Saturday gave us cause to think about the contingencies of history.
When bunny_hugger and I first went to Seaside Heights, we parked at pretty much the first lot we could find, and then went to the Casino Pier, where we spent most of that perfect day, because it was the nearer of the two once we reached the boardwalk. What if we had been a block or two farther south, and gone to Funtown Pier instead? Likely we'd have had a wonderful time together, because it turns out nearly all time together is wonderful. And we would have enjoyed a respectable wild mouse and a tiny but thus exciting looping roller coaster. But would it have been that day, that perfect one whose touch still reaches out and makes us quiver with joy?
Probably not. Funtown Pier has maybe as many rides, but it skews more toward kid rides that we wouldn't go on or wouldn't be interested in. We would probably go back to Seaside Heights because of its nearness and the roller coasters there, and the delight of being on the oceanfront, but it would probably not be a place of pilgramage, one of the precious jewels in our history.
But it went right that day, and it's inspired us to return there nearly every time bunny_hugger is out here, even in the dead of winter when the boardwalk is almost tucked in for the winter.
Saturday afternoon --- after all the activity of Friday we slept in --- bunny_hugger noted one of those things which would have been a great coincidence if we'd noticed. They were having a special event, two-for-the-price-of-one sales for school teachers for the ``ride and slide'' wristband, good for unlimited rides on all of Casino Pier and the water park through into the night. They might not have meant faculty of mid-Michigan universities, but she certainly seemed to satisfy the letter of the advertisement. Unfortunately sales stopped at noon.
I thought we should go anyway, though, and get the ride-and-slide wristbands, which even though pricey (shockingly close to Six Flags prices, if you don't count parking) I thought would probably be more economical than buying ride tickets and save us from the hassle of keeping books of tickets and tearing off six or seven or eight for each ride. bunny_hugger likes the old-fashioned charm of the ride tickets, which is not our most serious difference of opinion but is a curious one. I suspect I'd like the tickets better if the booklets weren't so hard to keep in one's pocket between rides. (bunny_hugger had a strangely hard time buying her wristband; the sales clerk seemed to be taking the warning that the water park, which we weren't interested in, would be closing in just a couple hours as a chance to try talking her out of the ticket altogether. Mostly it made me realize that I was a cad for not buying both wristbands.)
Part of the day was spent touching back on things which we had done before, weaving the day with the thread that runs back to 2008 and forward to the unknowable future. The Mighty Mouse, the Star Jet, the wonderfully overstuffed Stillwalk Manor dark ride were there and much as we remembered them. (Well, they've clearly got new brakes on the roller coasters and are showing them off, to the rides' detriment, but I figure they'll get that in balance soon enough. Also the zipper wild mouse rides at Hersheypark and Dorney may be spoiling me.) We even rode the Pirate's Hideaway again, a mostly indoor and tiny roller coaster with the pier's only on-ride photograph booth. Our photo from the first time is one of our greatest pictures, both of us looking joyful even as my bulk obscures the kid who was sitting behind me. This time we didn't have a picture that was as good, but I also didn't cut my feet on the car interior.
Despite the pier being small and our having spent many, many hours on it, there were still things to discover and rides we'd never been on before. The biggest discovery was the rooftop mini-golf, which though not covered by the ride-and-slide fee (grumble) made up for it by having an impressive 25 (count 'em) holes, spread over the roofs of four or five boardwalk concessions --- there's small bridges to get from one to the next --- and some surprisingly devious mini-courses with abundant statues. They even have that object much talked about in miniature golf but, in my experience, rarely seen: the spinning windmill.
There's also squirrels, skunks, foxes and other animals, all represented by the same sculpture with just slightly different painting on them. There's tigers and lions; there's also a hole which the name claims to be bears, but which has only the one bear in evidence. There's another one where the name is completely out of synch --- I think it was ``monkey'' --- with the kangaroo statue in place. The course also takes golfers near to the giant Alfred E Neuman-esque statue that looms far above the building and peers down to the boardwalk. It's a great little course. The only problem is one hole with a water trap, as the water looks like it's been there for years without circulation. Of course, my ball went right into it; bunny_hugger hit the ball throughthe little hole-ramp part that deposited her safely on the green.
Another ride we took for the first time was Centrifuge, which being completely enclosed makes its actual contents mysterious. This one's pricey, as many tickets as the roller coasters or Stillwalk Manor have. The actual core of the ride I'm not sure I want to spoil the mystery about, although it is made more exciting by being in the dark with only strobe lights while the ride is in motion. That makes the ride more thrilling, certainly; it also hides what's visible during loading and unloading, namely that the outskirts of the room are used for storage of things like an old water-balloon race game or a cotton candy billboard.
Walking in is a grand old-school bit of sensory distortion, though: youwalk through a dark hallway into a bridge over a cylindrical tube. Around the tube spots of light are spinning, rapidly. It's hard to overcome the eye's direction that you're lurching to the right. I fell against the railing and I'm made a little dizzy by remembering it. bunny_hugger, better experienced in such matters, closed her eyes to cross the bridge. But between this experience and the mystery house at Dutch Wonderland I'm gaining a new appreciation for the optical illusion of rotating things around the unmoving observer. The blasted things work
Another ride we hadn't been on before was Moby Dick, a kind of Miami, which is a long row of seats that, in motion, swing left to right in ever-increasing arcs until they go full loops. This is more disorienting than it seems at first, since relatively few rides do move side to side. Most have the shocks be forward and back, or have a steady rotating motion. bunny_hugger had been reluctant to try it as she does get motion sickness on rides that aren't much like roller coasters, but she braved it and found it more fun than she expected.
Also I showed Playland what-for by riding the bumper cars here, even if I was too tall for Playland's bumper cars. There were several massive collisoins, as should be, but I managed to miss just about all of them, and even built up some good speed in the free areas.
bunny_hugger gave in to a mild temptation, that of running up her count of roller coasters ridden now that she's aware she's above 100, by going with me onto the kiddie coaster there. I did ask her whether she really sincerely wanted to ride it, and was not just interested in getting the score on her semi-imaginary list run up, and she felt she wanted to ride it to ride it and I accepted that. That's maybe the benefit of buffet passes instead of buying by the ticket: it makes it much easier psychologically to say ``yes'' to marginal cases. I think we were right to ride it; it's not thrilling, but it's cute and fun and isn't that plenty?
This ``family'' coaster, Hot Tamales, is tiny, and the track amounts to a most short loop with rises and falls. It makes up for the tiny length by the operator giving multiple rides; for us, we got five circuits of the track, which is maybe just too many. It's also amusing for keeping up the public-domain-cartoon motif that runs through much of the pier --- they have figures that are just short of Mighty Mouse, the Preston Blair rabbit from every how-to-draw-cartoons book ever, various of the Hair Bear Bunch, and so on --- by having the front be just enough off model of Speedy Gonzales to satisfy a court of law, probably. At least, it has the chest, arms, and head of Speedy Gonzales's non-union Mexican equivalent, poking out the front car. His tail alone extends from the rear car, giving just that hint of the horrifying transporter accident to things.
While there weren't any major new changes to the pier since our last visit, there were small new changes. The best of this was in the Musik Express, where not only is it a loud and fast ride with an operator who breaks into the music and urges the riders into making noise --- this may sound like little, but it turns a basic ride into one of the best, and one we rode more than anything else, even counting the nearby Star Jet --- but now they've added, mid-ride, a shower of soap bubbles. This may sound like little more, but it makes the ride far more festive and even magical. There's some kind of pure joy in finding a soap bubble; the shower of them on the ride is giddy enough, but the fact that some survivors stray around the pier, so you might encounter them anywhere, adds makes more whimsical what is already a lighthearted event.
We did suffer a few little disappointments. The flyer, for example, where one lays down in the harness and gets swung to reasonable heights, was closed each time we walked past. A shame, but, a small one. More serious was that we did at the end of the night walk down to a salt water taffy shop, only to find it was closed. We couldn't assemble boxes of select taffies. Other shops with prepackaged boxes were still open, and that was fine, but it meant bunny_hugger couldn't aim for really choice flavors like peanut butter mixes.
But then there were deeper slightly strange moments. One of them is about what we ate: hot corn on the cob, for one, with a mix of spices and shredded cheese. I'm familiar with corn and butter, but cheese? Chili? These are strange to me. They also made a slight pile of food-y debris by that side of the hot corn's counter, but that's their problem. It tastes awfully good, though.
Our main meal we got at one of the boardwalk food stalls, one underneath the mini-golf if I'm not mistaken. I got a veggie pita and onion rings. This may not sound all that noteworthy, except: a veggie pita is more or less a healthy meal, certainly in the context of an amusement pier or park. This raises a curious point.
bunny_hugger and I had been to three amusement parks that week, plus to the Chelsea Piers to ride a carousel (and, for that matter, to the Freehold Raceway Mall for another carousel), and in all that time we hadn't eaten any stereotypically fair-type food. The only greased or fried thing we had all week was the onion rings, and those weren't excessively fried. We weren't specifically looking to evade fried batter in dip with cheese sauce, but we managed it anyway. Admittedly, if we had more time at Dorney or Playland we probably would've grabbed something, at least to eat some proper fair food, but as it turned out, we just ate like grownups all week.
The Floyd Moreland carousel was still running and in good shape, despite the band organ not playing.
We stayed up to midnight, enjoying the majestic glow of the piers at dark which made all the rides so much more, and just in time to catch a few sprinklings of rain. That, and the Berkeley Sweet Shop being closed, and the feeling that we'd certainly done well with the wristbands, encouraged us to call it a most happy day. Rain came and went on the way home, and we decided to just go home rather than stay and eat somewhere.
In the night, it would really rain.
Trivia: The Babylonian Zodiac sign corresponding to the Latin Sagittarius was the Name of God. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.
Currently Reading: Tulipomania: The Story Of The World's Most Coveted Flower And The Extraordinary Passions It Aroused, Mike Dash.