Deliverance From Space Mountain
June 27, 2012
I know, everyone is always sitting around waiting for a sign. It has taken me 53 years, but I can unequivocally say I got a sign.
It was on Space Mountain at Disneyland.
No, I am not saying that riding Space Mountain is a religious experience.
Far from it.
To me it is clearly one of Dante’s circles of hell.
I’ve never been a big fan of roller coasters. I usually exit them wanting to purge whatever I have eaten in the last year and generally feeling like I have been used as a floor mat in a flamenco dance studio.
One of my earliest memories is of being in the first seat on a roller coaster in Santa Cruz. My older brother thought it would be a hoot to tell the operator to put me and my somewhat older sister and our father in the front seat.
That was really fun. At least until I blacked out going down the first long drop. The legendary newspaper columnist Herb Caen once called the Santa Cruz Giant Dipper “one long scream.” Mine was apparently pretty short that day.
At least, I guess, with most outdoor roller coasters you have the “million dollar view” to appreciate, assuming that your eyeballs don’t go flying off into space if you crack open your eyelids for a millisecond.
The Giant Dipper is now a pretty tame coaster, I gather. There are roller coasters, that besides going forwards, go backwards, do corkscrews and even go upside down. I can assure you that those activities clearly exceed my personal design capacity.
At any rate, if you are outdoors, you are screaming in liters of fresh air as you whiz around. So there is an element of healthiness even as you cause your heart to explode. Even in Southern California.
Space Mountain is totally enclosed and dark. Very-very-very dark. Except for the flashing lights that make you feel as though you are being pulled over by every trooper in the universe.
As someone who gets the occasional light and stress induced migraine, darkness and flashing lights pretty much ruin any day I may be having. Even at the Happiest Place on Earth.
When I was younger – back in the last millennium - I went on Space Mountain a couple of times, simply because I was younger and it was there. That was enough. I’m pretty sure my pyloric antrum has still not forgiven me.
But now I have a son. And sons seem to have this genetic attraction to things like Roller Coasters. Supposedly, it has to do with an inherent desire to ramp up the adrenaline. Fine. I get that. Gotta teach the youngsters how to outrun cheetahs and saber tooths and whatnots.
But at my age, just getting out of the easy chair and heading to the refrigerator causes my endogenous plasma adrenaline to spike quite a bit, thank you very much.
Anyway, 11 year old boys are always eyeing some gigantic coaster and saying “hey Dad, let’s do that.”
And 50 year old Dads usually are thinking “just shoot me now.”
But that, of course, is the wrong answer.
You are in the last stages of that halcyon time, that golden decade, when your son still thinks the world of you. Soon it will be “Dad, give me the car keys and twenty bucks. And don’t you dare even open your mouth!”
And although I agreed to Thunder Mountain Railroad and the Matterhorn and Grizzly Mountain Rapids and Radiator Springs Racers (cool new ride!) it was not enough.
“I really want to go on Space Mountain.”
I convinced myself that it was indeed only a “couple of minutes” out of my life and I would eventually recover and if I went to my Happy Place (certainly not Space Mountain) for three minutes, I would eventually feel better, assuming I didn’t spew an IHop Sampler all over my fellow space travelers.
And plus, it was mid morning and there was hardly any line. Besides it was a sunny summer day and, really, what could go wrong?
So we waited in line for a short time and boarded.
Instantly we were in the dark, the lights were flashing, I felt several whiplashes and my duodenum began to protest. I immediately tried to do everything I could to hold down a pancake eruption.
And then, suddenly, the lights came on and we came to stop.
We were on a side rail inside the mountain next to a catwalk.
“Attention riders within Space Mountain,” a disembodied voice intoned. “Please remain in your vehicles. The ride will resume momentarily.”
Although we were not trapped inside of “Monstro” it was indeed as if we accidentally wandered into the Jonah and Whale attraction.
We sat there gawking at the Space Mountain internals. All the trusses and ibars and steel. All the tracks going this way and that. All the distance between our car and the bottom, several stories below.
Over the next several minutes, the message repeated itself. We remained in our vehicle. We did not try to exit or leave the ride. We chose to live.
Finally, we heard an official sounding person talking to another car on a different side rail. It was clear the ride would not resume “momentarily.”
After about 20 minutes in the belly of the beast, we were instructed on how to scramble out of the cars without falling to our deaths and we were led along several catwalks until we reached an exit door and then down several white hallways until we were given “make up passes” to be used to skip the lines on a later ride and then ushered back into the bright, warm, SoCal day.
That was my sign from God.
I had done the right thing, as a Dad, and agreed to do something I didn’t want to do just to make my son happy.
And God had rewarded me by cutting my torment mercifully short.
Okay, it wasn’t like Abraham and sacrificing his son or anything like that but it was a sign.
We went back to the ride two more times that day, but it was still closed. Gesundheit, God!
In the meantime, we rode Big Thunder Railroad and Grizzly River Rapids a few more times. But not, of course, California Screaming. Even Liam seemed put off by a ride in which you could hear the screaming all the way up in Modesto. (Of course, that isn’t literally true. I just wanted an excuse to write Modesto!!)
We even went back on the Soaring Over California ride that had made us think we were going to lose our shoes and stomachs as we were “flying” over the Pacific Ocean several years ago.
That night, we went back to Space Mountain one more time and that time it was open. My pyloric sphincter immediately began to tighten.
“Hey Dad,” Liam said suddenly. “I can do this by myself. You can wait for me.”
No one knows the Father except the Son.
Contact Dave at email@example.com
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