Here's a few little stories to share...
HAVE A SIX FLAGS DAY
I recently purchased a Six Flags season pass. I haven't been to Six Flags in many years, since Goliath was brand spanking new, and I remember two things about that middle school trip I went on... first, Goliath was awesome. Second, the park was just dirty. I mean, really dirty.
In addition to the trash that lined the curbs, the "I don't give a rip" attitudes of many of the workers there, and the scenery and ride queues that seemed worn, faded and old, I always recall the gum spots on the Batman wall, and on the floor of the Superman ride as you are coming back to the station. As you are harnessed in, facing down, many people will spit gum out of their mouth onto the platform... and its gross.
I called up my buddy Shawn and told him I had my season pass and a free ticket that came with it, and as long as he could cover his own lunch, I'd take him. He was in full agreement, and we met up the next day around 9 and took off. A few hours later, we are pulling up into the Daffy Duck Row 7 line in the parking lot, and walking in. We immediately go on the Georgia Scorcher, waiting about 20 minutes to get on. I figure this is good, because 20 minutes is a decent, short wait for a ride, and if we can wait this long for all of them, then we'll be in the good shape.
I was wrong. We walked onto the Georgia Cyclone, Thunder River (he got soaked, I got my feet wet), the Ninja, The Great American Scream Machine and The Dahlonega Mine Train, and the only reason it took 15 minutes to get on Superman, Batman and Goliath is because we waited for the front of the line. After Batman, Shawn needed a coaster break, so I took on The Mind Bender alone... front car, no wait. I even closed my eyes during the ride, which I love doing on roller coasters.
The Ninja sucks. Always has. Its jerky, its rough and its not entertaining. And I'm not alone in this assessment, as its Wiki page says, "it is the least popular U.S. major roller coaster as voted by people on ThemeParkInsider, ThemeParkCritic, and other review sites." But, I ride it anyway.
Some of the rides now have sponsors... Axe Body Spray is logo'd over The Ninja, which strikes me as kinda funny. The Mind Bender sports the green color again on the tracks, and the new cars (a little too sleek--I kinda miss the boxy cars) have question mark decorations down the side. No, not for the Riddler, like it was fifteen years ago, but because Stride sponsors this ride now. The Scorcher has brand new cars, with the flames on it now blue--Georgia Gas is the sponsor.
Over the six hours we were there, we rode everything we wanted, with minimal lines. They have deals for drinks now, like a bottle of water is $3, but you can get 2 for $5 (which is what we did), and the ice cream sandwich I had was pretty good too. Monster Plantation, which was in such dire need of an overhaul, got one. The music is crisp and loud, the boats are comfy enough and remodeled, and the animatronics, silly as they are, are full of fur and worked perfectly. The song is annoying as ever, but at least its understandable.
Overall, I was pleased with the day. The temperature wasn't too bad, the lines were short, and I was hanging with a good friend, which is the best way to enjoy a good roller coaster. While we were in the front row of Goliath, as it was cresting the first big hill (by the way, that coaster is terrifying, which is awesome) I could see the parking lot that was only a third full.
We ended the day by stopping at Texas Roadhouse, where I dined on a delmonica steak and cheese fries. Good times, good times indeed.
THE CURSE OF SIKES & KOHN'S
If you travel down Highway 231, either from Montgomery headed to Troy, or headed to Monkeytown from Troy, you'll travel through, or at least near, a tiny little town called Pine Level. I know very little about Pine Level, except that there is a South Alabama icon there.
The place is called Sikes and Kohn's Country Mall, or Sikes and Kohn's (pronounced "kahn's") for short. And I hate this place.
Even before you get anywhere close to Sikes and Kohns, you'll see the billboards... oh, will you see the billboards. Large, painted signs telling you that you'll find shoes like Allen Edmunds, Cole Haan and Saucony, jeans like Levi's, Lee and Wranglers, clothes from Lauren, Tommy and Jordache all at Sikes and Kohns Country Mall.
No, the reason I dislike this place is because everytime I go there, my car breaks down. The first time I went, while in college, I stopped for some unknown reason--I'm sure it wasn't to shop. This was when I had my green Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. I went inside, and when I came back out, nothing. No turnover, no sound, nothing. Had to call a tow truck, and it was terribly overpriced.
Another time, I had driven down to visit Allysong and Shelby and Jenn Mullterp and Rad a Tad, and was on my way back when I had to stop and use the facilities. So, without thinking about it, I pulled into Sikes & Kohns Country Mall. Parked on the gravel lot, ran inside, use the powder room, came back out, started up, and was pulling out of the lot when my car started making a really, really funny noise.
Instead of going left, I went right, back down 231 to a small gas station/repair shop that I had passed. They spent about three hours fixing it. And as I crossed the median on 231 to take that left to head back to Birmingham, the car started... jumping. And surging. And stalling. So, back to the gas station. Then, it was towed to Troy. Allysong drove out and picked me up. Tow trucks on Sunday? Expensive.
So, skip ahead like, 12 years or something, to this past April. With a four day break between the ending of The Happiest Place in the Mall and the beginning of Starbucks full time, I decided I would take a few days to visit Mom in Samson. And on the way down, I started seeing the signs for Sikes and Kohns. I tensed.
It was time. It had been too long. The curse had warded over me for over a decade, so much so that I drove past it, never wanting to stop. But not this day. Not this time. If I was ever going to beat Sikes and Kohns, it was time to do so. With Toni Rocki Honda, no less, a 15 year old car that, if any car was going to break down, would be it.
Finally, I saw the big arrow sign, and Sikes and Kohns was here. I slowed down, pulled into the turning lane, and turned into the lot. I found a spot close to the front--it was a Tuesday late morning, so it wasn't crowded--parked and turn Toni Rocki Honda off. I got out, and went inside the building. I figured any stay had to be at least five minutes, otherwise it wouldn't count... I wanted this Curse of Sikes and Kohns dispelled once and for all.
I walked around inside, browsing the shirts and jeans, and observed the Wall O'Belts near the front. Nodded that "hi, how ya doing, no I don't need help, but I want to acknowledge your standing there" head nod to the cashier, and finally, went outside. Keys in hand, I unlocked the door and slid behind the wheel. Took a deep breath, turned they key...
And just to add some drizzle to the cake, the gas station that I had my car serviced, and further broken, at is now just an abandoned building.
While I'm at Starbucks now, working, I'll wear a drive thru headset... even if I'm not on the window, I'll have it on to assist those who are in the window by getting sandwiches, or pastries, or restocking cups or whatever. In the morning, its usually pretty busy, so I hear one beep after another, as one car after another comes to the speaker to order, but every now and again, there's a break. And in that break, I can hear... well, I can hear birds. Birds chirping. And singing. And as I listen to those birds chirping, even for a brief few seconds, it makes me think I'm 8 years old again.
When I was a kid, my mom and I would take a trip down to Florida for part of the summer. My aunt-then, sister-now (there's a story there, I promise, but for later), lived in Winter Garden, and I'd get to hang out with my cousin April, and it was awesome. We were young enough to sleep in the same room, as boys and girls do at that age, and I remember waking up early in the morning to those birds.
There would be a box fan in the window, and the peaceful hum of that fan would keep me drifting in and out of consciousness for most of the morning. I would open my eyes just enough to see that it was early, the light in the room dim, I could barely make out the features in the room. Sometimes, even with the box fan in the window, we'd still leave the window open and the morning's cool air would be in the room. It was Florida, mind you, and it would get hot... but not yet.
And, the cool outside air circulating with the box fan's air, the dim light in the room getting a little bit brighter every few minutes, me on my little bed with the blanket pulled up to my neck, April the next bed over... and I hear the birds sing.
Just like at Starbucks this morning.
Speaking of fans...
A FAN OF THE FAN
There is very little better than a good fan. The Lovely Steph Leann has always had issues allergies and sinuses, so a ceiling fan whirring all night long might keep her cool at night, but there is a wheezy, stuffy price to pay in the morning.
During the summer, we try to be conscience of the thermostat, because we'd rather spend money at Disney World than pay a $250 power bill every month... so it can get a little toasty in our room. But on those days when she is gone, when I sleep alone, I turn that fan on high. I crawl into bed, and pull up my favorite mom-handsewn butterfly quilt and let the cool breeze rush around me.
But my favorite? When I was a kid at home, my parents let me used a small, oscillating fan (there is never use of the word "oscillating" unless the word "fan" is after it) that I would set on a metal folding chair. I'd use books to set it on to get just the right height, then hit that button in the back to make it turn.
That breeze from the fan going back and forth over the length of your body is awesome. You feel it on your face for about two seconds, then its gone, as the air moves down your body laying there under the sheet. Then, if you set it up just right, it would hit your feet for about two seconds, then head back towards your head again. That was a glorious feeling.
Movie reviews for about a dozen movies coming this weekend