I also have this recurring dream. In it, I’m practicing a gymnastics floor exercise routine. I run toward the edge of the floor and leap, turning to perform one full revolution midair. My arms whip around my sides, my fingers extend, and my toes point in anticipation of finding the floor again. Except I don’t land. I remain suspended, revolving slowly, and the realization hits that I’m floating. I’m giddy. I keep turning, slowly, around and around, wondering just how many flying pirouettes I’m going to be able to do before I lose my seemingly invisible wings. I never find out.
I’ve always wanted to fly.
My first roller coaster was Hersheypark’s Comet. I hated it. I was six and all I remember is staring glassy eyed down at my Little Mermaid jelly sandals, where Flounder and Sebastian were sadistically grinning up at me as I gritted my teeth and wished it was over.
I spent the rest of the afternoon looking back at it warily. Before we left, Dad asked if I wanted to ride again. It had started to rain and the top of the lift poking over the trees seemed to join forces with the foggy grayness, an ominous duo of hostility that mocked me, put me in my place, reminded me not to waste its time. I slowly shook my head, relieved to walk away and yet feeling greatly unsettled.
It had beaten me. This was entirely unsatisfactory.
The first question out of my mouth when my mom said we were going to Hersheypark was if they had a roller coaster. I wanted to like roller coasters. I’m not sure why I was so insistent about this. Maybe I’d seen a picture somewhere, liked how it looked, and wanted to be a part of something so aesthetically pleasing. At any rate, following the Comet incident, I was determined. I stubbornly pushed through the fear the next couple of seasons, riding what I felt I could handle, sometimes having to start by squeezing my eyes shut the whole ride and making myself ride again and again until I could go the whole way with eyes wide open.
Twenty years later and that obstinacy has had some long lasting effects. I could articulate my love for roller coasters using the standard worn and faded vocabulary—they’re fun, they’re fast, they’re an adrenaline rush. These are all true, but none adequately convey my reason for riding:
I love roller coasters because they make me feel like I can fly.
Think about it. Is there anything comparable to the corybantic shriek of PTC wheels tearing relentlessly through the night? The oddly satisfying soreness and bruises of back and thighs following a session of the aggressive flinging and catapultic floating that is a Mega-Lite? The subconscious muscle tensing that occurs in that split second after the chorus of air bursts that preempts a LIM launch? The surging adrenaline the first time a beyond vertical drop pulls that sudden disappearing act of the seat? The blossoming black spots and diminuendo that only the positive Gs of a Giovanola or Schwarzkopf can induce? The anticipation that comes with clicking anti-rollbacks and grease baking in the morning sun? The feeling of your face being ripped off when barreling down the first drop of a magnificently roaring B&M?
That’s what they are to me. That’s what makes me fly.
Okay, so a Wacky Worm isn’t quite going to accomplish that. Many coasters don’t, but enough do to keep me coming back because there is no feeling like it. It’s sheer euphoria. It’s freedom. It’s being in tune with the moment in a way that cannot be captured anywhere else.
There’s more to it than that, though.
I am a dromomaniac and I happen to be an anthropology nerd, too. I firmly believe amusement parks are a reflection of the cultures that house them. Amusement parks are the medium that satisfies my desire of seeing another place, another people, another culture firsthand. The universal goal of theme parks is to provide fun, but different areas of the world go about achieving that in a multitude of ways, with individual nuances in ride options, theming, food and entertainment that collectively offer a fascinating glimpse into the larger cultural picture.
Not that I’m not going to bore you to death with detailed structural functionalist analyses of, say, the Main Street U.S.A. model and its interpretations worldwide (btw, if anyone is ever asked in a trivia tournament to name the founder of anthropological structuralism, just answer with “some obsessive compulsive, naïve lunkhead pumped up with opiates.” You will win the round. Trust me).
No, the point of this site is to share my thoughts on some of my travels via photo trip reports, although they are photo reports with more text than most because that’s what I do. They have been created partly to feed my own creative energies and anthropological interests in documenting my memories, but they are also here as another outlet through which to hopefully provide some entertainment and further virtually indulge in this hobby that lets us scream, giggle, vehemently debate the pros and cons of Intamin restraints, love on Dollywood’s cinnamon bread, hate on Six Flags but visit them anyway because dammit, why did they have to get El Toro, credit whore, count Cedar Fair trash cans even though it’s not funny anymore, bitch, joke about when Flying Turns will actually open, and push down, pull up so we can get right back in line again.
And, if you’re like me, to fly.
Also, most of you are probably here because you’re procrastinating on something, so allow me to facilitate that process for you.