Posted by jdg | Monday, June 23, 2008

On the way to Cedar Point amusement park for my eighth-grade class trip, a guy named Alex fell asleep on the bus and my friends and I whittled away the the hours competing for how many potato chips we could balance on his stupendously large lower lip. As an adult, Alex would spend some time in prison and I heard he lost one of his legs.

Later that day, I rode my first roller coaster: The Iron Dragon. I hated it. The only person who would hang out with me for the rest of the day was that kid whose unfortunate surname was something ichthyological, like Grouper or Walleye or Haddock. Eventually I worked up the nerve to get in line for the Magnum with the girl I had a crush on at the time. The Magnum was Cedar Point's most terrifying roller coaster: at its highest point I think it looked down on the CN tower way over in Toronto. It went 600 mph and decapitated half its riders. Still, the line snaked half a mile long and it was a good chance to get my mac on.

There was a spot on the Magnum where everyone knew to smile or flash their tits at a camera and upon exiting the ride a halfhearted effort was made to sell you the photograph as a memento of the good time you had at Cedar Point. I was too busy clutching myself and praying to realize we were approaching this camera, and when we got off the coaster, I noticed a large group of people had gathered around one of the screens showing the photos taken during our ride. They were pointing and cackling. With a sickly feeling I realized they were pointing at the photo of our car. The girl I thought I was totally in love with was raising her hands and smiling with joy. Next to her my face was clenched sideways in terror and pain.

"What's wrong with that guy?" a stranger asked.

"He looks like he's constipated," another replied.

The girl I thought I was totally in love with laughed and bought the photo as a memento of the good time she had at Cedar Point.

* * * * *

It's just who I am: I like keeping my two feet on the ground. I don't enjoy that roller-coaster feeling of being punched in the balls. I prefer my testicles descended, thank you very much. My mother loves to tell the story of how in nursery school, when all the other boys would rush out to the shed where the Big Wheels were stored, I would saunter behind them to avoid the fracas over the fastest big wheels, knowing that none of those boys would touch the inchworm. Yep, that's me: safe and boring. My wife, on the other hand, is just grateful to have someone to hold her purse while she rides the most hair-raising coasters.

So I had a pit in my stomach when Juniper told me she wanted to ride the kiddie dragon rollercoaster being managed by the one-legged carny with a thousand-yard stare and an ash-heavy cigarette dangling from his lips. The kiddie coaster only went about three mph down it's barely-perceivable hill. Still, I envisioned a bleak future of holding purses and half-eaten bags of cotton candy and giant stuffed sideshow prizes while the rest of my family screamed with pleasure around various coasters and tilt-o-whirls.

I needn't have worried.

That's my girl.