Thursday, December 15, 2011

Day 2, Part 2 of a Four-Week Pleasure Cruise: Would It Have Been Better If...?

During my french fry reverie, oblivious to the crowds passing across from me away from Goliath, and to the booming noise of the one running Superman: Escape from Krypton train, my cell phone buzzed. It was Meridith, saying that she, Mom and Dad were at the souvenir shop across from the Golden Bear Theatre, and they were still selling Thomas the Tank Engine items, this time for 75%, way up from half off when we went to that shop last year. Upon Six Flags giving up its licensing for Terminator and Thomas the Tank Engine, the Terminator rollercoaster became Apocalypse, and Thomas Town, which had Thomas the Tank Engine as a train kids could ride, became Whistlestop Park, the most generic-looking train station you will ever see anywhere. Six Flags is not good at in-house creativity, also evidenced by the pre-show videos passed by on the way to the Apocalypse loading station. More on that fresh hell later.

After finishing the fries, collecting the unused mustard packets (and there were many, since I'm always overzealous for mustard), and putting them back in the container behind the front counter, through the open window, I began walking past the food court, past Goliath, toward the Golden Bear Theatre.

The problem with this particular shop is that if it's doors aren't open, you miss it completely, pass right by it. The double doors were open this time, yet I still didn't notice it. I thought it was further up than where it was, and called Meridith to ask where the heck I had to go. She told me not past the arcade, I turned around, walked past the huge fake tree that you can walk through into Looney Tunes World, and saw Dad standing in front of the shop. I went in, saw the Thomas the Tank Engine toys still unclaimed, and noticed that the park's also still trying to get rid of Superman: The Escape t-shirts, which could be collectors' items if the ride hadn't been so rickety toward the end of its operation.

I also looked at the Batman, Superman and Green Lantern merchandise on display (The latter because of the opening of the Green Lantern: First Flight rollercoaster in the D.C. Universe section of the park), and then spotted a three-tiered metal display case full of toy cars, including fire trucks and school buses. I have an aversion to police and fire vehicles because they're fairly typical of any community, expected, and therefore not really all that unique to my working vehicles collection. I wanted the school bus, though, picked one up, determined that all the parts were intact, and paid for it at the counter.

One of the things to love at Magic Mountain as a once-in-a-great-while visitor is that they have package pickup, which means you can have your purchases sent to the Looney Tunes store right near the entrance and exit gates of the park, and pick them up later, though not until after 3 p.m. And that's what I did: I had a toy school bus sent over there to pick up later.

After Mom and Meridith had looked around, and determined that we had enough toy Thomas trains for our dog Tigger that we bought during our visit last year, we walked to Cyclone Bay, which most visitors don't seem to bother checking out unless they're there to ride Apocalypse, or drive go-karts, or try bungee jumping. There's also carnival-style games that require little effort, such as one you pay $5 for to hit a round metal platform with a mallet to try to make the bell ring at the top. You do that twice, and then you can pick any prize that they have there. Meridith did it and choose a Tweety cape for Mom that she had been eyeing for her last year.

Then came hell. Apocalypse. Meridith wanted to go on it since it was a wooden rollercoaster. You enter under the sign, then walk through a maze of a queue before reaching the first part of the building that has a pre-show video running of people under attack by some vicious force, and psyching themselves up to defend themselves and their families against it, but it's not really clear what it is, and, at this point in its operation after switching from being a Terminator rollercoaster to this, which required new pre-show videos to be shot, no one really cares. No one is required to watch the pre-show video. Once you're allowed in (We had to wait a few minutes while the small crowd in front of us cycled through the building), you just walk past those monitors and loud noises emanating from the sound system, pass through another room that used to have the top half of Terminator robot bodies, ignore another flat-screen monitor with more of that pre-show video, and then walk up a set of stairs to the loading station for the ride, choosing which "sector" you want to be in, meaning which part of the ride vehicle.

Also here, the ride vehicle currently in use rushes overhead and the screams are LOUD. I wish I had taken that as a clue to what I was getting into, because Apocalypse has major anger-management issues. You speed to the first lift hill, go swiftly up it, and then zoom right down and the speed never lets up. It's vicious. There's one really wide turn that's hell to go through, and there's also the turns that go through narrow wooden tunnels that let thin shafts of light through. It leaves you extremely shaken up.

After we got off and walked out of the Apocalypse area, I told Meridith that Apocalypse is one rollercoaster that could use some serious therapy to smooth out whatever makes it pissed off at the world. It should be torn down to make way for something different, but considering the major cost likely involved in building the thing, they're probably going to keep it. To me, it's a waste of space, but I guess it appeals to thrill-seekers much younger than me. Even when I was that young a decade ago, I didn't go for that kind of rollercoaster. I was satisfied and happy enough with the Hurricane rollercoaster at Boomers in Dania Beach, Florida, which closed a few months ago. That was a wooden rollercoaster too but it wasn't as abusive as Apocalypse. It was fast, but it didn't jolt you, and going down those short hills was pure sugar for the pleasure center of the brain.

After leaving the Apocalypse area, we found that Dad had gone on ahead of us and was in the Coaster Candy Company shop, where truffles are sold at the counter, and there's displays of various candy, including huge lollipops that are actually holders for 12 much smaller lollipops. M&Ms are prominently featured, and there's also bags of candy with the Coaster Candy Company label on them, most of it brittle, including peanut and cashew. What caught my eye was almond brittle, I was thinking of getting it, and I have no idea what stopped me. My attention was focused on getting a quesadilla at Los Cuates Mexican Grill nearby. As Mom and Meridith looked over the chocolates at the counter, and Meridith found a large chipotle-accented pickle in a pouch, I decided to go over there and get my quesadilla, but after standing in line for a few minutes, I had a closer look in the kitchen, and it didn't look all that great. Not that it wasn't safely made, but it didn't look like my kind of quesadilla.

After Mom, Dad and Meridith came out of the candy store, Meridith told me she had the pickle pouch sent for package pickup. Meridith's always been one to do the most wonderfully weird things, and this was one of them. A school bus and a pickle at package pickup. I still smile at that.

Dad remembered that Guillermo, one of the teachers at his school, works part-time at the Mexican food counter in the food court building near Goliath, so we trekked over here, walking under the part of the Superman track, that shattering noise out and about again, and Mom covered her ears as we walked under it. We got to the food court, and no Guillermo, as well as no quesadillas. Just burritos. Then, Mom decided on something better: Because of my generosity in buying the toys that we donated to get the free tickets, we'd stop at Chronic Tacos to pick up dinner on the way home. This meant a guaranteed great quesadilla for me, and I was thinking about a chicken-and-cheese one.

We crossed the courtyard near which is a three-point basket contest setup with prizes such as jerseys, and finally went into DC Universe for the roasted corn that we all worship. But first, The Flash: Speed Force, in which you sit in connected vehicles that spin around and around and around, the G-forces growing and pressing you against the left side of your vehicle. It used to be Atom Smasher back when the area was called Gotham City Backlot, and the two rides at the front (including what is now called Wonder Woman's Golden Lasso of Truth) were themed to Looney Tunes. It looks a lot better now with the DC Comics theming, brighter, with much more to see, and ever since refurbishing the Flash ride, it's a lot smoother.

The roasted corn stand was remodeled and expanded, and is now called Kent Farms, after Clark Kent and his earth parents. There's a large oven on the right side, the top door of which can be opened, revealing a revolving rack of corn in their husks, the ends of the husks blackened. The person behind the counter tears off the husk, and it's a beautiful, slightly crunchy, oh-so-good sight, especially when the corn is wrapped in paper, the majority of it dipped in butter, and many options with which to season it, including lemon-pepper seasoning, salt, pepper, barbecue seasoning (That one was new to me), as much as you want.

We were behind someone ordering, and the guy behind the counter opened the lid of a rectangular storage fridge, putting something on the corn, but I couldn't tell what. All I cared about at that moment was that the lemon-pepper seasoning was on the side counter and I needed it right away. Once we got our corn, and Meridith went to find out what Dad wanted on his (At the circular table we found with the Superman logo on it, across from Green Lantern: First Flight, so we got to watch the craziness of the spinning double seating), that's exactly where I went, but first surprised to find barbecue seasoning, and suddenly conflicted. Did I want lemon-pepper seasoning all over my corn this time? How much barbecue seasoning? I soon decided on half-and-half by the time Meridith came back and told me that Dad wanted seasoning salt and pepper on his, and Mom wanted part lemon-pepper, part barbecue seasoning. Meridith had lemon-pepper, and became very full by the time she was done with her corn, and I decided I wanted another.

After deciding to get one for Dad too (When he looks like he wants something, he always says "No, I don't want it," though I have no idea why and I don't have ample time in my world to analyze that one), I asked the guy at the counter what it was he dipped into for those other customers, and he said it was parmesan cheese. The kind you shake out of the container onto pizza and pasta, and what was going to make Meridith's jaw drop, because after she had seen parmesan cheese on roasted corn on some kind of food truck show, she wanted it, and said that if this roasted corn stand had parmesan cheese, she'd dump it all over her corn, give back the container, and say that they ran out and to refill it, after which she'd do it again.

The lemon-pepper seasoning wasn't as appealing to me now as it had been last year, so I asked for parmesan cheese on my corn. The guy poured it on, I asked him how much he was able to put on, and he replied, "As much as you want." I'm not as greedy as Meridith would be in such a situation (Though her greed is justified since she loves cheese as much as I love books), so I asked for it to the end of the corn and that was it. After I got back to our table, I showed Meridith what I had found, she asked shocked questions about where it was, and I let her have as much as she wanted, which wasn't much, since she was full.

And oh god was it wonderful! The roasted corn was still hot enough that the sprinkle parmesan cheese melted on it and in between the kernels, and while I knew that the parmesan cheese had not been available at the roasted corn stand's previous incarnation, I wish it had been, because I would have gone for this every time. Quite fitting for a final visit to Magic Mountain to discover the really good stuff. Only when we're getting ready to move do we get the nice things. It happened in Florida too. That's not to say that Florida was an awful state to live in (I will forever love it for growing up partly at Walt Disney World, and to be a dreamer where dreamers are always welcome), but we'd always find what hadn't been apparent when we'd lived in a particular area for a few years.

It was beginning to get dark, and I told Meridith I wanted her to have a picture in front of the Superman: Escape from Krypton logo before nightfall. We all trekked up the steep hill leading to Samurai Summit, which took longer for Mom and Dad, so Meridith and I hustled up the hill, and reached the Superman area. There were kids climbing on the fake ice crystals directly underneath the sign, where I wanted her to stand, so she stood in front of one of the ice crystals, almost under the Superman sign. I took a picture with her cell phone camera, and then she stood next to one of the red S logos which are on either side of the area in front of the ride. Then a picture of the huge "S" on the ground, and we were done. Time for the Sky Tower.

This time, it was getting darker when we got to the Sky Tower, where the elevator ride up takes 5-6 minutes, and this was the first time we had been up there at dusk. It has always been in the daytime, bright enough to see absolutely everything throughout the park, and there was the symbolism of our time in Santa Clarita hopefully ending. Inside the tower is the museum, which features costumes and maps and props from Magic Mountain in decades' past, including a time where there were many shows, such as a dolphin show, animal show, and many comedy shows. Had they kept all that, it would be a much better park than it is, more to do for others who don't want to ride rollercoasters all the time.

I looked out all the windows at all the sections of the park, paying special attention to where Ninja was located. If I had had a season pass this year, I would have been able to enjoy this sight all the time, get a different perspective, and see the Santa Clarita Valley differently, at least in location in the distance. My feelings on it wouldn't have changed, but to get a skewed sort of view of it would have helped me tolerate it more.

(I worked again today, and am feeling bushed. Final part of this day tomorrow.)