The ups & downs of progress.

Last week I wrote about my daughter and her camp which was not Space Camp, “and not even camp.” After the closing ceremonies, which consisted of a few politicians lecturing parents about the importance of maintaining the space program (might you be preaching to the choir??), a former astronaut reminiscing about the good ol’ days of freedom when he could pee without having to unzip anything, and a snack table full of freeze dried ice cream and cups of Tang, we decided the next day would be spent in as brainless a fashion as is possible for Americans.

We would visit …The Amusement Park.
Historically, the village fair birthed our modern day theme parks, providing everything from a celebration of a seasonable crop to a tranquil stroll about purposefully grown pleasure gardens. Games, food and freak-show attractions found homes in many of these fairs with the eventual addition of music, exhibits, and the ever-increasing playground of rides.

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The world’s fair was a step closer to our current experience, where the human imagination was catapulted forward from the introduction to the newest advances in industry and economic innovation. For a well-worded, artfully painted picture into the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, Illinois, I highly recommend Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City. You won’t be disappointed.

And where would this growing world of entertainment have ended up if Walter Elias Disney had not thrown his mouse-eared hat into the ring? Granted, there were other theme parks in operation before Disneyland, but Walt had a way of taking a kernel of an idea, heating it up and allowing it to explode into a bucketful of fluffy success.

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Somewhere along the way from searching for a brief respite among the well-placed garden benches to opening a park filled with amusements meant to stimulate imagination and foresee the awe-inspiring future, someone announced that life was too safe, our days too dull, and our pulses to slow. What the world truly needed was an experience that you may or may not come away from still fully intact.

Cue the roller coaster.

The first of their kind were “ice slides” constructed in Russia during the 15th century. And since there wasn’t nearly enough excitement or danger involved in free falling wagons that had no directional control, folks went to work upping the ante. How far to the edge could engineering go before engineering failed? Well, only death would tell us.

And death has been known to shout its accomplishments from a great height and with amplification. The number of folks killed on roller coasters is less than a million, but more than one. Still, that’s a number I don’t like to fool around with. It just seems to me that if a theme park’s ride is reported to have let loose one of its passengers from somewhere around 75 feet above the earth, the response from said theme park CEOs should probably not include words like, “Well, it was a thirty second spot on the local news and only page four in the paper. We can do better. Shut her down so we can speed things up and add on fifty feet. Aim to reopen with a big splash next month.”

In my opinion, the swivel chair facing my computer has tougher federal regulations than some of the coasters out there today.

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But this doesn’t stop the diehard fan of fun. Roller coasters–made of either wooden rails or tubular steel, advertising engineering feats of vertical loops, whirling corkscrews and plunging nose dives–dot world maps entitled ‘Where to get Whiplash’ like the skin of a kid with chickenpox. It’s universal. People want sixty seconds of living life at fevered pitch with the added attraction of a brain so addled afterward you may need to repeat elementary school.

Traveling in the park with the family is tricky in that you’ll likely need to split up. Not everyone is going to want to wait in line for forty-five minutes for a heart-stopping brain scramble. Especially if you’ve passed the age of, “Hell yes, I’ll try it!”

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This means three out of the four of us go in a clump, and I find the Birds of Prey exhibit, where most of the large vulture-esque creatures on the inside of the cages are eyeing the hoary-haired, age-ridden mortals on the outside of said cages, viewing the scene as if it were soon to be a lunch buffet.

Knowing my daughter has never been tempted by roller coasters gave me comfort in that usually I had a companion on the non thrill seekers rides: the decrepit train that circled the outside of the park, the sky ride gondola that limps along a wire just at tree top level, and the tram that takes you from one parking lot to the other. All rides meant to show you how much fun everyone else is having and how much you’re missing.

And then her “Hell yes, I’ll try it!” gene kicked in.

I was on my own while the rest of the family rode the coasters.

I waited worriedly, keeping myself busy watching vendors fill waffle cones, and finally got a text from my daughter.

“I am most definitely a roller coaster person.”

​“How much of a roller coaster person?” I texted back.

“All of the roller coasters person. And some twice person.”

Ugh. I was worried. All that time spent developing her mental capacity, and organizing her brain cells to respond specifically to requests for untangling formulas and equations: was it damaged?

I asked her, “Can you still add and subtract?”

Her response? “1 + 1 = 4GS.”

Well, at least her snark gene is still intact. Relieved, I got back on the smoke-belching, ancient railroad trolley and inched my way through the pleasure gardens. This was the level of death by amusement I could handle.

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Choo choo!


Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.

10 thoughts on “The ups & downs of progress.

  1. Good morning Shelley,

    Thinking back to Valley Fair (pre-performance days), upon our many travels there with the family or whatever group we were in, until the age of 18, I vaguely recall, was for some reason unable to find enough courage to ride those speed rails. I always seemed to be more of the “bumper car guy.”

    Then, while working there one day (and most likely persuaded by one of the many beautiful women I worked with), I couldn’t seem to get enough… (that’s of the roller coster rides, right).

    Against all better moral thoughts, I was alway able to jump to the front of the line with my cohorts and ride until the park turned off the power, literally. The faster, the more twists, the steeper drop (at an inverted decline and G-force that allowed your eyes to see behind you), the better. Today, I couldn’t fathom even going to an amusement park and that’s merely due to the massive crowds; that, and I’m cheap.

    Now, I get enough of a rush waiting to see if my ballotine de faisan fully cooked through without drying out, or the Monk poissons pâté en croûte’s vent doesn’t cave in. Even waiting to see if I made the correct raft for ultimate clarification atop my Consommé chasseur is enough to make one’s heart beat race.

    Life is different but I commend your endorphin analgesic effect seeking kin looking for that next higher natural rush. Me, well if you have room, I’ll join you on the slow railed locomotive that circles the park. I’ll bring the cards.

    P.s. Almost forgot, the other “rush” I can’t seem to run fast enough away from is when my children say, “hey Pop’s, watch this!”

    Stoshu 🙂

  2. Very cute, shell bell- as for tebe – I will be nice. As for Auntie sussie I think my brain was left in bits and pieces at the space mountain of yes not one but 2 (disney theme parks). I needed to spread that around you know – coast to coast. shall do

    • I think a lot of peoples’ brains have been left in bits and pieces scattered about Space Mountain after having taken a ride. But those Disney folks are super smart. The whole ride is in the dark, so you don’t have to view the mess. 😉

  3. Ha, ha, ha, love the Snark Gene! Rob’s cartoons are soooo good, your writing as well, very enjoyable post. I used to be a coaster gal, but age caught up with me and my joints can’t take it any more. That’s my story…

    • I totally buy your story, Ardy. With your zest for travel and zipping around the world, the thrill of a coaster would not surprise me.
      And many thanks for the Gado Gado recipe. It looks so good-oh good-oh!
      Can’t wait to try it. 😉

  4. Shelly — Fingers crossed I get this posted correctly. This is a modified version of the comment I posted on the website for Rob you gave me. (Just not certain if it actually uploaded on his site.) You are included in the well-deserved accolades!

    You [Rob] are not an easy man to track down … even in cyberspace. I happened upon Shelly Sackier’s marvelous blog Her writing is thoroughly entertaining and delightful. HOWEVER, the doodles you add (which by the way are also thoroughly entertaining and delightful) enhance each post so together it is far more joyous than it would be separate. I’m tripping over my words here. Bottom line. I LOVE your doodles. I love her writing style. Together you two are an incredible team! (And that you’ve never met makes the story all the more fun!)

    If you’re so inclined, I’d love you stop by my site … one doodler to another.

    Thank you for teaming up with Shelly to spread a bit of good cheer!

    • Your heartfelt words and sentiments make the two of us (Rob and me) sing! We’re both so happy you like what we’re doing and hope to continue giving you a good weekly giggle. Working with Rob is an effortless pleasure and the blog truly comes to life with his illustrations.
      Thank you again for your kind words, Tana!

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