Tuesday, October 19, 2010


"If we don't do this this summer," Justin said, "We'll miss this parent-child experience." At thirteen, he was aware that his childhood was expiring.

The experience was riding the Coney Island Cyclone. Justin and I collected roller coaster rides, in an unsystematic way: If a roller coaster crossed our path, we rode on it, including those at Riverside Park in Agawam, Whalom Park in Lunenberg (as soon as the authorities declared him tall enough), and Canobie Lake Park in New Hampshire.

I had recently seen a magazine article that ranked the ten most spectacular roller coaster rides in America. The Cyclone had been nosed out of first place by something in California that was modeled on the Cyclone, but more so. We weren't going to go roller-coaster-chasing to California; but New York, Coney Island, and the Cyclone were within reach. When my mother offered to stake us to a tour to New York City offered by a bus company in East Templeton, we accepted, first verifying that the Cyclone would be open for business during that October weekend -- its last for that year, it turned out. It also turned out that the Cyclone had its own telephone line. There's something very New York about that, I'm not sure why.

So Justin and I piled onto a bus in East Templeton and rode to New York City, arriving in time for a couple of hours relaxation before supper at the hotel. While others relaxed, we fell to figuring out how to get to Coney Island. Knowing nothing about New York -- I could count the number of times I've been there in my life and have a bunch of fingers left over -- I considered springing for a taxi.

It turned out to be startlingly easy to get there by subway. During the forty-five minute ride each way I had ample opportunity to be glad I had decided against the taxi. At the end of the line we hurried over to the Cyclone -- it was easy to find, towering over everything in sight -- and joined the queue at the entrance.

Once on board, we experienced the familiar sinking sensation in the mid-digestive system as the car jerked up the slope, and held our breath as it plunged down that legendary first drop; rattled and lurched and shivered around corners; and eventually rolled to a stop. We thought about going around again -- but my arthritic old neck didn't appreciate being jolted and shaken quite that much; $3 each for a ninety-second thrill seemed a bit steep; and anyway, we wanted to get back to the hotel to the dinner that came with the tour before it was too late and we had to spend money somewhere else. So back we rode on the subway, arriving just in time.

During the next day or two we saw the usual New York sights: the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, New York harbor from a tour boat, and some shopping center that we could have done without. We had a delightful time, especially the parent-child experience that had inspired us to go to New York.