September 13th, 2017

krazy koati

Help I'm stepping into the Twilight Zone

Besides the Crazy Mouse, Playland has a must-ride roller coaster. And besides that it has two other roller coasters, although those aren't anything terribly special. It also has a kiddy coaster that's of actual historical interest; it dates to 1928 and is one of the oldest wooden coasters out there. But that's not open to adults, which, based on what similar sized rides are, is probably a mercy to our knees. Certainly my knees.

But the must-ride adult coaster is the Dragon Coaster, which is what you'll see in any of the movies to have been filmed at Playland. (This includes Big and Fatal Attraction in case you need an 80s Amusement Park Movie Night.) Dragon Coaster is, remarkably, not the oldest ride in the park. It opened in 1929, two years after the park opened and a year after the Kiddy Coaster did. Anyway, it's a great roller coaster, complete with several things of particular delight to me: manual, lever-operated brakes, for example, and a curved loading platform, and a queue that doesn't let you pick your seats; you just get in line and hope you get to the seat you want first. Also a surprisingly recent addition of a big dragon facade to its tunnel, so that your train leaps into a dragon's mouth and twists around and comes out let's not think too hard about that because there's no really tasteful answers there. (You can get some glimpses of it, as well as some ride video and general pictures of the park, in the official video for Mariah Carey's ``Fantasy'' by the way.)

Another must-ride, at least by my lights, is underneath the Dragon Coaster. That's the Old Mill ride, another 1920s-vintage ride and one of the last tunnel-of-love style rides in North America that isn't in an old Popeye cartoon or something. It's one of only two in North America that I've ridden, and the other is in Kennywood where it's been re-themed to Garfield and left terribly boring. Playland's Old Mill was renovated in the 80s and yet looks strikingly modern. It's got a theme of gnomes mining, not necessarily safely, and has a number of really good pranks threatening riders with getting soaked or stuff tossed into them or the like. Also at least one quick shot of a dragon getting ready to eat you, so, great work all around.

By now we were getting starved, so bunny_hugger's brother asked what we wanted: pizza or French fries? Parks have generally gotten pretty good for vegetarian options, but one of the less-charming ways Playland has stayed retro is it really hasn't got, like, red bean burgers or something. We went with pizza, and lemonade, and walked over to one of the arcades. There had been pinball here before. There might be now.

There was! In the arcade next to the (non-racing) antique carousel was a Whirlwind that played much less brutally than the one at the National Championship/Women's World Championship. Of course, everything would. It also played less brutally than the one at the State Championship in MJS's pole barn although there, again, naturally.

They also had a Twilight Zone with the volume set to ``shake New York City to its foundations''. I am sometimes accused of exaggerating because I turn anything moderately outside average into the biggest or the tiniest thing that has ever existed. But when I say this pinball game was the loudest thing humanity has ever done that did not involve a ship full of picric acid catching on fire, I am understating. But the game absolutely thundered, especially when I managed (by luck) to score the Powerball Jackpot. Jackpots are already the loudest thing in the game, and here it was on a volume level designed to rattle our teeth out of place.

The game was also loud enough, and challenged by few enough other sounds, that bunny_hugger could for the first time recognize its background music. If there's no particular special mode going --- and the game has like fourteen modes, so there's often something else happening --- it plays an early-90s synthesizer rendition of Golden Earring's ``Bullet Hits The Bone'', one of the Dutch band's two songs to have been allowed into American pop culture. (The other is ``Radar Love'', which doesn't sound anything like ``Bullet Hits The Bone''. But they came out like ten years apart, and before 1993 ten years was long enough for popular music to change in sound.) But why ``Bullet Hits The Bone''? Because the lyrics include the words ``Twilight Zone'' is why. See my subject line today. Watch the video for it sometime; it exemplifies that early-80s video aesthetic of ``crazypants yet extremely literal to the verse''.

Also beside these two pinball machines --- and we were disappointed, kind of, that Bugs Bunny's Birthday Bash was no longer there (but wait!) --- was a little baseball game. The sort where you swing at a half-size pinball and try to reach hits and home runs and the like. The Silverball Museum has a couple of them. They hover around the edges of pinball (and probably, historically, gave the idea of the flipper to pinball), but when do we see them in playable shape on location? So it turns out that bunny_hugger's brother is a savant for this sort of thing, and I am not.

This little arcade is next to Playland's antique carousel, and we went there for the next ride. Fortunately, too; a couple weeks after our visit they would have a fire in the cupola of the building. The carousel, last I heard, was not believed to be significantly damaged and they plan to reopen the ride for next season. We were scared when we heard about the fire, though, and glad that we had visited earlier in the summer.

Trivia: Wednesday was attributed, in Rome, to Mercurius, the God of communication (hence its French name of 'mercedi' or Spanish of 'miércoles); in the Babylonian system it was named for Nabu, the god of scribes. Source: The Calendar: The 5000-Year Struggle To Align The Clock and the Heavens --- And What Happened To The Missing Ten Days, David Ewing Duncan.

Currently Reading: Acceptance, Jeff Vandermeer.


Not much of interest was happening at Earlham's reunion on Sunday, so we went looking for a letterbox instead. This is not the letterbox. This is some weird fungus-y mushroom? maybe? thing that we found on the way and that probably isn't an alien pod creature absorbing all of southern Indiana into its botanical biomass, but maybe someone should check on that while wearing an environmental suit and wielding a flamethrower? Hm?


Richmond (Indiana)'s rose garden, near where we found the letterbox and a site of apparently some prominence and historic importance in the rose-cultivating industry. The fountain's charming enough. The two women sitting on its rim were reading some book, possibly books, to each other.

PPS: Reading the Comics, September 9, 2017: First Split Week Edition, Part 2, plus some hard truths about the ÷ sign that I've seen going around Normal Twitter this past week.