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August 27th, 2011

Originally published at Big Ugly Man Doll. Please leave any comments there.

For those of you just joining:  We’re driving to Chicago for my cousin’s wedding.  No, my other cousin.  Also, there will be no weather in this narrative.  The weather was fine, with only a few embarrassed clouds.  For the purposes of our driving descriptions, you should feel free to fill in whatever weather you prefer.  I’ll try to remind you where to fill them in, for those of you who require a little climate control in your narrative.  We resume our story after Saturday’s wedding, as Sunday morning dawns on the 9th Royal Birthday of the Reigning Queen of Pink.

Sunday dawned the way you’d expect, and we loaded up the van with the Very Clever Grandparents and headed north to meet my sister at Great America, also known as Six Flags.  Why the place needs two names is beyond the scope of this narrative.  If you’re filling in the weather at home, I’d recommend about 80 degrees and sunny, with a light breeze.

Number One Son started to slowly go crazy as we walked in – he hates being outdoors, and this was nothing but.  I took him by the hand, lead him a little ways away, and leveraged the time-honored parenting technique known as “threatening grievous bodily harm” if he didn’t at least suffer in silence while his sister enjoyed some of her birthday.  Crowds were light in deference to the Reigning Queen of Pink, who was thrilled to be there with all her loyal subjects.  To her, the only thing marring her perfect day were the height issues – contrary to popular belief, turning 9 does not make you taller.  At 42.5 inches, there are things you just can’t ride, no matter how much she’d like to strap herself into something called The Cardiac Problem, which requires signatures from your family doctor and next your next-of-kin.  If it requires legal waivers, the Reigning Queen of Pink wants to get on board.  Since these things are significantly more likely to kill me than they are her, I was just as glad she’s not old enough to go on most of them. 

The Hat Stays On

The Hat Stays On

The Human Tape Recorder and even Number One Son got on a few of these, requiring me come with them, sign the waivers of doom, and get turned upside down at speeds that Einstein wouldn’t have approved of approaching.   For the record, the Hat stays on, no matter how fast the ride. 

The Very Clever Grandfather showed us what “Very Clever” means by very cleverly not getting on any of the rides, with the exception of the largest carousel in the world, where his horse came in first by half a length. 

The RQoP, whose appetite for destruction was not satisfied by the rides she could go on – which were many and varied, I’ll have you know – wanted to make sure the trip was rounded out by her winning a significant stuffed prize.  I suspect I’m certain that she’d scripted out well in advance just how her birthday was to unfold, and “winning something” was absolutely on that list.  God help the one who stands in the way of the movie she’s shooting in her head, because if the script says, “Cute Birthday Heroine wins cute stuffed thing and then goes on flume ride and gets wet,” man, you make sure she wins something before you put her in the water.  There’s a reason she rules by divine right. 

Besides, truth be told, there’s a je ne se qua about “winning” something tangible, however small, that stays with you.  It’s a solid piece of evidence that you were there, that you accomplished something, albeit perhaps for some of the more mutable definitions of “accomplished.”  The Very Clever Grandfather shared a story with me later that I’d never heard before, about the time he won something at a fair.  This was 1957ish, and he was about the age Number One Son is today.  There was a local parish fair, and a raffle for a television – black and white, of course, and somewhat smaller than the monitor you’re using to read this.  The winning raffle ticket was chosen from a large bowl, and no one seemed to have it.  His father suggested he look around, since there were a damn lot of raffle tickets on the ground at that point, and my father (along with several others) scoured the ground for a few minutes, picked up a half dozen tickets, and realized one of them was IT.  All of about 12, he walked up to the parish elders and told them he had the winning ticket.  Obviously, he hadn’t purchased the ticket and didn’t claim to have, and there was some discussion about just what exactly to do.  In the end, the decision was “winning ticket in hand” was really the only requirement, and he went home with a television – which he kept I think until about the time he got married. 

Healthy Lunch

A Healthy Lunch

I didn’t know this until after the RQoP dragged me over to an arcade area, where you can – with luck or with skill – win something cute and stuffed.  Since this was after lunch, I thought I qualified as cute and stuffed, but there was no talking her off script at this point, and I resigned myself to my fate.  Nothing like having the adoring young girl look up at her hero and say, “Win me something!”  Shit.

I Have To Blow Up Your Planet

I Have To Blow Up Your Planet

Then I remembered that old age and bribery will overcome luck and skill any day, and steered her toward a boat race game where you roll your skee-balls into holes marked “slow,” “faster,” or “fastest.”  The winner of the game – and there are 12 boats – wins a small stuffed tiger.  Win two games in a row, you win a somewhat larger stuffed Marvin the Martian.  You need at least two people for a race, and it’s $3 bucks to enter.  With only the two of us, that was $12 bucks.  Do you know it’s actually as hard to deliberately lose a skee ball boat race as it is to win?  Anyway, the RQoP won twice in rapid succession, the nice lady running the game having grasped the script pretty quickly – she’s probably read that script before – and we left with Marvin muttering something about blowing up the planet, and the delighted RQoP talking about the flume ride. 

There are rides at these amusement parks, sure, and games, but if they really want to rope people in, I think they should consider some alternate rides and games for the grownups.  The number one game that comes to my mind should be the Claw Flume Game, where for a dollar you’re allowed to try three times to pick up whatever you want out of the flotsam and jetsam at the bottom of the pool by the ride.  These are pretty clearly all things that have spilled from various pockets, purses, and puckers of people too busy being thrown upside-down and splashed sideways to notice at the time that they were being robbed.  I saw countless coins, 4 pairs of Ray-Ban sunglasses, 2 Blackberries, 31 driver’s licenses from multiple states, 47 pairs of flip-flops, an unexpired DoD Common Access Card indicating a TS/SCI clearance, 7 cell phones, 3 wallets, the left shoe from a pair of size 8 Bruno Maglis, 12 watches, and a 1964 Smith-Corona typewriter.  Obviously, the next most important ride is “The Mugging,” where you’re encouraged to bring all your stuff with promises of “there are cubbyholes for you to store all your stuff” that turn out to be out of order when you get to the front of the line.  It will hold you upside-down for about 60 seconds while vibrating like a washing machine with a bad bearing in the spin cycle. 

I’d also like to see a ride for kids based on the movie “Up.”  (“Here, hold this.”  “Heyyyyyyyyyy!”  “OK, how much for two more?”)  There could be another ride called The Mother-in-Law, which drives at a safe speed and makes only sharp right turns when you least expect them, and The First Date, which floats through 16 slow tunnels and gets you back just before the park closes at 10pm.  (“Will you get lucky on The First Date?”  They’d make a fortune!) 

After all the rides, we all got tattoos.  The RQoP got an eponymous tattoo of “RQoP” of course; I got one on my back that says “He thinks there’s a picture of the Hindenburg back here.”  Shaving my back took longer than the tattoo did, I swear.  After that, my sister was kicked out of the park for trying to ride a “miniature pony exhibit” that turned out to be someone’s seeing eye dog, and we headed back to Chicago. 

Click for a Bonus Queens Of Pink Picture

The Queens Of Pink

We stopped in to celebrate the birthday with the Queen Mother of Pink, and there was cake and birthday presents and aunts and uncles and cousins and folks, and a great time was had by all.  The only marring to the event was my mother, who had some trouble lighting the crazy singing candle and called me over to help, handing me the smoldering end of the stick used to light the magnesium wick.  Have you ever tried singing Happy Birthday while holding three fingers in your mouth?  No more wire hangers, I freakin’ get it, OK Mom?  I left my hand in my beer the rest of the evening, and we had a good time. 

Then we went back to the hotel, changed clothes, and went to the Katy Perry show at the Allstate Arena down the street from the hotel, which she had postponed from July 8th to August 21 so she could be in town when the Reigning Queen of Pink would be there.  Well, we didn’t go to the show as much as drive past it, but we did listen to Last Friday Night on the radio on the way home.  The RQoP sent Katy a nice note about being sorry to miss the show, maybe next year, etc.

A quick dip in the pool got us all ready for bed, to say nothing of easing my throbbing fingers, and we tucked in the birthday girl with Marvin the Martian, still bent on blowing up the planet. 

Next Up:  Always Coming Home



Yep, looks like another post from the Big, Ugly Man Doll!