December 3: Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).
( Author: Ali Edwards — Memory Keeping Idea Books — @aliedwards)
When I’m writing these, I’m just going with the first thing that comes to mind. And Great America is what is coming to mind. Specifically, Raging Bull. This is a great video of the front car of the ride.
I had a season pass to Great America this year. I never went to Great America until my senior year of high school, when I went with my best friend. I was terrified; I had no real interest in going on a rollercoaster. Long story short, after standing in line for over an hour for Shock Wave, trying to reason with the part of my brain that was positively convinced this was how I was going to die, I stumbled off the ride, dizzy, exhilarated, and ready to rock and roll. How quickly could I get back on this baby?
I don’t really remember another trip to Great America until one memorable time with some friends. I believe I can date the trip to around 1994. One of my distinct memories was riding the front car of Batman — absolutely mindblowing. A rollercoaster where you are suspended by your head, feet dangling, and just flying around the track. Made even more amazing when you are blazed out of your mind.
I hadn’t been back to Great America since my trip last year. Would I even be able to do this sober? I felt the fears of senior year creeping back. I had scored some mega cheap tickets from the Great America Twitter feed (1) for $15 a piece and set out with my friend, Joe, and two other randos from the Coffee Club (2) that I didn’t know very well, if at all. One thing I knew was that Coffee Club people tended to be pretty cool, so I was in good company.
The day was amazing and since we scored on the cheap tickets, we decided to get gold Flash Passes (3) and take on the park. First stop? Superman the ride. Turns out that Superman occupies the very same spot that Shock Wave did. Oh, whatever thing that seems like irony is, but really isn’t. Or *is* it? We decide to go balls out and go front row. Seriously? We’re just taking it on, Superman, front row, when I haven’t been on a rollercoaster AT ALL, much less sober in like 15 years? Apparently, that is how we’re rolling.
Luckily, I have my friend, J, with me. And he starts bantering with the young lady (what are these kids? 16? 19? 21 tops? Like the managers MIGHT be 23?) who is to be the steward of my life for the next 2 minutes or so. And he goes, “So. How many people have died on this ride today?” And she hears him but she is caught off guard. Did he just ask how many people have *died?* “None,” she says. “How many this week?” “None.” “How many this month?” She just shakes her head and smiles. From the first question, I am laughing. It was just what I needed to break the tension and get me out of my head.
Oh, did I mention that J said he talked like a sailor when he got scared? You all know I certainly don’t mince words and that “fuck” is a word I’ve always used with fair frequency, so I wasn’t really too worried about what J would come up with. I underestimated him. As we pull through the first weird reverse loop that Superman delivers, I hear J scream, “Fuck me in the ass!! Fuck me in the ass!!” J is straight, and this was even MORE hilarious. Really? Too much.
And the day just got better from there.
When time came to get my Great America on this year, and the opportunity to get a Season Pass came my way, I took it. This was a game-changer. It meant that I could go to Great America and not feel obliged to stay all day. It meant that there was a freedom about going. It meant I could feel free to go as I pleased. I think I went at least four times.
So, back to the moment. I think it was on one of the *many* times I rode Raging Bull this summer. I think it was me, J, J, and T. We had been taught to reach for our feet by some guy in line. We ended up dubbing it the “Raging Reach.” The first time we gave it a try, we didn’t really get the hang of it. But the second time, we got the concept and had a blast. That coaster is super long and so damned smooth. No wonder it seems to be the most popular ride in the park.
As we ticked up the hill each time, there was such a great sense of being on top of the world — literally. We could see everything around us as the sun blazed down and life felt good. I had nothing but gratitude in my heart and love for my friends. My skin was getting a little more marshmallow brown; I had been getting slowly tan throughout the summer. I like to get tan, but I have to do it in very small increments in this stage of my life. The air was clean and crisp and warm and I had no need to worry about the cold.
It was quiet, except for the chitter chatter of the people on the ride here and there. Then, a sensation of everyone holding their breath all at once followed by the rush of air as we all soared down the hill at what? 55, 60 mph? Screams of terror and delight followed close behind and the fun was ON. Sometimes, my friends and I were screaming, too. Sometimes, we were laughing so hard, we could hardly catch our breath. Sometimes, I was just yelling crazy things over and over again, “Raging Bull, Bitch!”
And then faster than we wanted it to be, it was over. Hydraulics exhaling as we pulled in to the station ready to be rolled off into another adventure (4), nearly every time the ride would be capped off by one of us would saying something so clever or random or hilarious, my gut would seize up, clenching into spasms of laughter so fast and furious, I could hardly catch my breath. I’m sure the adrenaline and dopamine swirling around in my bloodstream and brain certainly helped matters, but it was an amazing way to end the ride every time. How lucky was I to have these people in my life?
(1) Oh, you Twitter naysayers, how many ways can I count the reasons to be on Twitter? This is just one of the many reasons.
(2) Totally stealing this from a friend of a friend on Facebook. Sometimes, things are just too good not to make my own.
(3) Let me say this: if you have never experienced the wonder that is the Gold Flash Pass, it truly is worth the money. A four person Flash Pass turns out to be about $40 a piece. If you have a cheap ticket or a Season Pass, it is absolutely worth the money. What it does is this — you select one of the major rides. It puts you in a short queue and tells you how long you have to wait for the ride, usually no more than 20 minutes. You can’t be early to your reservation, but you can be as late as you want. When you get over to the ride, you walk into a special Flash Pass entrance, skipping nearly all of the line. You buzz in with your little device and get in line. Mostly right at the beginning of the stairs. You immediately pick another ride (you can see all the rides and their waits). If the wait is a little long for the ride you want, maybe you decide to wait for front row in the ride you’re on. Maybe you get something to eat. Maybe you make a bathroom stop. Maybe you go to a ride that’s across the park. Maybe you go on the American Eagle beforehand (5).
(4) Sometimes, because of the Flash Pass, we would literally walk right off Raging Bull and get right back on. The first time we went this year, it was early in the season *and* raining, so we once rode the Demon three times in a row, without even getting out of our seats. It was the “Triple-D,” and apparently took down my friend, J, a little bit. He didn’t get sick or anything, but it ruined him for the rest of the day. He silently took this in stride and didn’t really mention this to us until much later.
(5) Dude. The American Eagle is awesome. So freakin’ fun. Not only is the ride a blast, but if you are with friends like mine, you can say things like, “Someone died on this ride last year,” and get people around you scared. Including me, kind of, which will lead me to say, “NO, THEY DIDN’T. I would have heard about that.” To which my friend says, “….of fright!” Freakin’ hilarious. Had us in stitches. Or, the other friend I’m with starts taunting these kids on the blue car about how we’re going to win the “race” that the cars embark on, and by the time we get to the top, I thought that maybe the kids would try and fight us when get got off. Bizarre. But, here’s the deal. In order to get to the Eagle, you have to walk forever. Really. Forever. I just sit there, imagining what it would be like to stand in the sun for hours waiting to get on that bad boy. The Eagle isn’t on the Flash Pass; we’ve determined it’s because there’s no real way to get a Flash Pass entrance to the thing. I mean, at one point the footbridge goes over a service road. It’s insane how long you have to walk to get to this thing. P.S. Now my footnotes have footnotes (6).
(6) A lot of people hate Dave Eggers, but I love him. And this is one of the primary reasons. He does shit like this. Footnoting all weird and shit. I *get* that. Sometimes, you need to footnote your footnotes. You need to meta-reference shit. You need to break the third, fourth and fifth walls. It’s my blog, book, movie, whatever. I can do whatever I want. You don’t like it, stop reading, you know? It’s like all these people read “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” and bitched and moaned about how awful it was, and it’s like … well, who the hell held you down and forced you to read it (7)?
(7) Unlike the time I went to see Synedoche, NY, when I went for a friend’s birthday. I would have walked out like 50 times (8), but it would have been rude, you know? You get to say what you want to do on your birthday, and it would have been bad form to walk out with my other friend on the friend who had the birthday, you know? But holy shit, did I want to. I really, really wanted to.
(8) I have only walked out on a movie once, and that time I didn’t even *want* to walk out on the movie. But again, it would have been bad form NOT to. I was with my boyfriend (? — I can’t remember if we were dating at that time or just friends then) and we went to see this Todd Solondz movie, “Palindromes.” I normally wouldn’t have gone to see a Solondz movie; that was more up his alley. But, I was there and I’m not really the type to walk out on a movie. But he wanted to leave. I was shocked. For all the movies he had seen (and frankly, has gone on to see — “The Antichrist,” anyone?), I couldn’t believe that what we were watching was too much for him. But again, it would have been bad form to stay and leave him to go see another movie or go to the car or something. I’m not too ruined for having missed “Palindromes,” but more for having walked out on a movie (especially when I ended up staying for all of Synedoche, NY).