Monday, June 13, 2011

Alfundo Anxiety

Any psychologist worth his salt will tell you that the only way to conquer your fears is to face them head-on.  Also, he'll tell you that the phrase "worth his salt" is out-dated and stupid.  While the idea of facing one's fears sounds like reasonable advice, and works well for the fear of hamsters or the fear of flannel,  it probably falls short in more terrifying situations.  If you had, for example, an innate fear of being pummeled to death by former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson, would you really want to face up to it?  Sure, you could walk up to Iron Mike and say, "Hey, Champ, the Lullaby League called, they want their voice back.  And by the way, nice tattoo."  That would indeed be a fine example of facing your fear, but then you'd be facing reconstructive facial surgery.  At best.

When I was young, I was afraid of lots of things.  Some were relatively minor, like clowns and the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz.  They were petrifying, yes, but it's not like Bozo was going to follow me to school.  That's mostly because Mike the Whip would've beaten the seltzer out of him, but also because he's a fictional TV character.  I got over my childhood phobias by the time I was about eight.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I watched Stephen King's It on cable a few months ago and it freaked me out all over again.

My fear of fire lasted quite a bit longer.  Like, permanently.  To this day, I've never struck a match or flicked a Bic.  On camping trips, I have to find a three-foot stick to roast marshmallows.  If I have to light the fireplace, which is to say "if I can't find Theresa," I use one of those trigger-operated lighters that look like miniature shotguns.  I'm not sure where this fear came from, but it's here to stay.  On the plus side, though, I'm never going to be a suspect in an arson case.  So there's that.

One fear that I did manage to take on and conquer was my fear of roller coasters.  When I was a kid, my parents would take me and my brothers to Dorney Park in eastern Pennsylvania.  I don't know if it still exists (I suppose I could Google it), but back in the 70's it was wonderful, even though their mascot was a creepy clown named Alfundo.  I loved almost everything about Dorney Park; the Skeeball games, bumper cars, miniature golf.  Everything except the gigantic wooden roller coaster which was called "One Way Ticket to Hell" or something like that.  Every year, my dad would try to bribe me into riding that thing, to no avail.  Promises of cotton candy and soft-serve ice cream didn't stand a chance against bone-chilling mortal fear.

It wasn't until I was about 11 that I finally rode my first roller coaster.  Space Mountain, Walt Disney World, 1976.  At that time, Space Mountain had only been in existence for one year, and many rumors swirled regarding its safety.  It was supposedly so fast that people were losing their glasses, false teeth, wallets, and overpriced lunches.  I wasn't exactly eager to put myself through that, hell, it had only been about a year since I'd gathered up the nerve to go on the Haunted Mansion.  But with some encouragement from my father, I agreed to give Space Mountain a try.

We stood in line for over an hour.  During this time, the dark recesses of my mind spewed out images of a roller coaster pushing Mach 2, whipping around the track flinging passengers to the Happiest Death on Earth.  Dad didn't help matters, either.  If you've ever been on Space Mountain, you know that there are all sorts of space objects projected in the darkness.  Comets, asteroids that look like giant chocolate chip cookies, meteors.  Well, my dad pointed to one of the stars zipping across the ceiling and said, "See that?  That's one of the cars!"  I could just feel the seven-dollar hot dog looking for the escape hatch.

We finally boarded the ride, and for about thirty seconds, I was petrified.  But then I started to enjoy it.  I enjoyed it a lot.  We got back in line and rode it again.  Just like that, I was hooked.

I rode my first "loop" coaster, "Lightning Loops" at Six Flags' Great Adventure, on my eighth grade class trip.  After that, I became somewhat of a roller coaster aficionado.  Magic Mountain's "X" is probably my favorite, but "California Screamin'" at Disney's California Adventure is a fantastic ride, too. 

But over the past couple years, things have started to change again.  Don't get me wrong, I still love riding roller coasters, but I have to pick and choose.  It seems that certain rides, particularly those that swing side to side like "Batman" at Magic Mountain make me want to do the ol' technicolor yawn.  Even the friggin' Ferris Wheel at California Adventure turned me a vague greenish color.

That just getting me getting older, though.  It's not fear.

Fear would be a roller coaster soaring through rings of fire, with Alfundo riding next to me.  And maybe a flying monkey or two working the controls.


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Anonymous said...

Ha! I used to adore the scary vomit inspired rides. Yes, used to, once I became a Mother (a boring excuse) things changed. I just kept on seeing his baby face when I was going around in the loop.

Damn kids.

They ruin everything.



I think.

And thanks for reminding ME of my irrational fear of clowns. And you even gave us visual. Ugh.


jdemott said...

Always liked roller coasters from the day I rode the first one, Big Ben at Six Flags Over Texas, which they soon after tore down. Space Mountain at Disneyland is a personal favorite. I recently took my 9-year-old for a birthday party with six of his friends to Six Flags and enjoyed the big coasters more than the kids. So, despite my aging body, the thrill isn't dead yet.

However, I hear you on the aging thing. These days, I get dizzy on elevators, even a one-floor ride on the one at church makes me wobbly, which makes no sense with the ability to ride big coasters.

Don't get me too near the ocean. I saw Jaws 2 in the theater and have had an irrational fear of sharks ever since. Nightmares about them. Didn't like swimming in the deep end of pools for a while. Tried snorkeling in high school, but saw one fish and headed for the beach. Proof the trauma is lasting came when I went to an aquarium, on Maui, I think. I walked through a tunnel under a shark tank. I turned around to get my kid, and my eyes met a shark's mouth about two feet from my face; it was just about to skim over the top of the tunnel right above my head. I practically hit the floor, heart racing, in an embarrassing knee-jerk deep squatting reaction. That loud chuckle I did afterwards was just for show, and I scrambled out of there fast.

I also saw the old version of Titanic, one late night on TV, at an impressionable age. It was no Kate and Leo romance. Horrible. I've never been on a cruise, and have no intention.

My worst fear is a sinking ship leaving me in shark-infested water. Think the Navy tale recounted in the first Jaws. Yikes.

So. Cal. Gal said...

My 1st roller coaster ride was a kiddie coaster. I had such a bad headache when I got off that I swore I'd never ride one again.

Fast forward 20 years, a brother tried to 'persuade' me to get on one at Magic Mountain by threatening to pick me up and carry me. I said, "You try and I'll scream so loud that they're gonna call the cops, thinking there's been a murder."

And clowns scare the holy living crap out of me! I've never read 'It' nor do I want to see the movie. Ever.

But I love Ferris Wheels! Especially when they stop at the top so I can start swinging backwards and forwards, forwards and backwards...

otin said...

I was just at Dorney Park last year. They actually have one of those steel mega coasters now. I love a good roller coaster.

notactuallygod said...

At least you faced your fears. Some never do.

Eva Gallant said...

What a great post. I am to chicken to ride roller coasters. My kids love them, though.

Suldog said...

I think phobias can generally be divided into "rational" and "irrational". Mine are rational, while yours are irrational.

Seriously, I think your fear of fire, or my fear of high open spaces, are quite rational. We could DIE. On the other hand, a clown isn't really going to kill you, so...

I handle my fears by avoiding them assiduously. I have no desire to be plummeting to my death with the achievement of having "faced my fear", thank you very much.

lime said...

i'm here to tell you dorney park still exists (we visit every summer) though alfundo is not really the face of dorney park anymore. they have a lot of snoopy stuff. i am pretty sure they are working on the ring of fire ride though and some of the rides do seem controlled by flying monkeys.

Ice Queen said...

I see you've already been informed that Dorney still exists, but I can also tell you that they pretty much ditched the clown. They went with more of a Snoopy theme in recent years.

Anywho...I like loops and swinging on a roller coaster, but I can't deal with a straight down drop. I need the inversion.

Steve Bailey said...

I totaly liked yur post. My feer has alwaze been comenting on a persons blogue but also speling everythang write. Thanks fer helpin me overcom it. Ur tha best!

Bella said...

hi there, Otin said you were a funny dude, so I've come to check you out. I love finding new and interesting people to read, and you're definitely that.

speaking of fears, I have none except of drowning; must have been a former life fear or some shit.

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