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. 


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