97th Street in Far Rockaway still makes me hungry, and
gives me vertigo.
think back to 1957, the old Playland amusement park. I'm
welded to my seat under a thick metal bar, about to be
tortured in the Atom Smasher Roller Coaster like a reluctant
NASA test pilot who has lied about his age and flight
credentials. My three older cousins smile sadistically
at me while I try not to think about my terror and the
three undigested hot dogs with sauerkraut churning like
a high speed blender in my lower abdomen. It's father's
day and we've been traveling in bumper-to-bumper traffic
for the entire hot, two-hour ride from Mt. Vernon.
immediately bolt out of my uncle's Plymouth Fury for my
four minute thirty-five second out of body experience
in the legendary roller coaster. I'm frozen in the very
last car as we lurch higher and higher into the stratosphere.
Then the sadistic wooden monster explodes into a series
of loops and decents like the vintage WWII era Blue Angels
flight show careening end over end, very low over the
heads of a hushed Memorial Day crowd who can count every
rivet in both wings. My cousins' gleeful screams travel
back to me as if I'm in an echo chamber. I'm a trapped
passenger in an out-of-control Porsche with no brakes.
I squeeze the metal bar with white knuckles for the final
descent as if I were skiing down the icy side of Everest
without poles. Finally, the exhausted dragon comes to
a panting halt.
unlocked from our metal cages, my cousin and I, dizzy
but still hungry, wobble back to the hot dog stand, each
of us clutching ten more orange tickets, desperate for
our next ride on the Atom Smasher.