The Texas CreditWhore Massacre

For the last few years, I’ve made it a habit to head down to Walt Disney World for my birthday, where I spend a few days roaming parks and resorts in a comfortable haze. I try new restaurants, revisit old favorites, and stay on property, allowing the Mouse to cart my MagicBand-wearing ass around. This year, however, the dates fell too close to the Princess half marathon, and the only available accommodations were at the Deluxe level. Not hype on the idea of dropping eight hundred bucks a night for a hotel room I’d barely see, I turned my eye elsewhere.

Each option I came up with seemed to have its own pitfalls. My first choice was a few days at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California, where I hadn’t been since 2004, and my SF Membership would prove to be a benefit. The price of airfare was absolutely insane, though, and despite trying every conceivable combination (flying into San Francisco late the night before and driving down to LA, and assorted shit like that), there was no way I could justify paying that. My second choice was to return to Florida, but spend a few days at Busch Gardens in Tampa, where I hadn’t been since the late eighties. This time it was the rental car market that fucked me, and I regrettably scratched Tampa off my list.

That left Texas. Two Six Flags parks I’d never been to, four hours apart, and opening weekend for both. I checked the weather. Highs in the 80s, lows in the 50s. Yeah, let’s do this.

I flew into Dallas early Friday morning, selected a nice nondescript Chevy, and took the interstate south until I was well clear of the metropolitan area. Then I put everything in the hands of the GPS, opened up my “Texas” playlist, and headed off the big pavement onto a “farm to market” road, and continued to squirrel my way south. My destination was Kingsland, Texas, to have a nice country lunch at a little place called the Grand Central Cafe. Aside from having what sounded like a really good chicken fried steak, GCC also happens to be the house from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, relocated and restored in the nineties.

And on the way there, I was on roads very similar to the ones where countless victims fell prey to Leatherface and his cannibalistic (and barbecue-award-winning) family. Most of my experience driving in Texas had been pretty flat, so I was surprised to see hills, bluff, and lakes the further south I drove. Every once in a while on one of the dozens of backroads I was on, I would pass a huge ornate gate for a ranch, sometimes a huge home visible in the distance, sometimes just a winding road, too far to see the end. I had some time to play with, and it was definitely refreshing getting off the expressway.

I’ll admit, it was a little creepy walking up to that house. It looked much as it did in the 1974 film (the home looked “normal” in the movie, which made what was inside even worse), and the front door opens into the iconic hallway/stairway. But instead of animal pelts and a rickety sliding metal door, there’s polished wood and a smiling hostess behind a podium.

More “this”…

There’s nothing that gives you the indication that this is anything else but a charming little cafe in a small Texas town. For someone who had the image of this house seared into his brain since age eight (good call, Mom and Dad), it was jarring and awesome all at the same time.

I ate my chicken fried steak (worthy of the hype) right about where the family was trying to get Grandpa to kill Sally Hardesty with a hammer. I wanted to enjoy the experience as a meal first (which I certainly did) and a ghoulish tourist attraction second, and I only gave myself away to the waitress when she saw me taking pictures of the staircase.

And not so much “this”.

Turned out I was far from the only one to make the trek out here as a Chainsaw fan, including one fan who flew out here from fucking China just to visit. There was a bar/lounge upstairs, and most of the memorabilia was there, signed photos from the cast, pictures from fan gatherings, and several paintings of a developmentally disabled man wearing a mask of human skin.

I rolled into my hotel in San Antonio in the early evening, kicked my shoes off, laid on the bed, and then spent the next two hours unsuccessfully trying to motivate myself to get up. This shouldn’t have been surprising, considering that I had left the house this morning at 3am, but I finally managed to pry myself up to get some water and snacks from down the street. I returned to the room and spent my birthday evening munching on cheese and nuts, watching a few episodes of Liv and Maddie. Don’t judge.

I ate a fast breakfast Saturday morning after being seated in IHOP’s Screaming Baby Room, and headed off to Six Flags Fiesta Texas, where I was one of the first dozen or so cars to park when the lot opened. There were maybe a few hundred people in line by the time the ticket gates opened; the weather was sunny but still pretty chilly, and wouldn’t warm up until the afternoon, which I hoped would keep early attendance down. My plan was simple, hit the big stuff as fast as possible, keeping ahead of the crowds as best I could. Rerides could wait until later, I was all about credit whoring this weekend.

Iron Rattler: looks insane, pretty much is. Photo: Rocky Mountain Construction

First up was Iron Rattler, the steel reprofile of the old Rattler wooden coaster by the good folks at Rocky Mountain Construction. Iron Rattler was one of the first RMC projects, and I was interested to see how it stood up to the other two I’d ridden (Goliath at SFGAm and StormChaser at Kentucky Kingdom). It literally being Opening Day, the park only had one train running while the other was still in offseason rehab, and after behind held at the gate for a few cycles, the coaster opened about fifteen minutes later. The ride was balls to the wall, consisting of a great stalled first drop, several overbanked turns, a zero-g roll, and a weird series of banked hills that led to a screaming dive off a quarry wall and into a tunnel originally taken by the wooden coaster’s course. I wasn’t quite sure where it ranked for me yet, but it would probably come close to cracking my top ten steel. Unfortunately, the line had grown substantially during my ride, so an immediate reride didn’t look like it was in the cards.

The mounting line at Iron Rattler hopefully meant that lines weren’t bad yet at anything else, a theory proven correct at the Road Runner Express, the park’s mine train coaster that ran next to the same quarry wall. Most mine trains are slow, low to the ground affairs, with the emphasis on swooping curves and dips, but RRE was a bit atypical, installed in 1997 and the last Six Flags mine train manufactured by Arrow Dynamics. A 67 foot first drop was nothing to sneer at, and I was surprised at the speed and force through several of the turns. A family coaster yes, but probably the zippiest mine train I’d ever been on.

I bit the bullet, and got in line for the Boomerang, the park’s Vekoma shuttle coaster, as that wait wasn’t going to get any prettier as the day went on. Luckily, the ops seemed pretty on, and I managed to ride after about a half hour wait, not awful for the notoriously slow loading Vekoma headbanger. The ride was relatively smooth, not much different than the version I’d ridden at Knott’s Berry Farm, but nothing I would be likely to repeat that day. After a little bit of speedwalking, I got in a short line for Pandemonium, a Gerstlauer spinning coaster that featured small 4 person cars with a free spin feature through a relatively tame layout. They’re fun little installations, and it was a perfectly serviceable mid-sized thrill.

The park’s launched coaster Poltergeist looked like it would be down most of the day due to high wind conditions, so I headed up toward the top of the park to Superman: Krypton Coaster, a B&M Floorless coaster that also interacted with the quarry wall. B&Ms are known throughout the industry as workhorses; reliable rides with high capacity. Usually.

I understand that operating a coaster might suck sometimes. I may have never done it myself, but I know ops from several parks and I’m pretty well versed in basic park operations, I know it’s not easy. There’s an emphasis on safety, efficiency, and show, usually in that order, with safety being paramount as it should be. But efficiency wasn’t really on the docket at the Krypton Coaster that day, featuring some of the most maddeningly slow movement I’ve seen from a crew in a long time. Most of the warping of time and space came from the actions of the main op in the booth and his perplexing way of handling loose objects. The signage in the station is very explicit: all loose items that can’t be secured (sport bottles, backpacks, whatever stupid fucking Green Lantern cape you decided to spend eight bucks to win) must be placed on the unload platform behind a yellow line. Simple, no? Of course it is, and that’s why people routinely fuck it up. Shit was over the line, every time. You’d figure it would be just as easy as having one of the ops checking restraints push the shit back over the line with their foot as they go, right?

Kal-El would not be pleased.

Nope. Nobody did that. The guy in the booth would wait until restraints were checked, then inform one of the other ops about one of the offending items. One. Just one of the items. He would then wait until the op had returned to their ready position before calling out another item. And none of the other employees seemed to have the independent thought that if you’re pushing one back, you should probably just push them all back. Every once in a while, the booth op would just pop the restraints open, seemingly for no reason. Dispatches were like, seven or eight minutes apiece, and for those of you not in the know, that really kinda sucks. The coaster was running three trains, and two of those trains, loaded with riders, seemed eternally stacked on the brake run leading into the station.

When I finally got to ride it, Krypton Coaster was pretty good; it had a nice diving first drop, great hangtime in a huge vertical loop, and several moments of interaction with the quarry wall. Sure as shit, though, I sat my happy ass strapped in that train on the brake run for a good ten minutes before I was able to disembark. It got it, it was Opening Day, maybe a new crew…but c’mon, man. A little urgency, please.

Fuck, there was still nothing going on with Poltergeist, so it was time to try out Fiesta Texas’s newest coaster, Batman: The Ride. Six Flags has themed so much shit to Batman over the years, you don’t know what the fuck is what half the time. There’s Batwings, and Dark Knight Coasters, and Batman The Escape, and Batman Adventure: The Ride, not to mention all the shit they theme to the villains…they just mine the absolute hell out of the license.

Don’t worry, I think it looks oddly janky too. Photo: Six Flags

This particular Batman was a new S&S 4D Free Spin coaster, a bizarre looking contraption that used a series of adjustable magnetic fins to spin riders 360 degrees head over heels throughout the course. (Several of these are going up in Six Flags parks this year themed to the Joker, including one at Great America) I was on the fence about this ride. The flips and spins were surprisingly smooth, but they were really the ride’s only trick. There were only a few brief moments where you weren’t spinning or titling that allowed you to actually realize where you were on the track. I also didn’t have much memory of any of the physical sensations created by the layout itself, the spinning really kinda overpowered everything. Capacity could also be an issue; each train only held eight riders, four on each side of the structure (and the four on the other side are never even visible to you, which is kinda weird). Although things were moving as fast as they could, loading and unloading was still slow, and this was a Saturday in late February, not mid-July.

It was getting to mid afternoon by this point, I hadn’t eaten yet, and I still had a side jaunt that I wanted to take. So I gave Poltergeist one last look to negative results, and headed toward the front of the park for my final coaster, Goliath. Another name that Six Flags uses for fucking everything, this Goliath is a B&M inverted coaster formerly know as, wait for it…Batman: The Ride. It used to be at Six Flags New Orleans, where its elevated station and layout helped it survive the unpleasantness of 2005. Then-Six Flags CEO Mark Shapiro (who, to the best of my knowledge, has never actually stolen pennies off a dead man’s eyes) yanked what remained of value from the soupy mess, and dropped the coaster into Fiesta Texas. The Thirty Fourth Thing Named Goliath was a standard B&M Inverted, with five inversions and good speed, and happily, a walk-on for me. Leaving my options open for a return at some point before closing, I got my hand stamped, ate my first Whataburger across the street, and headed east.

My destination was Seguin, Texas, forty five minutes away, and home to ZDT’s, a local family owned amusement park. I don’t usually make a habit to drive nearly an hour out of my way for a small park like this, but most parks don’t have the world’s first modern wooden shuttle coaster, Switchback.

The pride and joy of Seguin, Texas.

It looked all the world like a traditional wooden coaster at first: lift hill, first and subsequent drops, banked turns…and then a vertical spike where the track just ended. Up the spike, and then back down, to take the whole course in reverse. It made little to no sense for a park like this to build something like this, but you gotta love em for their “fuck it, we’re doing it” attitude. And from the hordes of children attending birthday parties at the park that day, ZDT’s probably ain’t hurting for business. In my life, I only like a few specific kids, and they certainly weren’t among this number, so I rode Switchback a few times, bought a t-shirt, and then started the forty five minute drive back to San Antonio. After a few drinks, I was off to bed early, I had a long day ahead of me.

I left San Antonio well before dawn, headed north to Dallas and Six Flags Over Texas. My hotel room wouldn’t be anywhere close to ready by the time I arrived, so I planned to be at the gates well before opening and hit what I could as fast as I could, hopefully getting most of it under my belt by check-in time. I made incredible time, thanks to basically abandoned roads and a 75mph speed limit, and even with stopping for gas and coffee, and lingering in a few gift shop sections of truck stops, I pulled into the SFOT lot at about 9:45am for a 10:30 opening. Yesterday had been sunny but chilly, but today looked overcast with possible rain coming in early to mid afternoon. And this park was bigger than Fiesta Texas, I was going to have to move fast.

There were a few hundred people behind me when the gates opened, but after a few minutes of fastwalking, it didn’t seem like anyone was following me, and I was first at the chain at the entrance of the New Texas Giant. Much like Iron Rattler, RMC reprofiled the Texas Giant wooden coaster into a new steel creation, and the rave reviews began to pour in. NTG was also only running one train, but the park attempted to ease the wait by utilizing a reserved return time system for when the lines started to build, not a half bad idea. The line started to fill behind me, and we were let into the station to wait for the coaster to finish its morning test cycles.

Maybe it was because I was expecting so much, but I just wasn’t completely floored by the New Texas Giant. There was a lot to like about it; the trains were comfortable, it was definitely fast in the first half, the first drop was spectacular (especially in the back row), and there was some great ejector air in parts. But it seemed to slow dramatically in the second half (possibly due to the weather, I’ll give it that), and although shorter, Iron Rattler seemed to have better all-over pacing. New Texas Giant is still easily in the top three coasters in the park, but is probably the least impressive of the RMCs that I’ve ridden so far (even though it would absolutely kill in almost any park in the world).

La Vibora: “Exceeds Expectations”.

I backtracked toward the front of the park, headed for La Vibora, the park’s Intamin bobsled coaster, where cars rolled freely down a winding steel trough. (Some Chicagoans may remember the pain of Rolling Thunder, a similar installation at Great America in the early 90s.) During my research of the park, I had seen more than a few people suggest that La Vibora should be hit early, as loading times and lines would grow pretty quickly even in the morning, but I was lucky enough to walk all the way up to the station and be on my way in a manner of minutes. La Vibora seemed a lot more fun to me than Rolling Thunder ever did; it seemed faster, and I certainly don’t remember the bobsleds themselves being that comfortable. So far, I had been underwhelmed by an RMC and enjoyed a bobsled coaster. This was going to be a weird day.

Next on my list was Shock Wave, the park’s classic Schwarzkopf steel looping coaster. Schwarzkopfs are a throwback to the days of the roller coaster reserguence of the 70’s, when a single vertical loop was sight enough to stop foot traffic dead on a park midway. Shock Wave had two fucking loops, and had been a headliner at the park for many years. Recently, for reasons known only to themselves, Six Flags has gotten into the thoroughly annoying habit of slapping “virtual reality experiences” on several of their older coasters, breathlessly advertising it as an adventure where you battle aliens, or gargoyles, or some menacing shit like that. VR was installed on Shock Wave last year, and although you had the option to not strap a fucking phone to your face for the duration of a roller coaster ride, long lines and creeping dispatch times had pretty much become the norm. I had zero interest in the VR, but felt it wise to hit the coaster early before things got crowded with whatever bullshit the whole procedure created. Imagine my surprise when I walked up to an empty station and the news that the VR wasn’t even being offered that morning. So instead of experiencing a slightly misaligned battle against aliens by way of clunky Playstation 2 graphics, I got to enjoy the wind in my face on a classic Schwarzkopf steel.

Gotham gripped by a bloody street war over plush.

I entered the park’s Gotham City area (where the main industry appeared to be games of skill for poorly-constructed stuffed prizes)

and lined up for Mr. Freeze: Reverse Blast, a Premier Rides launched shuttle coaster. I had been on the Six Flags St. Louis version several times, which had the same layout (launch, inside top hat, overbanked turn, vertical spike, and then the whole course backwards), but I had not experienced the ride since the trains were turned backwards as they were here. Freeze was already a great ride, but the 180 flip of the trains actually improves the experience. With no view of when the train is about to go vertical into the top hat, the launch is much more disorientating now, and the view from the top of the 218 foot vertical spike is amazing. Right across the plaza was another clone, Batman: The Ride, a mirror image of the Goliath I had just rode yesterday. I was in line, on the ride, and off again, barely stopping. It seemed that the crowds hadn’t quite caught up to me yet, so I was going to keep blazing.

This park also had a version of Pandemonium that was identical to the one at Fiesta Texas, but this one featured a single rider line with no one in it. On and off, and I headed to the far flung and damn near hidden entrance for the park’s classic wooden coaster Judge Roy Scream, which is set completely away from the rest of the park next to a lake. This may be intentional, an attempt to keep the rest of the park patrons from hearing Judge Roy Scream riders complaining about how fucking awful it is. And I understand, it’s a wooden coaster, it’s “supposed” to be rough. Judge Roy Scream was probably okay back in the day, but it’s no longer that day.

Research didn’t really give me much information about Runaway Mountain, so aside from a “coaster in the dark”, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The exterior of the ride building and queue were nicely decorated with faux rockwork, and a themed mine shaft led to the loading station inside. What Runaway Mountain was was dark, not quite pitch black, but it was close enough. What was probably a relatively placid ride felt like it was out of control when you had no visual reference, and darkness continues to be the most cost effective special effect of all. (EDIT: After checking, I found out that this thing hits 40mph, that’s suprisingly fast, faster than most of the Space Mountains.) Runaway Mountain was also awesome for another reason: zippered mesh bags attached to the train for your loose shit. Why doesn’t every coaster on Earth have these?

Although it had been only cycling sporadically throughout the day, the hypercoaster Titan finally looked like it was up and running, so after a few dead-end turnarounds (hardly the first of my day), I finally made my way toward the orange behemoth at the edge of the park. At 245 feet, Titan was not only the tallest coaster at SFOT, but the tallest in the entire state of Texas. It was pretty similar to Goliath at Six Flags Magic Mountain (another goddamned Goliath), with an out-and-back layout (and even the same color scheme). I liked Titan more than Goliath, though, and more than most of the B&M hypers I’ve been on. The first drop wasn’t a gut wrenching affair, but more of a steep slope that really gave the sensation of picking up speed. And it’s fast as fuck (85mph), and did a fair job in maintaining that speed, even with a mid-course brake run that literally brought the entire train to a dead stop. The arrested movement was understandable, though, as the final helix pulled some serious positive Gs, and I could see greying (or blacking) out as an issue if it were taken at speed.

Coaster 150, further cementing my fall into madness.

My total coaster count stood at 149 at that point, and as I had planned and hoped, SFOT had one last coaster for me to ride. Opened in 1966 (and the oldest coaster in the park), Runaway Mine Train was also the world’s first mine train ride, and seemed fitting for a lanmark credit. I like mine trains, they’re usually pretty well themed, most feature multiple lift hills, and some even have a little bit of legitimate zip to them. Runaway Mine didn’t disappoint: a partially wooded setting with some water features, three lift hills, a cool underwater tunnel dive, and a slow roll through the “Ace Hotel and Saloon” and the dead-eyed gaze of its mannequin patrons.

When I checked my phone, I was stunned. I had somehow managed to knock out ten coasters in a little less than three hours. Mr. Freeze and Runaway Mountain were the only real lines I had encountered, and those waits were inconveniences more than anything else. I had encountered a few pockets of congestion in the park throughout the morning, but the crowds were nowhere near as bad as I had feared. The midways started to get more crowded as I approached the front of the park, though, as did the lines at what seemed like every single eatery. The line was way too long at JB’s Smokehouse (which I have found to be the best option when in a foreign Six Flags), so I decided I would be better off getting my hand stamped, checking into my room, and maybe eating something that wasn’t accompanied by a hard sell for a neon-colored sports bottle. Plus, I realized that with the exception of a huge coffee and a handful of Starburst, I hadn’t eaten since Whataburger, nearly 24 hours ago.

Both my hotel rooms were from the same chain and identical in price, but while the San Antonio version was a fantastic deal, in Dallas I got exactly what I paid for. The room was acceptable, but the view of a barbed wire-topped wall of an impound lot was less than cheerful. I opted for a safe dining choice, and headed for a Cracker Barrel down the frontage road., before touring several large pawn shops that dotted the area. Regerettably, I saw nothing that wouldn’t have been a pain in the ass to fly home with. I got a nice little pop of serendipity when I returned to the room, when I reconnected with an old Illinois friend living in Dallas that I hadn’t seen in at least ten years. We ended up sharing a table at Denny’s until well after dawn, eating bacon and goofing on the cast of characters you see in the middle of the night at a Denny’s.

I managed to catch about an hour and a half of sleep before check out, and killed some time at an outlet mall (thankfully with an Auntie Anne’s that understood the concept of “no salt sour cream and onion, double dipped”) before I headed into Dallas proper for the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, the site of the assasination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. With a self guided audio tour, the museum presentes a pretty comprehnsive timeline in a series of exhibits, starting with Kennedy’s early years, the 1960 Presidential race, and leading up to November, 1963. You eventually turn a corner and there’s the shooter’s nest, bold as brass, a recreated stack of period-appropriate boxes behind a plexiglass corner wall. As you approach the wall and the windows (and mind you, you’re no more than eight to ten feet to the right of where that rifle was cradled), what you see when you look outside for the first time in maybe forty five minutes is almost exactly what Oswald saw. It’s a neat little psychological thing, probably meant to be a little jarring, and it certainly is. The rest of the museum chronicles the hours, days, weeks, and beyond that followed. The physical exhibits were pretty impressive: the scale model of the Plaza used by the FBI in their investigation, the Presidential place setting for the lunch Kennedy would never make, even a mannequin with the beige suit of the cop rearing back in that picture where Oswald gets a slug in the gut Jack Ruby-style.

It was starting to get close to the time I had to drop the rental car off and get my ass back home, so I went down to the Plaza itself and took in all the typical sightlines, stood where Zapruder filmed history, but avoided the consipracy theory-looking guy with the easels full of propoganda and what would have undoubtedly been a taxing conversation. There were a helpful pair of white X’s on the pavement, the first marking the first shot, the second the fatal one. The whole thing was powerful stuff, a location frozen in time and history that was recognizable and unfamiliar at the same time. As I got back into the rental car for the last time, I learned that my route back to the airport would take me right down Elm Street toward the triple underpass, right down the lane of history. I waited at the light until there was no one coming, and turned on to Elm at motorcade speed. When I hit the second X, I put that pedal to the floor like I was racing to Parkland Hospital, and didn’t let up until I was past the underpass.

Until next time, Texas.

Kentucky Kingdom and Holiday World: Trip Report

The last time I was near Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville, it was 2010, and I was at a rabbit breed show at the adjacent expo center. The park had been closed and shuttered early that year, and between grooming Lionheads and Angoras (and not winning shit because we didn’t have a Florida White), I was forced to spend three days wistfully looking across the parking lot at coasters that I couldn’t ride. But not this time.

Like a true coaster dork, I was at the entrance to Kentucky Kingdom WAY early, like nearly 10:00 for an 11:00 opening. (So early, in fact, the parking gates were unmanned, allowing me to sail through nine bucks the richer.) The ride in from Chicago was pretty prickly, from having to listen to a teenaged couple screaming at each other at a gas station in Merrillville, to the spotty storms that speckled the windshield before turning into a full-blown rainstorm. That same rainstorm was now pelting Kentucky Kingdom on Opening Day, so I parked (second car in the lot), put on my wet weather gear and headed for the gates.

The ticket booths opened at about a quarter to eleven, along with a list of outdoor rides that weren’t going to be open as long as it was raining. The list was exhaustive, everything from the Huss Enterprise to the park’s brand new Rocky Mountain Construction coaster, Storm Chaser. These rides, the paper went on to claim, would open an hour after the rain had stopped. I checked the Weather Channel app. Nothing but a gigantic green glob. Fuck.

The gates opened, and the rain seemed to really be keeping people away. There couldn’t have been more than a hundred and fifty people in view from the front gate, and there was no manic rush to anyone’s favorite, just a slow and wet dissemination into the park. I was almost soaked to the bone already, and with no hurry to get to what would be a collection of closed rides, I decided to take my time and walk the park at a leisurely pace.

Kentucky Kingdom, to put it simply, looked great. The buildings were clean and vibrant, and existing landscaping was being added to, including a nice little feature where some newer plants had small signs with scannable smartphone codes to learn more about said vegetation. Several of these exhibits were right up against the edge of the concrete, making me wonder how well they’ll survive the trampling crowds of summer that are right around the corner.

I walked damn near every inch of that park for the next few hours, in a rain that ranged from a slow and steady patter to a grey sheeted deluge. True to their word, nothing outdoors was running, save for some sporadic cycles of Thunder Run, Kentucky Kingdom’s sole wooden coaster. I got in line, after all, it was running, and I’m a credit whore. My first ride on Thunder Run was akin to driving behind a poorly-maintained gravel truck, as the rain became stinging cold projectiles after the lift hill, making it damn near impossible to asses my surroundings. I can honestly say I had no fucking idea what was going on, and not in a “night ride on the Beast” kind of way. A second ride with sunglasses held tight to my face was more revealing; good speed, a slightly unconventional layout, and pretty comfortable trains. Also, it allowed me to scratch one more off the list for my “Dinn Challenge”, my personal quest to survive all the company’s operating wooden coasters, brought about in 2010 when Cedar Point’s Mean Streak basically gave me cancer.

I dried out inside with a passable pulled pork sandwich, got soaked again seconds after exiting the restaurant, and dried off again in the Angry Birds theater, which featured a pretty lively “5D” (ugh) movie with motion seats that looked like the recliners at a pedicure salon. Somewhere around two o’clock (and having seen just about every part of the park), I decided to just park my ass near the line for Storm Chaser, the park’s brand new Rocky Mountain Construction steel coaster, and the main reason I was soaked to the bone in Kentucky on a Saturday afternoon. The radar looked like it was close to clearing up, but at the rate it was moving, the rides might not open until closer to closing time, if at all. I had a contingency plan, as my out-of-state admission included the next day free. If all else failed, I could hit the remaining coasters tomorrow morning before the hour drive to Holiday World. I just really didn’t want to do that.

Luckily, the rain cleared soon after, and the queue for Storm Chaser opened to a raucous cheer from the crowd of about two hundred. I had made line friends with a few families of enthusiasts and a pair of ride ops from Kings Island, and none of us were ashamed at losing a little of our minds as the first empty train cycled through for testing. After about five cycles, the station opened. We were about to get our fix, a first public train ride on the world’s newest RMC.

Storm Chaser, in a word, is insane. Near the back of the train, the barrel roll dropdown was a forceful spin that almost seemed a bit alarming until it straightened out at ground level. The camelback hill that followed may be my favorite airtime ever, and there was air all over this thing…in the 140 degree stall, in the return run that went right over the entrance to the ride plaza…everywhere. After a helix and a weird bank, the train almost crawled into the brake run, and the whole train and station broke into applause. As we came into the station, we spotted Ed Hart, the park’s President and CEO, and the man basically responsible for returning Kentucky Kingdom from the dead two seasons ago. He seemed to look pretty happy, even when half the train began bowing to him in reverence as we rolled in. And I didn’t just participate, I kinda suggested it. Okay, I started it.

The waiting crowd had absorbed into the queue, and faced with a short line, I hopped in again. Every time I would ride, the line would get shorter, and eventually by the fifth ride, I was able to literally walk up to an empty gate. The fifth was my first at the front of the train, and the initial barrel roll dropdown taken at a slower speed takes your ass way out of that seat. The air that followed seemed almost as forceful as in the back of the train, the entire ride is intense no matter where you sit. It’s just an absolute blast throughout, and is now easily one of my top five steel coasters.

As much fun as walk-ons to a first day RMC was, there were still two other coasters in the park to ride, and lines were sure to be almost as non-existent. First up was Lightning Run, a Chance Hyper GT-X coaster that was the first big addition for the park’s 2014 reopening. Lightning Run doesn’t look terribly imposing; it’s only a hundred feet tall, and the bright blue track kinda reminded me of Arrow designs from the 70’s. This ain’t no Arrow though, it’s a sick little piece of work with a great first drop, plenty of air, and a ground-level slalom run that is as fun as anything I’ve ever experienced. This thing is an underrated gem, and I have no idea why more parks haven’t bought this model.

I justified the final coaster as having to ride a piece of history, as T3 was the first Vekoma SLC (Suspended Looping Coaster) in the United States. SLCs (or “Vekoma hang-and-bangs” as some refer to them) seem to be all over, but this would only be my second after Hangman at Opryland. T3 had always had a reputation of being one of the rougher SLC installations, and apparently Kentucky Kingdom listened, and refurbished the track and replaced the trains in 2015. I’m sad to report that it didn’t help too much. The new trains looked and felt great (with a lap restraint and straps in place of the coaster’s usual rock hard OTSRs), but the ride itself is as shuddery as hell, which is a shame, because the layout is actually pretty intense. The final middle finger from T3 came as the train pulled into the brake run, and I realized that the once comfortable lap restraint was now crushing my thighs and didn’t let up until well back in the station. Yeah, thanks for nothing, T3.

I hit Storm Chaser a few more times, and decided to call it a day, wanting to get an early start toward Holiday World tomorrow. The ride to my hotel was interesting, with a terrifying bridge over the Ohio River (my second of the day, two too many), and the sudden appearance of a junked-out Ford Probe that blew past me at at least 120 mph. If you ever wanted to know what happened to your old car, it had three more owners, and then ended up on a Kentucky freeway. I got settled in my room, grabbed a chicken sandwich from the McDonald’s next door, and was promptly asleep by 9pm. Solo road tripping…it’s a nonstop party.

The weather cooperated the next morning, blue skies and sun, and I was at the gates of Holiday World a little past 10am. Holiday World is known for having some of the friendliest employees in the amusement industry, and that was on full display that morning, as the park’s computer systems were having problems. It didn’t seem to be much of a problem for them, though, as gate attendants were swiftly recording ticket information by hand,keeping the lines moving quickly. The e-ticket on my phone gave the poor girl at the head of my line slight pause, but within 30 seconds, a manager was there, took a picture of my ticket with his phone, and wished me a happy day. At some parks, I’d be there till noon.

The good press on Holiday World is dead-on, this park was superb. Aside from the employees, operations at everything from the coasters to the food service was fast and efficient, and the park was clean…like, Disney-level clean. My first stop was The Raven, the park’s CCI wooden coaster and a perennial member of most enthusiast’s top 25 lists. The smallest of the park’s three wooden offerings, the Raven was by no means the weaker brother. A surprisingly steep drop and a turn into a hill led to a wickedly forceful curve at the edge of a lake that seemed to go on forever. The track then twisted into a heavily forested area with a few strong hills and turns low to the ground. I’m a sucker for a wood coaster in the woods (hence my love for the Beast despite those goddamned trims), and The Raven is a coaster that could only exist at Holiday World.

Despite the beautiful weather, the park wasn’t that crowded, but I still wanted to check off everything my list, and headed to the far back of the park to ride Thunderbird, the park’s 2015 B&M Wing Coaster. I was pretty familiar with this model of coaster having ridden two of the four in the United States (X-Flight at Six Flags Great America…yay, and Gatekeeper at Cedar Point…sorta yay), but Thunderbird featured a 62mph launch into an Immelmann loop instead of a lift hill. It’s a big difference. I hadn’t felt anything like the hang out of the loop on any of the others, and the dive that leads to the vertical loop is crazy fast and low to the ground. The rest of the ride consisted of two overbanked turns in opposite directions (allowing both sides of the train to have an above and below the track experience), a zero-g roll, a keyhole dive through a barn, and a slow inline twist into the brake run. I’ll need another ride on X-Flight before making up my mind (probably this week), but Thunderbird might be my favorite Wing Coaster. Gatekeeper still reminds me of that British au pair I went out with in the 90’s…nice to look at, but man, there’s just nothing there.

And now, The Voyage. Since my first night ride in 2008, The Beast at Kings Island has been my favorite wooden coaster (which should be evident, considering I’ve already mentioned it several times, and this is not a Kings Island trip report). The Beast wasn’t the fastest or most forceful wooden coaster I’d been on, but its incredible layout and length made it my favorite wooden coaster experience.

Sorry, The Beast.

The Voyage is the most intense wooden coaster I’ve ever experienced. The 154 foot first drop is an incredible float in the back of the train, and series of towering airtime hills led into the first of many tunnel drops, one so deep the air temperature noticeably dropped. The train is still blazing fast into the disorienting turnaround in the woods, complete with a wicked sharp 90 degree banked turn. Heading back, the train slowed (and sometimes stopped almost completely) on the brake run before diving into a tunnel for a triple down that got progressively darker. By the time the train burst back out into the light, you’re back at ground level, and that train was fucking flying over those hills. And it didn’t get any less crazy approaching the station, a dive into a fly-by of the lower queue felt as fast as anything in the first half of the ride. Make no mistake about it, this ride will beat you up if you’re not ready for it, but the way it maintained speed and force throughout the entire thing made it worth it. I was able to move seats several times due to any empty station, but even I needed a break after my fourth consecutive cycle.

I decided to cool off in Gobbler Getaway, a Sally interactive dark shooter ride themed to…Thanksgiving. Really? Huh…okay. The first indication that I was in for one fucked up experience came in the empty queue, which featured a pretty solid animatronic of an elderly woman who explained the ride’s story. Apparently, some negligent farmer had somehow let all of his turkeys escape just before Thanksgiving, and he needed our help to round them up. It was it this point that I noticed that the old woman was carelessly waving around what looked like a laser pistol. But not to worry, she explained that it was a “turkey caller”, the device we’d use to help this lazy breeder save his business, or holiday, or whatever. The ride vehicle featured two rows of two seats, each with its own tethered turkey caller, and a welcome sign that sported a few targets so you could see how accurate your aim was before the insanity started. (Each shot was accompanied by a gobbling sound that got a lot less cute the more you heard it.)

Visually, the ride was straight-up nuts, as one would expect in something that combined Thanksgiving with blacklight paint. As you hit targets (no indication of where your shot went, but the turkey guns were pretty accurate), the usual assortment of dark ride shooter stuff happened…clocks spun, things tumbled from precarious positions, and turkeys popped out from behind their hiding places (where they were hiding to avoid being slaughtered, mind you). The ride mindfucked you a bit at the end, in a scene where a Pilgrim family sat down to a holiday feast, and pulled the lid off a piping hot…pizza. “We just couldn’t do it!” said Papa Pilgrim. Slow clap…well played, Holiday World.

After a bacon cheeseburger at Goblin Burgers (no actual goblin involved, sad to say), I did a few rerides on Raven, Thunderbird, and Voyage, before deciding to cool off on Frightful Falls, the park’s log flume ride. After a long and dark tunnel to open the ride, the flume headed out into a nicely landscaped area on its way to the lift. As I sat back and enjoyed that smell that every water ride in the world seems to have, what seemed like every speaker in the whole park exploded in that horrid shriek siren that precedes a severe weather warning. Two more shrieks, then…silence. I looked up at the sky, it was still blue and sunny. Weird.

Things got a lot clearer as my log ascended the lift. Over the trees behind The Legend (which was still closed for retracking), the skies were a soupy black-grey, and did not look pleasant. After the drop and return to the station, the queue was completely empty, and the ride op informed me that everything outdoors had been shut down due to lightning in the area. The storm wasn’t quite here yet, but it wouldn’t be long. Going against the flow of guests leaving the park, I headed back toward Gobbler Getaway. If I was going to ride out another goddamned rainstorm, I’d rather do it in a whacked-out dark ride.

I wasn’t the only one with that idea, as the queue was about a quarter full. During the next fifteen minutes, I had to tell the hyperactive teenage boy in front of me to stop stepping on my toes no fewer than three times. As fate would have it, we were in the same car; he in the front row, me in the back. And simply because I’m an asshole, for the entirety of the ride, as he raised his gun to shoot a target, I dead-eyed it over his shoulder and nailed it before he could. Unaware that I was even in the same vehicle, after about thirty seconds, I had him sputtering and swearing to himself, and a minute in found him banging his “stupid fucking gun” on the edge of the vehicle. I’ll give him credit, though, he never quit trying, even after I racked up a score of 1600 at his expense (“Master Turkey Caller”), while he walked away with zero. Eat it, kid.

One Uncomfortable RAW With CM Venom

 

Congrats, now YOU need minor chemo.

Monday nights always had something for me. It was NFL football for many years, until Vincent K. McMahon decided to start running a little WWF weekly show called Monday Night Raw. Good or bad, Raw always managed to deliver some form of entertainment, be it Vince’s feverish (and futile) attempts to make Lex Luger a star or Psycho Sid bellowing that he didn’t know shit, crybaby. After I removed myself from the business in the early 2000s, I watched with less frequency, catching the show here and there, and sometimes watching the Spanish language rebroadcast if in the mood for something more surreal.

By the time 2010 rolled around, I was catching a Raw maybe once every 3-4 months. And after Shawn Michaels put himself out to pasture, I just pretty much stopped watching. Oh sure, I still keep abreast of news, but that’s mostly to be in the loop when someone keels over and dies (Umaga, I’m looking in your direction…southwest and down). Last week I had it on as a background noise/ colorful moving artwork, and was delighted to see Randy Savage featured in a Make-A-Wish video and the fact that our friend Goldust is still employed.

So I got to wondering…what would my impressions of an entire Raw be now? Would I embrace their latest push for a PG product? Or would the absence of such past superstars as La Parka and Aldo Montoya make it nearly unwatchable? I guess there’s only one way to find out. I charge myself with “liveblogging” tonight’s Raw. (This is similar to “Livejournaling” something, but in this case, people are paying attention.)

Note: The following commentary is for mature audiences only, and may contain profanity, questionable statements, and out-of-nowhere references to Dutch roller coaster companies. You have been warned.

Preparation: According to the Comcast guide, tonight’s Raw is summed up thustly: “John Cena joins the Nexus.” Didn’t he do that last week? Maybe nobody knows what’s going to happen on Raw tonight.

8:00pm: Sheamus is now in the entrance video, and we are live in Seattle.

Cena is out (random sign: “C’MON MAN”), and thanks the crowd for standing behind him. He repeats “Never give up”, which so happens to be the slogan on Cena’s shirt. The camera lingers on this, and his Nexus armband. It’s fashion porn.

He recaps the Nexus angle for anyone not paying attention/liveblogging for the first time. He also warns the crowd of how he may have to do some things they may not like. He also may-

Here comes the Miz, along with his Money In The Bank briefcase and someone named Alex Riley. Riley is Alex Wright 2010, and probably wears Ed Hardy on the weekends. Miz touts his position as captain of Team Raw at the upcoming Bragging Rights pay per view, when-

And then here comes Wade Barrett, and it’s good to see that the E still loves interruptions. Barrett says nothing will get in the way of Cena in his corner at Bragging Rights. Wade..no one was talking about that. Your fears are unfounded. Riley now has the stick, and his nebulous statement falls flat.

An e-mail from the General Manager? What is this? How long has this invisible boss been in place? And since when is Michael Cole such a heat machine?

He announces Miz vs. John Cena…tonight! Barrett looks like a 50s greaser. Barrett takes offense to Miz, and pegs him with a sharp headbutt. Shmozz up, and Riley and Miz put boots to Barrett until he motions for Cena. Cena cleans house, and we head to a commercial like someone’s life defends on it.

I think I will have to purchase Dead Rising 2. And these marching folks commercials from Burger King have their hearts in the right place, even if the execution is sometimes slightly off.

Ted DiBiase and Maryse (?) are in the ring, and Goldust stealing the MDC last week is shown. R-Truth informs me it’s time to “get crunk”, and he has a poor man’s Fergie with him. (Later note: Eve, I guess?) Truth’s theme music is more Puddle of Mud than Public Enemy…are the crunching guitars there so the white folk can enjoy themselves without guilt?

I’m not into calling the moves of the match (I had more than enough of that during LWF commentary), my recaps are more retrospective. Some would call me lazy. I’d be fine with that.

DiBiase preps for the Million Dollar Dream Street…or whatever, but distracted by the music of Goooooldust. Ted loses concentration just long enough to get beat by R-Truth. Goldust looks great. What a superb gig that guy has; he has to stay healthy, but not worry about his abs. Plus, he gets to paint his face and say creepy things in front of thousands of people.

 

John Morrison looks better with facial hair. And his Hitman-like glasses giveaway is nice. Tyson Kidd is the opponent. Kidd comes out to a modified Hitman theme, and has a ridiculous spork of hair. Morrison looks like he’s improved since last I saw him, his movements seem more fluid. Kidd is an unknown quantity for me. Suddenly-

SH-SH-SH-SH-SHARPSHOOTER

Too bad for Kidd, though, as he falls prey to-…well, it’s something I’ve never seen two human beings do before.

Black Nexus, Red Nexus, and Anime Nexus are talking to two gentlemen who the crowd knows, but I don’t. Here’s Barrett, advancing his own angle. Black Nexus feints interest in fighting Randy Orton, but Anime Nexus gets the honor. They use their real names in reference to each other. Wait for it…there. I’ve already forgotten. Ortunga? Tortuga?

Forty minutes in, and doing this is a lot harder than I though. I haven’t had to “pay attention” to wrestling for a while. One passable match, one good to very good one. That seems like a pretty good average so far. I have no idea if this is rare for Raw.

Santino Marella is still one of the funniest-…holy shit, what is up with Zack Ryder? No stick time for Santino, I hope they haven’t turned him into a utility wrestler. Ryder has a license plate logo on the back of his trunks. For this reason alone, I wish harm upon him. Santino hits the Cobra (?) for the win, and a spot on Team Raw. A jacked up version of the Fresh Prince’s Karyn Parsons hits the ring, and advances some storyline with Santino.

Holy shit, that Snickers commercial with the plastic face woman is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. If I have the energy when this is done, maybe I’ll look for a photo to post. Or maybe not, but I guess you already know if I did or not.

Anime Nexus is accompanied by Black Nexus and Red Nexus for his match against Randy Orton. I hope Randy still looks like our cat Tennant, with his massive head and tiny eyes. Whooo, Orton is over, and WWE Champion apparently. I get the feeling that three Nexus folks will be of little problem to Randy Orton. We’re still calling him the Viper, right? Has he stopped crapping in people’s shoes? Can we joke about that now?

Orton is much leaner and browner than I remember. Black Nexus and Red Nexus get sent to the back, like Kevin Nash did at Wrestlemania X. That’s Ten, folks…not the mysterious “Wrestlemania X” videotape we saw on the shelf while watching Wrestlemania IX.

Thank Gawd, commercials. Rest for my fingers, and a few squares of British Cadbury Dairy Milk. The American version pales in comparison.

We’re back, and Orton crushes Anime Nexus with stomps. Lawler really sounds like he’s being a little cunty tonight. I like how the Nexus guys all wear the armband. As much fun as I make, I really kinda like the Nexus thing. Barrett’s a strong leader, and they’ve got a nice variety of guys. I guess there like, what…7 originally? Good call in paring it down a bit.

They’re giving this one some time, we’re past the 9 o’clock hour. If Orton is being Orton, the RKO will come out of-

Holy shit, did he stiff that kid with that forearm. Aw, does he still hear “voices in his head”? Did they ever get him “help” for that anger management problem he freely admitted years ago? THERE’S your RKO out of nowhere after a not/quite/full 450 splash. Barrett and Orton should be a good match, not enough to get the PPV, but good nonetheless.

Remember, still to come…Cena vs. Miz for the captainship of Team Raw, which Cena will win, but be forced to give up his spot at 10:04 pm by Wade Barrett. Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan Danielson. Do I even know what this guy looks like? I don’t think so. I am a terrible professional wrestling fan.

According to the graphic on the Bragging Nights PPV commercial, I’m going to see Kane face off against Mark Henry. Hoo boy, that’s weak. (Note: Don’t get on my shit. I know we’re not going to see that, matchups are subject to change.) When a film (like say…the Big Show’s Knuckleheads) is touted as having a “limited release”, it’s not a good sign. Show seems like a real affable guy, I kinda feel sorry for him taking part in this. Maybe the script made it look better. In other news, someone got paid to write the script for this.

Oh, that’s Daniel Bryan. Okay. Oh shit, is Michael Cole doing some sort of anti-Bryan heel schitck? Is this something ongoing? Because if it is, it sucks. Sheamus’ skin is brilliant, it’s beyond white. I kinda wanna get up and pee, but I don’t want to miss Daniel Bryan do something that’s going to save wrestling and send me off to buy Ring Of Honor DVDs with Carter’s PayPal account. Did Sheamus put Triple H “out”? I wondered why we hadn’t seen the King Of All Nepotism yet.

Bryan’s pretty good. Michael Cole is inconsistent; he talked shit before the bell, but calls the match like it’s all business. Cole doesn’t have a strong grasp on his character. Sheamus wins with some kind of big kick, and now Cole gets shitty again. What happened to Jim Ross? He was just fine. So Sheamus is on Team Raw, and I realized we haven’t seen any crappy Divas bits yet. I…don’t like that. That means they’re yet to come. Must they?

R-Truth is in the back with Cena, and sends him mixed messages before teasing that there is another way out…”Just quit.” Quit what, exactly? Nexus? The WWE? Wrestling? How about quitting talking to R-Truth?

Great, a promo for the Tribute To The Troops. Show for troops in the sand: awesome. Sending Mark Henry: nice, I guess. A probable upcoming shot of some asshole I used to know in a Kevlar helmet: not so hot.

Alright! The fifth member of Team Raw will either be Evan Bourne or…oh, wonderful. Look who got drafted to Raw. Tonight, apparently. About a minute nine later, and your Team Raw consists of R-Truth, Morrison, Santino, Sheamus, and CM Phil. CM Phil destroys Bourne outside, and some drunk clearly yells “ECW days!“. And that’s funny, because he spent quite a few ECW days sitting across from us.

I watched that Undertaker-Kane main event from the Hell In A Deli PPV, and it…it was such shit.

Goddmanit! That Snickers commercial again! Did this terrify no one during any phase of conception? The director, writer, designer…all of em, should put their names on that little shred of horror. They need to be held accountable.

Whoa, Mark Henry isn’t here…personal matters? Natalya is in ring, name drops “Uncle Bret” 24 seconds in, and taunts “Laycool”, who I guess is Layla and Michelle McCool. She’s the one fucking the Undertaker, right? She’s pretty awful on the stick, and now she’s lecturing everyone on HD. Layla (who sounded like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny the first time she spoke, now apparently has British in her) is just as bad. Laycool goes to leave, and the rest of the Divas I don’t know are blocking the ramp. Cole helpfully starts listing them off…Bella Twins, Gail Kim, Eve…thanks, Cole. Why couldn’t Bret Hart’s music signal the arrival (via wormhole) of 1997 anti-American Bret Hart? That’s wrestling I want to see. This Divas stuff (shockingly) seems to have gotten worse during my hiatus.

Chris Pike and Denzel Washingston in Unstoppable, about a runaway train? Is GMB already on Fandango?

One hour 50 in, and I’ve got the main event to go. I wouldn’t want to do this every week, but it was certainly different. It’s like writing live commentary, and it’s completely different from anything I’m used to doing lately. I can’t stand the Smackdown vs. Raw video game series, if it ain’t No Mercy, I don’t give a shit.

Here’s our Main: Cena-Miz with the leadership of Team Raw on the line. Is Smackdown doing something similar? Crowd seems oddly divided, and I don’t really see why. Cena’s predicament of being under Barrett’s thumb is about as sympathetic as can be, and he hasn’t done anything classified as “evil”. Why would you react to him negatively? I’d be yelling “Hey, you can find a way out of this predicament! Think it over on the drive to that house show in Spokane!”

 I don’t know, Red. I don’t think I like the “energy shot” version of you.

Miz has gotten “serious” while I’ve been away. I guess it works. They fight outside, and it’s 10pm. Let’s see how the 2010 Raw works the overrun time. Eeeewww…the Key Arena. It probably still smells like Supersonic failure. You Are Unable To View John Cena, and here’s the part of the match where guys trade finishers. Miz’s little buddy (looks back earlier in draft)…Alex Riley is holding the Money In The Bank briefcase in a what would be a horrible future vision.

The two guys I didn’t know from before (Somebody Harris? Somebody McGillicutty?) interfere, and Miz gets the win and the largely ceremonial position of Team Raw Captain. Post match, Cena goes at em, until stopped by Barrett. Face to Face, until the Invisible GM decrees that Those Guys vs. Cena-Orton next week. Now (bear with me, this is all going fast) Barrett says if Cena loses next week, he’ll (uh, Barrett) induct Those Guys into Nexus (Creating, I guess Pudgy Nexus and Weasely Nexus.) I guess that’s bad. Barrett calls Cena spineless, yellow-bellied, and so on. Cena grrrrrits his teeth.

Barrett turns his back on Cena, continuing to taunt his “employee” for no reason. There’s four sides to a ring, why doesn’t Cena just leave? Why would you stand there until well after 10:10pm getting carved up like that?

Cena leaves at 1o:11pm…no, Barrett! Don’t stop him, just let him go.

Oh, never mind. Barrett: “Until next week…you can’t see me!” He then does that thing with the hand waving. That’s fucking golden. The crowd seems more annoyed than angry, and Barrett smiles as the 2010 WWE copyright logo comes up.

So what’s my assessment of America’s Favorite Sports Entertainment Show On Monday Nights? The Barrett-Cena thing is pretty good, and my only hope is that they make Cena do more and more malicious things before the eventual blowoff of this feud. The selections for Team Raw are kinda eclectic, and Heel Michael Cole sucks. That’s what I’ve got.

Jets are up 12-0 on the Vikes in a rainy Meadowlands. Looks like I made the right choice tonight. Poor NFL announcers…it must be hard to kiss Favre ass for three hours plus when he’s just not winning football games.

Until I feel like doing this again…

A Cockpunch In Disguise From The NFL Network

For those of you not in the know, the New England Patriots play the New York Giants in National Football League action this coming Saturday night. With a win, the Patriots become only the second team in NFL history to finish the regular season undefeated, joining the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

One could argue that the Patriots potential achievement is even more impressive than that of the Dolphins; the regular season schedule in 1972 consisted of 14 games (as opposed to today’s 16), and parity is widespread in today’s NFL. Win or lose, it’s an impressive regular season run, and one that will most likely lead to the Patriots’ fourth Super Bowl title come February.

But a serious problem loomed as this game approached. The league’s NFL Network cable station held exclusive rights to broadcast the game, and with the station only available to 40% of America’s households, a majority of the nation would be unable to see this potentially historic match-up. Sure, the game would get broadcast on regular TV in the Boston and New York markets, but who the fuck wants to live there? (Boston and New York residents: please leave hateful comments below this entry.)

Luckily (?), our nanny state swooped into action. Having solved all of the nation’s serious problems, our beloved senators and congressmen “pressured” the NFL to allow the game to be broadcast on regular television throughout the country. The game will now be shown on not only the NFL Network, but CBS and NBC as well, the first time in history a triple simulcast has taken place.

Everyone gets to see the game (Patriots 34 Giants 14, btw), and no one has to be subjected to Saturday night reruns of Law & Order and CSI: Muncie, Indiana. This is great news, right?

One can only imagine the seething anger of executives in the shadowy and dank tunnels of NFL Headquarters. Their plan to lock up the post-Thanksgiving football viewing audience…foiled! And they would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those meddling lawmakers. If you listen closely, you can hear them now…

“How dare they force our hand in such a fashion? They should be going after those vampires at Comcast, not us! So, they want the Patriots-Giants game, do they? Well they’ll get it, and more than they bargained for. Unleash…THE GUMBEL!”

 

This is the ultimate tool of revenge of the NFL Network. The droning and annoying Bryant Gumbel, worse on the microphone than a thousand PL Meyers on Xanax. Sure, CBS and NBC, you can show the game. But it’s going to be played under NFL Network rules, and those rules include this insipid hack and his inane commentary. The only thing that makes NFL Network game broadcasts watchable is Gumbel’s co-announcer, former Cincinnati Bengal receiver Cris Collinsworth. And as intelligent and likable as he is, it’s still not enough to offset the complete vacuum of entertainment that surrounds Gumbel like the rings of Saturn.

What to do? Your options include watching the game with the sound off, creating a three-hour custom music soundtrack for the game (I suggest Lily Allen’s Alright, Still, Depeche Mode’s Violator, and the greatest hits of Phil Collins), or get drunk on rum and bellow out your own commentary.

I’m not a big fan of the government pressuring a private business to do something for the “good of the people”, and in this case I believe their well-intentioned interference did more harm than good. I’m sure if most citizens knew they’d be subjected to Gumbel’s Kermit the Frog-like delivery for three hours, they’d take a pass on watching the game. Effectively, our government has launched a terrorist attack on its own people, akin to exploding a chlorine-filled hot air balloon over Times Square on New Years’ Eve.

“Scooby Don’t”

It’s 11:30am on a Friday morning, and I need a cigarette.

The “smoking canopy” at my workplace is located out back, near the loading dock. It’s a grim little location, filled with rusting skeletons of welding tables and vehicle husks that will never see the joys of production. But at least there’s a rickety wooden picnic table, and a free-standing ashtray that implores smokers to “park their butts”. Occasionally, I’ll run into a co-worker out there, and discuss the ineptitude of management or the shaky state of the Chicago Bears offense.

But not this time. It’s just me and my Marlboro Menthol Ultra Light 100. Until I spotted “The Solicitor”.

From across the parking lot, I watched him approach; a middle-aged black man dressed in a black shirt, black pants and white striped tie. He carried under his arm a shabby-looking box with some sort of papers jutting out the top. In the twenty five seconds or so it took him to make his way from the street to me, I waited, wondering what business he could possibly have with me.

“Hey buddy, how you doing today?” he asked, jutting out his hand. I ignored it, but kept my voice friendly in an attempt to confuse him.

“Good, good.” I replied. “And you?”

“Not bad, not bad.” he said. “Little hot out today though, isn’t it?”

“That indeed.”

“Listen,” he said, pulling something out of the box, “I’ve got something I want you to take a look at.” He thrust toward me an oversized Scooby-Doo coloring book. Admittedly, it wasn’t exactly something I was expecting. I took it out of pure curiosity.

“It’s a…coloring book.” I said, stating the obvious.

“It sure is.” he said, as if my statement required affirmation. “Great for the kids, and if you look in the middle…” He reached out, and flipped the book open to the center page. “…you’ll see that there’s a full-color poster inside with Scooby and the whole gang.”

“Yeah, it…sure is.” I said, continuing the trend of useless dialogue. The poster was indeed full-color, depicting Scooby, Shaggy, and rest of the “gang” clustered together, looking terrified, while being beset upon by a menagerie of every conceivable movie monster. There was a mummy, a werewolf, a zombie, Frankenstein’s Monster, and a vampire complete with starched shirt, cape, and Euro-trash medallion.

“That’s something, isn’t it?” he said cheerfully. I didn’t exactly understand how a bearded thirtysomething with a cigarette in his hand was supposed to be impressed by the centerfold of a children’s coloring book.

“Yeah, something alright.” I said.

“Now, they’re selling these down at the Warner Brothers Store for twenty bucks,” he said, launching into the “hard-sell” portion of the conversation, “but I’m willing to let these go today for ten apiece.”

I found this statement a little debatable, seeing as how the Warner Brothers Stores went out of business roughly six years ago. So, as he had launched into his “hard-sell” mode, I figured it was time for him to spend several uncomfortable moments with CMVenom.

“Don’t you think this is a little odd?” I asked, pointing at the vampire on the poster. “Y’know, that they would use an undead creature in a book marketed toward children?” If the question rattled him in any way, he gave no indication, and continued to stare at me with a goofy smile affixed to his face.

I decided to continue.

“I mean, technically, a vampire is nothing more than an undead creature. A reanimated corpse if you will, usually by some sort of necromantic magicks. I’m not sure that’s the kind of things you should be thrusting toward kids.”

Instead of debating this completely logical point with me, he decided to pretend I hadn’t said a goddamned thing. “It’s a beautiful book, that’s for sure. Hours of enjoyment, great for the kids…and only ten doll-”

I handed the book back to him. “It’s nice alright, but I’m afraid I don’t have any use for it. No kids. Sorry.”

He actually looked disappointed. “No kids? No nieces, nephews, cousins? Nobody who’d like this?”

“Nope, sorry.” I said. “None of those, and no kids for me and the wife.”

He raised and eyebrow. “Sounds to me like you and the wife need to…you know…start getting busy.”

“Oh, we get busy alright.” I fired back at this wholly inappropriate commentary on my sex life. “But she really likes it in the pooper. Little hard to make babies that way, right champ?”

I’d never seen the color drain out of a black man’s face before.

“Yeah…uh…” he stammered, quickly shoving the coloring book back in his shoddy box. “…well, uh…you have a good day…” He was already retreating while sputtering out the last words.

“You too, dude!” I bellowed cheerfully. “Good luck with that!”

It took him roughly twenty five seconds to approach, but only about fifteen to leave. I’d like to think I did good work today.

This Blog Is For You. Yes, Just For You.

           I’m a genial type of guy. And few things make me happier than communicating with you, the loyal readers of Several Uncomfortable Minutes With CMVenom. And I’m not just talking about my regular readers (and you know who you are). No, I mean even those of you who put some bizarre chain of words in a search engine, and somehow end up here, miles away from your intended destination. The mental vision I get of your absolutely confused expression when you come across my little bit o’ Internet is priceless.

          Today’s column is dedicated to YOU, clueless person who stumbled across this blog while searching for something completely different. This is your time to shine. Or as one might put it to Sailor Dave; This is your time, comma, shine.

TO WHOEVER WAS LOOKING FOR “who wants to be a milliner the game”          

          I have a question for you; where does one find this spectacular game show, where people vie for the job of making women’s hats? And does anyone watch it except for you?

TO WHOEVER WAS LOOKING FOR “the real meaning of disney on ice death”    

          What is the true meaning of death, man? Is it, like, an afterlife? Or is it more like a purgatory? What is the true meaning of Disney on Ice death? I myself am curious. Was some poor performer’s guts spilled by an angry Shere Khan? Were they squeezed to death by the snake form of the villainous wizard Jafar? Or does it have something to do with the guy looking for “fat bad guy from Pocahontas”? All I know is that I’m keeping an eye out for the next area performance. This I gotta see.

TO WHOEVER WAS LOOKING FOR “peeing uncomfortable”

            Get off the Internet. Go see a doctor. Now.

TO WHOEVER WAS LOOKING FOR “drinking Scotch at Walt Disney World”

            Aw, dude…so close. If you’d done a search for something like “smoking truly heroic amounts of pot at Walt Disney World” or “drinking liquor and popping painkillers like Pez at Walt Disney World” we might have something to talk about. But as it is, you’re S.O.L.

TO WHOEVER WAS LOOKING FOR “the act of having several wives at one time”

            Your Jeopardy answer is “polygamy”.

          Polygamy.

TO WHOEVER WAS LOOKING FOR “Lovie Smith visibly erect”

            Hey! You’re back! Don’t get me wrong, I love that you’re reading my stuff, but you didn’t find what you were looking for the first time. Why the hell would you come back? Perhaps you found my caustic nature too engaging to resist. Or perhaps you were hoping that I had actually posted some information about the Chicago Bears head coach with a raging hard-on. One of those options will disappoint you.

TO WHOEVER WAS LOOKING FOR “disney mishaps”

            Perhaps you’d be more comfortable here.

 TO WHOEVER WAS LOOKING FOR “POCAHONTAS 2 JOURNEY TO A RAW WORLD”

            Stop typing in all caps. It’s annoying. Also, is this one of those “adult” films I keep hearing about? Like The Day The Ass Stood Still, or Schindler’s Fist? Yup, nothing like a porno about an Indian maiden with a face like a World War I army boot to get me going.

TO WHOEVER WAS LOOKING FOR “cm venom wwe”

            Boy, that’s a thought that makes your testicles drop, don’t it? Screw the idea of actually working in the WWE; I can’t even stomach the notion of breathing the same air as Randy Orton or that crow-eyed shrew who hangs out with Deuce & Domino. No, I’d want a writing job in the E. Within the first month, William Regal would be Intercontinental Champion, Rey Mysterio would be whipped bloody by Finlay for wearing that stupid silver paint at Summerslam, and La Parka would be the illegitimate son of Vince McMahon.

 TO WHOEVER WAS LOOKING FOR “CM PUNK celebrating in the locker room”

            Oh, yeah…and you’d never see this either.

Wok Softly And Carry A Big Stick

           Some days, you just want to get off work, go home, order some food for delivery, and waste the evening watching episodes of Build It Bigger. Yesterday was one of those days.

          I had spent a good chunk of the morning in a conference meeting headed by an imbecile, and my afternoon was spent trying to squelch the urge to beat a smarmy engineer to the consistency of strawberry jam. So it was quite a relief to get home, kick off my shoes, and look forward to an evening of relaxation.

          Carter suggested we order delivery from Great Wok, a Chinese restaurant that we had ordered from before. (Remember that, for it is integral to this story. We had ordered from them before.) The selection was made (General Tso’s, beef fried rice, crab Rangoon), and I made the phone call to Great Wok. It took the woman on the phone a few minutes to grasp the concept of our address, but I was assured that the order would be on its way shortly.

          Fast forward twenty five minutes, when the phone rings.

          “Hello, this Great Wok. You order food from us?”

          “Yes, I did.”

          “And you say address is 3892 Hayes? Hayes Lane?”

          “Yeah, that’s it.”

          “Okay…we no got. Driver cannot find. You sure it 3892 Hayes?”

          “Yeah, I’m pretty positive. I do live here, after all.”

          Five minutes later…

          “Hello, this Great Wok. You order food from us?”

          “Yes, yes I did.”

          “And your address three eight nine two Hayes?”

          “Yes, hon. Three eight nine two.”

          “My driver know Hayes, but he not find address.”

          A quick aside; “Hayes” is not a difficult street to navigate. There isn’t even an easterly outlet. If you’re on the street, you’re going to run into our address.

          “I don’t know what to tell you. It’s clearly marked on the front of the building. 3892 Hayes.”

          “3892. Okay.”

          He hung up. I had the sneaky suspicion that this wouldn’t be the last of it. Seven minutes later, I was proven right.

          “Hello, this Great Wok. You order food from us?”

          “For the third time, yes.”

          “You say three…eight…nine…two?”

          “Yes, that’s the address. I’ve been living here for three months, I’ve got a pretty good grasp on it.”

          “3892…what it near?”

          “You guys don’t have a computer? Or a map, for that matter?”

          “What it near?”

          “It’s a condo building right behind the Dunkin Donuts on Williams.”

          “Oh! Behind Dukah Donut!”

          “Yes, very good.”

          Two minutes elapse.

          “Hello, this Great Wok. You order food from us?”

          “Goddamnit…”

          “You at 3892 Hayes. My driver cannot find. You say it behind Dunka Donuts?”

          “Yes, it’s the street behind Dunkin Donuts. If you’re at the Dunkin Donuts, get on Williams going west. Turn right on Chesterfield, and then make a quick right onto Hayes. I’m down the street. Three…eight…nine…two Hayes. I’ll be waiting out front. I’m wearing a white t-shirt.”

          “Oh, okay.”

          RING!

            “Hello, this Great Wok. You-?”

          “Yes, I order food from you. What now?”

          “You say…3892 Hayes?”

          “Oh for Christ’s sake…why is this so difficult? Did you understand the directions I gave you?”

          “Driver cannot find Hayes. He at Dunka Donuts.”

          “Well, he’s in the wrong place.”

          “You pick up food at Dunka Donuts?”

          Maybe it’s just me, but having to head out to pick up your own food doesn’t qualify as “delivery” to me. I gave up trying to hide the indignation in my voice.

          “Lady, I’m not driving to Dunkin Donuts to pick up my goddamned food. That’s why I ordered it to be delivered. De…live…erd.”

          “Oh, okay.”

          I had barely begun to explain to poor Carter why she wasn’t yet munching on crab rangoon, when…

          “Hello, this Great Wok. You order food from us?”

          “It’s been so long, I don’t remember.”

          “We no deliver. Driver cannot find 3982 Hayes. We no deliver.”

          “First off, it’s 3892 Hayes. And second, what do you mean you can’t deliver? A chimp could follow those directions.”

          “Driver cannot find on Hayes. Driver go to Dunka-“

          “Yeah, yeah…Dunka Donuts. We’ve been over this.”

          “He not find on Hayes. We no deliver on Hayes.”

          “Y’know what? Screw this. Forget about the whole fuckin’ thing.”

          We ended up driving out to get Mexican in what were essentially our pajamas. And it was good.

          For more on this insane situation, where a restaurant that charges for delivery is unable to follow the simplest directions, can’t afford a computer to access Mapquest, or just can’t open to the map in the goddamned phone book, feel free to call Great Wok yourself at (815) 609-7104.

            Or if you’ve got the persuasion to send them Xerox copies of your genitalia, fax those over to (815) 609-7106.

          Finally, for those of you who prefer to mock and deride in a more personal fashion, stop by Great Wok itself at 2400 Caton Farm Road, Crest Hill, IL, 60435. Tell ‘em CMVenom sent ya.

          Can’t find it? No problem. Here’s a Mapquest link to the goddamned place.

            Now get down to business. Great Wok awaits.