Friday, December 31, 2010


Looking back on 2010, well, I've done that in a previous post, so I won't go over all the details again. Suffice it to say, it had more ups and downs than the Legend rollercoaster at Arnold's Park -- and it had the same amount of that exquisite property called "air time". You know what I mean: when you're lifted off your seat and hanging in the air for just a wisp of a second. Some folks like it; other's like yours truly just don't trust it, have no care for it. Or at least that's how I used to size it up.

Today, December 31, the cover closes on the tome. The bows are tied, buttons buttoned, and all is put safely into the box of memories and lessons learned. But the concept of airtime stays with me and will continue to do so, because it's one of the most powerful lessons I learned while Roadtripping this year. Wouldn't have thought it before my visit to that vintage Iowa park, but things change, wisdom grows. And old constricts sometimes need to be plowed away.

During airtime, you float. There isn't much else to do. It's a tickle-tummy sensation: a little scary, a little unnerving, but all in all rather a safe place. During airtime, you can't necessarily plan for the next hill, nor can you curse the last. You are bound by the laws of physics to simply "be".

2010 held many moments I fought with, railed against. Cursed and spat at. But other moments were cherished so tightly that I feared they'd be suffocated by my need to preserve and adulate them. So highly revered, beatified even. But airtime can't be fought, or preserved. It asks nothing, gives nothing back that can be saved and stored. What I've come to learn through all this is that those moments of airtime are where holiness lies. Where God basically holds you and lets you take a breath and just be. Where you both gasp in, ever so quickly, together.

May 2011 hold you in its gentle grasp, lightly. Then bounce you up when you least expect it and let you hover there, taking in all there is without judgement, bias or fear.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reindeer Games.

Zoinks, the past week's been brimming with activity (including cookie-making, the all-important cookie-making), so many apologies for not posting an update in a while. It's been a wild hodge podge of actual v.o. work (Ta-Ra!!) and rehearsing/performing our old time radio show, and cleaning and clearing the house and running around like the proverbial headless poultry. Ah... time to sit down with a gingerbread latte and focus on the season at hand.

We're having Ben's dad and step-mom over for Christmas Eve, so I spent more time today finding and buying last-minute things, especially foodstuffs for the happy event. I found some great cheeses and fig spread, kalamata olives and salty/savory/sweet nuts. Not to mention the Prosecco. Gotta have the Prosecco. And egg nog and cookies and then you just spin the wheel and start wherever it leaves you, cuz anything I've just listed is good eats.

The above photo is from Santa's North Pole Workshop just outside Pike's Peak. Their carousel has no horses, just reindeer. As it should be. Here's one of them. Can you tell who it is??

A very Merry Christmas to all, and to all a lot of nummy goodies. You deserve it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Coney Island state of mind...

I'm chomping at the bit to visit Coney Island. I keep reading articles on Facebook about how the place is being changed forever; I want to visit it and steep myself in as much of the "original" as I can as quickly as I can. So I was heartened when I read today that although developers are obliterating a lot of the vintage, they are keeping the old Coney Island Theatre, listed in the Register of Historic Places.

Old theatres. If I wasn't writing a book about vintage amusement parks, I'd probably be doing the same for old theatres, epecially those with vaudeville, "legit" histories. I recall a grand house, the Berwyn Theatre, at the corner of Cermak and Oak Park in Berwyn, IL. I learned that a distant relative of mine had performed there in theatrical productions with a Bohemian acting troupe back in the early 1900s. I remember when they decided to tear it down, wrecking ball in action as I drove by. I could see the pink stucco interior gaping through the downed wall like flesh exposed by a fatal blow. And its soul flew up, up, up.

So kudos to the powers that be for helping the Coney Island Theatre to remain. I look forward to visitng next summer.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"So shines a good deed in a weary world..."

What would you do if you found the base of an old carousel (dating back to the early 1900s) and someone told you it was ready for the junk heap, to be sold for parts and materials? Would you simply say, 'Oh well, that's too bad." and move on? Or would you buy it, refurbish it, and then spend the next 25 years fashioning a new carousel around it, complete with a menagerie of wooden animals you carved from scratch? Oh, and I'll also add that you've never carved a thing before in your life?

There's a folksy, hand-hewn miracle up in Nederland, CO and it's called "The Carousel of Happiness". It's the kind of alchemical event that can happen when an enterprising person with a a simple desire to make people happy is in the right place at the right time and gets the right kind of angelic nudge to make something amazing.

The quote in my title line, which is found on a plaque inside the carousel building, is from "The Merchant of Venice". But most people might be more familiar with it from the climax of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" when Wonka realizes that Charlie Bucket it pure of heart and worthy of all the riches and happiness he can bequeath him.

The Carousel of Happiness is one man's gift to Nederland, to those who visit the small mountain town, and everyone who has that shining pure light of soul.

And that means you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans"

Well, I'll just jump in with it: it's the 30th anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon. I remember it like it was yesterday: writing in my diary that night, filling it with all the teenagery details of my day, when my Mom knocked on the door with the news. My parents let me stay home the next day; I was devastated. When I went back to school, I had to write in the attendance logs my reason for absence. I wrote, "a friend died". Because he had.

And 82 years ago, my Mom, Beatrice Novak, was born. And I truly believe both of these angels are busy in heaven, looking down on us all, making the world a little bit better in any way they can.

Love you, my angels.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"American Pickers" are my new heroes!!!!

I love them, I think they rock, and I think they are the bestest people in the world right now, at this moment in time. Forget about Oprah and Gandhi. I'm all about the Antique Archeology guys on the History Channel.

Not just because they're cool and kinda dangerous and seek out nifty old crap to buy and turn a profit on. Not because they like finding crazy stuff, like taxidermy animals posed in interesting ways, or an 8-foot tall cowboy boot, or giant papier mache heads which they don and dance around in. No, no, no. I love them because they "get" it. They get what history means in regard to vintage parks.

Case in point, this evening's episode, wherein the guys visit Bushkill Amusement Park, which has been closed for 4 years due to an enormous flood. They visited and bought a myriad of cool things including two side show canvas posters. Which they later found out were worth $10,000 for the pair.

They paid $200.

So what did they do? They knew the man who now owns Bushkill is trying to amass funds to start putting the park back together. And so the boys went back to the park and handed over a cool 5 grand, to the amazement and gratitude of the stunned park owner.

I've visited many a park which has fallen or is near to falling on hard times. Bushkill was originally slated to be a part of my Roadtrip, but then I learned it had been sitting dormant for years. The Pickers came upon the park and could see the history, treasured its uniqueness, it's "rough around the edges" exterior(very rough, as the park was hit by a hurricane and was basically flattened by eleven feet of water in its midway). And they saw what the park meant to the owner and they clearly valued the importance of preserving this piece of Americana.

Rock on Mike and Frank. Rock on, Picking dudes! You are most righteous.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday on the blog with one great photo!!

A dream is a wish your heart makes...

Happy Birthday to Walt Disney, with much gratitude for all the playfulness, wonder and magic he's given us. Walt means a great deal to Ben and I. And the spirit of Walt permeates a lot of my Cotton Candying.

Thanks, Uncle Walt.

Disneyland, June, 2007

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Looking back, taking stock, giving thanks...

It's been quite a year. I've had the honor to visit a number of parks across the country and get the word out about my book on a Pittsburgh area radio station. There's so much more ahead, but at this dark quiet Advent time, I think a look back at what I've seen would be quite fitting.

Silver Springs in Florida, "Nature's Amusement Park". While strolling through the area, I kept getting met with images of folks back in the 1950s who enjoyed the park in a different way than today's crowd. The place was exotic and rather dangerous back in the day. Imagine a typical 50s family, mom in crisp cotton and kids and dad decked out in their madras, dad with Kodak camera, kids with the Brownies, snapping pictures of creatures they'd never seen before. A safari of sorts only a few hours away from their space age, tri-level homes.

Hershey Park in PA. A chocoriffic wonderland -- the closest thing we'll probably ever have to Wonkaland.

Dorney Park, with a vintage carousel Ben remembered from his childhood back in Ohio. It had been transplanted at Dorney years ago. Ben's realization that it was indeed his childhood carousel was one of my most treasured moments thus far in my Cotton Candying.

Knoebel's. May just be my most favorite park to date. It almost taunts other parks in my mind, daring them to top it. They're remaking the Riverview Flying Turns ride, for cryeye!

Hoffman's Playland - small but sweet. The perfect park for a family treat (pardon the rhyming, but it just seemed right. You'd rhyme too if you visited Hoffman's).

Seabreeze Park -- the story behind its carousel is quite inspiring. Getting to venture INSIDE said carousel was magical.

Darien Lake in upstate New York has a wonder wheel-style Ferris wheel and an ancient plaster octopus in the lake. It's got a lot of "new" to it, but when I found these vintage touches, it made the park spring to life for me.

Arnold's Park -- A park that's had many a setback, but has always come back improved and saucy. Plus they have a rock and roll museum on the premises. I mean, come ON.

At this point in the year, it seemed that karma or the spirits that be or what have you told me that I needed to slow down or take stock or not be so cocky because they sent an actual flood which smacked us down about five grand. And so the Cotton Candying stood still for several months until...

Children's Fairyland! A fantastical storybook-themed park that holds true to its history. The puppet theatre alone is worth the journey.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk: a haunted mansion with some rocking FX, fried Twinkies and chocolate-covered bacon. These are a few of my favorite things. Oh -- and sea spray.

Silver Dollar City - where you can have a country Christmas with all the trimmings. And succotash. Can't forget the succotash.

Gotta thank God and all my angels and my Mom who sits on my shoulder from time to time for the drive and energy to continue the RoadTrip. And my most heartfelt thanks always goes to my sweetheart, my personal angel and playpal - my husband Ben, without whom none of this would be a reality. None. Not a stitch.

I must also thank all the people who generously contributed to my Kickstarter campaign, to help offset some of the travel expenses for next year's Cotton Candying. You are my spankin' new angels and I gratefully acknowledge you all!

It's been a tough year, especially with the aforementioned flood, but also career-wise (extreme highs and the quietest of lows) and Dad's health, which has made my focus stray a bit to say the least. But looking back and taking stock of my journeys I must say I accomplished all I set out to do, with a few exceptions. And what awaited me in the months after of the flood, when I really had no more funds for RoadTripping? One of my most favorite roles and shows to date: Drowsy in "The Drowsy Chaperone".

So it's Advent. And I'm amassing lists of all I've surveyed, embracing and keeping that which is good, and letting go of what has proven hurtful. Anticipation and wonder and love = good. Fear = bad and hurtful.

I suggest you give it a try, too. And a very blessed Advent season to you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Where in the world is that Pam Turlow and why hasn't she been posting on her blog?

Doing research, in a way.

Earlier this year, Ben and I purchased a trip to Walt Disney World. Then the economy got itchy and jobs got tight and I came very close to canceling the trip. At the very last, and I do mean last minute, we decided it was more important to go than not to go. Besides that, everything was paid for, including food and tickets, thanks to some gift cards and Disney Visa points, plus the cancellation fees would've been just plain dumb for us to have to pay and there would be much crying and gnashing of teeth - especially on Ben's part, as this was a Birthday Extravaganza in the planning for him for at least five years.

So we went. The past week was spent away from computers, away from TVs (except for those that were set up at various rides to show guests what to expect or to spell out safety requirements)and away from things that have sapped us both of our energy, our sense of play, and our usual happy demeanor.

In a way it was research, but more so it was pure escape and fantasy and relaxation. When I tour the parks for the book, I'm ion writing mode, book mode, information absorption mode, so I don't enjoy the parks as I would as a simple, paying customer.

Will I include WDW in my book? Yes, in a way I will. As I plan to include Disneyland.

"But these are huge, well-funded mega parks, Pam! You can't do that! Plus, WDW turns 40 NEXT year, not THIS year! Stop the insanity and get back to the small parks where you belong!"

But if it wasn't for Children's Fairyland, the small fairytale-themed park, there wouldn't be a Disneyland. And if Disneyland never existed, Walt's dream of Disney World would never have been realized.

While they may not have their own chapters, or be counted as one of the 40 parks, both Disney parks will find their way into the book because what Walt Disney brought to the world, places where children and adults could play together, where imagination has its own "happy place", is inextricably linked to the souls of all vintage parks. Disney's spirit has definitely infused itself into the fiber of the message behind my book. And for that, I'm ever grateful. And homage will be made.

We believed in our idea - a family park where parents and children could have fun- together. Walt Disney