Tuesday, July 12, 2005

more fun park fun

When I was a kid my parents would occasionally take my brother and I to Six Flags Great Adventure. Whenever this happened, it was a special occasion, my father really likes fun parks, not so much for the rides, but for everything it represents and all the attractions: the movies, simulators, restaurants, music, and bars. Now that I’m over 21 my father and I can go to a bar and it’s fun. Of course he drinks me under the table, but that’s okay. The last time I visited him we went to Universal Studios in California, and to his hangout, a restaurant/bar called “Eric’s.” I ate some very delicious food, drank some incredible wine (it was called Benziger, and I chose it because that was the name of the street my father grew up on), had a lot of fun, and proceeded to get inebriated beyond all recognition. I remember there were many rowdy Lakers fans watching a game around me, and I was yelling along with them and I had no idea why they were yelling.

Back to Six Flags, I remember when I was about 10, I was sitting at the kitchen table for breakfast (a bowl of raisins n' spice oatmeal), getting ready to go to school, when my dad asked my brother and I (my brother is about 4 years younger than me) if we wanted to go to Great Adventure. We would excitedly query “really?” and he would answer, “nah, that’s okay,” or "Oh, Great Adventure called and they're closed today," and other similar statements. This conversation would continue for a few more minutes, then he would give in: “Okay, we’ll go.” I don’t know if this was an unspoken mandatory family ritual, but before we could enter the fun park part of Great Adventure, we would go on the drive through safari. All through this safari that seemed to last hours, each section of animals had a series of gates that opened and closed. I suppose this was so the gazelles didn’t jump into lion territory or any other predator related havoc would go on.

Throughout the safari, there were signs posted that stated “Please do not feed the animals.” My father would blatantly disregard this warning, and as soon as we entered the ape and monkey section, he would roll down the window of the car and throw cookies at the monkeys. They would run from the cookies, then run back to the cookies, and slap fight and scream at each other for the delicious prize. The whole time my mother would repeat in a chant, “Oh, Barry, stop it, just stop it.” My brother and I would laugh, but somewhere deep inside I felt that toying with nature and wild animals could only lead to disaster. My father, ignoring this feeling, wanted to get even up closer and more personal with the monkeys, so he put a cookie on the roof. A few of the little monkeys started to run over to our car (which was moving about 5 mph), when out of the brush a giant ape with a naked butt ran to the car, sat on the hood right in front of the driver’s side of the windshield and devoured the cookie. We rolled up the windows as fast as the hand cranks would go, elation turning to anxiety at the close up view of the ape. When the ape was finished, he just sat there, preventing my father from seeing the road and driving. He started to beep the horn and run the wipers, but the ape just sat there, now visibly annoyed. He hissed or bared his teeth at us, I’m not sure what was going on but it scared the crap out of me. I didn’t think monkeys were fun anymore, and just wanted to ride Lightnin’ Loops.

My mother began to nervously navigate directions to my increasingly exasperated father, and after about 5 minutes the ape got up and moved to the roof of the car. This was my father’s cue to speed up, and the ape began banging on the roof of the car with what sounded like both fists. Next, a stream of yellow pee cascaded down the windshield, and the ape jumped off and ran back into the brush. We finished the safari quickly, and proceeded to the parking area for the amusement park. My brother and I didn’t want to get out of the car on my father’s side because we were freaked out we’d get ape pee on us. After we had all exited the brown 1978 Buick Skylark, we noticed a steaming pile of ape shit on the roof of the car, a little runny in spots from him peeing on it. I don’t remember much else about the ape, or how the shit was cleaned off. I think my father went back while we were on line for the carousel and cleaned it with napkins from the ice cream stall.

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