Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Cycling Through The Sky"

I love writing stories where I’m brave. I have so few of them to draw on. The following is one of them. Treasure it. It’s extremely rare.

On my last birthday, I wrote about treating myself to a ride on a Ferris Wheel, the one in question located on the Santa Monica Pier, about six blocks from my house. At this moment, I can see it out my office window. Or I could, if there weren’t this annoying clump of trees blocking my view. I can imagine seeing it out my office window.

As a result of that posting, I received a comment from Allan R., which read, in part:

“I’ve never taken a ride on a Ferris Wheel…My birthday is not until June, so I have time to consider it. But I really don’t like heights, so what’s the appeal?”

First, some immediate background. I took the Ferris Wheel ride for two reasons – one, because it was my birthday, and two, because fourteen months earlier, I had taken a ride on that same Ferris Wheel the day before my heart surgery, and I wanted to celebrate the contrast between me, shaking in my boots before going under the (robotically manipulated) knife, and me, feeling fully recovered two birthdays later.

So there’s that.

I also went up on the Ferris Wheel because I like how it feels. A liberating ascent from the earth, which, if you’re facing in one direction, offers a panoramic view of the Santa Monica coastline, and if you face the other way, you are greeted with a vast expanse of ocean as far as the eye can see. If your eyes are really good, you can see Hawaii. But they have to be really good. (My eyes aren’t that good. But I can see airplanes headed for Hawaii.)

Generally speaking, I am not a “rides” person. There were amusement park rides in Toronto of the stomach-dropping variety that I’d never go near. One was called “The Whip”, which, does that really need further explanation?

“The Whip”?

Another “Not for me” ride was “The Rotor.” You stand against the wall of “The Rotor”, the thing starts spinning around, and when it reaches maximum speed,

The floor drops out.

And you’re standing on nothing.

The centrifugal force of the motion plastering you against the wall.

I passed on that one too.

Over the years, not much in this regard has actually changed. Though, sometimes, I set aside my reservations and foolishly relent.

Not long ago, I was challenged to take a ride on “Space Mountain” at Disneyland – which can accurately be described as roller coaster in the dark. And for some inexplicable reason, I agreed.

As I careened crazily through the inky blackness, I could distinctly hear myself screaming, “I am going to die!” Later, as I continued around the park, total strangers would come up to me, asking me if I was okay. My complexion had apparently turned a worrisome green.

By contrast to these dubious sources of entertainment, the Ferris Wheel, though it does ascend (not all that high) into the air, is relatively benign, rising skyward with a gentle rocking motion. No abrupt changes in speed, no suddenly wrenching dips or drops. Overall, it’s a pretty comfortable ride. Though, I’ll admit, it is not entirely risk free.

Once, when we were kids visiting the Canadian National Exhibition, my grandmother invited my older brother and myself to take a ride on the Midway’s towering Ferris Wheel.

Now, one of the potential eventualities on the Ferris Wheel, is that, sometimes, for reasons generally unclear to the riders, the Ferris Wheel will come to an unexpected stop, and if your car happens to be situated at the top of the wheel’s rotation, you are, momentarily at least, pretty much stranded, your car rocking motionlessly in the breeze.

Well, that’s what happened to us. After an extended wait at the time, my brother took the opportunity to throw up, his semi-digested chunks spraying the passengers in the car directly below us.

Since we were currently suspended in space, with nowhere to escape to, angry shouts of “What’re ya doin’, eh?” came flying up in our direction. My brother, however, eluded the abuse with an ingenious ruse.

He blamed me.

And the people believed him. Why not? A skinny kid with glasses – I looked like someone who would throw up on a Ferris Wheel. My more muscular brother, on the other hand, seemed an unlikely vomiter, though, on that occasion, that had actually been the case.

To answer your question, Allan, despite the occasional surprises, which, to me, simply add to the adventure, I recommend a celebratory ride on a Ferris Wheel. It’s easy and it’s fun.

But the recommendation comes with a caveat, in the form of wise words once delivered by ventriloquist Senor Wences’s dummy.

In the act, Senor Wences is smoking a cigarette, when he says to his dummy, “Would you like a puff?” The dummy replies, “I can’t.” Senor Wences replies, “Why not? It’s easy.” To which the dummy replies,

“For you, easy. For me, difficult.”


Max Clarke said...

Good answer to his question.

I skipped that "Rotor" ride also, but that image of people spinning with nothing under their feet sticks with me. Guess I figured I'd be the one who fell down through the machinery.

The Ferris Wheel is a terrific ride, a gentle and circular slow flight.

It's also featured in one of the best movies done in the 40s, The Third Man. A crucial scene between Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton takes place on a ferris wheel ride in post-war Vienna.

safemeds said...

This is perfect when we writing stories which make us so happy, it should be something that comes from inside of us like this reading in here, I agree with this.