It was damn near impossible for any kid who grew up Texas during the 60’s, NOT to have visited either Six Flags or Astroworld at least once.
These two amusement parks in Arlington and Houston, respectively, were two seminal summer destinations for kids back then. Which park was always a toss-up, but that was often decided based on proximity and the amount in the family vacation fund.
I remember being at Six Flags once. There was a roller coaster there, safe and completely innocuous by today’s coaster standards, but the prospect of riding the “Runaway Mine Train” absolutely thrilled me. As I approached the ride, I remember that tingly feeling of anticipation….butterflies, as the old wives’ would call this state of physical nervosa.
I felt it before every cheerleading tryout…every ballet and piano recital…every collegiate broadcast competition.
I remember seeing the sign at the entrance to this theme coaster: “Ride At Your Own Risk”
The reason for that sign was two-fold: it was meant to absolve the park from blame in case of accident, which technically it couldn’t and wouldn’t. And it was also placed there to further the thrill factor for riders.
As I got older, I would think about that sign and it became even more relevant when I got old enough to view life as the thrill ride it was.
I remember how a conversation between Grandma and her grandson in law from the movie, Parenthood resonated with me:
Grandma: You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.
Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!
Gil: What a great story.
Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.
I have been on many rides in my life. They thrilled me, angered me, enticed me, boiled my blood and left me cold. And I rode each one and all at my own peril. Were they worth the risk?
Yes, even the kiddie cars.
But the thrill of certain life aspects, namely certain relationships have a way off sullying everything that comes after them. It’s hard not to get lost in their memory. That’s why perspective is everything. Well, that and wanting what’s best.
Maybe even who’s best.
I knew one such “ride”….a million years ago in a place a million miles away. And it was good.
If this ever happens to you and you think and feel as I do, you’ll notice the ride metaphor never leaves you.
Trust me, it doesn’t. You always miss the thrill and that yearning in your heart and soul allows you to become a veritable carnival worker…a Carnie–just with better teeth and hygiene— with the hopes of being close enough to POSSIBLY experience that lusty, parabolic joy; those amazing ups and downs; love and lust’s wonderfully never static nature, just one more time.
Nothing else can explain why I have had this ridiculous, inexplicable urge to eat Funnel Cake all the time or why I have this need to hire ex-cons or how I now measure the height of all prospective lovers with one of these infamous carnival ride signs: