Jul 222005
 

“Remember, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t all out to get you.”

I’ve been called many things in my day and “conspiracy nut” is one of the most kind 😉 But it wasn’t until I was on a short roadt trip with my daughter, Z, and her little brother, G, that I remembered the first conspiracy I stumbled across. Perhaps I should say, cowspiracy.

It all started when I was just a wee little paranoiac, no more than a couple feet tall. On a trip to the local thrift store for new cloths for my big sis I stumbled across an amazing device. It had a bunch of animal stickers on the front and a giant yellow arrow. You could ask a question, point the arrow at the animal you wanted to answer, pull a string, and then hear the animal answer in it’s own language. Very cool for an inquisitive child from the city who thought the trees in the centre of the main street nearby constituted a forest.

I learned everything I ever needed to know about farm animals from that great second- (or, more likely fifth-) hand toy. It got lost somewhere along the journey of my life, but I still remember everything it taught me: Chickens and birds speak very similar languages; dogs don’t bark, they woof; cats are multilingual and cows say oink.

When I arrived at school a few years later my first teachers tried everything in their power to convince me that cows actually moo, while only pigs oink. They even managed to get me to state as much. But I knew it was a lie. Some may say that my toy was defective. Afterall, the animal stickers were not the original, but rather had been placed somewhat haphazardly by a former owner.

It wasn’t that long after my arguments at school that I saw my first cow in real life. We were driving somewhere and there was a whole herd standing along the side of the road, apparently waiting for a break in the traffic. I rolled down my window, hung out my head, and called out to them in their native language: Oooiiiinnnnnkkkkk!! Their heads turned en masse to follow as we passed, and one of them, clearly their leader, winked. Neither my mother nor my sister believed me, but I knew the truth.

The only mystery remaining behind the cowspiracy is: why? The vast majority of America is in on the conspiracy. Most were probably just duped by their parents and teachers, but someone’s obviously at the top of this thing. Some day I shall find them. Until then, I’ll just keep on oinking the truth.

Jul 042005
 

Originally posted to LiveJournal-

Yesterday was the big day! [info]zairabear, Pepper, Gavin & I all went to the Boardwalk for fun in the sun. They picked me up around 12:30 and we headed over the hill, stopping in traffic just this side of Los Gatos. I had been afraid that we’d be in stop’n’go all the way over 17 and it appeared that would be the case. Luckily after a couple miles it turned out to have been due to rubberneckers gawking at an accident and by the time we exited LG we were at speed with few problems as wepassed over the hill and into the (weekend’s) promised land. On the way I informed the brood what movies I’d recently acquired for them and learned that my daughter also shares my love for the Disney Channel cartoon Kim Possible 🙂 First stop was to be a PetSmart I’d located on the web as I’d been working so much that I hadn’t had time to pick up hamster food. WIth Gavin asking yet again if we were “there yet” we had no luck finding the PetSmart, so… off to the beach!

(Note: Events may be out of order due to excitement-induced poor memory, but I’m trying my best)

Traffic along the city streets approaching the Boardwalk was the worst we hit all day as we crawled along looking for parking. Luckily Pepper has a disable parking placard (somehow Gavin’s autism qualifies her for this), so we were able to get the primary Boardwalk parking lot (the one at the end by the bridge) to open their closed gates for us to occupy one of their prime handicap spots. The day was overcast at this point, so after quick bathroom breaks, they all grabbed their coats/sweaters and we were on our way. 

Pepper recently purchased Gavin a “leather” jacket with some flaming symbol on the back. She also outfitted him with a wallet chain and spiked his hair. SO all day long various female employees (and a few fellow visitors) were raving about how adorable he was and how cool his jacket was. This pleased Pepper to no end, and made Gavin happy enough with his new look that when a father in line behind him commented on how neat the jacket was, Gavin responded with a curt “it won’t fit you” 😀

Anywayz, first stop as we entered the center of the Boardwalk was in front of “Rock ‘n’ Roll” where we gathered our thoughts and got a feel for how we wanted to attack the day. It was decided that the kids would alternate choosing rides (with some input from us parents) in order to keep things fair. Gavin was to choose first and he was all about the water rides. Of course, before we could ride anything we needed to get wrist bands, so we had to go find a ticket booth. On the way to the ticket booth we stopped by a couple of the midway games (it’s always been a coin-toss for me wether the games or the rides are my favorite thing in the world).

First we all threw some dimes at cups: while Zaira was aiming for a patriotic stars and strips juice glass and I was aiming for the big prize only Gavin scored (twice!!). Ironically, this five year old who only likes the game because it means he’s allowed to throw things at other things, landed a dime in a shot glass and then in an ashtray 🙂 We exchanged the shot glass for Zaira’s cup and the ashtray now resides on my desk. Next up was the “flip the chicken into the pot” where I won a frog with a big heart for Zaira (the first stuffed animal I’ve won for my daughter since her birth (before her birth many critters were won at the Excalibur in Vegas, but that’s a tale for a different day)), followed by the Bee Game which is apparently Gavin’s favorite as the guns are automatic and all you have to do is point. This has always been one of Pepper’s favorites as well and a pink monkey (named Kirby I believe) joined our small troop. Finally the ticket booth appeared on the horizon and we got the wristbands assuring we were free to explore any facets of the Boardwalk we desired without hesitation. Which meant it was time for the water ride! 

Now, I’ve never been a huge fan of water rides to begin with, especially on overcast days, as, IMHO, they’re pretty dull and while getting splashed can be fun, walking around wet generally isn’t. So while Pepper and the kids explored the world of water I snuck off to grab some food. They had all eaten lunch before heading over and I didn’t get a chance to eat as I assumed Pepper would be late as usual when she was, in fact, basically on time. With perfect timing I finished my corn dogs just before they came tramping down the exit walkway. They weren’t too wet overall, except for Gavin, who was so excited to get on the ride that he apparently stepped into the water instead of the boat, leaving his left foot soaked through up to mid calf 🙂 Pepper said all the ride employees were freaking out about “is he okay? should we call someone? etc” while Gavin was just like “let’s go, the water’s waiting!!”.

Next it was Zaira’s turn to pick and we went on a ride whose name escapes me, but is essentially controlled hang gliding. You lay on a platform under a mock windsail and the ride spins and lifts basically giving you the feeling of Superman in flight. As this ride’s next to the beach some of the views are spectacular.

It was now Gavin’s turn to pick again and he chose a family favorite called (I think) the Tsunami. This is basically like “rock ‘n’ roll” only a little larger and a little faster. It’s one of the oldest park rides and is a staple at most carnivals. You sit in a circular chain of coaster cars that first goes forward at ever increasing speeds then stops only to then go backwards at ever increasing speeds. This ride became the beginning of my new nickname (to be revealed shortly) as I raised my hands roller-coaster-style as soon as the ride started only to be quickly informed over the PA that I should not be doing so. Zaira immediately chastised me for “trying to get us kicked off the ride” ::blush::

Next up Zaira chose a ride that’s traditionally called the Round-Up, though it has a different name at the Boardwalk. Neither Pepper or Gavin are fond of it, so only Zaira and partook of it’s centrifugal force wonders as it spun around and we were plastered to the outside wall. Just as the ride was about to begin I was explaining to the young girl next to me (opposite Zaira) that you could pull yourself up off the ground as the ride was beginning and essentially hover in mid-air due to the forces the ride exerts. Once again my timing was impeccable as the girl checking that we all had our rope safety “locks” on passed by mid-dissertation and firmly informed me (and the yunguns around me) to keep our feet on the floor. Ooops! Once again chastised by my 9-year-old about trying to get us kicked off ::double blush::

Gavin wanted to go on the ghost hunting ride which is kind of like a haunted house except that you get to fight back as the cars are equipped with guns to shoot the ghosts. It was while in line for this ride that I acquired my new nickname: Evil 😀 I’m not sure what triggered it, exactly, but my attempts to get us thrown off previous rides backed up the claim. Pepper wanted to bet that she’d score better, but I never make a wager I’m not guaranteed to win, so stuck with bluster instead. A wise choice since, despite my outscoring Zaira 450 to 210 (Zaira claims all the targets were on my side), Pepper scored a blistering 1020!

I wish I could remember the name of this next ride as it’s pretty cool. They’ve expanded on the concept of Disneyland’s Teacups by suspending four riders in a gyroscope-looking device where all four chairs hang free and are suspended from arms (a la Tarantula) that raise and lower as the whole ride spins. Then you’ve got a center wheel (a la Teacups) that the riders twist to make the whole thing spin. When I was a kid my father would take me to Disneyland and make the Teacups spin faster than light, so I was looking forward to giving my daughter the same experience on this new contraption. We got going pretty good, too. So good in fact, that Gavin and Pepper got a bit overwhelmed and I had to lay off and eventually stop the spinning all together. This, of course, was further evidence that I was Evil. Muwahahahahahahahaha!!

Next up was “the dinosaur ride” as Gavin called it, which is actually the old cave train. This has been completely redone since the last time I was at the park and now features comical dinosaurs and cavemen that appear to be early ancestors of The Rugrats. Very cute.

Zaira then chose the “Space Race” which is simply round bumper cars with stick controls instead of steering wheels. Somehow while Pepper was getting the munchkins secured she missed out on getting a “car” and had to wait outside, but the three of us had a blast chasing and ramming each other as well as complete strangers.

We then exited the lower end of the park to head back towards the main boardwalk area. On the way out we stopped by the strategiclally placed “roll the wiffle ball into the large colored cups” game. Zaira and I both gave it a shot and, although neither of us hit one of the prized colored cups, we walked away with a small red lobster for Gavin and a blue one for Zaira. (The blue lobster will appear again at the end of this missive.) I believe this is where we first saw the flourescent-colored stuffed tiki gods who will also appear later.

As we journeyed back towards the Giant Dipper we stopped at a few more games: I won a coiled blue cobra (who should be appearing in a pic on [info]hammyarchitect soon) at a water gun competition, Pepper won a larger monkey back at the Queen Bee game, and we all pretty much did horrible at the Cat Rack.

Finally, it was time for the Giant Dipper. I’ve ridden roller coasters all over North America and this has always been my favorite. There’s just nothing like riding a wooden roller coaster that’s been sitting in the salt air next to an ocean for over 90 years. It’s one of the the oldest operating amusement park rides in the world and by far the most exciting. Best of all, Zaira loves it as well! We rode in the very back car, riding with hands in the air and screaming all the way. It was a blast! Unfortunately, Gavin wasn’t too thrilled to be going on this ride for which he arguably wasn’t tall enough anyway. When we got pictures after the ride Gavin’s face pretty much epitomized sheer terror. It would be the most hilarious thing in the world if you didn’t know the kid involved 🙂

This definetly made it dinner time and the Dipper Diner was handily located with chicken nuggets, seasoned fries, and even a (pretty darn good) fruit cup. As we took the few steps towards this fine establishment we came across the “dart in the red star” game. The trick here is that the board with the stars slants away from the player, making aiming pretty difficult. I managed to zero in on the star, however, and scored a stuffed Alex (the lion from the Madagascar) to add to our menagerie. I needed a little break from the crowds myself, so snuck off for a smoke and some peace on the beach while Pepper and the kids ordered. When I found them at their table I was promptly informed that Alex would get lonely without his best bud Marty (the zebra) so Zaira and I skipped back to the red star game. I bought two sets of darts again, but was able to home in quicker without Pepper giving me “advice” and we managed to return to the dinner table with not only Alex, but the girl dragon from Shrek as well 😀 (Have I mentioned I love midway games?) 

I was then informed that the kids are normally only allowed one or two midway games per visit, so having this stuffed zoo was a real treat for them. It was at this point that I was able to unveil my (evil) master plan for the day which was to have a full summer’s worth of fun all packed into one outing. We didn’t want the kids to think that every day out with me would be like this because as great as that would be, I do live in poverty 🙂 I’m pretty sure Zaira understood that this was a special day and Gavin will figure it out as time goes by. Pepper, on the other hand, kept cringing every time I pulled out my wallet. But this was a special day for me and I wanted it to be special for all involved as well. Mission accomplished. 

One of the hardest things for me in becoming a father again is that I’ve always detested seeing the “weekend dads”. You know the type: struggling through another weekend of “over the top” kids events trying to make all the time with their spawn memorable. My dad did the same thing and I have neither spoken to nor seen him since the day I graduated from high school (6/6/87). Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why they do it as I have the urge to do so as well, but I constantly fight against it. I want to have a relationship with my daughter, not just be a “purveyor” of fun. So we (pepper and I) are trying to balance the special events with more mundane activities. But this day was meant for the memories 🙂

After eating it was Gavin’s turn to choose a ride and he wanted to go on the bumper cars so I decided this was a good time to return the zoo to the car. It was simply getting unwieldy. But first there was a stop at one more game which is the one that I never fail to win: the bushel baskets. This is where you toss a softball into a bushel basket that is slanted away from you. There’s an easy trick (which is to drop the ball on the leading edge of the basket) that many people fail to perceive but I learned when I worked this game years ago. Of course, the Boardwalk version uses a wiffle ball instead of a softball so when combined with the ocean breeze it makes the game slightly more difficult. Not a problem. When I landed my first ball and the worker asked which color stuffed lizard I wanted my immediate answer was “blue” which made Zaira light up like a birthday cake because I’d remembered her favorite color 😀 That lizard didn’t hang with us long however, as I quickly hit two more wins and traded him up to a multi-colored neonish large lizard. We also tried our hand at a magnetic fishing game I’d never seen before where the hook makes the fish jump into the air. There’s clearly a trick to this game as it has a two wins per day limit and I think I figured it out (try to catch the fish from the back side) but not until we’d already tried and failed to get the cute little stuffed doby. Next time you’re mine fishy!

So, with the zoo safely stashed in the car and our hands free I met the brood at the bumper cars and we explored the small “upstairs” area of the Boardwalk where Gavin got to go on some of the exclusive kiddie rides while Zaira and I took on the Boardwalk’s metal coaster: The Hurricane. This baby whips you around a lot and with my arms up I inadvertently tagged Zaira in the head with my elbow hard. As Pepper joked: there’s one for the court papers 😀 Aside from my giving her whiplash both Zaira and I were thrilled with the ride.

We headed back into the fray and hit the “ball rolling car race” game where which hole your ball falls in determines how many spots forward your car moves. They had adorable little “mafia dogs” as small prizes and bull dog cops and stuffed anthropomorphic police cars as large prizes. All four of us played and Pepper won. The guy running the game was kind enough to give Zaira a prize as well, so we got two of the smalls. We played again (this is one of the family favorites) and I won (barely beating Gavin!) so Zaira could trade up to the medium size prize.

Next up was the Double Shot. This is the Boardwalk’s new ride of the year and the line was long, but both Zaira and I were excited. It’s kind of like “Free Fall” in that you sit on a bicycle seat with a harness attatched to a 125′ tall tower. It then shoots you up to the top of the tower from wher you fall on a bungee-cord type device so you keep falling and climbing about a half-dozen times. The ride sits 4 people each on two sides with 2 people on the other sides and since Zaira and I were a twosome we actually got moved up to the front of the line 🙂 This ride is short but very cool! While we went on this, Pepper and Gavin returned to the ball/car game and managed to trade their way up to the large stuffed cop car. Pepper works as a CHP dispatcher so it will take a place of pride atop her radio 🙂 This also led to a few different moments later on where one of us would lose tack of it only to call out “where’s our cop car!” which is a pretty humorous phrase to utter in an amusement park!

By now we were pretty close to the arcade end of the Boardwalk and the sun was setting so we decided to head in and get some “old time” photos taken. Of course, on the way there were more games to be played! We came across another “race against the other players” type game and I finally won one of the small tiki gods that Zaira and I had seen at a few different unwinnable (for us) games. I was glad to finally get one since I knew she thought they were so cute. We then skipped along the Boardwalk and headed in to get pics. We decided to go with an old school Mafia motif with Gavin and I in double breasted suits with Tommy Guns and the ladies in fishnets and corsets. Getting everyone dressed took some time, and then getting the threesome of Pepper, Gavin and Zaira posed for their pic was the most serious drama of the day (which was pretty light considering), but Zaira and I fell into place pretty quickly. 


I gotta put a plug in here: if you go to get old-time photos at the Boardwalk (especially with a small child) then go when Dana is working. She rocked! I’ve always been a fan of these old pics, but these are probably some of the coolest I’ve ever seen. We even had them matted and framed they looked so cool. 🙂

By now it was 10pm (park closes at 11:00) so we were off for each of us to have one last thing to make the day complete. My first choice was, of course, the Dipper! This time Pepper and Gavin waited while Zaira and I rode. It’s even more thrilling at night because the starting tunnel is pitch black and some of the drops seem to come out of nowhere. While we rode, Pepper and Gavin purchased the funnel cakes that are the family tradition and made Pepper’s night complete. At this point one of the cutest things happened. We were heading down the Boardwalk towards home (and the ‘glow’ stands the kids wanted to visit) when Zaira said: “But what will make my night complete?” It was so cute because she had had soooooo much fun that day, but since everyone else had that “one last thing” (Gavin’s had been SkeeBall, I believe), she wanted one too. It ended up being a ride on the Rock ‘n’ Roll with her brother. Ooops, somewhere in here we managed to squeeze in a few more games as well, includnig the water-gun/clown/baloon pop (which none of us managed to win).

Exhausted from the joy of the day we headed to the car, loaded up the further booty we had acquired, and sat down to eat the funnel cakes we’d carried throughout the last hour or so. Pepper and Gavin sat in the car while Zaira and I sat on the curb. I dunno what it is about sitting on curbs, but it seems to be high on my “to do” list. Especially after such a jam packed day, the curb seems to be the place to kind of ponder life and absorb the current events. So as we sat on the curb contemplating, smoking and eating funnel cake Zaira asked if she could see the new pups when we got back to my house. I told her it was really up to her mom and she once again showed her mind works like mine when she said: “It will probably be better if you ask her.” I had to smile. So I asked what Zaira’s normal bedtime was (as we sat on a curb in Santa Cruz approaching midnight) and she told me it was usually around 9:30. Long day indeed.

The trip back was pretty uneventful: Gavin fell asleep almost immediately and Zaira seemed to be fading as she listened to Pepper and I talk about the day and make future plans. Next Saturday we’re going to the park with Gavin’s therapist for a couple of hours and then Zaira and I are going to start a Scrapbooking project together. I also told them about letterboxing and how I thought it would be a fun hobby for us to take up. When Zaira gets back from Vermont we’re all going to take a day and head up to Alcatraz. That’ll be pretty cool.

We got back to the house and I took Zaira up to see the new pups. Unfortunately, almost all the hammys were asleep. Which reminded me that I had forgotten to get them food, so they were probably sleeping in hunger. ::sigh:: She could look up through the bottom of the nest and see a few of the pups, but couldn’t get a very good view. Then I gathered up my things and we said goodnight.

It was pushing one at this point, but I planned on writing this journal entry immediately. Of course, by the time I got back upstairs I was wiped out and crashed hard. Slept the sleep of the just for 14 hours and never felt better! It’s a good thing I didn’t start this entry then, as I started typing this at work at 6:30 and am finishing it here at home at almost 2am. Wow, talk about an epic entry!

This is certainly a day well worth remembering 🙂

EDIT: I almost forgot!! When I got up this afternoon and headed out to get some chow (for both me and the hams) I came across a small blue lobster in my driveway. Somehow he managed to get out of the car last night when they were dropping me off and had spent the night in the driveway. Apparently at least one of the neighborhood cats had come to investigate him as he was covered in brambles, but he seemes unharmed. Seeing him there just touched my heart. I imagine Zaira was worried when she couldn’t find him, but he’s currently safe and sound on my computer monitor waiting to take up residence with his new “mommy” 🙂