Friday, June 20, 2014

The Things You Learn About Yourself and Six Flags

There are days where men are challenged. Where they take a deep look into their inner essence as a man, and discover just how much they can take. That same man, if truly a person of this Earth, then looks at his environment, and notices details he skips in everyday life. The way a leaf sways in the wind and how completely different the dance looks as a whole. The way rain runs down the branches of a tree.

Today was one of those days. Today I learned some things.
  • My younger self was either braver or dumber than my older self.
  • The rides at Six Flags are mostly not built for a 6'1" full grown adults. 
  • Shirts are required at Six Flags, but sleeves are not.
  • That park is much smaller when you're tall enough to see over the line railings.
I hadn't been to Six Flags since I was 17, almost 13 years ago. No... let's not start the story there, let's back up a little more.

Being a kid with an early growth spurt, I was both blessed and cursed with the ability to ride any ride at this early age. When I was 5, the Screaming Eagle had just had some renovations done and there was heavy marketing during Saturday morning cartoons for it. I wanted to ride it. I wanted to ride it more than I wanted a Rafael action figure.

And I did. And when I almost fell out of the seat every time this creaking wooden roller coaster hopped the track, I decided that would be the last time I ride a coaster for a long time.

We went back to Six Flags around the time I was 7. My mother made a deal that if I rode the Ninja with her, I would get some cotton candy. I went on the ride, trembling. Turns out I liked it OK and it seemed as if my coaster phobia was fixed.

I had season passes in high-school, and soon got bored riding the Batman, Mr. Freeze, and the Boss. We were there just about every other week and got to the point where we just walked around Six Flags like it was a casual day at the mall.

Flash forward to today, and I thought, just maybe, JUST MAAAYYYBBEE, today would be the day I finally ride the Screaming Eagle.

We start the day on the Batman. The line was non-existent. This was a good sign. We had high hopes.

And then my cranium got beat to hell on the ride. I had a headache. I felt a little woozy. This was a bad sign.

Then we move to the Mine King where my knees were beat to hell.

And then swings thinking that would let my brain stop rattling. Well, these aren't your grandma's swings. These swings first raise you about 100 feet into the air, and then start spinning you around. Neither of us felt comfortable.

The heat start pounding down. My energy was draining quickly. My head seemed to grow three sizes. I was too aware of the Jimmy John's hanging out in my stomach.

We got smart and spread coasters between other rides. hoping I would recouperate on the non-coaster rides.

We rode a new one called the Boomerang (surprisingly was a good ride) and then cooled off in Thunder River (barely got splashed) and the Log Flume (got splashed a little more.) But still, the heat barreled down and that headache I got from the Batman was also turning into a stomach thing.

We started really noticing the clientele of Six Flags has changed dramatically since our childhood. We remember middle class families, standing in line, generally building memories.

Now... man... now it's like some Blue Collar Comedy Horror Movie. Lot's of really fat children, red necks in Hustler t-shirts, (sleeves cut off of course, exposing the side of their hairy man chests) and little girls (3-4 year old) in "I'm sexy and I know it" shirts. It was sad enough that Sal and I actually turned to each other and said, "Maybe we should get some kids so that the whole world isn't screwed in 18-30 years."

So I said, "No Dan, you will not go quietly into the night. I will not vanish without a fight. We're going to coaster on!"

We walked the approximate 3 miles to the Boss, my favorite coaster from my high-school days. And halfway down the first hill, at the worst possible moment, I came to the realization, "I don't think I like roller coasters anymore." The rest of the ride I held my glasses on, with my abs engaged, teeth clinched, and eyes closed, just repeating, "Do not hurl" in my head.

We got off the Boss and I had had enough. My head was pounding, the heat was making me feel sick and weak, and I had no interest in checking Mr. Freeze and some new coaster called American Thunder off the list.  That Screaming Eagle will stand as a monument to my roller coaster failures until inevitably someday it jumps the track and actually kills some people.

We start driving home, I'm still feeling rough, but I'm focusing on the highway in front of us. We're so close at home. Soooo close... and then BAM! My head flips forward, my already pounding brain is beat against the front of my skull, and shortly after the shock I realize we've been hit from behind. (BTW: Sallie has only driven home from Six Flags twice in her life and has been in accidents both times)

We pull over and meet an erratic Bosnian. He obviously didn't have insurance. He kept saying, "Oh everyone is fine, there's no damage, there's no need to get insurance involved. I really have to get to a job. See, I'm wearing work clothes. This happened before and the people let me drive off, I praise God." I'm feeling so crappy at this point that I just see a small scratch on our bumper and I don't think I can physically wait for the hour or so for the cops to show up and write up a report.

We ask if we could have his insurance info. We wrote down his name and number and that was it. As he drove off, I snapped a few pictures of his car and wrote down his license plate. It technically wasn't a hit and run, but it wasn't far from it. (After consulting a legal expert, I found out that we're OK, even if we find something wrong later on since we have his plate info)

So hours later, after being in air conditioning, eating some food, having a beer to take the edge off, I finally feel somewhat normal again. Just really tired. I would not be surprised if I were in bed before 10 tonight.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Wanting What You Don't Have

I've always been incredibly jealous of guitar players. People that really understand the instrument and can just pick it up and make things up as they go, belt out some Beatles, and generally impress everyone in the room.

Anytime I'm in a room where someone I didn't pay to hear play music starts playing guitar, my neck tenses up and I get disappointed.

Now don't get me wrong, I play guitar. I'm better than the average person. I know most the important chords and can string my guitar up. But out of all the talents I was blessed with, rhythm was not one of them.

And it's partially the way I decided to learn guitar. I came to guitar because I actually wanted to sing, but didn't know what to do with my body when there wasn't singing. The thought of my lanky, awkward body trying to do some sort of rock star dance scared me behind the strings.

I tried to learn for a solid 7-8 years and I sort of hit this point and never got any better. I had multiple people try to teach me scales. I read so many books and watched so many terrible videos. But nothing got me to a better point.

You want me to play Green Day? I got you covered. You want me to play the Who? I'm going to stare at the frets for a minute, maybe play a note or two, and then change the subject.

I guess I just sort of need to accept where I am in talent level. I can write stories like a madman, play games like no ones business, and brew beer like a champ. But none of my talents are flashy things that you can own a room with.