Thursday, April 27, 2006
The King of Dread and Other Silly Insecurities
Artwork (c) Singleton 2006
Introduction to Fear of The Unknown
I didn't start out in life all iffy, itchy, ants in my pants, scared of the dark. In fact I was a brave little cowboy at two, Peggy Lipton from the Mod Squad at ten, and probably out of this world by sixteen. No fear. My children think their generation coined that phrase. They're mistaken. We lived life by the fly. Half the cars I rode in didn't have seat belts, and we flew. Rip tides meant a great day to surf...or float...or play maniac drift wood...and we zoomed, perinwinkles and jellyfish dancing, churning under our sandy shadows. The local news announcement" "It's 11:00 p.m., Do you know where your child is?" meant put a dime in the payphone and call home...throw out the safety net, put Ziggy Stardust on one last time.
And then I rode the Zipper. It was probably 1973. There were 10 of us, and Miss Molly, of course. I wasn't allowed to ride with the boys. So Miss Molly was there, in her penny loafers, smiling, trudging behind us down the dusty aisles of the carnival. The designated driver. The designated Mama. She was in charge of getting us safely to and from the fair on this Friday night, and she believed in freedom. Let them have fun. "But is he nice?", "They're just kids", all of that...but she trailed behind us anyway, because she had to count heads on the ride home, and as many that rode in with her had to come home with her. I remember her standing there. Just past the ticket taker. Candy apple and cigarette in hand, in her moo moo and loafers, smiling at us... As we piled onto the Zipper, two by two....
Trisha and I buckled in, the cage clamping Bang! and our feet dangling forever in front of us...suspended over the dirty landscape of popcorn boxes, cigarette butts and torn ticket stubs. We laughed. And wiggled our feet and shimmied the cage. Could we rock it? We tried. It barely swayed. Our little dog pen in the sky was weighted at the bottom and our hundred pound efforts were not even tweaking the ride. So we screamed. As loud as we could. As if we were at the top of a ferris wheel reaching the heavens, on the yanking curve of a roller coaster falling from earth, we screamed. And Miss Molly just smiled.
The music blasted, not thumped. It sort of screeched and rattled against the cage. We banged. With our free arms we pounded, : " Let us out! Stop!" and we laughed. We wanted it to never end. This feeling of being jolted and snatched and flying precariously close to danger. And then we heard the noise. I think it was a boom, but like a snake, the tail end of it hissed. And the world stopped. Or at least the Zipper did. We were hanging face down, staring at the dirt, screaming. And we were almost at the top of the Zipper.
We just kept screaming. No fear. Fun. Laugh. Kick your sandal clad feet. And then one by one, as the fire grew, they were cranking the cages down towards the ground. And everyone below us was climbing out of their naughyde nightmare and leapng to the ground. We were cranked higher. To the top. And then over the top. And then face down, to Miss Molly and the circle of faces holding the net. The net? Carnival canvas bunched up in a heap, held steady by a tribe of sunburned and wrinkled men, smiling up at us, (Is this supposed to be comforting?) hollering "jump" ! You're kidding right?
It was the smoke that convinced me to do it. To reach over and bop the latch. To send us free falling, clinging to nervous laughter and each other's jeans, through the air and into the makeshift trampoline. We landed with a thud, as 8 men came to their knees and Miss Molly watched. We had road rash from the flight, or the landing, or the twisting of our 'too-cool" outfits in the process.
And then we had free passes.
"Ride anything you like."