Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Log flume...heed the signs, you will get drenched

An amusement park, a mystical place that upon entering a grown adult complete with adult responsibilities, a mortgage and a five series Mercedes instantaneously transforms into an eleven year adolescent: remiss of manners, all common sense and maturity. Once a park is entered as a society we don't care how we look, who we offend or what food we eat. Instead we have just one goal to make sure we ride as many rides as possible, no matter what our age. And now as parents we aim to squeeze out as much "fun" as possible out of the $120 bucks it took to enter that front turnstile. Like pre-teens girls running through a Jonas concert, we plow through the crowds, stepping on toes, running into strangers and merely glance at the directional signs as we push our way through winding corrals, mooing like cattle for their morning feed. If we would read the fine print maybe we would see that instead of warnings for pregnant women those signs actually did read: WARNING upon entering this park please keep in mind you are STILL 38 years old even though you THINK you are younger, your equilibrium has shifted therefore you WILL mostly likely get nauseous (even on the merry-go-round), you WILL surely act like an idiot and you WILL embarrass yourself many times over in the next 8 hours. Enjoy your "magical" day).

Now if you travel like us in the summer, the one day you choose to go to the park will be the one day that week it will rain or any afternoon after 3pm also works. Do not be afraid... remember you are now invincible. Outside those golden gates your adult self would take cover and avoid getting wet. Yet inside the illusion set in and you realize that you are not bothered by the rain, you have a plan and those tiny drips may as well be Tinkerbell's fairy dust because dammit, you are not leaving the park, you are not ducking for cover...(enter idiot mentality) and if those pansies ahead of you are going to step out of line to stay dry so be it, that just gets you to your goal, I mean ride, a little quicker. We stand and we push and we stand some more. We "agree" to ride rides with names like the MindEraser (enter nausea here). And of course, I am bored...waiting in line after line, thinking that my time could be better spent sitting in the beer tent making nice with the bartender while the kids wander aimlessly through the park unattended. (Of course that would never happen, as my child is the one with my cell phone number written in ballpoint pen across her forehead). But what's with the kids, what else do they really have to do today? Where do they need to go in such a hurry? At least they have the option to call up one of their "imaginary friends" who do I talk to? So they complain and whine and we smile with fake contentment as we scoot slowly towards the front of the line. We work overly hard to keep the kids busy, our minds off the rain above, off the beer tent across the park and away from the man with a lazy eye in front of us that smells like wet dog and cigarettes and keeps trying to make small talk.

Next up..the log flume. Now this is a line I can stand in. Watching these people is like a double episode of America's Funniest Videos. Have you ever really watched people on a log flume? In Elitch Gardens, Six Flags, the flume is a pretty simple ride it travels up 100 ft and comes crashing down the other side, glides under a bridge and it's over. Three minutes of thrill, 30 seconds of nauseousness and a minute and a half of complete torrancial disaster. You can not believe how drenched these people actually become and when you see their faces, and how horribly disappointed they are when they realize not only that they are wearing jeans but they just spent an hour in line now to walk around in wet underwear AND jeans. And you know nothing quite goes with heel blisters and heartburn than a little butt chafing while standing in line for 8 hours. And it gets even better. Remember that bridge I mentioned, well you have to cross that bridge to exit the ride, but no one realizes it until it's too late. So while Bob and Judy are comparing how wet they are, Judy realizes that she is wearing white shorts and we can see her flowered panties, so she starts to argue with Bob about who is going to run to the car to grab some dry gym clothes...and WHOOSH, they are drenched again crossing the bridge while the next flume travels down in all its tidal wave glory. Here the magic stops. I saw it happen again and again, elated smiles and adolescent faces gone sour, along with the rush of the tidal waves came the mortgage, ruined cell phones and harsh reality. Fortunately I read the sign...WARNING you will get drenched...and we worked the wetness into our day, chaffing included.

Line--ride, line--ride, line-- ride, on and on we go hour after hour and just when you think you there is nothing left to complain about, and you have offered the kids every treat, ride and played every game in the park...they find the one item you have not afforded them. For us it is the cheap-ass stuffed animal made in China that they simply have to have to go along with the small country of stuffed animals shoved under their bed. Oh no, you see it coming and want to stop, you have made it 7hours today without an altercation. I will hold it in, I will hold it in and then finally you EXPLODE. Before you know what has happened you are knee deep into the "you should be grateful speech" while waiting in line for the tilt-a-whirl. You have commandeered the ride operator's microphone because you figure you are doing the other parents a service yelling at their children while yelling at yours. You know the speech, "you should be grateful we brought you here, you should be grateful mommy and daddy work hard so that we can pay for that bucket of popcorn you spilt all over the ground two minutes ago and you should be grateful that we even decided to have kids as we were having a grand time before you poked out your little head and turned our entire world upside down. And if you ask for ONE MORE THING, we are out of here".

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Michael Jackson...on Facebook?

We all have a similar memory...it is safe to say that we can all remember exactly where we were when we heard the death of an A- list celebrity. My mother can tell you exactly where she was when she heard about the death of John Lennon, she heard it on the radio. I remember hearing about the death of Princess Diana in a hotel elevator in Houston as it was being shown on the news. And how I heard about the death of Michael Jackson, King of Pop, one of the greatest musicians of my young life... on Facebook.
And for three days after every one's status had something to do with MJ. On one hand, I was completely annoyed...these people didn't know Michael, neither did I of course, but I wasn't going to post an hour by hour status of how much I missed him and his music. Then I began to realize, Facebook is our generation's only way of expressing ourselves. We don't pick up the phone to talk anymore, we write short text sentences on our iphones and our days can be summed up in a 10 word status sentence. Why wouldn't people express their sadness on Facebook, this was the only place someone would listen. And being the first "pop icon" of our generation to die it was our mortality that also was now in question. It made me wonder as I look at my kids ---who will be their Michael Jackson? Who will inspire them to dance and sing out loud and moonwalk across the dance floor, albeit badly? And when that icon dies where will they be when they find out and what medium will they hear it from?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gathering around a large table...

We love food. Eating dinner with my family is more like playing a full 18 holes of golf than just putting around. Maybe because I am part Italian, or maybe I just like to eat, not sure. As you can imagine it is fortunate that the Big Cheese likes to hit the links with me. OK so we love food, but what we enjoy the most is sharing the time together at the dinner table actually “talking” to each other after a busy day apart "as a family". Eating in or out, once we had the kids we vowed that dinnertime would be our family bonding time and for this reason Mac and Cheese have always been expected to sit at the table for the entire duration of a meal. Sure they are not angels, we have had to endure some small funnel clouds and every now and again a full blown tornado, but for the most part, eating as a family is an important part of our routine both at home and away.

So we wound up our summer vacation last week and I have to say we ended on a high note, high as in that is what the scale said. We truly ate our way up the Atlantic coast, ending in Boston, known for their Italian cuisine and seafood. We were in town for the 4th of July and man did we go out with a bang, actually more like a five lb. bottle rocket. Traveling with my family goes mostly like this, we choose where we are going to eat our next meal and then we search to see what attractions surround that specific restaurant. I am not kidding, as we pass around the Tide stain stick to get the jelly out of our shirts and brush the croissant crumbs off of our jeans we are lining up our next food attraction. Normally, I don't feel that guilty after I indulge because I know that walking the five to ten miles across a city will help to ward off some of the potential weight avalanche but this trip was different. It couldn't come at a worse time as my 20th High School Reunion is less than a month away. So in retrospect maybe I did look a little silly cruising the cobble stone streets of Boston doing arm circles and squats, but did everyone have to stare?

I won't bore you with the play by play of our meals. But since I am part Italian I will write of just one excursion. So we blew into Bean Town on a Friday night, and no sooner had we dropped off our luggage we were off to our first meal, a restaurant called Cantina Italiana. It was boasted as one of the oldest family owned Italian restaurants in Boston and it was every bit authentic. If eating with my family is an an Olympic event...eating with an Italian family is the 26K Marathon. After you "manja" on your antipasto, you will literally have the time to run around the block before your plate of ravioli is served and once again before your main course. Not sure how they do it, but they space out the courses so just enough time passes that you are convinced that you are in fact hungry again. Now wash a four course meal down with a craft of Chianti and you too will be muttering like Marlon Brando. Me, I was "muttering" Italian, I mean hey these were my people and the more Chianti I drank the more I felt myself transform into Carmella Soprano. I even dropped the “a” when I ordered "moozzerell and tomato" salad. I was in my element, or so I thought. I was so comfortable that I made a request to the traveling accordion player. I asked him to play “Aye, yai, yai yai" aka Cielito Lindo. Yes, friends that is a Spanish song, argh, back to Gringo status.

Sure we did other things while in Boston besides eat and drink. We did see the Boston Pops set up for their 4th of July show, tour the children’s museum and the Boston aquarium. We stopped to watch the street vendors perform at Faneuil Hall and took our picture with the "Silver Girl" statue. We walked part of the Freedom Trail and squeezed into the bar from the TV show “Cheers”. We will remember it all, but it is the local food and spending time gathered around a large table with our family we will remember the most. (Although I think the kids will remember eating crab legs with a rock and a lobster bid while ruining their clothes with drawn butter.) In any case, we need to take advantage of these moments while our kids still think we are cool enough to eat dinner with (even if their mother is a poser). What is going to stop them in the next couple of years from plotting their own “Boston Tea Party.” I mean seriously why can’t they?