Sunday, July 7, 2013

Roller coaster

"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. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it." 
~ The Grandmother in the movie Parenthood

When I was a child, what was said to be one of the best roller coasters in the nation was only about 20 minutes away, though I had no way of knowing that fact at the time.  The legendary Mr. Twister.  My older sister somehow smuggled me on the ride at the age of 4 or 5, though that wasn't particularly wise.  It was her first time on the ride too.  She recalls being terrified, and she was quite certain her little sister was going to fly right out of the seat (as she was feeling much the same), and there was absolutely nothing she could do about it.

Sometimes feels like that long ago, sometimes feels like yesterday.
I remember that day, only to a point.  I don't remember much of being on the ride itself, except perhaps a distant memory of rising into the air, as if to fly away (and perhaps I almost did!).  One would think I would have been terrified, as this was quite a serious adventure, not child's play at all (a particular scene in Fatal Attraction comes to mind!).  But then again, I was quite a bold and precocious little child, always seeking adventures way ahead of my years.  Being the youngest by far in a large family can have that effect.

Something I do remember is how I felt after the ride, dazed to be sure, not crying and perhaps just a little bit sick, but what I recall most of all was this improbable, compelling desire to get on the ride again.

When the day came many years later when I was actually old enough to meet the height requirements, I would experience Mr. Twister again and again and again.  I couldn't get enough of the thing, despite the lengthy wait in line.  I seemed to get a secret delight from surprising friends with my unlikely personality, seemingly sheltered and tentative on the surface (often very true!), with a surprisingly bold and daring streak below.

Mr. Twister was rickety and loud.  You always swore the thing would fly apart altogether at any time.  As you slowly, slowly, slowly ascended the first hill, the steady clinking, clinking, clinking in the background, a tinge of regret was not uncommon.  Locked in now for every aspect of the ride, you actually knew not all of it was going to be entirely pleasant (some of the twists were rather brutal on one's neck!), but you had made the choice, and there was no going back.  Some people would leave the line at the last moment, but I was never one of those.  I was in for the duration.

At the top of the first hill, there was an astonishingly beautiful view, despite the nagging fear of the height.  You had only an instant to enjoy it.  Then a very tiny little drop, gentle as could be.  Perhaps this wouldn't be so bad.  It was a hill that soon followed which took your breath away, the one I somehow managed to survive at the age of 4 or 5, because you always rose out of the seat on that one, at any age.  I loved and feared the terror and exhilaration of that particular hill.  I think it was the only reason I went on the ride at all. The twists and turns after were just something to be endured until I managed to jump in the line again.

I don't ride roller coasters anymore, not at amusement parks anyway. Though tame compared to modern rides, knowing its unique allure, they tried to rebuild Mr. Twister in a brand new location, where the imitation model exists today.  I might step on that ride again some day, just to glimpse the original, but I can't imagine it could ever be captured in quite the same way.

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