Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Weekend: The Agony and the Ecstasy

I'm coming off a pretty action-packed Labor Day weekend. No lollygagging about watching Top Model marathons this year. And I even have a brand new entertaining injury to show for it. That's the true mark of a weekend well spent.

It started, as all good weekends should start, with an early departure from work on Friday and multi-colored margaritas at Austin Grill with Beth, resulting in a stumble-filled walk home at the ripe hour of 3:00 pm. Off and running. The next morning, Mark and I headed north for my first proper visit home in four months. The main attractions back in beautiful Bucks County were barbecued hot dogs at Chez Shep, followed by a trip to New Hope to see Johnny C. and Jack Firneno play with Crow vs. Lion at John n' Peter's. It had been a few years since I'd hung out in New Hope. I used to go all the time when I was in high school and college, but before I could drink. It was a nice place to go if you were underage and wanted to pretend that you were doing something worthwhile with your time other than taking up space at the food court at the mall. I really ought to make a habit of coming back around more often, as it's even more entertaining when you can actually order more than mozzarella sticks at the bars. The boys played great, but we had to call it an early night (and inadvertantly miss a Ween sighting) in order to prepare for Phase II of the operation.

Phase II involved righting a long-standing wrong. Although I lived in New York City for three years, and fancy myself something of an expert, I had never been to Coney Island. I know it's not exactly Disneyland, but when I heard that they were scheduled to tear down Astroland after the summer, I figured it was time to correct this blemish on my record. So Mark, Bob, fresh-from-the-gig John and I took the 10 am train out of Hamilton up to NYC.

It takes a good hour to get out to Coney Island from Midtown, but it was a gorgeous day for it, and I got to see a lot of Brooklyn that had been hitherto unexplored. We were met at the subway station by Brooklyn's own Koz, who was delighted to play tour guide since he lived 15 minutes away. First order of business was to procure some genuine Coney Island hot dogs from Nathan's, which taste remarkably like the hot dogs at any other Nathan's, but still must be ingested. Mark got fried clams, which we all agreed was very wrong and annoyingly contrarian, even if his line did move a hell of a lot faster and the clams were admittedly tasty.

We visited the freak show, which was hosted by a nice gentleman who called himself Donny Vomit and during which the flame-eater seemed to light her eyeball on fire, which I'm pretty sure was a mistake. We paused by the main entrance to Astroland, wondering if we should go on the smaller rides first, but I was there on a mission, and that mission had to be executed.

I'm not a fan of roller coasters. In fact, I really, really hate them. If I turn out to be a bad person and am sentenced to an eternity in Hell, I know part of the deal will entail having that weird dropping feeling in your stomach for all time. The other part of the deal would probably involve moths and blue cheese, but that's another blog. Despite my aversion to coasters, I had resolved to go on the iconic Cyclone. It's a freakin' institution. And it's a gazillion years old. How bad could it possibly be? It didn't look that scary from the subway, so Bob and I paid the separate $8 fee to ride it, while the others, howyousay?, pussed out.

And then things went horribly wrong.

It started out so promisingly. It's like a log flume, I said to myself. No big. One big drop, and that's basically it. Scream it out. It will be fine. I was cool all the way up the big hill, and when we paused at the top, I warned Bob that I'd very likely yell.

The drop hit, and my butt left the seat, and before I could process the bad tummy-feeling, I was slammed back down and then thrown about on the most godawful, rickety, unstable ride imaginable. It's not that I was afraid, or felt unsafe. It was just that the entire ride consisted of very, very painful; vertebrae-crushing; neck-snapping; leg-smashing twists, turns and drops. It was like being in a car accident over and over and over for two minutes, and it left me bruised, battered, and with a hell of a pinched nerve in my neck that left me unable to turn my head for a day and a half.

Evidently, it also caused me to involuntarily unleash with the most profane tirade of expletives ever uttered. I knew I let out the odd m-f'er, but according to Bob the f-bombs started on the first drop and just kept coming -- at enormous volume. He also agreed that when I screamed, it wasn't a girly, whee-this-is-fun scream, but an unsettlingly manly, descending-into-the-vortex-of-death, type of noise. I asked him to re-enact it for my benefit, but he said it would make him blush to do so. And we're from a Navy family. AND we're Eagles fans. If only we had it on video, it would be YouTube gold.

Alas, we did not, and we were pretty much ruined for the rest of Coney Island. Despite the pain, we pressed on with the day, because even severe neck trauma is not justification for cutting short a trip to New York. We sought solace in soup dumplings in Chinatown...and ice cream a block away...and rice pudding in Little Italy...before we ran out of ideas and time and went home at sunset.

It's been two days, and my neck is way better. I still need the odd aspirin, but at least the mobility has returned. In spite of everything, I'm glad I went on it. I would have kicked myself for not trying it, and I can be proud of the fact that I overcame my fear and seized the moment. Sure, I was rewarded for it with deep, deep hurting, but I think I'm a better person for it in the long run.

As a postscript, last night I took an Oxycodone left over from when I had kidney stones, intending to help myself drift off to sleep pain-free. I zonked out on the couch, having left the water trickling in the sink to let the cat have a drink, and awoke to a very Zen-like splashing sound as the sink had been stopped up and water rushed all over the place with kitties frolicking in the puddles. Mark returned from an outing to find his drugged-out, stiff-necked girlfriend flitting about the apartment in her skivvies brandishing a wet vac and insisting that she's "got this." The parquet floor is hella warped, but we haven't had any complaints from the unit downstairs, so I think we're good. Don't do drugs, kids. And don't ride the Cyclone.

I was too rattled after getting off the ride to purchase a picture of Bob and I hurtling downhill, but here's a little drawing, rendered under the influence of narcotics, just like the masters: