Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spinning at the Pumpkin Farm

Last week the family piled into the Minivan and headed out to the pumpkin farm.  It's not exactly just a pumpkin patch.  It has a hay ride, a corn maze, pig races, goats and alpacas you can feed, all sorts of weird Halloween animatronics, and some rides, including a train, flying frogs and the Honey Pots (spinning cups).  The main goal was to pick pumpkins for our pumpkin carving, but we were going to do all of the fun things, too.  Okay, the REAL reason we went was so my wife could have funnel cake.  It took our family all of ninety seconds to scarf down the warm, fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar.

The first thing my son wanted to do was ride the train.  The next thing he wanted to ride was the Honey Pots.  You know, the little spinney rides, like the Tea Cups at Walt Disney World.  But these were even smaller, and without the cost of having to travel to Orlando. It was just a nice easy amusement ride for kids. 

The climb to the top was longer than the ride down
Now, I love roller coasters.  For years I had a season pass for Six Flags Great American in Gurnee.  I started with the Whizzer, an easy starter coaster with no loops.  Then I graduated to the Demon, with two loops and two corkscrews.   I've ridden the American Eagle backwards.  I remember Z-force.  I rode the Tidal Wave, which catapulted you forward through a loop, then back up, before stopping and sending you through the loop backwards, through the station backwards and up another incline backwards before rolling forward again.  When the Batman ride opened in 1993 and we were there for physics day, I rode it twice the first hour the park was open.  I even survived riding Space Mountain in the dark with my mother, her mouth agape, but unable to scream.  At my peak, I could do all the big rides in one day, survive the spins while trying to fall asleep that night then head back up I-94 to do it all over again the next day.  But I've never been a fan of the spinning rides.  I like deep fast drops, going upside down, the bumps of a wooden coaster.  I love that brief second at the top of the climb before the first steep drop on a coaster, when the cars are no longer being pulled up the hill and there is a brief quiet, a pause, before the speeding descent. 
One of my proudest moments was riding the Shock wave with the President of DePaul University in 1996 when I was a mentor in the new student orientation program.  Father Minogue was a big coaster fan and every year he brought the mentor staff to Great America.

Mmm, Honey Pots
Sadly, that was the last time I rode any of the rides at Great America.  And maybe that's the problem.
Flash forward to last week and the Honey Pots.  My son wanted to go on the Honey Pots so we did.  First of all, the Honey Pots are not made for adult sized people.  My knees were pressed into the circular seat across from me almost squishing my son.  And like all spinning rides, there is a metal wheel in the middle of the seats that you can turn to make the individual car spin.

My son wanted to spin.

I started slowly at first, more for him than for me.  "Faster, Daddy," he said.  So I spun it a little faster.  "Faster, Daddy."  A little bit faster.  He was smiling and giggling.  I was focusing on his face and not the rest of the world that was spinning around me.  Then I started to feel queasy.  I slowed the spinning down and started spinning the other way, hoping that going in the opposite direction would make me feel better, or at least keep me from vomiting.  The ride lasted all of ninety seconds. When it finally stopped, I was still spinning.  My son was fine and he hopped out of the Honey Pot with a smile on his face.  I held on to door as I slowly slid out.  I tried to focus on something close to me, right in front of me, but everything in the distance kept spinning.  My son scooted through the exit and I tried to keep up with him. Finally I slumped down on a bench, trying to keep my world from spinning and the contents of my stomach from rumbling out.  My son wanted to go on the cars again.  I told him his mother had to go with him next time.

If you were in high school or college in 1992 you owned this album
I should have known better.  In 2004 at the Minnesota State Fair, the fun ended after I couldn't recover from another spinning ride.  This one at least went up and down as well as around and around, but I was so sick the rest of the day I had to pass on all the different meats on a stick a state fair has to offer.  I couldn't even make it to see the Spin Doctors headline the main stage that night.  Don't you see how ironic that is?  There was a band, guys who could "Doctor the Spin," who could have made me feel better, and I was still too sick to see them.  Am I the only one who finds this funny?

I can still do roller coasters.  My son and I rode Big Mountain Railroad at Walt Disney World last year.  I didn't feel sick at all and he loved it.  But kids love spinning.  My daughter will spin around in place in our kitchen, laughing her head off until she falls.  Kids love rolling down hills all the way to the bottom.  They can't stand up for a few brief seconds but then they run up the hill and do it again.  There must be an age when your ability to spin goes away.  For me it was somewhere between 21 and 28.

It's not all bad news.  This year the pumpkin patch added a giant slide and a playground.  Those things I can handle.  This year, my daughter and I did the slide twice in a row and not once did I feel nauseous.  

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I'm Going out For Cigarettes

"I'm going out for cigarettes."  

Does anyone actually know anyone who had a family member tell them they were going out for cigarettes and then not return?  Is it only a cliché for movies, novels and television shows?  Does it happen in real life, besides at The Onion?

I was out walking the dog the other night before bed and I started to wonder: with the good folks at Gallup finding smoking rates at an all-time low , is smoking even prevalent enough for this phrase to work when people leave and never come back?

This is what a REAL Marlboro man smokes.
I've never said "I'm going out for cigarettes" to anyone in my life.  You see, I don't smoke.  I did have a nasty habit of buying a hard pack of Marlboro Menthols when drinking in college, smoking two cigarettes then throwing them out the next morning.  I had a girlfriend who was a smoker and on occasion I'd pick them up for her  Don't worry, I gave her a hard time every time she asked me to buy them for her. I explained how much money she was burning up, literally, smoking and, flexing the knowledge of my math major, I calculated how many cigarettes she smoked in a year (it was around 5000 -these days I need a calculator to do math). I can't figure out why that relationship didn't last. 

Now don't worry.  I'm not planning on leaving my family. It seems silly that someone would use that line now, and maybe it has never actually happened, but been more of a TV and movie thing.   Around here, cigarettes are almost nine bucks a pack so if someone you love leaves without at least a ten spot you know they are not going for cigarettes.

If I was writing a movie, or an episode of a TV show, or a blog and I wanted one of my characters to just walk off into the darkness not to return until the movie, TV Show or blog needs a turning point or the show runs out of ideas, what would they say?  "I'm going out for ice cream?"  That wouldn't work.  If there were kids present, the kids would instantly shout that they wanted to go, too.  "I'm going out for coffee."  More plausible.  Even late at night, you can find a coffee shop just about anywhere for those of us addicted to hot caffeine.  These were both pretty boring phrases, though.  I racked my brain to come up with other lines to say, but nothing seemed relevant enough to be something real to do but common enough to avoid suspicion.  

Instead, I came up with a completely new, totally original phrase that has no other meaning whatsoever, but makes sense to use in this case.  I worked on a short story with this as the first line and I said it over and over out loud to ensure it sounds good, and it would if I were not the one speaking it. I mean, have you ever heard my voice?  I will assume the phrase sounds great when anyone else saying it.  Are you ready?  Here it is.  Hold on to your seats and clutch your hats.  This is going to blow your mind and forever change how we talk just like the George Foreman grill forever changed the way we cooked hamburgers.

"I've got to see a man about a dog."

How about that?

Lots of people have dogs.  In fact, there are more people with dogs these days than there are smokers.  I totally made this up but if you have watched any of the presidential debates over the last few weeks you've noticed that factual information is no longer required for any debate or discussion.


What do you mean it already means something?


Well, what would you say?  I'm open to suggestions.

Thanks for reading.