Friday, September 25, 2009

The Things that Thrill...

It's Friday and, you've guessed it, it's a gloomy day. It's still a little humid but the thickness of the air has faded a little and I can almost feel the Autumn air replacing it. I think in a couple of days, the temperature will drop and it might start to get a little chillier.

It seems to have been a long week this week. The days at work dragged by a little and it seemed all about making it through the day. Some weeks are just like that; they are weeks where the workdays pass in the most cumbersome way without making any real progress, even though you attempt to get a lot done.

Hopefully the weekend won't be like that. I'm heading back to my parent's this weekend. The town in which they live has an annual "Street Fair" in which the centre of town is closed to traffic and filled with rides, games and food stands. I haven't been in many years but, naturally, in high school, it was THE place to go after school.

Back then, it was all about the rides. They're the standard 'traveling fun fair' type of rides with the Spider, Til- a-Whirl and Gravitron which is really just a round room that spins so fast, gravity pins you to the wall and you don't need a restraint.

Just thinking about the Gravitron makes me feel nauseous nowadays. Just as the 'Egg' does when I think of them. The 'Egg' looks like a small ferris wheel but instead of seats, there are little egg-like capsules (hence the name). The capsules can spin in a circle so that, at any given time, as the whole ride is turning, ferris wheel style, you're also turning and are upside down.

I used to think that was cool. My friends and I would dare each other to go on and we always did.

I can't help but think I must have been a little crazier back then. As a kid, you just think of the thrills and try not to throw up on the ride. As an adult, you think about each of the bolts holding those eggs on the ride, you think about the fact that they're assembled by locals who are hired by the day to help set up the fair. You think about what would happen if one of those bolts wasn't connected properly, if one of those locals misheard the direction and forgot to lock a piece of the ride.

Yes, folks, I've become the grown up I used to mock. And a scary thought.

Somewhere between my teens and now, something kicked in within me that made me realize that though I used to go to theme parks and ride the rides, it took me forever to work up the nerve to go on the huge roller coasters and the rides with huge drops. Once I'd ridden them, I realized that I'd gone on them because I'd been bullied by my friends, that the only rollercoasters I really liked were the ones with small drops that went fast. I didn't mind a corkscrew, upside down twist but I did NOT like being dropped 100-200 feet on a coaster. It terrified me and despite what my friends said, it wasn't the kind of thrilling terror I get on the coasters that go really, really fast and don't drop but just wow with their speed, like Space Mountain at Disneyland which is my all-time favourite roller coaster.

At the same time I had this realization, I also realized that I didn't have to go on the roller coaster and if I was that afraid, it wasn't worth it. While I believe there are some fears in life that need to be conquered, I see nothing useful about conquering my fear of monster roller coasters. I have tried; I'm not one to shy away easily. I allowed myself to be talked into going on the Tower of Terror at Disney's California Adventure because I thought maybe I'd enjoy it. I didn't. The ride is one that lifts you very high into the air and just drop. Only on this ride, you drop. Then you go back up, then you drop again and each time, your stomach is left in the air behind you. For me...that was not fun and my gurgled screams were not of delighted exhilaration but, rather, fear and genuine terror. Fortunately, I was with a friend who understood and didn't mind at all that I didn't join her the next time she went on for a second ride. Those are the best kind of friends because they recognize the difference between a shy refusal (but secret desire to try a ride) and a flat out refusal and they know when to gently persuade because I want it and when to give up.

I guess the things that thrill us are different for everyone. I don't like those rides. To me, the three to five minutes it takes to ride a ride are not worth the anxiety I feel while waiting in line. Thus, I have discovered in my older years that if I don't enjoy something, I shouldn't do it. Life is too short. I'd rather wait on the ground and watch passers-by than put myself through the fear for a couple of thrills.

Maybe I'm missing out. My personal feeling is that I'm not. Why waste life doing things we don't want to do just because we might enjoy them? By now, I know the things I enjoy and I don't need to experiment quite so much.

Thus, at the Street Fair this weekend, I shall enjoy it on a whole new level. I enjoy the sights and the sounds of the fair. Naturally, I enjoy the food. Why is it that the food at fairs is some of the most unhealthiest on the planet but also the best? This fair has great food, from what I remember. There are huge, fat, battered and deep-fried (naturally) Wisconsin cheese sticks; there are deep fried (naturally) fish sandwiches that are just very tasty. There are Italian sausage sandwiches, curly fries, elephant ears, funnel cakes....all the foods that make the fair smell like a pit of naughty indulgence.

Ironically, back in the days when I went to the fair before I abandoned the small town for the lights and experience of living in L.A., I always used to walk around the fair and see what I fancied to eat. There would be a chill in the air that made all of the food smells more intense. Yet, every time, no matter what else there was, the smell of the slices of Pizza Hut pizza from the mobile van tempted me most. People mocked me for this. Pizza Hut was in town year round. It was, in fact, less than a mile down the street. Yet...that cheesy, pepperoni smell would waft to my nose on the wings of cool, crisp, Autumn air and...that's what I wanted.

This year, I'm bound and determined to eat something different, something really, really bad for me that will taste good when I eat it but, most likely, I'll regret afterwards.

Yet the fair is not all about food. This fair in particular has a "Industrial Tent" this is a very long tent in which local businesses and organisations set up and advertise their wares and services. The tent always smells like apple cider, caramel apples and popcorn because some of the business sell/give away food as a fundraiser. As a kid, the tent was boring. As an adult...well...honestly, it'll probably still be boring. Yet on the cold nights, especially when it rained, you'd go to the tent to warm up and get dry. There's something comforting about going in there.

I'm excited to go back to the fair. I know if you live in the town where my parent's live, it's an inconvenience as much as enjoyment. It literally is in the middle of town and to get around it, you have to go quite a long way off the beaten track. Yet, as a homecomer who missed it by a week last year, I'm excited to go back, check it out and see it through new eyes. It'll probably wear out its welcome after a day but I'm looking forward to it. The smells, the sights, the chance of running into old should make for a good weekend.

I hope yours is good too. Happy Friday.


Ladyaero said...

What, pray tell, is an elephant ear (besides the obvious protrusions on the sides of pachyderms' heads)?

Captain Monkeypants said...

An elephant ear? Ha ha- good question- it's a huge piece of dough that's flattened almost like a pizza crust, deep fried and then covered with sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice or whatever else you want to put on it. I prefer 'mouse ears' which are the smaller, kids version. They're good but really sweet and TERRIBLE for you! I think that must be a Midwestern thing because you're not the first person to ask!

Sarah said...

I wish I could be there with you...I miss Street Fair. And the mouse game!