Sunday, August 12, 2018

A birthday celebration on the surface of the sun

Parents, it is said, will do anything for their kids, even traveling to the surface of the sun for their amusement. And when I say the surface of the sun, I mean Buena Park in August. 

We were finally finding time for my college-age daughter's birthday, an entire season late, and Knott's Berry Farm was her desire. I have fond childhood memories of Knott's, but none of them involves the sensation of stepping fully clothed into a sauna. 

Maybe my parents took us in the off-season, I have no idea, but I don't remember heat. I do remember the old western style jail, which had a mannequin inside and a speaker, apparently, through which he would talk to you. 

Some actor was upstairs in the building opposite, probably, in sight of the jail, and he would comment based on your looks. My dad, who even in the height of the hippie 1960s had a crew cut, got asked, "Hey, did you fall asleep in the barber chair?" 

It was funny because when you peer into a fake Old West jail and see a mannequin in there, you don't expect him to talk, and especially don't expect him to criticize your choices. 

An actor with a mic and total freedom is a dangerous thing. They probably phased him out in the '70's. Imagine what that mannequin would say today at some guy peering in. 

"Whoa, nice cap. 'Make America Great Again?' Hey, can you spring me out of here? I'm a Cabinet member."

It was already warm, so we began the day on the rafting ride, which I really think they should rename Who Wants To Walk Around All Day With Wet Underwear Rapids. But don't go by me. I think the Statue of Liberty should be renamed the Statue of Just A Suggestion. 

We went on Voyage to the Iron Reef, which is described on the Web site as a "spectacular 4-D interactive ride," and I wished yet again that a science consultant would come and remind copy writers just how many Ds are actually possible. 

You are supposedly in a submarine blasting giant squids and other critters for points so that at the end you can compare your skill with your friends and family members in an effort to sow harmony.

It was fun, but the nonstop blasting was pretty painful on the old trigger finger after awhile, and as the ride ended, a voice came over the speakers which I could have sworn said, "Remain seated until the suffering comes to a stop." 

Turns out it actually said "submarine," but the other is not a bad motto for life, really. 

We went on the Calico Mine ride, which I surely must have gone on as a child but must have blocked. It has so many audio-animatronic miners who do not seem to know whether to grin or grimace at their hard underground labor it's creepy. Plus, if you have seen even one episode of "Westworld," you can't help but keep glancing behind you the whole time. 

Being at an amusement park is generally better than not being at one, but when it is 90 degrees out and muggy, you start to think that maybe "amusement" is meant ironically, until you remember that these people think there are four Ds. 

We rode and spun and debated solutions to the stagecraft of the Mystery Lodge, then finished our day on Ghost Rider, a giant wooden roller coaster designed, apparently, by the adult diaper manufacturers of America. It is good that screaming is considered normal on a roller coaster. Let's just say not everybody on a roller coaster is screaming for the same reason. 

Afterwards we went into the chicken dinner restaurant and I stood directly under the big air conditioning vent until people started to stare. And then a little longer. 

State law requires that after loosening all of your fillings on a wooden roller coaster, you eat fried chicken with boysenberry pie, and so we did. It is surprising, the rejuvenating effects of biscuits the size of your fist. The five pounds of water weight I had lost in the baking sun were soon replaced by five of gravy. 

As we left, we saw the waitstaff singing "Happy birthday" to another table, something my daughter was happy to forego. I am not sure the age at which that little ceremony shifts from charming to horrifying, but it is well before 21. 

Another trip around the sun celebrated, right from its surface. Well, as with most things, who you are with makes all the difference. 


Sunday, August 5, 2018

Shine it, kick back for awhile

There are certain phrases which, once read, never leave you. A bunch of Shakespeare is like that. Robert Frost. Cheech & Chong. Our brains, which could occupy themselves with stopping you from leaving your eyeglasses in the fridge, instead offer up random lines, like "Dave's not here, man" and "that has made all the difference" and "Shine it, kick back for awhile."

Oh, you don't know that last one? That is because it exists in only one place on Earth. It was written when I handed my 8th grade yearbook to a classmate I thought was cool. He was not bright, a bit of a delinquent, and enviously carefree. I was handing around my yearbook, and I handed it to Jim. 

The standard 8th grade yearbook quote in 1975 (repeated in mine a good dozen times) was "Stay as cool as you are. Have a bitchin summer." 

Side note: It is sad to me that "bitchin" has vanished as completely as Farrah hair. Some words, like "Righteous" are still said ironically these days, but "bitchin" is gone. "Bitchin" was to "cool" as the Stones were to the Beatles. A perfectly valid alternative. To tell someone the concert you went to was "cool" would have been maddeningly vague. But say it was "bitchin"? Well, everybody killed themselves because they were not at that concert. 

I miss bitchin. 

Anyway, Jim handed me back my yearbook, where he had written, "Shine it, kick back for awhile." This was apparently in answer to the implied question, "So what are you going to do, Jim, now that high school looms and it is time, maybe, to get serious about a few things?"

Jim made clear his plan: he was going to shine it, and then, assuming there was time, kick back for awhile. 

"Shine it" in the 1970s, or to "shine something on" was to ignore it, pay the worrisome thing no mind. To "shine someone on" was what we would now call to blow them off. 

Some examples:

"Mrs. Sowin asked me if I finished my English homework, but I shined her on."

"This guy has been on me to pay him back all week. Watch me shine him on."

"Dude, I waited outside 'The Towering Inferno' for, like, an hour. Why did you shine me on?"

It is not like I just got out my yearbook recently, either. This is just a sentence which has been rising up in my mind every few months since the day I first read it. There is a perfection in it, in that it captures Jim in his essence. 

Normally you would write something about the person whose yearbook it is. 

"Had a good time pretending to do the experiments in Chem this year, George. Stay bitchin."

"You are very quiet, George, and I like that. It's not a criticism. See you in German in the fall."

"Jorgé, you are a fast runner but I am faster because you never even see me. Later days."

"Later" was a common alternative to "goodbye." I miss it too.
I do not know what happened to Jim. I don't remember him from high school, but there he is in the yearbook senior year. I expect he did like a lot of guys who, finally freed from studies, excelled in the thing they were interested in, fixing cars, building furniture, flipping houses. 

It is only now, more than 40 years later, that I realize I may have misread the meaning of Jim's yearbook scribble entirely. Perhaps he was not telling me of his own intentions. Maybe he had marked me as the bookish dork I was and tried to intervene in as gentle a way as he could muster. 

"Shine it, kick back for awhile."

Maybe he meant it as advice.

In which case, from what I recall of the summer of '75, it was bitchin. Thanks, dude.