Grandparents then and now

The Pike

I got to spend time with Bridghid yesterday; it was Grandparents’ Day at her school. I loved spending some time in her fifth grade classroom playing word games and reading some of her writing. Afterwards we went to the Bipartisan Café for a snack. Peter, the owner, got to meet President Obama recently, and Bridghid shook hands with the man who shook the hand of President Obama! Peter said Obama looked exhausted and the main vibe he got was that the President was very, very tired.

Bridghid and I discussed amusement parks and roller coasters. She loves the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and I told her about the Pike in Long Beach, California. My own grandmother used to take me there when I went to stay with her. This must have been a real adventure for her; Grandma imagined “bad men” lurking in alleys, behind bushes, and around every corner. She was full of cautionary tales that usually ended up with a dead kid stuffed in a gunnysack, found in a ditch days later, so I wonder how she could bring herself to set foot anywhere near the Pike! It was on the waterfront and sailors on leave surged up and down the midways. I would get a ticket for the carousel and walk round the squeaky wooden platform until I found my favorite black horse. The Pike’s biggest attraction was the Cyclone Racer. It may have been the biggest wooden roller coaster ever made, and it went out over the ocean. Drunk sailors were killed on it every year, Grandma told me, and she said everybody threw up after they rode it. I finally got my chance to find out for myself when my cousin Charlie was there to ride it with me. It was the best ride of my life. The first plunge down was so steep it felt like free-falling, with a sharp turn at the bottom, so steeply tilted we were riding sideways–this was where the sailors got thrown off. Charlie liked it so much he spent his own money so we could ride again. Grandma was nearly frantic when we came out–“Do you feel like throwing up? Let’s find a restroom!”

“No, Grandma,” I said. “We’re fine.  Can we get cotton candy now?”

The Cyclone Racer was demolished in 1968, the end of a legend. Bridghid says she doesn’t like roller coasters. She likes the rides where you’re in a container that swings. Funny–now, those are the rides that make me throw up.

The Cyclone Racer


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