Sep 5

Alone At Kennywood: A Tale of Courage & Survival, Part 1

It didn’t feel right closing out summer without a trip to Kennywood. We normally go earlier in the season, but skipped it this time in favor of another park, so I decided that I would take a day off work so we could go before Chooch had to return to school. Unfortunately, because they were short a person at Henry’s job, he was unable to take any time off work and enjoy life like a regular person with a job that doesn’t suck.

I didn’t care. My day off was approved and Chooch and I were going. The End.

Except that we do EVERYTHING as a family. Going to Kennywood without Henry seemed unnatural. Dirty, even. Also, horrifying.

Henry still did everything he could to ensure that our day went off without a hitch, including PRE-BUYING OUR TICKETS FOR US. Some people at work were concerned about me having to drive there but I was like bitch please. I know how to drive! Getting there was pretty much the only thing I wasn’t worried about. It was more of, “What’s going to happen if we need an adult?” Before I left work the day before, Wendy even asked me if she should be on stand-by.

You guys have no idea how good we have it with Henry. Or maybe you do. But sometimes Chooch and I forget. Not on this day, though. Oh shoot, not on this day.

Even with all of these murky unknowns, I woke up that Tuesday morning feeling positively giddy. Kennywood has always had that effect on me! I threw on my favorite Cure t-shirt, checked the weather (I’m growing up!) and when I saw that it was going to be in the low-70s all day and even cooler at night, I had the good sense to actually stuff two long-sleeved shirts for me and Chooch into my Draven drawstring bag. I even remembered my portable charger for my phone!

And then Chooch and I had a huge fight (he was wearing a Minecraft shirt and I told him to change because I didn’t want to look at that all day—-ha-ha, I love it when I get to confuse being a mom with being a QUEEN) and I screamed “THEN WE’RE NOT GOING TODAY!” and he was like “FINE!” and then we both indulged in a big pout in separate rooms of the house, during which I texted Henry in CAPSLOCK and he was like “Calm down, what happened” while probably rolling his eyes and feeling even more stressed out than usual.

I stomped downstairs to heat up my coffee and made accidental eye contact with Chooch, who was sitting on the couch in a different shirt, putting on his shoes.

“WE’RE STILL GOING, YOU KNOW,” he snarled brattily, and I tried to snarl back at him but then we both started cracking up.

“I hate you,” I said to him lovingly. Because I show my affection in opposites.

And so we left the house around 10:00 because the park opens at 10:30. As we walked to the car, Chooch groaned, “Why do you always have to look like a teenager?” to which I yelled, “OMG THANKS!”

We had no trouble getting there. I parked without any sort of tragedy. We remembered to take the tickets out of the glove compartment. Made it through the gates without becoming part of a hostage situation.

I don’t think I have ever been to Kennywood this early in the morning! It was wonderful. Not too many assholes were there yet, but also most of the rides were not yet running so we just kind of walked around, looking like n00bs. We decided to head over to the Exterminator, because that’s our favorite ride and the line for that one can get pretty long, and most of the wait time is inside the stuffy building, where there is always at least one motherfucker who feels compelled to fart. Mmm, the stench of flatulence in a crowded room on a humid summer day.

There was already a pre-line that had formed, but only about 10-15 people. At 11:00, some song started playing around the park and everyone was smiling knowingly at each other, and that’s when I definitely realized for sure that in all of my 36 years of visiting Kennywood, I have never been there when it opened and this “good morning” song was new to me. Definitely a n00b.

Right after, a Kennywood kid came out to officially open the line, and we walked right in and started our day off in a good way. The Exterminator is like a wild mouse-type of coaster inside a dark building and it makes me crack the fuck up so bad every time. One time, I rode it with Blake and Alisha and came sickeningly close to peeing my pants from laughing so hard. Or maybe I did. Just a little!

After the Exterminator, I was feeling really amped because we just successfully partook in our first ride of the day. But then when we exited the building, I remembered that Henry wasn’t standing off to the side by a garbage can somewhere, nose-in-phone, waiting for us. Chooch and I exchanged looks, but then I cried, “LET’S GO ON THE THUNDERBOLT NOW!” and he was like “FUCK YEAH, THUNDERBOLT!” On the way, we passed the Black Widow, which is Kennywood’s newest ride. It’s this gigantic pendulum-type thing that swings sorry souls to wicked heights. Chooch and I made 87 excuses last summer to not ride it.

“Should we ride this today?” I whispered.

“Uh….yeah sure. But later. Like, when it’s dark,” Chooch waved it off nervously and then we ran away.

On the way to the Thunderbolt, we were sidetracked by the Turtles! The Turtles is one of those great old-fashioned rides that has persevered for ages and is a historical landmark at this point. (It seriously is. It has a plaque.) It’s one of only two tumble-bug rides that remain in the world, and while it’s “just a kids ride,” it still evokes so many obnoxious laughs. Partially because ha-ha we’re on a kids ride, and partially because I always forget how rough of a ride it is. And when you pass by the beginning part of the track, there’s a recording of a slow, drugged-out sounding voice that says, “Tuuuuuuuurtle.” So Chooch and I pretty much walked around the rest of the day, randomly shouting “tuuuuuuuuurtle” to each other.

LOOK AT US, making memories without Henry. Oh, what a concept.

Chooch ended up changing into a Dixon Brothers (The Walking Dead) shirt so that we could spend the day together without my eyes crossing in sheer boredom every time they fell upon his idiotic Minecraft shirt.

I mean, I get that Minecraft is supposedly some great learning tool for children, somehow, but I just hate everything about it and I’m not ashamed to say so. Get fucked, Minecraft.

Basically no line for the Thunderbolt! We could have walked right on, but we decided to wait an extra couple of minutes in order to snag the front seat.

The second of approximately 87 selfies that we would take throughout the day. SELFIE ON EVERY RIDE!

Kennywood is built on a hill next to a gross river and across from one of the sad, industrial sections of Pittsburgh. It helps keep it real, you know? It’s definitely changed a lot since I was a kid, and a lot of beloved rides were replaced with flashier, more modern ones, and the admission prices have skyrocketed, but deep down in the heart of it all, Kennywood still has that quaint, blue-collar working class essence about it. Aside from Alisha and the foreign exchange student who lived with my family in 1995, I just realized that I have had very few opportunities to pop anyone’s Kennywood cherry, so if you want to come visit me next summer and go to Kennywood, you should. That’s pretty much the only tourist destination here that I will actually be able to fill your head with facts about.

Everything else, I’m like, “I don’t know. There are three rivers there but fuck if I know the names.”  And, “Oh I don’t know, some Carnegie guy.” But, Heinz ketchup and Kennywood! Those are topics I can yammer on about.

(Truthfully, my Heinz ketchup facts only extend as far telling people to slam the heel of their hand against the 57 if they need to get the ketchup flowing out of the glass bottle.)

Kennywood has some great wooden coasters. Last year was Chooch’s first time on the Thunderbolt because it has one of the highest height restrictions. Being able to ride everything together now is the best!

Hairband collection.

Racer selfie!



There still wasn’t much of a crowd around 12:30, so we had been ride-riding for a good 90 minutes with very little wait time. This made us get hungry earlier than normal, so we decided it was time to take a break and eat. Also, Kennywood isn’t a huge park, and I didn’t want us to get burnt out too early, because Janna was going to be meeting us later in the evening after work. (Kennywood has a cheaper “Night Rider” admission option.)

“Hi Janna! Sorry you just paid $22 for a ticket, but we’re sick of Kennywood now. K, bye!”

Honestly though, I’m sure she wouldn’t be too surprised if that actually happened, coming from Flake 1 and Flake 2.

Our food tradition at Kennywood for years has always been to get pizza at this food place that’s next to Kiddieland.  It’s not that the pizza is like OMG ITALY! or totally gourmand, but it’s familiar, decent, and fast. Also, Henry always deals the pizza procurement while the rest of us sit down and bang our fisted forks and knives against the table. This was my first time even walking into the pizza shack!


“Do they take credit cards?” I asked Chooch and he was like “The fuck if I know, I’m 9.”

And of course, as soon as we started walking toward the entrance, a family of about 10 swooped in from the left and beat us. Literally, the longest line we had to wait in all fucking day. I was PISSED and texted Henry to let him know this. He was just like “lol” and then probably miumbled, “Better you than me.”

It took these assholes so long to place a simple pizza order that I had plenty of time to familiarize myself with the shoddy, prison tattoos that the mom had on her arms. One was the outline of Tweety (obviously), but the line was really thick and fuzzy and didn’t CONNECT. She had the angry mom-bark to go along with it. The musk of Newport halo’ing her jowled face. The Yinzer-attitude after a Steelers loss.

I couldn’t stand this broad. Especially when she was rude to the old man who handed her the pizza box and kindly suggested that she hold it with two hands. “I GOT IT” she snapped in that angry mom-bark, rolling her eyes at him. As she walked away, pizza box balanced precariously on one forearm while her hands were full of plates and beverage, I silently willed her to trip in her Crocs. I hate when people are assholes to old people! This guy was probably someone’s grandfather and I decided that I was going to be obsessed with him.

I think his name was Roy. I knew at the time, but later I would meet another old man (no, Henry didn’t surprise us with a visit) and quickly booted Pizza Server out of my heart.

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Sorry, Roy.

“There’s nothing to make fun of without daddy here,” Chooch said sadly. I agreed, and we had a moment of silence for Henry. Then I made Chooch get a napkin and wipe the pizza off his face, because that’s the only maternal instinct I have: to shudder at the sight of food-faces.

Mr. “I’m so hungry, order me two pieces please” only ate half of one. Normally, Henry’s role is to finish our food for us because WASTE NOT WANT NOT or whatever it was that the Pilgrims said.  But he wasn’t there, so I had to stuff down my own slice, plus Chooch’s leftovers, and I felt like I was going to die.

“Well, at least I don’t have to buy myself dinner now,” I muttered and Chooch was like, “I SAID I’M SORRY, GOD! SO FAT, SO SAD!”

After pizza, we had a costume change because the day had turned overcast and it was chilly as fuck for August. I loved it. I made Chooch ride the train and he was pissed, but after homeboy turned me into a pizza compactor, he was going to have to suffer through a mild ride with me so that my stomach could settle. I’m not a big eater at amusement parks! Afterward, Chooch said that he wanted to wait for Janna to get there before riding the train so that she could slam her head off of it again. Seriously, one of our favorite Kennywood Memories!

It looked like rain almost all day and yet not a single drop fell. These are the best days! The weather plus it being the last weekday that Kennywood was open for the season really kept the crowds at bay.

On Noah’s Ark, this lady in front of Chooch was such a miserable bitch who complained about every single thing and at one point, when we were still in line, she miserably cried about how she just wished she was drunk right then, at which point we made accidental eye contact and I was scared that she was going to start yelling at me. Maybe she had bigger issues that she was dealing with, but it’s really hard for me to understand how you could be at an amusement park, literally a park created to amuse people, and be a miserable cooze.

And then her kids were warning her of the moving floors and precarious staircases inside the Ark and I was like, “Just let the bitch fall!”

Usually during a Noah’s Ark walk-thru, I will violently shove Henry along and he will mumble, “Stop. Stop it. Stop. STOP!!!!” I was tempted to use that miserable bitch as my Henry stand-in but also didn’t want to get ejected from the park so early on in the day. It was fun to imagine, though.

I’m ending this installment here because I have other things to do, but don’t worry — I have so much more to say.  SHOCKING!


4 Comments so far

  1. kendahl September 9th, 2015 10:37 am

    I was legitimately concerned about you going without Henry, so I’m glad you made it through the day without dying and/or killing each other.

  2. Alyson Hell September 9th, 2015 1:41 pm

    “The Yinzer-attitude after a Steelers loss.

    and we had a moment of silence for Henry.”


    Also, I am glad you got your way after all regarding the Minecraft issue.

    I would really like to go here with you guys the next time I visit you.

  3. Alyson Hell September 10th, 2015 1:48 pm

    PS: YOUR SHIRT!!!!!! <3

  4. Tuna Tar-Tart September 10th, 2015 2:49 pm

    It’s my favorite shirt! <3

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