Friday, April 30, 2010

"Big fish, will swallow you whole."

April 30, 2010

April’s going out with a “SWOOOSH”; the entire Greater Chicagoland area is under a tornado watch. A “watch” is the lesser to the greater “warning”. The watch gets you a little giddy while the warning alerts you to pick up your beagle and a flashlight and hide in the basement.

The thought of dodging a twister always sparked my sense of adventure. The movie “Twister” was a great roller coaster ride, but of course, it was all in fiction and fun. It was a safe place to play Dorothy Gale. When a real one is at your doorstep, it’s not that funny.

A few years back, we dodged such a twirly bird. An actual tornado tore through an area of Elmhurst only about a mile north of here. The sky outside our house became uncommonly serene in temperament (after a bout of high winds and hollering), and army drab in color. We learned later that we were essentially in the eye of the storm.

The wind outside is kicking up just now. I’m burning vanilla spice incense and the wind loves to rush through, pick up a whiff of the perfume, and carry it along outside, dispersing it to our next door neighbors (who think we’re freaks anyway, so the incense only adds to our cachet as “those odd Liberal folks in the bright blue house.” Now we’re probably “those odd Liberal folks in the bright blue house who are attempting to cover up the Mary Jane stink.” Although I would be really surprised if they even knew any euphemisms for pot).
But I digress.

Today, through the windyblowyness, we traipsed out, beagle in tow, to visit some yard sales. It’s early in the season, but we managed to pick up some great swag. I give you: “Groovy Garage Sale Finds of the Day”: vintage Eeyore figurine (says “Made in Japan” on the underside), big patio pot for flowers with crisp blue and white windowpane decoration and, my “big fish story” of the day, literally: squishy/”fiberglass” lamp in shape of Great White shark, complete with menacing smile. The "Jaws" geek in me came near to exploding.

So, in the event of a tornado chugging down the block, I’ll sweep up my beagle under one arm, laptop under the other, and make sure Ben has the shark lamp. Because this is the kind of kitsch they write poetry about.

Oh, fiberglassy shark lamp
Oh, campy lampy.
Beacon of Spielberg’s great film

(Keep those fingersnaps of appreciation coming….. Thank you.)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

going up in the scary cage...

Ever ride the Bobsled ride (called the Helter Skelter by the British, don't you know), where you get locked up, caged-in, really, in the little metal car and it goes "click-click-click" on its chain into the tube part that's VERY narrow and then you pop up out into the light and circle on down and back to the world as you know it?

This picture was taken at Lakemont Park inside that very ride, inside its scary, narrow tube. Not for the squeamish (me), but definitely for someone like my hubby, who gleefully jumped in, took off, snapped the photos, and screamed like a little girl in a pink tafetta dress on the way down.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The gears and cogs and wheels are schpinnin'! Roadtripping to resume!

And another tributary of the Roadtrip springs forth! At the end of May, skipping into the beginning of June, Ben and I will fearlessly leap into the eastern half of Pennsylvania, swoop into New York state, and I'll have six more parks under my belt (at least!) when all is said and written and done.

Almost in stone, the park list reads: Hershey Park (where Willy Wonka would party: Hershey kiss-shaped justabouteverything), Knoebel's (I've been told may have the best park food eh-vuh!), Dorney Park (I'm still learning more about it, but I know it's super old AND has a Camp Snoopy -- beagles galore!).

After whiling away in PA, we'll traipse up through the Catskills and on the way, stay at Kate's Lazy Meadow (if you haven't been paying attention -- it's owned by freakin' Kate Pierson of the B-52s, for cryeye, and it's resplendent in Mid-Century kitsch AND finery! Truly, a place after my own heart.). After bidding Kate "adieu", we'll hop up to Hoffman's Playland (a smaller kiddie park, reminiscent of Kiddieland in some ways), then start to edge on back west, but not before visiting the grandeur of Seabreeze Park and Darien Lake (heavenhelpme) in the same day!

So, where do you want me to buy you a snow globe? Cuz I'll do it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday on the Blog with Photos!

Boo, scarey! Steel yourself against the terror and mayhem of the fun house at Waldameer Park. I snapped this photo just as Ben emerged from the structure; his life will never be the same.

I usually send Ben into fun hosues and spook houses as my recon man since I am truly the biggest sissy when it comes to haunted hosues and their ilk. Not actual haunted houses; those I dig. I'm talking about the kinds at amusement parks that have ghosts, goblins, aliens and other crazy stuff jumping out at you. That I don't dig.

And, no, eventhough Ben insisted this fun house was not scarey, I still didn't go in. Yes, that's how lame I can be.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Ben, my soulmate, best friend, and adorable scallywag STOLE these flowers! He might not want to admit it, but his love is so true that he crept onto someone's property and actually stole these flowers for me, knowing how thrilled I would be to savor their tender perfume (and how excited I'd be to know my hubby risked at least a possibly arched eyebrow or, at most, a Clint Eastwood-inspired "Get off my lawn" showdown.)

What he braves for me!

He knows lilacs are my favorite flower, a partiality my Mom handed down to me. Mom would always trim back the lilacs, gathering hte delicate branches to nestle in vases and jam jars around the house. Lilacs from her backyard bush center stage in my wedding day bouquet.

On Monday, we'll be selling the portion of my parents' property, the portion where the lilacs reside - if they're even still thriving. We're selling the land at a loss, but it's just time to let it go and let the family who bought my childhood home take over the lot.

I'll be requesting to come over and take a cutting from the lilacs. No idea if they'll take; they're ancient. If they don't, I now know of a bush in unincorporated Elmhurst where I can go, wearing a cat burglar suit, armed with garden clippers.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Love Shack Baby!

No word can sum up the excitement I'm feeling right now. I think "transplendent" has been used before, in an old SNL sketch, so I can't coin that one. It’s something close to that, some sort of excitetritude, some kind of benestaticness (no, that sounds like my husband is in need of hairspray on his pants, and that’s just odd.). No, the kind of excitement I’m feeling is closer to that which I felt before the first time in twenty-seven years I went to Disneyland. Or the euphoria that swept over me as Ben and I flew off on our honeymoon while the Act I finale from “Sunday in the Park with George” played on my headset and I was so happy I was weeping.

No tears here, but bubbly, solar plexus-tingling dandelion yellow pure glee.

I found the website I heard about for a while, I visited it and I learned what I needed to know. And that information has infused one of my upcoming Roadtrips with that extra bit of shucksidarned greatness that I’m so needing for my project, especially since I’ve been off the Road for months, been battling ennui that’s come from having less v.o. work overall, and, more than likely, dealing with a little seasonal affective disorder, even with all the caffeine I ingest to hopefully rectify the complaint.

The website is The Kate in question is one Kate Pierson of the lauded-since-I-was-sixteen B-52s. She and her partner found an old motel in the Catskills, renovated the shacks and cabins, dragged over a small army of groovy Airstream trailers, furnished everything with coveted Mid-Century geegaws and doodads and opened her dream B&B back in 2004.

But it’s only been in the last few days, when Ben and I realized that our next Roadtrip would include Pennsylvania and Upstate New York, that the reality of our staying there came within the realm of the "for real."

I’ve checked out the photos, taken an online tour. Turquoisey walls, checkered red and white sofas, tikis, and kidney-shaped just about anything. Kate’s and my aesthetic run poodle nose to poodle nose on a great circle skirt of shared quirkiness. Plus, since it’s located in the Catskills, there will inevitably be a supper club nearby, for Rob Roys and shrimp cocktails.

Ms Pierson, your inn was opened for you, but it was made for me. Thank you in advance for the Prell and Cashmere Bouquet in the bathroom.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hey God! Thanks for the big blue marble!

Taken from the top of the Ferris Wheel at Santa's North Pole Workshop in Colorado (it's dubbed "the tallest Ferris wheel in the world" as it's at the foot of Pike's Peak).

Just breathe in the fir trees and the gorgeous blue sky. What do YOU see in the clouds?

Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Buds 'n Bees

The flowering bushes were teeming with bees and the fragrance of the lilacs pulled me in and I really came very close to poking my nose directly in said flowering bushes, not caring for the bees either way.

But they were teeming, buzzing, dive bombing and showing off, those bees. They had their own agenda.

We kept walking after I shot some photos, the lilacky smell accompanying us.

The bees kept to themselves (a good thing, probably).

(Idlewild Park, August 6, 2009)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Almost fits the bill...

Yet not quite. It's a sticky wicket, really. Many of the early Six Flags parks date back to 1971. For my project, I'm looking at parks which opened prior to 1970, so they don't fit, yet they almost do. But... would I include them even if they did?

I feel like I just shook the hand of a dirty dealer, realizing my mistake in the nick of time.

I recall Fairyland Park closing back in the 70s. I also recall folks saying, "Well, it was its time -- and it certainly ISN'T Six Flags!" which meant it certainly didn't have the thriller rollercoaster and the double-decker merry-go-'round and the Warner Brothers characters greeting you at the gate.

True. It also didn't have charm and heart. You couldn't park on the street and walk right in, buy as many tickets as you liked rather than an exorbitant fee, buy your popcorn and cotton candy for pennies, or sit quietly under the grandfather trees which used to canopy the area when it was a gypsy camp. Six Flags had concrete and steel, not shade and wood and sugar-scented air.

As tempting as it might be for me to include one of the early Six Flags parks (it may conveniently be on the return route of one of my Roadtrips), it just feels wrong. When Six Flags came to Gurnee, IL, it took over the amusement park atmosphere much like a Walmart takes over a small town, nudging out the little guy. The Mr. Potter of amusement parks.

"You're nothing but a warped, frustrated old man," said George Bailey, after refusing the offer he was almost tempted to take from Potter, which would've compromised his integrity, turning over the Building and Loan to a snake.

Thanks, George. You saved me an empty gesture.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday on the blog with photos!

As much as we tried, the ducks and I couldn't get our acts together for that "Let's re-create the cover of "Abbey Road" moment. However, they still managed to have a lovely day, and so did Ie,venthough it was slick and drizzly. They waddled off, letting the water roll much like it would off a duck's back, cuz, well...

I went shopping.

Dutch Village, on a rainy day at the end of the 2009 season.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Wondering where they are now...

I've used the accompanying photo as my profile picture on Facebook. I found it while doing a Google search on Kiddieland months back. I think some of my friends got confused and thought it was a photo of Ben and me at Kiddieland as kids (which would be impossible unless we were time travelers). The sheer joy and unbridled thrill on the faces of these kids just tickles me. In a grey, fuzzy mood? Whip out this photo (no pun intended, as they're riding the Roto Whip) and it'll surely dispel the most dismal of moods.

But it got me wondering: who are these kids and where are they today? The ride pictured here is Kiddieland's Roto Whip, a truly wonderful vintage ride WF Mangels dating back to 1939. Imagine the hundreds, no, more like thousands of children who've thrilled to the whip and whir of the ride over the years. Judging by the clothing here, I'd say this was taken sometime in the late 40s through the 50s. These kids are more than likely entitled to a senior discount at the movies by now.

This ride obviously touched the hearts of so many kids and their parents, who were forever rewarded with the memory of Sally or Tommy giggling gleefully, then snapping a photo to make it stick. Interestingly, it was up for sale on Ebay just this past week, with a starting bid of $10,000.

It received no bids.

Hello out there! Anyone interested in giving this ride a new home? Anyone? Buehler?

(Maybe these kids are named "Buehler", you never know. Maybe I'll Google "Buehler")

Friday, April 16, 2010

"...and pretty maids all in a row."

Tulips sing Spring to me, in a lilting aria of color. Delicate ladies wearing their Easter bonnets, shading their noses from the bright sunshine. They remind me of the flowers in Disney's vintage "Alice in Wonderland" displaying a variety of personalities and temperments.

Dutch Village in Holland, MI will be opened next weekend and celebrating Queen's Day on Saturday, April 24. When you swing on up, be sure to snatch up some of the amazing bulbs they have for sale. That's where we bought these beauties. And if you're bringing the kiddies, they'll enjoy riding the Petal Pumper cars, straight from Kiddieland!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Is there such a thing as "Happy Tax Day"?

Feeling whipsawed over tax day? Blitzkreiged by anxiety? May I introduce a Moment of Zen (hope Jon Stewart won't sue): deer feeding at Santa's North Pole Workshop in Colorado.

Feel the breeze, your hand cradling the food pellets as the gentle deer has a little snack.

Aaaaahhhhhh... Doesn't that feel better?

(Now go use the hand sanitizer)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gladness and gratefulness.

Pure and simple -- I'd like to share a picture of my happy little family with you. Ivy Beagle (the most photogenic of the three of us, but she hates the camera -- go figure), my darling Ben, and me.

Love and gratitude is just abounding in me right now. Peace to all!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

He just might have a better uniform than Mickey.

Many vintage parks have mascots, cartoon characters that kids can identify with and that help with the branding of the park. Mickey Mouse may be the most famous mascot of all, but other parks have other mascots and/or cartoon themes that run rampant through their grounds, like Snoopy and the Peanuts gang at Knott's Berry Farm or Warner Brothers characters at the Six Flags parks.

Conneaut Lake Park is home to Connie. Connie Otter. Say it fast and you'll get that it's a sound-alike for the name of the park. Connie isn't flashy, but he's dapper, friendly, and a super goodwill ambassador, especially in the kiddie park portion of Conneaut.

Ben and I had to peep our heads through the cutouts and go for the photo op. We do this at every park that has such cutouts. It's our way.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday on the Blog with Photos!!

One of the joys of Cotton Candying is finding the hidden treasures in each vintage park. Pictured above is the base of a sundial I came across at Wisconsin Dells' Storybook Gardens. Surprises await around every corner... you just have to be alert and present to find them. That's true for everything, including bright, crisp Sundays.

Enjoy your day!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Uppity up up!

They made their debut at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. I've seen the smallest ones, like the one with the enclosed cages at Kiddieland, and one of the largest ones: the London Eye. Ferris Wheels sweep through the air, delivering grins and giddiness to all who dare to jump on for a spin.

Pictured here is the Ferris wheel at Tuscora Park in New Philadelphia, OH, a community park which houses a small collection of amusement park rides -- and tons of heart. Blink and you'd miss it. So don't blink.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Oh, it's just been One of Those Days....

When my writing coach told me to post blog posts frequently, I mentioned that there would be an "off season" where I wouldn't be visiting parks, so I wouldn't have as much to write about.

"So write about yourself. Make it personal" was her response.

Well, okay then. It was One of Those Days today, where my self-esteem could've been a little higher, where my energy a little stronger, the sun could've been a little brighter and I could've chosen to eat food that was a little better than what I eventually ingested.

It was One of Those Days, where you're not really sure of your direction, you try to blame it on mercury retrograde or sunspots or that bad nutritional choice you made but, ultimately, you just need to breathe with it and let it go and press on and know that, hello Scarlet O'Hara, tomorrow is another day.

"The greatest artistic achievement is how we live our life"

-- a wonderful quote from Michael Bernard Beckwith. And it's a life-affirming thing to focus on when it's been One of Those Days.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


One of the simple pleasures of Cotton Candying is the food. Many parks I've visited are known for their food, or for a particular foodstuff. DelGrosso's has amazing pizza and baked beans, and a rainbow of unique ice cream flavors, Idlewild has kickin' fried dough, and our dearly departed Kiddieland was known for their free Pepsi products.

Cedar Point turned me on to Chick-fil-A.

I have flittering dreams about Chick-fil-A. The chicken, always juicy and flavorful, the salads unique and tasty (for a fast food salad, truly the best I've ever had), the shakes, well, I could sing an aria, an ode to the peach shake (pictured here with yours truly at the Chick-fil-A in Erie, PA, located near Waldameer).

I've learned that in the not-too-distant future, the Chick-fil-A powers that be will drop down and deposit a franchise in the Chicago area. Oh, I'll be there, camped out with a citronella candle and a Snuggie, waiting in quiet contemplation for the doors to open and for the angels to greet me as I put in my order and dive into the wonder of the Fil-A.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's Spring, when things get a new lease on life. Including rides from Kiddieland!

Dig this! While trolling around some of the websites for parks I've already visited, I noticed Dutch Village in Holland, MI has done something that has warmed my heart on this rather briskish April morning: they have a new ride, which is new to them, but not entirely new at all -- pumper cars, the very same pumper cars which kiddies rode with abandon at our dearly departed Kiddieland.

I'm not entirely positive I had anything to do with this, but when I visited Dutch Village, I did mention to the owner about the Kiddieland ride auction. So you never can tell. If I did have anything to do with the inclusion of this wonderful ride (now called Petal Pumper cars, including "petal", as in tulips, as in what makes Holland, MI famous) at Dutch Village, one of the sweetest, quaintest parks you'll ever visit, then my month of April and maybe even the entire season of Spring is just blossoming with happiness!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sunday on the Blog with Photos! -- special Monday edition.

On the very first leg of the Roadtrip, we stopped by Cedar Point, Ben's childhood park. It's a mammoth undertaking to get from A to B in this sprawling place, but what makes it easier is spending some "set yourself down" time in the Pioneer Village portion. Check out my candle-dipping skills. My candle was all yellow to orange to red, sort of Jefferson Starshippy.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

On a Daypass from Heaven

While sitting in wait for a scrumptious breakfast prepared by my baby Ben on this fine Easter morning (he outdid himself once again. I don’t technically believe it’s possible to outdo yourself as many times as Ben has, but he’s proven me confused about the origin of the phrase yet again with his chocolate pancakes with coffee/vanilla syrup, topped with a yogurt-Di Saronno cream. See what I mean? The man continues to stupefy), my eye was drawn to one specific cookbook, buried among dozens of other cookbooks. This one is compact in size, covered in Plain Jane khaki with black print. That’s it – it’s not showy, it’s not eye-catching like the lavender-spined “Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes” or the “Pie” book decorated with pies depicted in moon phases of uneaten waning to the new moon of an empty pie plate requesting it be refilled. No, the book I was inexplicably drawn to was a bit of a wallflower sitting in a bookcase of show-offs. But it drew me, so I walked over and plucked it out.

“Bohemian-American Cookbook” the cover reads, with a simple post WWII line rendering of a happy cook presenting a steaming serving dish. She’s happy and you know you’ll be happier once you open the cover and peek inside to skim through all the soul-satisfying comfort food recipes.

And so it is: these are the recipes my Mom and Grandma (“Baba” was the affectionate term) would follow. I knew there’d be plenty of pickled meats and dumplings, but what I hadn’t realized was that this particular book was truly a melding of Old World cuisine with the more modern recipes found in America – this was a melting pot cookbook which brought together tradition and fresh horizons.

It also, apparently, was a special cache for my Mom. Because, housed within its pages, I found what can only be described as treasure. Magical treasure. Angel treasure from above sent on this holy Easter Sunday.

We’re not church-goers, but we find our religion, our God, everywhere. God working through others, through us. And, sometimes, that means through a messenger like my Mom. And it all makes sense when I recall that early this morning I reminded Ben of my childhood Easter when I sadly felt too old to receive an Easter basket but Mom surprised me with one anyway, featuring one of my most treasured Barbies. I was still technically a baby, my Mom’s baby, and I deserved a treat, even if I was ten, my first double-digit Easter.

But Easter was only truly Easter when Mom baked the Lamb Cake, a lamb-shaped pound cake topped with buttercream icing and coconut. What I found in this book made me realize that Mom is so very near, and probably so near because it’s Easter and she loved Easter and she always made sure that pound cake lamb was present and part of the day, parked on the serving platter, lying in wait, his candied cherry smile beckoning my little family, dessert-lovers all.

And so I share with you the Easter treasure unearthed today, written in my Mom’s own hand:

Pound Cake
3 cups of cake flour
8 eggs
2 cups of sugar
1 lb. of butter or margarine
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of Vanilla
Cream the butter with sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beat well, then add the flour & baking powder sifted. Add vanilla. Bake 1 hour at 350 oven. Bake in a big tube pan.

“Ha ha,” says Mom. “I knew I’d get myself into this blog of yours SOMEhow!”

Mom, how could I not let you shine?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Don't let it dampen your fun.

The day we visited Erie's Waldameer Park, it rained, a cold, slippery rain that wouldn't let up. Or maybe it did let up, but it was damp and murky so it felt as if it kept raining microscopic drops just to mess with you. But it didn't dampen our day. We took tons of pictures from the gliding ride that takes you up above the treetops, allowing you a great view of the rides beneath. My knees were chilly and pink, but I wouldn't let that dampen my fun. This was the last stop on the first leg of the Cotton Candy Roadtrip, dang it, and I wasn't about to let a little moisture get the best of me.

Ducked into the funhouse, went shopping, but still the rain drizzled down -- but kids kept enjoying themselves. Ben and I shared some Dippin' Dots, those hyperfrozen dots of ice cream that still taste like ice cream through the magic of cryogenics.

So it's rainy today. But it doesn't dampen your spirit unless you let it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

"The Best Day of My Life"

While sitting and writing at my favorite coffeehouse, I was handed a photocopied note by an elderly gentleman. He was a bit in-my-face, but in a charming way, with the inner buoyancy of a character out of a Frank Capra film, and he handed me a printout which shares the title line with the title line of this blog entry.

It starts with this: "Today, when I awoke, I suddenly realized this is the best day of my life, ever!". It goes one to remind you to be grateful for every little thing you have, which is something most of us forget about. We wake up in the morning and, quite often, are struck by all the "gotta do's" and agendas and grinds we must accomplish and we're knocked off-track, starting our day on the left side of our brain rather than the right, the logical and stuffy.

As I skimmed through the page, I came upon this line: "Today, i will share my excitement for life with other people. I will make someone smile. I will go out of my way to perform an unexpected act of kindness for someone I don't even know."

And then it caught me, the fact that this older gentleman had done just that for me. Maybe he recognized the furrow in my brow, the list of things IRS, Dad-in-assisted-living, attorney-focused, and "good-lord-the-house-is-a-sty" related. And he decided I was someone in need of something positive and out-of-the-blue.

I thanked him and now I thank you for reading this and I pass along the same good wishes my very own Clarence the Angel gave me.

This very well could be the Best day of Your Life. I'm pretty sure it's mine -- until tomorrow, that is.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Little April Fools...

Well, okay, not technically April because this photo was taken in August at Waldameer Park. And there's a clown in the photo, as opposed to something you'd recognize as a full-out fool. Or even foolish-type person.

But this will do for today. And I'll be sending you all your $20,000 checks really soon for checking out my blog!