For some people, summer is synonymous with baseball, sailing, unprotected sex underneath the pier. For me though, it doesn’t feel like summer until I’m having my insides pulverized on thrill rides that, with a little tweaking, could be used by the military to snap necks. Usually, I don’t get to enjoy this awesome brand of gear-grinding, bolt-popping pleasure because my boyfriend is a Grade A stick-in-the-mud kill joy; but now that his son Blake has been spending more time with us, you better believe I’ve jumped in with rubber gloves and got to milking.
When I read about Lakemont Park, I jabbed my finger at the computer screen and excitedly yelled, “Here! This is where we should go this weekend with Blake! Two hours in the car, we can sing carols! We can play truth or dare! We can drink mulled cider and chat about when we lost our virginity!”
So Henry, who has a very close and personal relationship with Blake, texted him to see if he was interested.
And that is how we ended up in Central Pennsylvania on Saturday afternoon.
It was the last weekend in Lakemont’s season, and what better way to close out the summer than by inviting people to schill their country-inspired arts and crafts in the middle of the park? There was no shortage of wolves painted on wood, patriotic yard adornments, and psychics. All of this for a five dollar admission? It’s true.
One of the vendors had an assortment of God-inspired cross-stitched sweatshirts, which made me simulate abdominal hemorrhaging as we walked past. This made Henry, in turn, tighten his grip on my upper arm like he so often does to keep me in line.
Somewhere between a county fair and an amusement park, Lakemont had the obligatory kiddie ride fare. Chooch took a liking to the boats, especially after he learned that by pulling the rope, a bell would ding. He always sits on these rides like he’s in the middle of a presidential procession, rarely emoting, keeping his lips in a taut line. Riding is serious business, and he has a stoic composure to uphold.
Of course, he freaks when the ride is over and begs to ride the blue one, or the red one, or the green one, oh please, I can have that, the orange one, here please.
It didn’t take long for Blake to get the sinking suspicion that we didn’t fit in there. On top of all the Christian-influenced artistry, food vendors sponsored by local churches, and a sea of Nascar-chested patrons, McCain signage sprouted up along the park grounds like weeds in a garden.
“There aren’t any kids here like me,” Blake complained, scanning the lines we stood in. Later on, two scene boys passed us, paused to take in Blake with widened stares. Henry pointed them out, but Blake was irritated. “They didn’t even have GAUGES in their ears!” It was true: they were half-assed scene kids, with too-loose band t’s and bangs that only provided a SLIGHT eye-coverage. I wear black eyeliner every day, but I don’t call myself goth. YOU KNOW.
In addition to a dizzying array of spinny staples, Lakemont is also home to a really fucking rickety wooden coaster called the Skyliner, and the oldest coaster in the country – Leap the Dips. Standing in the short line, I wondered what the meaning of Leap the Dips was. Then as Blake and I, stuffed into an antique four-seat car, careened down the first hill, it occurred to me that the car was jumping the track every chance it got. Nothing beats having a question answered before you have to ask it. Blake later admitted that it was “fucking exhilarating.” I was just glad our car didn’t perform one last fatal leap over a dip before delivering us to safety.
Lakemont is also home to the Toboggan, which is another ride I have never come across in my theme park carousing career. Each car is sent one by one inside that tube, where the car is then lifted up the shaft at a jerky ninety-degree angle. At the top, the car is then righted before it tilts to an extreme angle and sent spiraling down to the bottom. I tried to take mental notes on this one, but I was too distracted by my inner voice chanting PLEASE DON’T TIP OVER OH FUCKING GOD DON’T TIP OVER I HAVEN’T EVEN HAD SEX WITH A TRANNY YET. PLEASE DON’T LET ME DIE ON THIS SHITTY TOBAGGAN. AT LEAST LET ME DIE ON A REAL TOBOGGAN. WITH A TRANNY. I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO SPELL TOGAGGAN. I was shaking a little when the ride attendant released my toboggan’s jaws and watched with little expression as I struggled to extract myself from its depths. Seriously, these rides are designed for five-year-old physiques.
Maintenance, janitor and security in one capable body. I watched him with a scrutinized eye and was impressed with the skillful way he handled his walkie talkie. However, the Rollercoaster Tycoon in me wanted to pick him up with pinched fingers and transport him over to a wayward Coke bottle I saw clogging up a walkway.
An untrained eye won’t be able to tell, but there is actually a small child squished underneath my armpit. Thinking the Scrambler would be a good initiation into the world of big kid rides for Chooch was pretty poor judgment on my part. But I don’t claim to be a smart mom. To me, I look at Chooch riding those slow-moving boats and think, “This poor kid. Let’s get him on something good. Teach him what whiplash is all about.” Chooch seemed like a willing participant at first. He scrambled (oh-ho) into the seat, cozied up next to me, and cheered when the attendant slammed the safety bar shut. But before the ride started, he looked at me and said, “OK, let’s go,” as he leaned forward and looked for a way out. So I kind of had a feeling that maybe this was a bad idea. Cementing that theory was Chooch’s horrified pleas of “No. No. No. NO. NO!!! NOOOOO!!!!??????” which escalated in pitch and volume as the ride picked up more speed. I felt so bad for him, but couldn’t stop laughing because that’s just the natural reaction on spinny rides – even as bile is rising, you fucking laugh. IT’S A WAY OF LIFE.
However, when the ride was over and Chooch’s feet were back on Lakemont’s conservative land, he pumped his feet in the air and yelled, “Woo-hoo. Awesome. Fun.” Like he was reading it from a script. Kind of like me, post-coitus.
Just leave me in Kiddie Land, thanks. Assholes.
“Henry, take a picture of that dumb looking idiot on the Tilt-a-Whirl,” I implored, hands frozen in an endearing clap under my chin.
“You know he’s retarded, right?” Henry sighed, holding up the camera.
Lakemont even had Christian bean toss! Chuck the bean bag into Jesus’s tomb and get a SECOND wafer at tomorrow’s communion! Ping it off the church lady’s olive-covered holy hiney and get a FREE RAFFLE TICKET FOR A JESUS BOOKMARK! Pop her hemorrhoid and get a free pass to stab a hobo WITHOUT GOING TO HELL! I can’t tell if that castle is supposed to be heaven or Care-A-Lot. My friend Nicolesaid one of those hearts should have at least had some of Jesus’s blood trickling down and I agree.
I never saw any actual participants in this fast-paced, high-staked game of skill. I can’t imagine why! I guess people in Central Pennsylvania just don’t like to have all of the fun.
Thank you, First Evangelical Lutheran Church, for giving us the opportunity to ingest quite possibly the worst bouquet of onion petals to have ever entered a deep fryer. The breading was something left over from a Baptist fried chicken dinner, and it only coated the tips of the onions. The onions themselves were too thick and reminded me of elogated albino beetles. What? I used to eat those a lot when I was in ‘Nam.
When I used the park restroom, I was the only woman in there not sharing a stall with a child. The entire time I was peeing, a small girl stood directly outside my stall, waiting to slide in as soon as I exited. I kept waiting to see her eye appear in the gap between the stalls and was prepared to gouge her eye out with my key. Washing my hands, I observed the other moms in the mirror, gagged a bit at the overwhelming scene of tapestry bags, brown leather mules and ill-fitting capris, and felt proud that I was not dressed like any of them. I’m probably less responsible than them, though, but I guess that’s the trade-off for not succumbing to frumpy fashion and mushroom coifs.
This is what the sky looked like most of the day, but the rain never came. A shame really, because nothing adds excitement to thrill rides quite like the threat of electricution.
A ginger, in line with Blake and Chooch. In the past, Blake probably would have made some snide remarks because he’s anti-red hair. But that was before he met Amanda, a waitress at the Blue Flame, who just happened to be the first cute red head Blake ever did see. They’re dating on MySpace. She has “cute little gauges.”
Waiting for Henry and Blake to exorcise their go-carting urges, I took a liking to this cute old man. I like to think he was watching Henry, zipping past in his bright green go-cart, while murmuring to himself, “I think I know that lad from The Service.” Nice floral tote, lady.
See this ride? This is a fucking ride built by the cooperative genius of Hitler, Satan and Mr. Burns and camouflaged behind the cute and fuzzy appearance of a ferris wheel. LOOK CLOSELY. LOOK AT THOSE CARS, JUST DANGLING THERE HARRY CAREY. LOOK AT HOW SOME OF THEM ARE UPSIDE DOWN AND POINTED TOWARD THE HARD, GRITTY SURFACE OF THE EARTH.
Of course, Blake and I simultaneously salivated at the sight of a metal contraption that could potentially send us spiraling to a grisly demise, after which I would hope our mangled, mashed, and possibly vivisected corpses would be studied laboriously and recreated for the next “Final Destination.”
No one was in line when we approached, but a trio of teenaged girls stood near by, ogling its height with craned necks. We assumed that the ramp they were standing near was the entrance, but it turned out to be the exit so we were sent away by the two greasy beer-bellied attendants. As we passed the girls on our way to the real entrance, one of them said, “Oops, we made them think this is the entrance by standing here,” and I called out, “I know! Now we look dumb!”
NO, WE LOOKED DUMB FOR WILLINGLY PUTTING OUR LIVES INTO THE FATE OF THIS FUCKING RIDE THAT THEY CALL THE SKYDIVER. First, the padded bar was slammed down onto legs and applied so much pressure that I went numb below the knees. It created a beautiful illusion of amputation, so much that I began complaining of phantom limb pain before the ride even started.
Did I mention we were the only ones riding it?
We hadn’t even made a full revolution before my body was wedged against the side of the cage, leaving a very fashionable waffle print against the side of my face, and I’m not sure but I think my bowels were capsizing. Our cage was spinning and revolving and flipping in so many different directions, and combined with revolutions of the actual wheel itself, I had no fucking idea what direction we were facing. Except when our cage was pointing straight down to the ground, giving us the delightful sensation of plummeting toward Hell.
I knew we were at the bottom when I would catch blurred glimpses of the neon green shirts of the attendants, so I would scream – NAY, bellow – “PLEASE LET US OFF THIS FUCKING RIDE. OMG FUCK YOU PLZ.” I began wondering if it would count if I quickly typed up a Living Will on my Blackberry. I think Blake was crying. Every time it would fling us upside down, my arms would shoot out to brace myself, even though the lap bar was ensuring that nary a penny could escape.
Just then, the spinning began to slow, gears cranked and ground, and eventually we slowed to a stop near the attendants. My hand flung to my heart and I started to thank them, but my words slurred AS THE RIDE EMBARKED ON A BRAND NEW CYCLE, BACKWARD.
My body gave up fighting and resumed its former position, smashed against the grated window of our torture cell. I began clenching, to prevent any accidental pants-poopage. “Please God, don’t let me poop my pants in front of Blake. He’ll tell all of MySpace” I prayed to the giant pink plastic heart pendant that became my makeshift Skydiver rosary. That’s what fifteen-year-olds do, you know. Send out bulletins, outing adults who poop their pants. That’s what’s I’d do too, if the opportunity ever presented itself.
The first round was obnoxious, but tolerable, like watching an anal fisting. You grimace, you laugh at the enlarged asshole, you cry a little. But then the Skydiver decided it had to go backward too, and that was about as unnecessary and gratuitous as the part where the girl shits on a glass table.