The prevalent question during my Saturday at Six Flags Magic Mountain was: Would it have been better if I had gotten a season pass this year, readily able to disconnect myself from this valley? I'm not as incensed by the vapidness and plasticity of Santa Clarita as I used to be because you eventually resign yourself to this being what there is. It'll never change. What once may have been unique in this valley, whatever that might be, was paved over long ago.
Had I gotten the season pass, I wouldn't have needed to ride the rollercoasters all the time, because there is so much else to explore. There's the perpetually empty Golden Bear Theatre, of which I can see a section of the rows of rising benches while walking nearby. There's the front facade, a much smaller stage, with swinging saloon doors, and a reddish curtain behind that, what may have been suitable for comedy acts, or singers, or any other kind of act that the park used to have often a few decades ago, but no more. The rollercoasters will suffice.
There's also the trees all around, a lot to look at. Not only those that zoom by while riding Ninja, but also the ones you see while you walk up Samurai Summit and a relative nature-centered stretch of them while walking to the stairs that lead to just under the loading station of Tatsu where you can watch the trains being dispatched. It's also a shortcut to Ninja without having to walk the steep Samurai Summit hill. If you ever walk that hill, don't trip. You'll just keep rolling.
I stopped a few times on my way to those stairs, just looking at those thick and thin trees, thinking that I might be a better writer if I had had that scenery around me as often as I wanted, whenever the park was open. I felt completely at peace there, finding it remarkable that the only thing Six Flags Magic Mountain shares with the Santa Clarita Valley is its Valencia designation. That's part of its address, but that's it. No plasticity. Nothing shallow. What you see is what you get, from the cracks in the sidewalk, to Superman: Escape from Krypton running one track and train, and only later upon becoming more crowded, running both tracks and trains. It's a welcome change from when the previous Superman: The Escape used to run only one train and the adjacent track was used for storage. Back then, those trains were the most rickety things you could ever ride in an amusement park. Fortunately, times change.
After Mom, Dad, Meridith and I had given the toys over to the Toys for Tots toy drive, gotten our tickets, and walked through the metal detectors, the park gates opened (10:30 a.m. exactly) and Meridith wanted her funnel cake right away at the bakery right near the gate. I had had breakfast before we left, and so I began my trek to Ninja, first with a detour at the biggest souvenir shop near the main gates to get a Superman cape. Last year, I wore a Batman cape just because it was a cape and who wouldn't want to be a superhero for a day? My deepening interest in Superman in recent weeks compelled me to get the right cape this time, and $10 immediately went to Magic Mountain without hesitation. It was apparently a cape that played music if you pushed a button on it, but I noticed no button and nothing slightly bulky to indicate one. I thought that the paper tag that indicated that there was music was just put there for no reason at all. Maybe a mistake in the packing, but there was the same tag on the other Superman capes in the same section. Logic didn't apply at this moment because I just wanted to get to Ninja.
On the path to the shortcut of stairs past Tatsu and into Samurai Summit, I saw that Viper looked empty. No line jutting out on the stairs leading up to the loading station. One more time then. One more time so I could say goodbye.
Viper is a rollercoaster that's secure with itself. It has two vertical loops, a corkscrew toward the end, and it takes all of this in stride. The ride up the hill before the first major dip is easygoing, and even if you're toward the back, where it's expected to go faster because the cars in front of you have already gone over it, there's still that one moment of calm for all before the speed begins. Yet, it's not a frightening oh god-oh-god-please-make-it-stop-or-just-pluck-me-from-this-earth-so-I-don't-have-to-suffer-through-this-anymore speed, not like the hell I experienced twice, mid-afternoon and early evening. Going through the vertical loops is like gliding through an intersection. It doesn't seem that way when you're watching it from the ground, but it has that effect up there. This rollercoaster's just glad to have your time and if you want to go on it, it'll be here. I loved it for a few years because it was honest about what it was. Still is, but my tastes changed.
After the ride ended back in the loading station, I got out, gave it a farewell pat, and that was it. On to Ninja.
While walking to the shortcut to Samurai Summit, I thought about the season pass question, and it would have been nice to have one just because I would have been able to go on Ninja as many times as I wanted. I love Ninja because, as a suspended rollercoaster, it gives off a kind-of, sort-of effect of gliding through a forest. Tatsu gives the full effect of flying, but I could never do it like that, facing downward. All I need is to pass the trees, not look down on them.
As if it was apparent why I was there, I came to a completely empty loading station. I was the only one on the train for my first ride. No screaming from fellow riders. Just me rushing past the trees, enjoying that cold breeze coming off the waters of Jetstream, a water ride that Ninja seems to barely pass right over.
All in all, I rode Ninja seven times in a row, never screaming like the other riders, because I know it so well. I know where the two tight G-Force-laden turns are that trip the same pleasure center in the brain that produces the orgasm. I look forward to those every time, though strangely, those are the ones that evoke screams from fellow riders. After the seventh time, I needed a break, intending to go back on later in the day.
I needed my legs back, and definitely a restroom. I found it near Superman: Escape from Krypton, went quickly, and discovered that it didn't look like much of a line for Superman. This ride shoots you out of the loading station at 100mph, up the tower, and then back down, simulating the storyline of the infant Kal-El escaping from the exploding planet Krypton. Oh, and the ride vehicles launch backwards, so once you get to the highest point on the tower, you're looking down. Way down, before the vehicle speeds down and back into the station. This is also the loudest ride in the park, close to being a sonic boom without the actual boom. When you pass under the track while walking from the Colossus County Fair area that houses Goliath, you have to close your ears quickly if you hear it approaching. So yes, I'd do this. For Superman. It would undoubtedly be much safer than its previous incarnation which looked so run down, and without the red-and-blue paint scheme the tower now has. Before, it was white.
A few feet away from the entrance is a huge "S" shield. Across from it, on either side, are benches. With a season pass, I could have sat on one of those benches, watching people head to Superman, the line sometimes getting longer, interested in how long people are willing to wait for a ride that lasts 28 seconds. Strapping yourself in and waiting for the attendants to make sure everyone is strapped in takes longer.
Entering the Superman: Escape from Krypton structure is entering the Fortress of Solitude. That's the theming, with lighting that glows green above the doors that open into the loading station. Four people per row, three in the front row, for a total of 15 people in one vehicle. It takes some serious waiting for this.
I eventually reached the door to the second row, still wearing my Superman cape. Before I continue, I should say that I apparently have this effect on people that makes them want to talk to me. Whether it's by way of a calming presence or just something that they sense about me that they're curious about, I don't know. But it's always been there.
When I wait in a line somewhere, or I'm just walking past people, or supervising kids at La Mesa during brunch and lunch, I'm always listening. I hear snatches of conversations, weighing whether they benefit me in any way, possibly something to include in a book or a play one day, or something to include in a novel if I ever decide to write one. Hence, in those situations, I have become really good at listening without making it seem like I'm listening.
Behind me, two guys and a girl were chatting. I didn't listen much to their conversation, and in fact, I can't remember a thing from it. But my attention perked up when I heard, "Look, a new Superman," a reference to my cape. I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned around, and the guy who had tapped me joked that he had Kryptonite. "Circumcision after birth is a Jewish person's Kryptonite," I joked back. I meant it as if a person got it done long after their birth. Mine was done barely a few days after I arrived.
Then he asked me why Superman, and I told him that Batman doesn't interest me because he's gloomy, depressed, and Gotham City is just gray and joyless, whereas Superman came from a different planet, has to discover who he is and where he fits in, and to me, there's more of a story in that, more to explore. The guy reminded me that Bruce Wayne lost both his parents on the same day, and I jokingly replied, "Eventually, a therapist." We also talked about if Bruce Wayne has any relatives, and I said the only person who comes close to being a relative is Alfred.
The friend of his chimed in occasionally, as good-natured as he was, but I didn't notice much compared to that girl, who must have been his friend's girlfriend. She was incredibly beautiful, with a soft face and demeanor about her, who could easily joke with the guys. Many comments and jokes I made got her smiling, reminding me of Emmy Rossum. Truly, the female sex can surprise you when you're not looking.
When the doors opened and we got into the ride vehicle, she had to put her pocketbook on the other side, and I didn't mind getting up and standing to the side at all. Sitting next to her was an honor, though I didn't let on about it. I'm subtle in my appreciations, not so subtle in my appreciation for a much better restraint system in this new incarnation. This time, the ride vehicle has over-the-shoulder restraints that are very heavy, and therefore a bit of a chore to put down, though very necessary so no one flies out. And once that restraint is resting on you (I was at the end of my row, so there was the added bonus of more protection next to me, like half a box made of fabric and metal, which sounds strange, but is the only way I can think of describing it), you take the seat belt buckle hanging down and insert it into the clasp, which is located right over your crotch. Like I said, excellent protection.
I don't have any fear of looking down 415 feet below me. It only lasts for about four seconds, and the way down is smooth. No jerks, no curves. I agreeably felt the wind rushing past me, and then the slowdown into the station, and that was it.
I didn't make a new set of friends with those three. It was one of those conversations that only lasts as long as you're waiting. Lucky guy with that girl. I could also tell that they were avid readers, not only by that same guy noticing my t-shirt, which says, "All You Need is Books," and commenting, "So true, and so many problems could be avoided if that were commonplace." Comments on wars and presidents inevitably followed. Plus, the girl obviously had a vast collection of books where she lives. There's just that look, sharpened, amused, passionate. She had it.
Next, I found out that Mom, Dad and Meridith were heading for Cyclone Bay, where there's bungee jumping ($35 for a single person, $25 for double, $20 for three people, who all can fit in one harness), go karts, and a few lost-looking carnival games, including throwing something into the hole of a vase that turns out to be very far away (It always seems that way), and hitting the circular platform with the mallet to try to make the bell ring.
I wasn't going to start out for Cyclone Bay so fast. I was hungry, and I needed french fries, one reason I had been excited about this day. There's nothing particularly remarkable about the fries served up at the Fresh-Cut Fries stand in Colossus County Fair plaza, but it's just that they're there, served nacho style with cheese and salsa and jalapenos, or spicier styles, or plain, that makes them appealing.
I ordered the half-pound of regular fries, not minding paying $5.29, and when the guy at the counter put ketchup packets on top of the fries, I told him I didn't need them, because there were mustard packets sitting there. I grabbed a handful, went to a table next to the stand and sat down, focused solely on my fries. I opened packet after packet of mustard to squirt on the fries, made a mess of a few packets, wiped the mess off the table, and dove in.
When I'm eating something I really like, it's only me and the food, as it was with these fries. A steady stream of people were walking out of Colossus County plaza across from me, and I hardly noticed. I had french fries and that's all that mattered. And the mustard. Rarely do I eat fries without mustard; well, fries that aren't from McDonald's or In-N-Out.
Before reaching the french fry stand, I stopped at the food stands at Water Tower Plaza, across from the Gold Rusher rollercoaster, curious about if they sold french fries as well, and whatever else was there. In the order window was an ad for pumpkin pie, $3.25 a slice. Pumpkin pie is my favorite, so I immediately wanted it (especially since the frozen pumpkin pie we put in the oven for Thanksgiving was shoddy, and only mildly good after being refrigerated), but not before I had my fries. I'd have my fries first, and then walk back for pumpkin pie.
(More tomorrow. I was a working man today and I'm a working man again tomorrow, with a shot at a full night's sleep tonight instead of the four and a half hours I got before the automated sub system called with the job at 7 this morning.)