Henry, walking past the computer: “You’re still writing about Kennywood? What the fuck.”
Me: “It was our first time going there alone! It was kind of a big deal.”
I have a lot to say. Sue me.
Even at the ripe old stinky age of 36, there are very few rides I won’t go on. Even at county fairs, I’m all about the crazy death traps that fling a bitch all about, upside down, and inside out. (Well, until this happened.) Sure, there are some spinny rides that make me sick now when I ride them, so that sucks. But there are very few that I flat out refuse to ride.
And if I do, it’s because of heights.
I’m afraid of heights, big time. Even on steel roller coasters, the only thing that scares me is that initial climb. After that, I’m fine, but I can’t stand the suspense of slowly creeping up that steep hill. Ew. I think I can trace this back to the fall of 1983 when my bitch neighbor BECKY left me stranded in her tree house, and I just sat there and whimpered for hours (HOURS) until her dad realized that there was a human perishing alone in a tree in his backyard and came to rescue me. I was afraid to climb down the ladder, OK?
To this day, I am not friends with a single Becky. (Rebeccas and Beccas are cool, though.)
During the summer of 2005, I was at King’s Island in Cincinnati with Henry, ex-BFF and her sister. There was this ride there called Delirium, one of those pendulum-type rides, but larger than I had ever seen. I desperately wanted to ride it but all three of my riding partners bitched out. We walked past it before leaving the park that day, and I’m going to tell you a secret: I WAS REALLY GLAD THAT NO ONE WOULD RIDE IT WITH ME. That mother was frightening to watch; it flung people so high into the sky that just watching it from the ground made my legs quake like Aunt Fran’s mystery Jell-o salad.
Last year, Kennywood replaced their Pitfall ride (one of those free-fall bitches that I hate and only rode once during its entire tenure at the park) with their own version of Delirium: The Black Widow. This one is actually larger than its King Island sister, tossing idiots 146 feet into the air as opposed to Delirium’s wussy 137. It is this disgusting behemoth that just sits there like a fat ass, looming in the distance, laying in wait, and I shudder every single time I’m in its vicinity. Chooch and I made excuses last year to not ride it.
“Maybe next year, when I’m 9,” Chooch promised no one in particular.
“Yeah, maybe it’ll have fallen into the river by then,” I said. “I mean, yeah, next year. We’ll ride it next year.”
So….when we were at Kennywood this summer, that was technically “next year.” And Chooch is 9 now.
And It hadn’t fallen into the river.
I asked him, after we rode the nearby Exterminator, if he wanted to ride it.
“Uh, sure….” he slurred with hesitation and uncertainty. “But um, how about later? Like, when it’s dark.”
But then Stanley happened, and I thought, “If an 80-year-old man can ride the Black Widow and live to tell the tale, then I certainly can ride it too and (hopefully) live to blog the tale.”
So we did it. Chooch and I got in line, which didn’t seem very long, but we ended up standing in it for a good 30 minutes; Stanley was right—the load-time for the Black Widow is really long. And that’s OK — I’d rather the ride attendants take their time checking each individual safety harness than just shrug and shout to the operator, “Eh, looks good from over here. Go ‘head and fire her up.”
You know, like they do at the county fairs.
Not only was the wait kind of long, but it was probably the most somber line I’ve ever stood in at an amusement park. If people weren’t outright voicing their fears and anxiety, they were standing with long, serious faces. Personally, I fidgeted a lot, bounced from one foot to the other and then even pulled out my third foot to bounce on that one too and that’s how you know I was anxious. I tugged on my hair, I compulsively checked my phone, I asked Chooch if he was sure he didn’t want to just do this next year or never.
And then I stood there and watched, agog, every time the Black Widow took a new batch of 40 idiot fucks for a perilous swing.
During this, Janna texted that she was on her way. I told her we were in line for the Black Widow. Her response was “Why?” or “You’re idiots” or “OMG NO” or “Do you have a Will?” or something like that. That time of my life was a real blur.
Finally, the line started moving again. It was cut off right at me and Chooch. I fingered my imaginary rosary and blew a discreet kiss to the heavens.
But then one of the ride attendants told people to move down and I realized it was because he was making two seats available for us.
Chooch, suddenly brave, bolted over to one of the empty seats while I walked with knocking-knees over to one of the cubbies to stash my bag. I considered trying to stash myself in one of the cubes too. But Chooch needed me. Must be strong for Chooch. Such brave. Very courage. Strength. Valium. Self-administered cold-cocking.
I climbed up into the seat next to Chooch and together we struggled with the seat belt. Always a great start. Eventually, the attendants finished their rounds and, assured that we were all safely harnessed, gave the thumbs up to the ride operator. The platform slowly sank, taking my stomach with it.
There was a young girl to my left, and her mom was on the other side of her. As the arm of the Widow started swaying us back and forth, gently to start, the mom said, “OK, time to go to my place of Zen.”
“Can you take me with you?” I called over top of her daughter. The mom laughed and said, “I hate this ride too! I only ride it because of my daughter, she’s autistic and can’t ride it alone.”
By this point, we were being swung higher into the sky, and also, to ass-fuck us even harder, the part we were sitting on had started to spin.
I immediately started speaking in trucker-tongue. I expelled from my mouth the ghosts of hundreds of dead sailors, their nasty lexicon came with them. My words were so filthy that literal crumbs of soil began falling from my lips.
But that damn girl was sitting next to me, and her mom was so sweet and kept talking to me during the whole ride, trying to calm me down, so I began to make a conscious effort to swap out “motherfucking cunt of Satan’s mom!” with a more sterile “oh man!” or “hoooo boy, this is a real doozy!”
I tried to distract myself by seeing how much of the Jabberwocky I remembered after being forced to memorize it in seventh grade. (None.)
I asked myself what I wanted to do if I made it off the ride. (Cower in a corner. Hug someone. Buy new underwear. Go to church.)
And then, suddenly, I felt OK! I had acclimated! “This isn’t so bad!” I yelled to the mom just as someone to my right shouted joyously, “WE AREN’T EVEN HALFWAY THERE YET, WOOOOOO!!!!” I opened my eyes and he was right. We were still so close to the ground, with so much more height to gain.
So then I started saying things like:
- THIS IS THE WORST!
- NEVER AGAIN!
- CHOOCH, I HATE YOU!
- THIS IS NOT OK!
- I’M READY TO COME DOWN NOW, GUY! STOP THE RIDE!
- WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY?! in the Key of Kerrigan
- MY BOWELS JUST FELL OUT, MORTAL COMBAT-STYLE, DID YOU SEE THAT? THEY FUCKING FROZE MID-AIR AND THEN RE-ENTERED ME! THIS RIDE MADE MY BOWELS TRY TO RUN AWAY!
And by “saying” I mean that I was wailing these things so loudly, that I had accumulated an audience down below and by the time the Black Widow showed mercy and brought up back to the ground, there were people in line who were laughing at me.
But let’s back it up.
When we eventually reached the 146 feet that the Black Widow brags about on Kennywood’s website, I had no choice but to just let my muscles loosen, accept my fate, and allow the air to penetrate me. I just hung there like a rag doll and took it like a bitch. I felt Barbara Hershey in the Entity.
I’m not sure which part was worse: grimacing at the clouds or flinching at the cement below.
As the ride came to a complete stop, Chooch was like, “Yeah bitches! That was awesome! Woo! Mommy, you look awful, lol.”
And it wasn’t motion sickness, either. Don’t get it twisted. I was sick from pure, unadulterated FEAR. I felt poisoned by panic-induced adrenaline; one of those final, desperate shrieks had all but taken my voice (and my spirit) from me for the rest of the day.
I almost fell out of the seat after my harness was lifted, just dripped right onto the platform into an oozing puddle of flesh and piss. My legs were quaking and I was having trouble steadying my eyeballs in their sockets. It felt like the first time I tried to get out of the hospital bed after having a C-section but without the INCISION.
Weak, confused, like a fragile baby deer learning to walk.
A FRAGILE BABY DEER WITH A HUNTER HOT ON HER TAIL.
I don’t even remember gathering up my bag and walking out of the exit.
But I do remember standing across from the Black Widow afterward and feeling a sudden surge of empowerment! I’m not sure I could say that I “conquered” the Black Widow, but I made it through the whole thing without crying! I mean, I felt some drops on my face at one point, but it was probably just the wind making my eyes water. Or, you know, bird pee.
Definitely not tears.
Would I ride it again?
I make stupid choices.
By the time we washed our hands of the Black Widow, it was time to go to the entrance and meet that other black widow, Janna. We passed by the Swingshot en route, and Stanley was still going strong. Chooch and I screamed his name real loud and then smiled smugly, like, “Yeah, we know him” when people turned around to stare at us.
The day was already fun, but once Janna got there, it was like OFF THE CHAIN fun. Whatever that means. I always thought being on the chain was supposed to be fun?
Janna just really brings out the maniacal douchiness in Chooch and me. It’s not any certain thing that she does, but she is kind of an enabler. Like, she’ll try to make us do the right thing, but quickly realizes that we’re lost causes, so she’s just like, “Fuck it. Do whatever you want. I don’t care.”
She’s been saddled with one form of me or another since the 90s. She’s pretty good at shrugging it off.
We waited all day for Janna to get there before partaking in my favorite tradition: GOLDEN NUGGET ICE CREAM CONES. They’re just the best.
And holy shit, EXPENSIVE!
“Everything here is so expensive!” I texted Henry, who replied, “No shit.” I don’t like knowing these things. It’s better when Henry handles the food and beverage and ticket department while I twirl around like Julie Andrews on a goddamn hill.
I feel like this was my standard mask for the day.
Chooch lost the race, in case you wondered. I LOVE IT WHEN I BEAT HIM!
This was one of my favorite moments of the day. Chooch and I had reconvened with Janna at the Potato Patch, after we finished riding the Thunderbolt. Janna asked us if we wanted any of her fries, and Chooch disgustedly snipped, “Uh, no. I just saw that one fall out of your mouth and land on the other fries!”
“It did not fall out of my mouth!” Janna cried defensively. “It fell off my fork, Chooch!”
“No, it fell from your mouth. I saw it. I don’t want your germy fries.”
Janna was so offended and pissed off about this, and I just sat there and laughed while eating her germy fries. I don’t care if it fell out of her mouth, Potato Patch fries are amazing, and even better when I didn’t have to stand in line and pay for them myself.
They continued to bicker about this and I smiled to myself, happy that Chooch was adeptly carrying the torch. Just a few weeks ago, Corey and Chooch went to see Minions. Janna was meeting them there; apparently, on the way to the theater, they passed a car that had been pulled over by a cop. It was a car similar to Janna’s, so by the time they got to the theater and bought their tickets, they had convinced themselves that it actually was Janna. When she arrived at the theater (“Late!” Corey told me), they started mocking her endlessly about getting pulled over and from what they excitedly told me afterward, she was getting really irritated and defensive.
The quote of the night was born as we stood in line for the Skyrocket. Completely out of the blue, Chooch turned to us and said, “Japanese horror really takes it past the limit.”
Fucking lemonade. DRINK THAT SLOWLY, SON.
The Kangaroo is a ride that I often overlook, but this time, we made sure to mount that bitch. I love kiddie rides because it makes overzealous cheering and frenzied screaming effortlessly fall from my body. Chooch likes to get in on this exaggerated enthusiasm as well, so we’re on the Kangaroo, flailing about and wooting like frat boys when I suddenly noticed that the people in the car in front of us kept turning around and looking. Even Janna was like, “This is fun. Whee.”
“What are they looking at?” I shouted.
“Us,” Janna pointed out, and that’s when I noticed that we were the only idiots expressing any joy whatsoever, so that just made me ramp it up to “Go home, you’re drunk” levels. Nothing comes more naturally to me than the simple act of obnoxious behavior. (This just in: Janna has confirmed that this was her favorite moment of the day!)
Near the end of the night, Janna wanted to ride the Whip, which is conveniently located right next to the Exterminator. And I really wanted to ride the Exterminator again, even though Chooch and I had already ridden it twice earlier that day.
“I hate the Exterminator,” Janna complained. “It always gives me a headache!” But Chooch and I looked at each other like, “Aw shit, this bitch isn’t actually trying to say no to us, is she?” So then we bullied into her agreeing to ride it. We’re skilled in the art of persuasion.
On the way there, my phone rang and it was Henry facetiming us! I screamed, “HENRY!” and Chooch snapped his head back and cried, “DADDY?!” and then we fought over the phone. I was so happy to see his stupid face! Janna watched on in amused horror with an expression of “Jesus Christ, you idiots haven’t even been away from him for a whole day!” on her face. Don’t judge us. We’re very attached to our caregiver.
Then we hung up on Henry because we had reached the entrance to the Exterminator. After a short wait in line, we screamed and laughed our way through the ride’s duration while Janna sat there in a static state of “Ugh.” When we exited the Exterminator a few moments later, I started laughing riotously.
A Kennywood employee was in the process of covering each car on the Whip with a black tarp.
The Whip had closed for the night while we were riding a ride that Janna didn’t want to ride! OH THE SWEET STENCH OF SCHADENFREUDE.
“Sorry, Janna,” I said with faux-sincerity and a mouthful of giggles. She was just rolled her eyes and acted like she hadn’t had her heart set on it.
Chooch and I wanted to ride the Swingshot again after that, so we made Janna stand there and attempt to photograph us screaming our skulls out of our heads. We hoarsely shouted, “JANNNNNNA!!!!” during the whole ride like it was some foreign word for “wheeeee!” Sometimes I wonder what we look like to outsiders.
Fucking awesome and cool as shit, I bet.
This was a stellar way to close out the summer. Kennywood4lyfe!