Best Summer Ever, part 3. Goth Night at the Amusement Park
Yesterday we took our first trip of the year to Lakeside Amusement Park. Even though it’s on the opposite side of Denver, it’s under 20 minutes from our house to the parking lot. Lakeside is one of my favorite places in Denver. It reminds me of different things, in a déjà vu way, like living in the Philippines and being a kid in the 1970s. The park is far less upscale and fancy than the more-everything Elitch Gardens. I consider this a huge bonus, but everyone feels at home in different places. Outside of hurting people or cutting in line, few things seem to bother anyone at Lakeside–another huge plus, not just because we can do/be whatever we want, but we get to watch everyone else doing it too.
On the way out, we saw the man who slept all day on the couch that I left out back by the garage. It surprised me that none of my family flinched, they just went about their business. While I thought about how stupid it now seemed to leave a couch in the alley parking cove, M gave our new roommate a couple of dollars. He mentioned that he needed to get something to drink, which he and M interpreted very differently. But since they both seemed happy with the way it turned out, I kept my mouth shut.
On moderately busy nights, Lakeside is open until 11, and I’ve been there on nights when we rode till past midnight. I’ve never really felt like the evening ended too early. We got there at 6 pm, and immediately the kids started loudly asking why everyone was wearing black, and why couldn’t they dress up too? It turns out that we had stumbled into Goth night. Maybe 25% or more of the people at the park were either Goths or dressed up as Goths–what more could you ask for in a night at Lakeside?! I couldn’t have planned it better if I’d tried. When we got home, Google showed me:
Just because darkness fills your soul doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the hell out of some roller coasters. Don’t believe it? Look no further than the May 21 Gothic Takeover at Lakeside, where hundreds of goths will descend in a black-clad mass to make merry, eat cotton candy and Tilt-a-Whirl until their hair looks like Robert Smith’s – assuming it didn’t already, of course.
Both kids refused to go on the kid’s rides, insisting that they weren’t kids anymore. They’re both tall enough to go on most rides, except for the scarier roller coasters. They’re doing pretty well riding on their own, but for the most freaky rides, they still need an adult to ride along. M refuses to ride, so I go on everything. Chris chose the salt-shaker. It’s one of those fun/scary rides that jars you so much, it starts to suck. Chris loved it and didn’t seem scared at all. When he tried to crawl out of the harness during the upside-down part of the ride, I realized that he didn’t have enough fear.
On Alexa’s turn, she felt compelled to best her brother. The kids call the ride “Zoom,” but I don’t know if that’s right. It takes you seated, feet dangling, straight up a tower until you get to the top and then lets you free fall until a hydraulics break catches you near the bottom. The height requirement seemed oddly short. There were other kids in line, and some not much older than Alexa swaggered like veterans of many trips. Alexa beamed with confidence and insisted that she could do it. She started to waver a little as we got close.
A boy a few years older than Alexa went on the turn ahead of us. When he came down, he looked like he had seen death itself on his face for about 5 seconds. Nobody in line or standing around made a sound; then he just broke down crying. You wouldn’t be wrong if you called the look on Alexa’s face priceless. Still, she claimed she was ready. Some older veteran girls told her she could do it and Alexa lives for older-girl praise. We got on the side of the ride facing the line, which undid Alexa because everyone could see her and she didn’t want to end up like the boy who saw death. The ride operator started pressing her on if she was ready, and seemed to hint that maybe I was the reason that this 7-year-old was sitting on the scariest ride in the park. Instead of telling him to mind his own business, I made a show of assuring her that it would be ok if we got off, totally up to her, don’t worry about it. Alexa froze and couldn’t decide. About a minute later, she looked up and said she wanted to go, much to the relief of everyone waiting on her decision in line. She held my hand while the still skeptical operator told her to look forward and not down.
I had to admit that this seemed like good advice, so I talked to Alexa about all the scenery in the distance to keep her mind off of the fall. The more we climbed, the more I questioned the wisdom of getting on the ride in the first place–like there was anything that I could do about it now. The worst part, aside from anticipation of the drop, is the feeling that if you look or lean forward, even a little, that you’ll go flying off the side. Even if it’s never happened in the 34 times that you watched people ride in these same chairs, I couldn’t convince myself that it wouldn’t occur this time. When we finally got to the top, it seemed thousands of feet higher than it was. Fortunately, we didn’t have much time to think about it because you drop as soon as you hit the top. My reflex is to laugh uncontrollably when I’m being flung about by rides; Alexa didn’t make a peep but had a look approaching the one displayed by the boy who saw death on the ride in front of us. When we got to the bottom, we had the full attention of the entire waiting line. Alexa was frozen for a few seconds, then startled herself back to breathing, then after a few breaths started laughing. Whew, we made it! She got a few high fives, and atta girl’s from the older girls in the crowd and began to walk with a bounce. Alexa says she won’t be ready to try the Zoom again until she’s 12, but I think that we’ll be up there again before the end of the summer.
The three of us also got a Tilt-a-Whirl ride that spun us in crazy fast circles for the entire time. As the night went on, you could run from ride to ride without waiting in line, except for the main roller coaster, which had huge lines all night. M went to sleep in the car at about 9:30 and the rest of us made it out just after 11.
Below the photos of the trip, I included a video of the first amusement park that I ever went to in the late 1960s. It closed when I was just 2+, but I swear that I vaguely remember it. There were several similar parks around Chicago in the 60s-70s, so I’m probably mashing it all together. The rides are pretty much the same rides that they have at Lakeside! I didn’t think that they were that old. The video is of Riverview Amusement Park from 1952. The people changed, but the park looked pretty much the same when it closed in 1967.
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