Yesterday was such a great day.
Samantha met us at our place around noon, and we headed out to Coney Island for Bill and Janice's Annual Face-Stuffing and Whiplash-Courting Coney Excursion (now in its fourth smash year!). It's appalling that it took us until the very end of August to make our '05 trip -- a testament to how busy we've been -- but we soberly agreed to be more conscientious next year, and less lazy about stuffing our faces and courting whiplash.
"This is serious," I reminded them. "We're practicing for our trip to Disneyworld this winter; we gotta get in shape, learn how to cover lots of ground efficiently. Because let me tell you, kids, you may think you know what you're in for, but you don't -- Disney will chew you up and spit you out if you don't ride her right. So let's get out there, and get AMUSED!"
Of course, the Coney Excursion had to start with some face-stuffing at Nathan's -- fried clams for me, hot dogs for them, and plenty of those delicious waffle-cut fries on the side. "Got to get a good base under you for the day," I encouraged them. "Then we gotta let the base settle before we shake it up too much."
"Right," Bill agreed. "We're going to need energy for all the eating we're going to do later."
We took a digestive walk down the pier to watch the people fishing. "Look," Bill said, pointing at a guy with a wire cage full of chicken parts. "That guy caught a chicken."
I couldn't help but notice that people seemed to be using eight dollars worth of chicken parts to catch very small, environmentally unsound fishes. But hey, maybe they like fish better than chicken. In any case, the music on the pier was good, with some gentlemen clustered around a radio playing soca, one of them tapping out rhythm on a cowbell. And nobody accused them of scaring the fish away.
Still digesting, we moseyed over to the International Speedway, which is the only place I'm ever allowed to shove my unlicensed ass behind the wheel of a car. And man, I am a lead-footed speed-demon -- look out, blond guy in the Brazil car, I'm coming for you! Watch out, dingy brunette; eat my exhaust! We are all grimy and grinning when we emerge.
Next up: The Polar Express. The Polar Express is a fairly simple ride -- you get in a car that whips around and around a wheel-shaped track, faster and faster until the centrifugal force has you practically sitting on your seatmate's lap. The track rises and falls, so you feel like you're being gently tossed in the air and caught again with each revolution. It is also decorated with depictions of hip-hop polar bears, who spin records and display their asses shamelessly; in between the polar bears are the floating heads of Tupac and Biggie.
The best part of the Polar Express, though, is the participatory element, or as Bill called it, "the theater of it all." The DJ, who is cranking ear-blasting Ciara, welcomes you to the ride, and encourages you to "somebody say ho -- now scream!" if you want the ride to go faster. Then he'll laugh at you, slow it down, and demand that everyone who wants another revolution or two "say 'one more time!' say 'one more time!' I can't hear you!", until you are properly screaming.
Fortunately, Bill and Samantha and I are proper screamers, and the ride went on satisfyingly fast and long, so we were well dizzied and hoarsened upon departing. On to the Wonder Wheel!
Some people like the swinging cars on the Coney ferris wheel; other like the cars that go higher and stay stationary. We went for the high, non-swinging cars, which Samantha and Bill tried to swing anyway, while I sweated and prayed through clenched jaws (not a fan of heights). "That was fun," I said, once we were back on the ground. "My shirt is now drenched in fear-sweat, but that was fun."
And speaking of fear-sweat: Time for the Cyclone.
"I'm sitting this one out," I demurred, having tried it the year before last with Bill, and having spent the entire three minute ride soundly cursing him and his ancestors for forcing me to go through such excruciating misery (not a fan of heights OR ricketyness). But Samantha had never ridden a coaster before, so she was game. I waited for them across the street, shading my eyes with my hand and squinting at the stupid, suicidal people in the little cars inching up the slope.
There they were, in the third row of the first car! I waved, and they waved back.
And then the car stopped inching up the track. Just stopped midway up the slope.
Oh god, I thought. I am so glad I'm not on that fucking thing right now. Apparently, Bill and Samantha were saying the same thing to each other. Man, it's a good thing Janice isn't up here right now, she'd be freaking out. They waved to me again, happy, as two mechanic guys started walking up the tracks and kicking the wheels of the car.
WHAT THE FUCK. Is that what they call "maintenance?" I'm sitting there smiling, wondering, Am I about to sit here helplessly and watch people I love die on a faulty Coney ride? And if so, should I take pictures with my cell phone?
Then the car started moving again, just as it was supposed to, up and over the first hump, screaming and jostling along the wooden track. I could see Bill and Sam laughing, their arms in the air like they just didn't care. The car stopped, the riders disembarked, and the car started up again. And there they were, now sitting in the very front seat together, waving happily as they inched back up that track.
God, I was so happy, seeing them like that, hearing the laughs and screams, seeing their grins flapping in the wind as they tore around the track. I had to wipe a tear from my eye before they could get off the ride and meet me across the street. Samantha had a huge smile on her face, and her eyes were the size of saucers. "I LOVE roller coasters!" she confirmed. "That was AWESOME!"
Then it was time for an ice cream break. We wandered along the boardwalk, looking at the guys with snakes and the break dancers and Shoot the Freak booth ("He doesn't look very freakish," Sam noted to the guy running the concession. "He's a neat freak," the guy explained. "Go over to his house; it's immaculate.")
"Speaking of break dancing...," I suggested.
Time for one of our favorite rides -- The Break Dancer. It's like the Tilt-A-Whirl, but it spins and jerks more violently. Last year, we watched a girl puke an orange stream that whipped around and hit her and her seatmate in the face. That's how much fun it is. Like the Polar Express, it has a thumping soundtrack, and a DJ who exhorts riders to "ssssccccccrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeam!"
We obliged the DJ by screaming our lungs out.
Then it was time for Sam to choose a ride. She chose The Zipper, which is a ride in which you enter a padded cage that's attached to a vertical support. Then the vertical support goes horizontal, and vertical again, except this time you're upside-down, your padded cage swinging you over and over as the support bar rotates and rotates.
This is not the ride I would have chosen, but I was still game. I figured, Put me in a padded cage and flip me upside down a bunch of times; what's the worst that can happen?
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"
Why does screaming your brains out make you laugh your ass off? I don't know, but we were all brainless and assless when we got off the ride, wobbly-legged.
"Candy break," I insisted. "And skee-ball."
I would like to note, for the record, that I was the BEST skee-ball player overall, in terms of consistency in scoring, though Bill did eventually take the high score -- 360 -- of the day. We cashed in our skee-ball tickets for some "moon goo," a container of some slimy polymer that I couldn't stop playing with on the train ride home, and which now resides next to my desk.
I would also like to note: red licorice laces. And Swedish fish. Samantha got a blue jawbreaker the size of her fist, which turned her entire face under the nose blue.
For our last ride of the day, Sam chose yet another throw-you-upside-down ride, The Top-Spin. The cool thing about the Top-Spin is that it turns you around a spit like a rotisserie chicken, occasionally "basting" you with jets of water in your face. So while you're screaming and hyperventilating and begging god to let you live another day, you're getting a cool, refreshing splash!
Another cruise around the midway, and we were ready to head for that crazy thriller, the Q train back to Manhattan (we chose not to "bump bump bump" our asses off on the bumper cars, fearing spinal injury).
"I think this was one of my best days ever," Samantha said as we rode the train home, her teeth faintly blue in her smile.
And I had to agree. Mine too.