Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Once upon a time...

O.K. kids, take a piss for the road, pile into the car and don’t touch each other! We’re off to the Enchanted Forest!

For those who haven’t been, this old-school them park has all the touching, musty charm of a children’s book found in an attic. There’s a story trail complete with cobwebby, plaster tableaux from fairy tales and nursery rhyme murals that maight have been painted by Henry Darger. There’s a The Seven Dwarves’ Mine with glowing jewels and underground streams of what seems to be anti-freeze. There’s a haunted house (a good one!!) And my favorite – a mechanical rabbit that may be helping Cinderella make the beds but, bouncing beneath a ratty quilt, the little feller seems to be jacking off, triggered, of course by children walking up to the display glass. At the Cinderella Theatre, a very gay boy in drag played the good fairy of course. In Western Town you can have your picture taken with a tall Abe Lincoln who radiates a strange, almost Zen-like aura of content –especially for a man in his late 30’s who works in an amusement park. Abe happens to be the Park founders’ son and grew up in the Forest. Here’s a clue to how that kind of childhood might affect a person – the beard is real. Another Civil War era left over – popping from their pie, the 5 and 20 black birds sing with voices straight out of Uncle Remus. Blackbird or Jim Crow?

To add the thrills of the day, we had to keep an eye on poor Miles, who was on pain killers and about to pass a good size kidney stone. I thought the log ride would surely end in a bloody ejection. The pressure has been building for weeks so it was quite possible that the released stone could have taken out the eye of small child.

Luckily there was bloodless fun for all, and I was happy to see children everywhere who didn’t seem to miss the fuel-injected thrills of larger, flashier places. Like the castle where Beauty slept, aside from cobwebs and weeds, change doesn’t seem to happen here. In the twists typical of capitalist magic, the sound and fury of the monster parks bestow a sleepy innocence on this left over consumer kingdom. In fact, the magic of the Enchanted Forest is not that it has the timeless quality of fairy tales, but that it has a historically specific atmosphere. The once upon a time in this case is 1964, the date the park was built. The real enchantment here is that attractions age backward in time – rides have been added as late 2004, but contemporary design melts away into the gentle, slightly stale spell of the place.