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.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Waiting Room Blues

Tonight Mike had an allergic reaction and we went to the Emergency Room - serious business, joints swelling, welts, tight throat. He was fine after a half-hour IV drip. In the waiting room a TV mounted above the seats played a program on the assassination of Martin Luther King. Beneath, a large black woman sat breathing heavily, occasionally heaving and swallowing wetly. She stood up quickly, heels clicking as she made for the rest room. The sound of painful vomiting broke through the quiet waiting room. On the Screen Coretta Scott King wept. James Earl Ray proclaimed his innocence. The woman returned carrying a blue plastic vomit bag. She pulled out her cell phone and began a call, wiping her mouth with a napkin… “ I’m at the hospital. My stomach’s just knotted up. I’ve been throwing up since Wednesday, just real anxious. Sorry I called you and got all crazy like that… I’ve got to end that behavior, hurting people, being crazy to them… I know but you said you didn’t want to be with me like that no more… when I don’t talk to you for 8 hours, do you know what I’m thinking… You know my dad is getting older now and I’ve got to be ready for when he’s gone. I’ve got to be able to stay kind and get a good man to be kind to me and stay by me, so I’ll have something to love when he’s gone…”

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chicken Chokin'

Portland is crazy right now about raising poultry and I have three hens myself, so how did I end up driving across town on a bright, windy morning to a chicken choking? (I use the phrase literally so you can take your dirty minds to another blog right now.) Last Tuesday I taught Seth and Matlida how to kill chickens. As kid on a NC egg farm this was a regular occurrence. I was surprised back then and remain surprised at how calm and passive the animals become as you prepare them. They run like hell to avoid being caught but settle way down into themselves once you take hold of them, even as you grip the feet, tighten your hand round the neck, and give a sharp twist. Seth and Matilda (who is 13) went about the killing with a gentleness that came from both respect and inexperience. The roosters may have been strangled more slowly than is kind but they barely resisted. Without much struggle by man or beast, their eyes closed, their wings flapped in an empty imitation of flight, then they were still. Off came their heads, up went bodies for bleeding, and we set about plucking. Their skin was warm under our pinching fingers and loose feathers caught the light and mingled with the pollen blowing in the air.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Burnin' Down the House

Last year I spent the 4th in a Wal Mart parking lot watching fireworks with the rest of Herkimer NY, but also watching my father wrestle with Post Traumatic Stress disorder against a back drop of flashing lights, bomb sounds, and a brightly lit sign on the side of the store that read, in blood red script, ALWAYS. His face was impassive, a sure sign of struggle.

So you’d think that fireworks and warfare (and retail as well) would be permanently linked in my mind, but not so. This year each candy colored missile found me jumping, shouting, slugging beer; each bang and blast turned me to a happy, violent child, with no thought beyond the burning color and sound. If any memories slipped into this quick flaring present, they were of my father arriving home in his cop uniform with a load of confiscated fireworks, smiling and launching bottle rockets from the gravel driveway.

Today however, after a good look through the headlines, the only memory of the celebration that keeps its quick flaring innocence intact, is a scene from the park, long after the big fireworks had finished. Through the heavy trees and gunpowder haze, kids twirled sparklers in the distance, calling to mind an illustrated story of willow-the wisps, a half remembered, but still ominous sermon on Ezekial’s wheels and the beauty of Star Wars’ lazers when I was 11. Shadowy bodies moved around the spinning lights. A Roman candle launched with a whistle and struck the side of an immobile train.