Friday, July 22, 2005

Just Passing Through . . .

If you're seeking solitude, a walk at 3:00 AM is the perfect solution. The perfect, quiet still of the evening is a good way to come down from a crazy night of losing poker and to get the sound of casinos out of your head.

And really, it wasn't so much by choice -- I had to walk the dog.

She'd been cooped up for some time and needed a walk. I needed to get the frustration of constant suckouts and drawing to the second best hand out of my head. So we walked.

I noticed him walking towards us, his whitish shirt and shorts standing out against the black night. But from a distance, I coudn't see what he was carrying. By the looks of it, it was cumbersome, and since he was holding it over his head, I didn't see him as a threat. Besides, I had my trusty watchdog with me. Ahem.

As he drew nearer, I pulled Trudy out of his way, curious to see just what the hell he was carrying. Was it a box? Was it a painting, a work of art. Was he going to bash me over the head with it?

Nope; it was an ironing board. Bouncing over his head as he walked down the sidewalk.

"Just passing through," he said to me as he walked past. I was too weirded out to say much of anything. He continued on through the night, oblivious to me staring at his back.

In my somewhat bland but safe daytime world, people walking down the streets with ironing boards is a touch unusual. At 3:00 AM, it becomes kind of sinister. What, exactly, does he have planned for this ironing board? What does he need to iron in the middle of the night? And if he stole it, why didn't he just go for the television?

I guess I'll never know. And to be honest, I'm not sure I want to -- the answer probably isn't half as interesting as the questions.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Terror at 300 Feet

My hands started shaking as the shoulder harnesses clamped me onto the seat. Strike that -- I was trembling. Here I was, latched into a chair, which in turn was bolted to a cylinder that surrounded a 250-foot tall tower. In mere seconds, the cylinder, with me attached, would be launched up to the top of that tower, where it would fall for a short time, bounce back part way up and then lower itself gently to the ground.

Why in the hell am I doing this? I thought. I don't particularly like heights, but I can tolerate them - as long as I'm enclosed in something. Nor do I like the whole dangling feet ride. On a roller coaster, it's okay - you move too fast for it to really hit you. But on this, the Power Tower? Nope. You get to fly straight up and bounce back down.

Darcy smiled at me as the ride moved into position. She looked around eagerly, ready for liftoff. I clutched the shoulder harness more tightly, and realized the sound I heard wasn't hydraulics tearing themselves to shreds - it was me preparing to hyperventilate.

Why am I doing this?

Liftoff pressed me down into the seat, leaving my stomach somewhere on the ground. The wind burned my face as we kept climbing up up up. Darcy may have said something, but I was screaming too loudly to hear it. I would have looked, but my eyes refused to open.

Finally, we started back down -- and then we bounced back up. I opened my eyes a bit, and saw the sun peeking through the evening clouds, its orange reflection shining up from Lake Erie. The lights from the amusement park glittered like stars.

And finally, we hit the ground. I climbed out of the seat and reached out with a shaky hand to get my glasses from the shelf. My legs shook. I was sweaty, scared and ready to go home.

Why did I do that?

Darcy's smile said it all; for her, being launched into the sky wasn't terrifying, it was exhilerating. And that made the trip worthwhile.

But no, I didn't join her for the second ride. I was perfectly happy celebrating gravity from the ground floor.