer I got to him, the more I realized he was half past Bring Me the Horizon, more toward Blood on the Dance Floor.
That and also the fact that he was probably only 15.
And had pretty bad skin.
And wasn’t Jonny Craig.
With our special DAFE vouchers, we each got a ticket for the two dark rides—Black Diamond and the Haunted Mansion—which are an additional fee on top of the ride all day price for all the peasants.
Meanwhile, my stomach had REALLY STARTED TO HURT. I’m not sure what the fuck was wrong, probably Henry’s terrible driving and the shitty Sheetz breakfast sandwich that was revolting inside my new Weight Watchers-shrunk stomach. But it was so bad that I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to ride anything. CAN YOU FUCKING IMAGINE!?
I’m going to end Part 1 with this awesome photo that I took inside the free Knoebels Museum: