Trying Out: Comic Convention (Week 44)

Trying Out: Jet City Comic Show (Week Forty-Four)

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As has been stated many, many, many, many times, I have worked in a comic shop for quite a spell.  I have spent a few dollars here or there, read tens of thousands of comics, and have helped my boss set up her booth at a comic book convention.

What I had yet to do, was actually attend a convention.  San Diego is a little far from home, hosts maddening crowds, and has turned into a Hollywood film-fest.  Even nearby Emerald City sounds a bit intimidating for a first timer.  (Also, I usually tend the shop while the boss is working the show.)   However, the Jet City Comic Show sounded about my speed.

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Free parking?  Shazam!

I came across a pair of free tickets.  I invited one of my nerd friends to tag along and guide me through the con world.  I feel I chose wisely.  In the two hours of commuting time, and the two hours we spent at the show, we probably spent three and a half hours talking about comic books.  That suited us just fine.

Being Seattle-types, we were shocked to find free parking only two blocks away.  As an added bonus, it was on a street that shared a comic book connection.  We were off to a fine start.

We went inside, exchanged our passes for tickets, and were let right into the convention.  There was some sort of line forming, but we simply walked in the doorway and everything was laid out before us.

We walked around, taking it all in; figuring out the layout of the floor.  One should always peruse the guest plan before going.  I had not seen any huge attractions that made me drool.  There were some folks whose work I recognized, but none that I absolutely had to meet.

There was plenty of new stuff to see.  A fellow named Jeff Carpenter had some fantastic art.  Bats in a Batman suit.  Wolverines as Wolverine.  Panthers as Black Panther.  You get the idea.  I had never heard of Jordan Kotzebue, but his work looked intriguing.

Personally, one of my favorite anthologies is the Flight series.  If you can find them, all eight books are chocked full of gorgeous drawings.  And Michel Gagne, who had work published in six of those books, was present.  He was my one, “get”.  And he was the reason I was lugging around a bag with twelve hundred pages in it.

There was a woman in front of me, but she was spending a reasonable amount of money and was very excited at being there, so I was in no hurry.  She probably paid for her tickets.  She was spending her Saturday here.  No need to rush.  We were all happy nerds.

Five or ten minutes later, it was my turn.  I warned that I was asking a favor, and pulled out my massive bag.  He seemed to realize what the books were as I started to empty the bag, but I think everyone was relieved when I pulled out six large books, not several hundred small ones.  We talked about his story that ran through the books, how he wished he had been in the eighth, and how he still had ideas for the main character.  Since he was nice enough to sign my books, I perused the other works that he had for sale.  I settled on a small book, which he also signed, and was only too happy to hand over some of my money.

That was it.  That was my sole purchase.  I was not there to decorate my walls or score some convention swag.  I was there for the experience and the atmosphere.

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He wanted a picture with K.I.T.T.  Done.

My friend was a little freer with his wallet.  The first purchase came when I introduced him to my friend Rob.  Rob works at the comic shop with me and I have been gifted several original sketches from him and purchased two of his t-shirts.  My favorite piece of art from him revolves around Galactus.  I mention it to anyone who will listen.  And my friend listened.  And he bought a print.  Hey, he got it personally signed by the artist?  Why not?

The most interesting/ humorous/ frustrating part of my friend’s shopping involved a vendor and her phone.  Once upon a time, you had to go to a convention with hundreds of dollars in cash.  Vendors and artists only had portable tables.  You hit the ATM before you came, if you did not bring enough money you had to come back with more money, and one always had to be self-conscious about how much cash they had on them.

No longer.  Now, with smart phones and adapters that plug into headphone jacks, anyone can swipe credit cards and have the information go through their portable technology.  People can even get receipts e-mailed to them.  It all works great and makes life simpler for everyone.

That is, assuming the vendor knows how to work the program.  The program that they downloaded the night before the show.  The program that seemed to stall half a dozen times over three trips to this gal.

To top it all off, before noon the on the first day of the convention, the ATM went down.  Good times.  Eventually, my friend and the vendor decided on a PayPal exchange and that worked fine.  Technology saved the day.  Of course, if technology had cooperated in the first place.  Oh well.

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As long as there are cosplayers, there will be Catwomans.

Granted, that is the slight downside to a smaller comic show.  We were all a bunch of nerds celebrating our hobby with hundreds of other nerds.  There were TV actors.  There were authors.  But mostly, folks simply wanted to meander about and see what there was to see.  There were panels, cosplayers, and booths from local comic shops.  There were swords to buy, cosplayers roaming, and old gaming systems.

(I almost bought a NES cartridge, but I only use that system once a year or so.  They almost had a sale though!  …of seven dollars.)

The draw of this show was not the promise of glitz and glamor.  We only wanted to be nerdy for a weekend.  It was easy to do that with the short lines, the reasonable-sized crowds, and the friendly folks all around.  It was, dare I say, fun.

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On our way to the car, we met Batman.

I would partake in this sort of comic-centric activity again.  I would certainly take a friend along.  It gave us both an excuse to vent, gush, and laugh with someone.  Sure, you can do it all by yourself and internally, but there is more joy when you have another person’s energy to feed off of.

Meeting established pros would have been fun too.  There are artists whose work I have been following for years that I would like to watch as they draw and sketch.  However, I can content myself with enjoying the finished product.  I do not need to see all the behind the scenes work.  It would simply be a fun perk.

For the time being, I was quite happy to be surrounded by friends and folks that enjoyed this nerdy world as much as I did.  It was a trip well worth the taking.

 

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Noticing God’s Presence

I have never had any trouble believing in God.  The whole makes sense to me (as much as it can).  I have simply had confidence in that fact all my life.

Every now and then I will get reminders that I am not alone.  That God is hanging out with me, taking care of me in the day to day.  A fellow church-goer once stated that God was always with him, even when he was cleaning the toilet.  It is my opinion that God walks beside us through the everyday occurrences.

The story that often leaps to mind is a rather comical one.  I was driving home after church.  The message had not resonated with me.  I was grumpy.  I was frustrated.  I was traveling down the same road that I always took. (Metaphor?)

Then, in the car ahead of me, something rather wacky happened.  In the back-seat of a rather typical sedan, a cat jumped up, appeared to be attacking something in mid-air; claws and paws furiously batting about.  Then it fell back down, out of view.  It was like the world’s shortest puppet show was performed in that car.  A furry, lively, and highly active jack-in-the-box sprung to life.  Except, you know, much cuter and fluffier.

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There was no red curtain in the car window. But there might as well have been.

And I knew the amusing scene had played out for my benefit.

Things like that happen to me now and then, but never as much as I would like.  God probably knows that if these instances happened too frequently, I would get used to them.  They would lose their potency.  Maybe God delights in getting my attention.

An event that happened this year took place while I was getting ready for bed.  Once I am in bed, I am down for the night.  If I am getting back out of bed, there better be a fire, vomit, or some emergency that actually warrants me being upright.

I felt a little nudge that I should pray.  Okay, fine.  I can pray while I am lying down.

No… you should probably kneel for this.

I do not kneel on a regular basis.  I also do not look down or up when I pray.  I figure if God wants me humbled, God will make it so.  A lifetime of slippery hallways, bungled sentences, and awkward “Will you go out with me?” moments have proven that God has no qualms about humbling me.  Kneeling feels like forcing things.

As I was thinking along those lines, quite comfy in my bed, the nudge came a little stronger.

C’mon.  Just do it.  You don’t even have to stand.  Roll out of bed.  Boom.  The floor’s right there.  Couldn’t be simpler.

I acquiesced.  I almost went for the full-on kneeling/laying with my head touching the floor and all that.  That felt unnatural, so I readjusted.

No need to go crazy-town.  Over there.  On the bed.  Knees on carpet, shoulders on the bed; that’ll do just fine.

I do not know about yours, but sometimes my nudges are awfully bossy.  Gentle, tolerant of resistance; but still bossy.

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Should I ever be turned into a mouse, I’ll be safe. (-ish.)

I should pause here to mention that I have become rather adept at feeling changes of pressure around me.  I blame it on being around theatres with tight doors that create vacuums.  If I pay attention, I can feel my cat walk by or someone entering through a door rooms away.  People rarely surprise me when they try to sneak up on me because I can feel the air moving as their mass approaches.  Not a terribly useful skill, but it came in handy this day.

I was kneeling towards the middle of the bed.  There was a little room to the left of me, and a little room to the right of me.  Because of that room, and because cats like to hop on beds when they are warm, I was not at all surprised when I felt my cat walking around on the bed to my right.

Except, when I looked, there was no cat there.

Okay, I said to myself.  You misjudged the air pressure.  It can happen.  Just go back to praying.

There it was again  I knew the last time had been a mistake.  This time I knew my cat was next to me on the bed.

Except, when I looked again, there was no cat there.  I looked at the gap between me and my bedside table.  There was just enough room for somebody to kneel next to me.

I went back to praying.  I felt a presence on the bed next to me.  I just went with it.  I finished my prayer, felt blessed, and went to sleep. (It was all very Samuel-esque.)  I was alone in the room, but I had company too.

Having a God visit with you, right in your apartment?  Not too shabby.

Before I did nod off, I made one quick check.  Sure enough, my cat was conked out on the couch in the living room.

Yes, I believe that God was right there.  That God took the time to be with me and that God would not have fit so conveniently if I had been lying down in bed like I had originally wanted.

tmpAnd no, I did not hear any holy decrees.  I was not told when the world would end, was not promised that I would become a sovereign leader, and was not granted the ability to see the future.  I did not even get any lottery numbers.

What I did receive was a nice reminder that God is always around.  Even in the boring stuff.  Even in the troubling stuff.  Even in the stuff that I have not told anyone about.

Others can believe whatever they wish.  As for myself, I have seen too many acts of God to doubt.  I know that God is around and accompanying us all the time.

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Update on Week 40: Representative Response

Not that many weeks ago, I called a few of my elected officials to talk about how much I dislike guns.  I did not feel like I made that big of a difference, but neither of my representatives was outwardly dismissive.

A few weeks later, one of them even wrote me back.

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“Thank you for contacting my office to express your support for gun control legislation.  I know that this is an important issue for many of my constituents and I appreciate hearing from you.

As you may know, the United States suffers more gun violence incidents than any other country.  Since 1982, there have been at least 91 public mass shootings across our country.   Like you, I am outraged and deeply saddened by the rampant gun violence.  The deadly shootings at Marysville-Pilchuck High School and Seattle Pacific University in 2014, the Cascade Mall in Burlington and more recently at Freeman High School are evidence of the need to take action to prevent the tragic cycle of violence in Washington state, and throughout the United States.  While there is no one law or set of laws that will prevent every senseless shooting, we must do a better job.  I believe that as lawmakers, we have a responsibility to protect our communities from this tragic cycle of gun violence.  This year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas was unprecedented in our history in terms of scope, but families across the country know the heartbreak all too well.  We must not wait for the next tragedy to act.

I am committed to working to identify common-sense steps that we can take to prevent gun violence and mass shootings while also respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.  I support efforts to keep military-style weapons out of the hands of civilians, to remove the statutory ban on researching gun violence as a public health crisis, to strengthen our background check systems, to protect domestic violence and stalking victims from gun violence, and to prevent individuals convicted of hate crimes from accessing firearms.  I also support banning, “bump stocks”, which are devices that can be used to transform a semiautomatic weapon into the functional equivalent of an automatic weapon.  Please know that I will continue to fight for meaningful reform, and I will work with anyone who is willing to advance legislation for the safety of our children and communities in the House of Representatives.

Again, thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts and concerns.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of any assistance in the future.” 

So yes, I received a form letter.  I could take umbrage that it was not more personal, but I actually feel the opposite.  If she has this note ready to send off at a moment’s notice, then hopefully she has to send it on a regular basis.  She acknowledges the concern, states her position, and even attempts to educate the citizens she answers to.

Freedom-of-Speech_5_6_web-650x829My definition of what the United States of America should be is actually a painting.  “Freedom of Speech” is one of the “Four Freedoms” that Norman Rockwell painted.  In it, a town hall-type setting is depicted.  A person gets up, says what he thinks, and those around him, including his government, listen to what he has to say.

Everyone gets to say their piece (and peace).  We respect other opinions and do our best to work things out.

I said my piece.  My government listened to it.  And it feels like they are taking steps to move forward.

It would ideal if things would get worked out much, much faster.  However, I still appreciated the reply.

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Trying Out: The Road Less Traveled (Week 43)

Trying Out: The High Road (Week Forty-Three)

I get lost.  I am rather tired of the three or four hikes I always take.  However it keeps search and rescue folks from yelling at me.  Better safe than sorry?

IMG_0025 (768x1024)Numerous times I have thought, “Surely I know this way.  It borders some streets that I know.  If nothing else, it borders a street that borders a street.  That is close enough, right?

A trick I had to learn in college.  It helps to have skyscrapers in the distance that you can navigate to from miles away.

A few weeks ago, I found myself ready to walk back from the library.  Now, the route I have been taking is perfectly fine.  There is a sidewalk almost the entire way.  (If you count gravel as a path, then it works.)  Only one real crosswalk light to slow me down for two and a half miles.  A walking trail is visible on the other side of the road.  Honestly, it is a rather pleasant stroll.

But I wanted different.  In theory I could walk up a hill instead of traveling all the way around it.  I was pretty sure it might even be faster.

It was.  By quite a bit.  Two and a half miles was cut down to two.  A twenty-five minute stroll wash slashed down to fifteen minutes.

No crosswalk lights to wait for.  No semi-trucks barreling alongside me.  I even have had a cute female greet me.

Then there was the view.

Faster, shorter, calmer, more scenic.  Assuming one does not get lost (ahem), it turns out that there is value in taking the high road.

 

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Trying Out: Karaoke (Week 42)

Trying Out: Johnny Cash (Week Forty-Two)

As has been shown before, I am not one for big crowds.  I am certainly not one that enjoys noisy, crowded bars late at night.  However, a friend was having a birthday.  It sounded like I would know a couple people there.  And I do like karaoke.

I like performing in front of crowds.  (The mingling afterwards is where I stumble.)  However, I have no skill at singing.  Thus, karaoke is a once-in-a-while thing for me.  I spread it out.  After a several-year dry spell, I thought I would give it another go.

The venue itself was interesting.  The karaoke part was in the back of the bar/restaurant/ eating establishment.  I honestly do not know what the classification was.  The first section one enters looks just like a typical diner.  They have booths, linoleum floors, and tables that are easy to wipe down.

If one follows the music and the bustling, then they are led through all that to the room in the back.  The area with neon lights, beer logos, and black walls.  (Unlike my neighborhood establishment, this bar went out of their way to decorate.  Ads pasted on the ceiling, vintage displays, and my favorite [though more restaurant-sided than bar-sided] a bookshelf full of community novels.  Books!  Yay!  However, I was there to be sociable, not literary.  That did not mean I could not inject a little history into those whippersnappers.)

If you are like me and cannot sing, I recommend Johnny Cash.  (I tried Brooks and Dunn’s, “Boot Scootin Boogie” and it just was not the same.)  Most of his songs have a lack of singing.  I tap into my bass setting and do my best.  This was especially true of the song I picked, “One Piece at a Time”.

I did not remember until I started that probably eighty percent of the song was talking.  Talk talk talk.  This is all well and good for me, except that I started to sing the talking part.  It was a little off there for about thirty seconds.  I survived.  I probably should have picked a song I had heard more recently.

As I was exiting, the host made a comment that no one had performed that song before.  Ugh.  Come on people!  Johnny Cash!  Respect the classics!  You do not need to cover every Adele or Taylor Swift single from the last three years.  Harumph!  Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Roy Rogers; these are all perfectly valid choices.  I would have even settled for some Dean Martin or Ella Fitzgerald.  Oh well.

There were many people that were much more talented and well-rehearsed than I was.  (My friend is a drama person.)  They had some very impressive offerings.  Thankfully, the person after me was not one of those.  They attempted, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”.

They, like me, had not heard the song in a while.  That song is all about the fast-singing of long and complex phrases.  Either the man was feeling his buzz, or he did not remember the lyrics.  It made for amusing people watching though.

Ah, the people-watching.  There was the guy dressed in a bear costume.  (Straight out of a music video?)  His friend was sporting the Britney Spears/ Catholic School Girl/ Anime character -attire.  As with every bar I have ever been to, there was the guy that is about twenty years older than everybody else with a majestic white beard.  That guy always seems to get along with everybody.  Usually they are the ones with the stories that are worth listening to.

Yet, it was impossible to hear.  At a table for six, I could not hear what the person across from me was saying.  I could barely understand the birthday woman next to me.

As per usual, the “attending” status that people posted was rather negotiable.  Folks get sick, they get busy, work keeps them late; it happens.

I sang my song, making sure to wish her a happy birthday.  I checked in with how she was doing, and I cheered when she sang.  After an hour or two, I felt I had been supportive.  I went home to my quiet apartment, listened to the blissful sound of not much at all, and planned my next foray.

I will have to research the lyrics, but I am pretty set on, “I’ve Been Everywhere”.  Knowing me, I will have several years to learn all the places Johnny Cash went.

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Trying Out: Roller Coasters (Week 41)

Trying Out: Enchanted Village at Wild Waves (Week Forty-One)

(There were not a lot of images I could put into a baby shower article.  But roller coasters?  Pfft.  I can link YouTube videos all day to that.  Interactivity!)

Technically I have been on a roller coaster before.  I suppose that it depends on your definition.

Say that you go to a little wooden track that, at its peak, stands ten feet off the ground.  Say that seat belts are provided, but no metal bars lower down and lock you into place.  Say that the top speed is probably twenty miles per hour.  No loop the loops, no dramatic careening from side to side.  There was a hill or two; more like a bump.  However it was more of a family activity than a thrill ride.

That was my previous roller coaster experience.  (Unless we count Ferris Wheels.  Which I do not.)  It was time to take it up a notch.

I have very little desire to go to fairs or carnivals that operate on a traveling basis.  If I am going to ride on something that defies gravity and travels at high speeds, I do not want something to moves from town to town on a trailer.  Traveling rides make me wary.  I want concrete foundations, darn it.

In my area there is really only one roller coaster destination.  Thankfully, they boast several impressive rides.  The one that I felt I had to try, the main focus of this mission, was the Timberhawk.  It is a large roller coaster, and one of the oldest and biggest wood-track roller coasters in operation.  I went online, all set to book my trip… only to find out that they were closed.

Apparently, after the busy summer, the amusement park shuts down.  I suppose it makes sense.  After all, the heart of the place is a water park.  One can only sport swimsuits for so long.  I was miffed that I had missed my shot.  (Plan everything far in advance!  Forget spontaneity.  Bah!)

Then I noticed that they had this event called FrightFest.  I am not a Halloweener, but plenty of people are.  So, starting in October, the park (but not the water rides) was open for about five hours each weekend night.  Hope returned!  I simply had to ignore the suggestion to dress up in costume.  I hopped online, bought my ticket, paid for parking, and off I went.

(This is the only activity this year where you more or less have to pay them for parking.  They are sort of in the middle of nowhere and the acreage is all theirs.  So if they want to charge you twelve bucks?  You are going to pay it.  Somebody has to pay for the dump-trucks to deposit all that gravel.)

I showed up fifteen minutes before the gate opened and there were already an hundred people in line.  You want ride-geeks in front of you who know what they are doing.  The maps were few and far between.  (Also a little hard to navigate.)  So I did what any sensible person would do.  I watched the small children and excitable teens.  The spot they ran to first must be the go-to destination.

Sure enough, the crowd made its way up a hill.  This is where being six-foot-three comes in handy.  I was not about to run, but I put my long legs to work and was soon at Timberhawk.  I wanted to tackle my prime destination.  If I liked it, I would hit it again before I left.

This was when I noticed a trend.  The staff members, the ones manning the controls?  Employees charged with my safety?  They were all teenagers.  From the first ride on, all I could think about was the movie Adventureland.

It makes sense.  Local kids need jobs too.  They are free weekend nights.  Voila.  They never did anything too crazy or caused me much concern.  But there were nagging doubts in the back of my mind.  “What if they look at their phone in that crucial moment?  They are half my age.  They are running this machine, but do they even have a driver’s license?”

Yes, I was a little ageist.  I shoved the notions to the back of my brain.  I decided that the bosses had been through this for decades.  There were numerous safeties in each device.  Why sweat it?

That was mostly my attitude for the next hour or so.  I blame it on the fact that, when I was a teenager, I spent much of my time ushering a documentary titled, “Thrill Ride: The Science of Fun.”  In it, the filmmakers documented a few rides around the country, how they worked, and the tricks employed to make them scarier.  Whenever my brain was starting to venture into thrill territory, science brain kicked on.

Anyhoo, I and five or so other kids were the first ones on Timberhawk.  We were told to put anything that might fall out of our pockets on the platform.  This meant a few hats and jackets were thrown over our hands and fell haphazardly on the walkway.  The staff person gave instructions, the metal bar was placed across our laps, and we were off.

Again, six-foot-three.  I know people only get decapitated on rides when they stand up… but still.  The engineers did their job well in freaking me out.  With every dip under a support beam or bridge, I felt myself leaning forward and hunkering down.  I never had any desire to throw my hands up in the air.

“They create a downward angle that had plenty of clearance, but it makes you feel like the opening is small.  Also, they place the support beams close together so that you feel claustrophobic.  Oh, and once the initial momentum is gone, it is hard to build up more; so the first jolt will probably be the scariest.”

Uh huh.  Sure.  I knew all that.  I still ducked.  I never screamed, I never closed my eyes, but I could certainly feel my heart rate go up.

I collected myself.  I thought that is was no so bad, and set out looking for my second roller coaster to ride.  Those maps… I tell ya.  I tried to figure out what were real rides and what were silly distractions.  (Shooting galleries?  Nope.  Bumper cars?  Pass.  I have enough neck injuries already.)  I ended up walking around, working the perimeter and closing in on the center.

Out of sight, and almost devoid of people, was the Timber Axe.  (Should they really have two rides with the word “timber” in the title if that is what someone yells right before a tall tree falls down?  Just a thought.)

There were only five of us so I sat down in the front.  If you are going to fall to your death, you might as well get the best view.  Even if it does increase the risk of someone throwing up on your neck.  (Happily I never saw or heard of a single person throwing up in the park.  But more on that later.)

I sat in the front of the axe.  A metal bar was lowered over my torso.  And then, much to my surprise, the floor started to drop out beneath us.  I was not quite ready to lose contract with the ground, but there it went.  It was a good thing it did, because the giant axe started to swing in its full pendulum arc.  Up up up we went.  I thought we might gradually build up, swing back and forth a little bit.  But no.  It started is off on a full swing.  I had always wondered what it would be like to go all the way around on a swing-set.  Now I was finding out.

“Those metal bars are perfectly capable of keeping you in place, despite the fact that you are currently hanging upside down.  There is probably several sets of steel that keeps them from flying open.  The height of this ride is not nearly enough to worry that the whole rig will fall over.  And, should something happen in mid arc?  Gravity will ensure that it comes back to its neutral  point and end with you sitting near the ground.”

These were the thoughts I had as the one-hundred and eighty degree-plus arc left me with an excellent birds-eye view of the ground.  The clarity of it all.  The breadth of the landscape.  All were taken in as I hung there, in mid-air, waiting, in all meanings of the phrase, for the axe to fall.

And, you know, why go simply in one direction?  Why not go in the opposite arc, so you can feel it all happening before you can see it?  That sounds like a hoot, right?  Great!  ‘cause we are doing it.

A simple ride.  A fun ride.  A ride that turns your world upside down.

I assumed that I would not hit all the rides.  Start off slow on your first time out, right?  Besides, if you have all the fun the first time out, there is no reason to go back.

I turned to the staff person there and asked the teenager, in all her years of wisdom, what ride did I absolutely have to partake in?

I was told to go the Brain Drain.  That is it was terrifying.  “Just go straight that way and it is past the Ring of Fire.”

A:  Their pathways are anything but straight.  “Enchanted” invokes images of twists, turns, and surprise dead-ends, and the park does not disappoint on that front.  B:  “Ring of Fire”?  Like the Johnny Cash song?  Or is it “Reign of Fire”, like the Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, dragon-fighting movie?  Hmmm…

I strolled.  I meandered.   I took some wrong turns.  Eventually I found a few more rides.

I was tempted to go straight to the Brain Drain, but I got distracted.  There was this small ride called the Disk’O Flashback.  Humble in look, low in height, but it had a curious way about it.  Sitting on an arc, maybe one hundred and thirty-five degrees, it also turned on a giant wheel.  You went up and down as you curved around.

Being on the ground only gave science brain more time to analyze.

“Oh, look at that.  The ride takes the person’s field of vision past the arc of the ride so that it feels like they are about to rush over the edge.  Clearly it cannot do that.  Oh, and the person is facing outwards, further adding to the feeling that they have nothing between them and the ground.  How novel.  Once again a ride slowly builds up to a peak height, hovers there for a bit, and then solely descends to a resting point.  Simple physics.”

Yeah, science brain was a little smug at times.

The crowds were getting a bit bigger, so I was able to coast off their enthusiasm.  You know how watching comedy is more fun in a crowd?  How you can build off their reaction and let the infectious humor carry you towards a greater emotional enjoyment?  Same thing.  The kids were all screaming.  While science brain was going through the step-by-step methods, kid-brain was laughing on the inside at the shared state of terror.

And right next door to that ride was the Ring of Fire.  It was right there.  Mere feet away.  If I rode it, the Brain Drain would be right next to it.  Three in a row.  And everybody loves a trilogy.  Why not build up to it?

The Ring of Fire operates on almost the exact same concepts as the Timber Axe.  I was confused why the line was so long.  Maybe it was late enough that more people had gotten into the rides; nothing more.  Regardless, I sat back and looked at the big metal circle in front of me.

“Ah yes, more swinging in a vertical, circular arc.  Oh, but instead of being attached to a fixed point that is thrown, one is put into a wheeled transport which is propelled through the circle.  And the guide wires are there because, yes, this ride just might try to pull side to side due to its great height.  Also, should the people in the vehicle create some disparity in weight, there are safeguards in place.”

One thing science brain did not warn me about was the need for pairs.  “Everybody will need a partner”, it was repeatedly announced.  I chatted up some folks in line, not really in the mood to make new friends.  Part of me assumed that the staff would find a person for me.  Surely not everyone comes here on a date or a family of four.  I had a back-up person.  However I figured they would work something out.

As the line moved, ever-so-slowly, a call went out.  “Any singles out there?  Any single riders?”  I looked at the dozen or so people in front of me.  None of them raised their hands.  So I ditched my back-up buddy and waded up past the others.  So long, suckers!  Have fun standing in line with your special someone.  Us single folks are gonna go on the actual ride!  (Please lack the note of quotation marks.  Think these things.  Do not shout them.)

I made friends with Chris, a chaperone.  Chris and I were belted in.  Let me correct that.  Chris and I, two full-grown men, well over six feet, ducked, squirmed, contorted, and forced ourselves into a seat that was about the size of a mini-fridge.  Then the staff came along and bolted us in.  There were metal bars that went above our heads and they latched each one down.  You could hear them working their way past the others with metallic sounds.  Clunk-thunk.  Clunk-thunk.  Clunk-thunk.

We were all set.  There had to be some sort of diesel engine or generator powering the device.  I could hear it trying its hardest.  Ever since I had gotten in line I had smelled something like gasoline.  We were fully into the industrial age on this ride.

Unlike the Timber Axe that went straight to full circles, the Ring of Fire built up to it.  Swing uuuuuup, and doooown.  Swing UUUppp, swing DOowwwwn.  After three or four of those, we went for probably one hundred and seventy-nine degrees, then careened back down.  It was as if they wanted us to believe that we would be traveling a full circle, but it was just a tease.  No, we would have to swing backwards another half-circle.  But sure enough, on the next go, we went in a complete circle.  A paper fell down from the person’s jacket and headed towards the ground.

“That could have been a person!”  Kid brain screamed with the others.

Science brain was unimpressed.

“We just saw these tricks employed two rides ago. Surely the Brain Scrambler is more terrifying.”

My stomach was too busy to listen to either of them.  My stomach was talking.  Loudly.

“I don’t care for those fumes.  That’s what this is, right?  Gasoline fumes?  I mean, we’re outside and all.  But dude, I could really use some fresh air pretty soon.”

I half scrambled, half fell out of the ride.  The fumes might have done it, but I think my body was not expecting me to take it through such a series of events in under an hour.  I walked towards a larger, possibly calmer roller coaster.  I took a quite a few deep breaths.  My default settings were not returning.

I called it.  The Brain Drain and its ilk would be there another time.  I still had an hour’s drive to contend with.

I made my way towards the exit, passing several vendors’ booths as I went.  They sell food there.  That sounded like a terrible idea to me.  “Here, small child!  Suck down all this sugar, run around, then get tossed an hurled ‘round and ‘round!  It’ll be fun!”

The security guard offered to stamp my hand for reentry, but I waved him off weakly.

I lay down in my compact car.  I sat in the doorway and leaned over.  I sat in front of my car.  Nothing worked.  My stomach would not return to normal.  Surely I was over the gas fumes by now.

Are we going to throw up?  Because there is a reason we only throw up every seven years.  Like the Seinfeld episode!  But yeah, I would really like to not throw up today.”

“Perhaps you are simply experiencing the last effects of the fumes.  Or maybe you should not have eaten that granola twenty minutes before the Timberhawk.  It could be anything, really.  Would it not be advisable to start heading home now, before you have to contend with the dark?”

“Guys.  Really.  Not feeling great here.  Puking would almost be a relief.  Let’s form a plan of attack.  Y’know, like now?  Urgh.”

I hopped in my rather new car with its rather new interior and rather clean seats.  I drove past about ten exits on the interstate.  Then, for the first time ever, I pulled over to the side of the road, crawled over the console, opened the passenger door, and threw up on the side of the road.

“Well, you wanted to try something new.  And you have never upchucked on a highway before.  Congratulations.”

I spent another ten or so minutes, still trying to settle my stomach.  I had no desire to vomit again, but if I did, I was hoping to get it all over with.  Throwing up while driving sixty miles per hour?  In the dark?  That simply sounds unsafe to me.  However, I tried to power through.

“If I can just make it to that exit.”  Deep breaths.  “Well, I made it there.  Can I make it to that next exit?”  Deep breaths.  “Hey, we made it off the freeway.  Think we can get all the way home?”  Deep bre—

Nope.  Pulled off (in a parking lot this time, thank you God), and removed the last of the offending chemicals in a BMW-sponsored pile of dirt.

“Well, at least you are returning nutrients back to the soil.  I am not sure those are the most beneficial nutrients… but at least you tried.”

“Can we be done puking yet?  I do not like puking.  Are  we done?”

“Home.  I want to be home.  Now.  Cat.  Couch.  Garbage can.  No more driving.  Home.”

Fifteen or so minutes, and more deep breaths later, I made it.  I popped some antacids, I grabbed something to puke in, and I hit the couch.  No more movement.  Certainly no more loop-the-loops.  Just purely horizontal calmness.

Would I do it again?  Probably.  Would I do four rides in an hour?  No.  Maybe I need some Dramamine.  Maybe the fumes did me in.  Or maybe I am not built for roller coasters.

All of my voices were glad this was not a first-date activity.  (Stick to adventure rooms, doe-eyed couples.)  That plan would have gone horribly awry.

(Special thanks to those crazy enough to videotape their roller coaster adventures for all to see.  And CoasterForce, I do not know why you stole your font from Batman & Robin, but I appreciate your existence.)

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Trying Out: Baby Shower (Week 39)

Trying Out: Baby Shower (Week Thirty-Nine)

I once made the mistake of attending a wedding shower.  It was not the most awkward experience of all time.  However I was hardly comfortable.  To be fair, the ladies knew I was a fan of this woman.  Yet, had I been offered the opportunity again, I would politely decline.

With that last, traditionally all-female event in mind, I had some trepidation about RSVP-ing to a baby shower.  I have no babies.  I feel no strong calling to have babies.  (Babies and I actually get along quite well.  They go to sleep for me and I do not freak out for them.  After about four hours, we both become a bit restless and are ready for someone different.)  I do not have babies on my brain; or any other part of my body.

The invitation made it clear that this was a family affair.  “Bring the kids.  Bring the pets.  Oh, and bring the spouse too.”  The couple is hardly in their twenties.  Most of their friends were families, or on their way to that classification.  It seemed unlikely that there would be much squealing, ooh-ing, or diaper-games.

It was more like a barbecue.  Small families lingered around couches indoors and a small backyard.  Typical pregnancy questions were asked (“When’s your last day?”  “How are you feeling?”  “Are you getting enough sleep?”), but many people were busy keeping track of their own children.

The main activity was drawing on onesies.  The organizers had, for some crazy reason, decided that newborns are messy.  Huh.  With that in mind, they asked the couple’s friend to take some fabric pens and personalize a onesie or two for the unborn blob.  (The gender of the baby was never revealed.  So I am sticking with, “blob”.)

That was how I occupied myself for an hour and a half.  I am no great artist.  I have terrible hand-writing.  In order to keep my doodling clear, I used a stencil.  To keep my letters readable, I wrote. Very. Slow.  -ly.  Myriad pens later, with some scribbling here and there to try to hide my mistakes, and my project was done.  Two or three turtles danced on the front, declaring that, “Sometimes you gotta BOOGIE out of your shell.”  And on the back I provided a public service message.  In large letters I wrote, “As a courtesy, please return this baby cleaner than you found it.  Thanx.”

The “Thanx” was used instead of “Thanks” because I did not have room for two-letters.  A small cat’s head was drawn at the bottom.  Had I left the head as a simple outline, it would have been fine.  But no.  I had to try and add whiskers.  And fill in the outline.  Which resulted in an amorphous black blob.  So, in an area that had almost no free space left (we were well into bottom-territory on said onesie), I did my best to draw a torso, legs, and tail so that they would be able to guess that; yes, in point of fact, that is supposed to be a cat.

That cannot say that I lacked for effort.  Other onesies looked better and cuter, sure.  I maintain that they were all labors of love.  (Get it?  Zing!)

If nothing else, the attention I gave to drawing meant I did not have to engage in forced conversation.  I chatted here and there as we worked on our onesies around the picnic table.  Comments were given and polite dialog was exchanged.  Working on a project I can do.  Chatting up twenty or thirty people that I have seen for ten minutes once?  Considerably more effort is required from me.

The couple made the rounds.  I had something to do.  All went well.  I finished my project, hugged my friend, and wished her well.  In all this, I never saw anything pink or power blue.

It was far less awkward than the previous all-lady affair.  In a small gathering of five or so people, I could have dazzled.  Yet the only folks I trying to win over were the happy couple.  They already know I love them.  Once the effort had been made, I was quite fine going home to my cat and books and being myself.

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