Death of Amusement

So, I live in Buffalo, New York.  For those unaware, that is absolutely nowhere near New York City; it is literally on the other side of the state.  I am often asked, once I say I live in NYS, what the city is like.  I can tell you, as I have visited before, but I have never lived there.  I have always lived in Western New York, and Buffalo in particular is my home.

Here’s a landmark Buffalo is near that you will know:  Niagara Falls.  It’s only about a 30-40 minute drive from here.  On your way there, you pass over a bridge onto Grand Island, which once claimed to be the largest freshwater island in the world, even though it isn’t (fun fact.)  As you drive across the island to the next bridge, you don’t see much but trees and car dealerships.  Until you pass the Ferris Wheel.

The Ferris Wheel is the gondola sort, and towers over a little amusement park going by the name of Fantasy Island.  You can also see the rollercoaster and Log Flume from the road.  As a youngster, I loved going to Fantasy Island.  It walked a fine line between old-timey amusements and brand spanking new fun.  I was thrilled when they put in a water park, complete with a lazy river, something that even the big local(ish) amusement park, Darien Lake, did not have at theirs.  They had a Wild West town, where they would have skits reenacting shootouts, and had can-can dancers.  There was even a town Sheriff.  The kid’s area was lovely, a little small but what four-year-old would complain?  One Father’s Day I went there with my sister, Bernie, and dad, and she was maybe five at the time.  I thought it would be boring watching her go on kiddie rides, but in the end, we had a blast. 

The last time I went Bernie was performing with her dance class.  I took Mark, and we rode the rides and ate chicken fingers and watched Bernie and her friends tear up the stage.  He went on a very scary ride that gave me the heebie-jeebies just watching.  Then we went on the big swings, and I thought I was going to die.  I screamed bloody murder the whole time, certain that I was about to fly off the ride into space.  After that we went on some rides that were more my speed, and met up with Bern at my very favorite of all amusements, the Tilt-a-Whirl.

It was a good day.  It was always a good day at Fantasy Island.

But alas, the good times couldn’t last forever, so when I heard reports that they had begun selling off rides, I was heartbroken.  When the news came two days later that they were closed for good, I felt a part of my childhood slip away.  This is not the first time, either.

There was another park in my youth, this one across the border in Canada.  It was called Crystal Beach, and I looked forward to it every summer until I was five and it closed down.  (I know that seems weird that I would remember it so vividly given my young age, but I literally remember my Baptism at 6 months.  However, I don’t know what I had for lunch yesterday.  My memory is crazy.)  Sometimes around town you can still find the famous Crystal Beach suckers (lollipops, for you out-of-towners) and I will occasionally buy one if I see it; I like the butterscotch and peanut best.  The beach remains, but the park is long gone, and I miss it.

But not as much as I will miss Fantasy Island.

The only alternative for amusement parks now is Darien Lake, which is once again owned by Six Flags, even after they sold them in 2006.  Now, this is a big place, and it’s only getting bigger.  Which is a problem.  It doesn’t have the family feel Fantasy Island had.  It feels corporate and intimidating, and can take over a day to enjoy the whole park.  I suppose that’s what they’re going for, so people buy more tickets and stay longer, but at 60 bucks a pop, that’s not happening.  Hell, I can get tickets to FOUR Disney World parks for only about 30 dollars more.  And there’s no Mickey Mouse at Six Flags, just a bald guy in a bowtie (check out this insane commercial we used to be subjected to on a daily basis.)  Another issue I have with Darien Lake is its concert venue.  It’s just too far away from the city, yet everybody performs there.  And the parking is garbage.  I’ve been to concerts where the wait to get out of the lot is longer than the opening act.

In a nutshell, I don’t care for Darien Lake.

But now, it’s my only solution when I crave an amusement park.

No, that’s a lie.

I will find suitable substitutes.  Lawn fetes, church picnics, Fourth of July carnivals.  I will hunt down Tilt-a-Whirls and Scramblers and even the big swings.  I will travel south to my other favorite amusement park, Midway, which is still styled in its original fashion.  It’s like stepping back in time, and I love that.  I think I like that feeling more than the rides, as that is how I felt at both Fantasy Island and Crystal Beach.  Darien Lake is simply too crowded, and full, and new.  It has no charm, no whimsy.  And so, I shall pine for long-gone western shootouts and dismantled rollercoasters, and I will miss my little playland that gave me so many great memories. 

Fantasy Island.  So sad to see you go.

A Week of Worry

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even realize yesterday was Thursday.  I wasn’t feeling well, but not so bad that I couldn’t have updated, but I was so out of it that I didn’t even realize what day of the week it was.  So, happy Friday.

I don’t have a real topic today, so I will tell you a couple things that have been weighing on my mind this week.  First of all, there is my health.  I set up an appointment for Monday for a surgery consultation.  It looks like I will be getting a gastric pacemaker, provided I meet all the criteria.  I am both thrilled and terrified.  Thrilled because this may mean the end of my five-year long battle with my stomach.  Terrified because what if something goes wrong?  What if it doesn’t work?  I have been trying to keep these questions out of my head all week, but they creep in and cause me to panic.  For the first time ever, I actually had to call my doc for a Xanax refill.  I’ve had a panic attack every night this week, and it all stems from my health and worries about surgery.  Fortunately, Hubs has been wonderful, holding me while I cry I about it, reassuring me that everything will be fine, and reminding me of all the benefits of the surgery. Alas, I remain frightened.  I think it’s because I have tried so many things to make myself better and nothing has worked, so I am feeling like this won’t either.  Still, I need to do it, I need to hope for it to work, and I need to keep my head about me in the process.

Another thing on my mind, aside from my health, is my chapbook.  I sent an inquiry back in October to a publisher that I liked, and they replied in January and asked me to send along my manuscript for review.  They said I would hear from them in about three weeks.  I initially thought this was sort of a short reply time given that even when I submit singular poems I don’t usually hear back for at least a month.  But I figured it’s a small manuscript, so maybe they don’t need that much time. 

For the first three weeks, I waited patiently.  I reminded myself that no news is good news, and if they read it and didn’t like it, they would get back to me right away.  Well now it has been five weeks, and I am on pins and needles.  I am maintaining that it is a good sign that it’s taking so long.  Perhaps they are deliberating over it because they like it.  Perhaps they really like it and are drawing up papers before contacting me.  Or maybe they haven’t even read it yet.  Whatever the case, I am going crazy waiting.  This is my number one choice for publisher, as it is a small company in my city that has produced some poetry books I like.  Buffalo is having a poetry renaissance, and I am desperate to be a part of it.  When I started going to a local bookstore for poetry nights back in October, I was terrified.  My anxiety told me that no one would like my work, that no one would talk to me, that I would be alone and insignificant.  I can’t say I don’t still have those feelings, but I push myself to go each month because I am trying to overcome my insecurities.  And I will say it gets a little easier each time.  I am very much looking forward to this month’s reading, though I am having trouble picking a poem for the open mic segment.  I will likely read something from my chapbook, with the hope that putting it out in the universe brings it to life. 

The one highlight of my worrisome week is that Sahar is in town.  She is one of my dearest friends, and she lives in Kentucky, which I hate.  But she’s in town for about a month and we were able to go to lunch.  I am hoping to see her many more times before she returns to that hell-state.  Like Hubs, she knows just what to do to calm my worrisome head.

So, I walk into this next week with my head held high and my heart full of hope, but also worry.  I will see the doc on Monday and figure out what the plan is, and we will go from there.  Hopefully my worries will be unfounded, and I can face this surgery with courage. 

A girl can dream.      

Pajama Party

Last week I wrote about a lovely memory I have of my father.  Now I will write about my mother.

When I was a child, maybe 3rd or 4th grade, I had my first sleepover party.  It was a Valentine’s Day tea party, and my mother pulled out all the stops.  Heart shaped doily’s, pink and red streamers, the whole shebang.  I invited five friends to stay over, and we were up talking until 3am when my mother came downstairs and yelled at us to go to sleep.  I fell in love with sleepover parties that day, and asked her for several more as I got older.

Every party had a theme.  One year it was mid-January, so my mother made the theme “Winter Blues” and hung paper raindrops and snowflakes from the ceiling.  Another year was a pool party with a cake shaped like our pool complete with gummi rings for life preservers.  But the pinnacle of sleepover parties was the Murder-Mystery one.

My friend Jill and I got the idea one afternoon while drawing in her basement.  We had found some old manilla file folders, and we were making portraits of crazy people/monsters.  I was obsessed with murder mysteries when I was younger-my favorite movies were Clue and Murder by Death, and I loved Agatha Christie.  Jill said the pictures we were drawing reminded her of portraits you would find hanging in a creepy mansion somewhere.  “Have you ever been to a murder mystery party?  They’d be good for that,” she said.  And an idea was born. 

We took it to my mother, who was all about it.  She told me I could have five friends sleepover, but after Jill and I wrote the script we realized we needed at least 8 people.  So, we invited a couple extra girls to play the murder victims.  Once killed, the girls went home. 

Looking back, I regret this.  I wish I could have had them sleepover, too.  I feel terrible that I was essentially like “Come to my party, but then leave when I tell you to.”  But we were 12 years old and stupid, and thought it all made perfect sense at the time.

There were costumes, made by my mother and Jill, who was very into fashion.  (Side note:  she is now a seamstress, which surprises me not at all.)  Mom was a wealthy dowager, Jill was the maid, and I played the role of hostess.  My mother had no problem at all following script and playing along with us, and was as much a part of the party as any of my friends.  That night, after the mystery was solved (the maid did it,) we played truth or dare until the sun came up.  Then mom made pancakes, and my friends left, and mom and I cleaned up the mess.

That was my last big sleepover party. 

This past weekend my cousin G, who is ten, was with us.  She came for a sleepover on Valentine’s Day and ended up staying all weekend.  I lamented to Hubs that I was not my mother, and thus had no games or treats or decorations or costumes, and he was sympathetic but I don’t really think he understands because he is a boy, and all his sleepovers consisted of eating pizza and playing video games.

In the end, it didn’t matter.  I didn’t have to do a thing and G still had a great time, begging me to stay for just one more day.  When I dropped her off yesterday, she was sad.  It was kind of cute, and made me feel like I’m not quite the crap hostess I envision myself to be.  I’m never going to throw a party like my mother, but I’m glad of that.  The memories of the parties she threw for me, and the knowledge of how much time, energy, and money went into them, is something I cherish.  She gave me these amazing parties to carry with me, and instilled in me the love of a sleepover.  I still love sleepovers.  Just had one with Sahar in November.  Jaime and I used to have them all the time.  We should plan one.  I don’t care if I’m pushing 40, I am always down for a slumber party.

The Reading Room

I did not update on Monday, as I was sick still.  I am well now, but it is a peculiar health, one that seems extra fragile as I sip my Gatorade and eat my yogurt.  I don’t want to talk about it anymore.  Let’s talk about reading.

Once upon a time, I lived down the street from a library.  It was very tiny and I’m not sure if it was part of the county library system, but I have almost zero memory of it.  I could not have been more than three when it closed and the big one opened across the street.  It was the first brand-new building I ever set foot in, and I thought it was a castle.  My father walked me through the doors and I asked him, “Which book can I read?”

“Whichever you want.”

My little head exploded.  I knew I would walk out of there with picture books by the loads, but there was also the possibility of BIG BOOKS: the ones with no pictures, the ones for grownups, where the cover is the only glimpse into the magical coded world that lie inside.  I was only just learning to read but I found myself cracking this code a little more every day and could not wait to get my hands on one of those BIG BOOKS.  And here was my father, telling me I could read whatever I wanted?  I knew the underlying lesson there: I could read whatever I wanted, so long as I could READ.

So I read.  I read every picture book I could get my hands on.  And when I was proficient in those,  I moved on to others, like Amelia Bedelia.  Then Judy Blume’s, then the most of the Babysitters Club series.  I discovered my favorite genre, horror, though RL Stine.  Then, sometime around 5th grade, I started reading “actual” novels, meaning not meant for the teen or tween crowd. 

We moved, so my old library was replaced by another, and I spent many afternoons amongst its stacks, reading and learning.  I was never one to ask for help-I have always been terrible at it.  So whenever I had a problem, I went to the library, and I researched the hell out of it.  I did all my schoolwork there.  I spent hours perusing the shelves.  And now…

Now there is a library a couple blocks from the house but I never go.  I don’t need to.  I have all my information in my pocket on my phone.  I do like to go pick out a book or two every now and then but they usually languish unread on the bar while I hate-watch another episode of House Hunters.  It was my eyeball’s fault for a long time, but now I find I am just not concentrating on a book as I used to.  My New Year’s resolution was to read more, and my first book of the year was The Institute, and I’m only halfway through.  It’s a Stephen King book about kids with super powers.  I should have devoured that a month ago.

I wish I could read like I did as a kid, so voraciously.  I love seeing kids reading.  Sometimes the girls do and that’s nice.  My cousin Grace and I like to talk about books sometimes, too-she is ten and plugged into all things middle grade and YA.  Right now, she is reading some old favorites of mine, like Blubber by Judy Blume.  When I was her age I had Carrie in my hands for the first time.  Some might say a little much for a ten-year-old, but I knew what I think my father knew: You’ll read what you’re ready for. 

And reading made me ready for everything.

Tummy Trouble

My regular reader is aware of my battle with my stomach, but a newcomer may not be, so here’s a short recap: about four years ago I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, a stomach disorder that prevents proper digestion.  It was described to me as such: every person has a blender in their stomach, and my blender had rusty blades.  As time went on, rusty blades turned into no blades.  It made for uncomfortable situations, like not being able to eat when hungry or feeling nauseous and bloated in the mornings, and it made for terrible situations, like landing in the ER because I was vomiting blood and had stabbing abdominal pains.  I was on a variety of medications for years, all of which proved useless.  Then they started doing regular dilation of my pyloric sphincter (the muscle that controls food leaving the stomach.)  This provided a month or two of temporary relief, and then it was back to the ER.  They are thinking I might have something called pyloric stenosis, which is a disease that is common in baby boys, not 36-year-old women. 

That brings us up to now.  Yesterday, I had my regular procedure with the added benefit of Botox injections to my pyloric muscles.  This is supposed to cause the muscles to relax and smoothen so as to transport food easier.  I read up a little on it, and results vary.  Some studies say it’s beneficial, some say they found no results.  All agree it can’t hurt to try, and I am in that frame of thought right now.  I’ve been living with this for years and any opportunity for relief is one I am willing to take. 

If this doesn’t work and I end up back in the hospital, then I will be talking to my doctor about surgical options out of town.  She mentioned some doctors in Cleveland that may be able to help.  I don’t want it to come to that, but I’m not going to go though the rest of my life like I have the past four years.  It has been terrible.  I haven’t been able to hold a steady job.  It has wreaked havoc on my depression.  The medical bills are out of control. 

But I’ll be damned if I let any of that get me down while I am trying to heal and improve my health.  I intend to do whatever I can to beat this ridiculous pain-in-the-ass disease and get back to the life it has stolen from me.  Today, I am hopeful.  I’m not hungry yet, but I’m drinking coffee again, which was a huge turn-off just a few days ago.  I am sitting in my office with the sun streaming though the window and I am content in knowing that there is a possibility, however small, that I might be well.

Deep Clean

Today the well is dry.

It is January, my least favorite month.  I have no topics to write about because I am exhausted from the whole holiday rigamarole.  It ended last night when we celebrated Sharon’s birthday and exchanged Christmas gifts with her and Kevin.  I ended up with a splitting headache, so when I got home, I went to bed instead of brainstorming blog ideas like I usually do on Sunday nights. 

M is with us this week, which is always nice.  Other than that, there isn’t much going on except me deep cleaning the apartment.  I started with the office, which is a treat because I always end up finding things that I forgot about.  This time around I found a picture a friend of mine took for a college photography class.  I framed it and hung it on my living room wall.  I moved on to cleaning the dining room, but I haven’t taken down the Christmas tree yet, which is the next order of business.

We had the kids this weekend.  I mentioned offhand that I needed to clean the bathroom on Saturday.  An hour later, E calls me to the back of the house and shows me that she did it for me, “So you don’t have as much to do tomorrow.”  When I say she cleaned the bathroom, she cleaned the bathroom.  She even put up a new shower curtain that I didn’t know I owned.  I gave her a pass on her usual chore of picking up the living and dining rooms because she busted her butt in the bathroom.  L helped with the laundry, managing to get five loads done.  M was on garbage patrol, running bags out to the cans for me whenever I needed it.  K didn’t do much, but she did work well with E to clean their room, which is impressive as they are usually bickering when left alone too long.  The boys even cleaned their bedroom, more or less, which I really appreciate.  Of course, I am going to go in there and vacuum and clean under beds still, but they got the ball rolling.

So, you see, there’s nothing very interesting going on right now.  I literally am writing about cleaning, probably my least favorite thing in the world.  But, I am very grateful to my kiddos for helping out.  I don’t even have to ask anymore.  They each know they have a responsibility to the household when they come over, and they fulfil that.  I just hope they do the same at their mother’s.

So, I write about cleaning because the well is dry.  I haven’t written anything besides blogs in weeks, and nothing substantial, not even a poem, for almost a month.  I am chalking it up to the outpouring of words that NaNoWriMo brought me; I went hard for a month and now I need a break.  I am hoping the muse will return soon.  In the meantime, I will clean my apartment and praise my kiddos and wait for inspiration to strike.

New Year, Same Me

You know what I think is a generally stupid idea?  New Year’s Eve.  And yet, I look forward to it every holiday season.

When I was young, it was fun.  We had snacks and stayed up late and mom and dad always made a party of it.  Then sometime in my late teens, it became garbage.  I remember going to parties out on Grand Island where I would get hammer-drunk and have no way home the next day.  I recant that: one year Jaime and I stole Steve’s car and drove home.  I honestly don’t recall if she had a license.  Let’s say she did.  (She was at least sober-I myself barely remember the car ride home.)  If I wasn’t on Grand Island, I was downtown watching the country’s second largest ball drop (Buffalo fun fact!) and freezing my ass off while sipping on a 15$ rum and coke. 

One year I went to my aunt Mary’s party which was close to home and all my friends came with so it was perfect.  That’s one year of celebrating out of, like, 20. 

I gave up on NYE halfway though my relationship with Mark, after we did the ball drop one year and decided it was going on the Murtaugh list.  We were certainly getting too old for that shit.  Now we spend it with pizza and booze on our couch and it has been delightful.  This year we threw Kevin into the mix, and spent the evening playing Soul Caliber and watching YouTube videos.  We watched the side by side of the ball drops (Buffalo and NYC) and then Mark kissed me and ran outside to bang pots and pans with Kevin.  (Side story: Kev and I grew up in a neighborhood called Riverside where people did this at midnight followed by a rendition of Auld Lange Syne at the top of their lungs.  We don’t know if it’s related to the neighborhood specifically or if our parents are just weirdos, but I do distinctly remember other people participating in this when I was young.  Is it a cultural thing?  A geographical thing?  Someone enlighten us.) 

1am found me in bed, sleeping soundly.  It was, overall, a good night.

The next day we rearranged the furniture on a whim.  Hubs decided we needed to change things up a little, so we switched the living and dining rooms and I have to say I like it.  Now we are going to do a deep clean of the apartment, because I noticed honest-to-god cobwebs yesterday.  I will admit that I am not the world’s greatest housekeeper-I am a creative, and I think that has something to do with it.  Everything has it’s place, but like…I don’t dust unless I have to.  I just don’t notice it.  And then when I do, I feel like a slob.  But it’s not sloppiness, it’s just me focusing on other things.  My mother tried to instill the whole cleaning thing in me as a kid and it never took.  If something is downright dirty, I will handle it.  If something is out of place, I will right it.  But that’s the extent of my housekeeping-daily management.  Deep clean is Mark’s department, and we are going hard the next few days. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about 2020.  My first thought is that this is what I always believed to be “the future” when I was a kid, so where is my flying car?  My second thought is that 20 years ago it was 2000 and I was just turning 17 and Jesus, that feels like yesterday.  My third thought is that I need a real resolution this year.

I usually don’t do resolutions, except my old standby: don’t eat any phone books.  It’s perfect, because you know you’re going to follow though.  And if you don’t, you have bigger issuers than just breaking a resolution.  But this year I am making one:  I am going to read more.  I haven’t read a lot these past five years or so because of my retinopathy.  I finally have a clear field of vision now, however, and want to get back to expanding my library.  I intend to keep track of everything I read, and to look at the experience as a learning one-something to help me better my own craft.  You can’t write if you don’t read and my current rate of maybe two books a year (and likely both Stephen King’s) is dismal.  Of course, I had my reasons, but now there’s no excuse.  I will be starting the year with my main man of course, and just started reading The Institute, which my father got me for Christmas.  Next up is some middle grade books-I can knock those guys out in a day or two, and they will help me with my new tale that I am working on.  Time to revisit Judy Blume, and find out what the kids are reading these days. 

So, in closing, this is my new year: cleaning, reading, and trying to keep my butt out of the ER, of course.  Those are my manageable goals.  Of course, me with my big imagination, I have other goals in mind, too.  Writing goals.

I wonder where I will be a year from now.  Will I be done with my WIP?  Will I have found a publisher?  Or maybe one for my chapbook?  Will I have a complete children’s book to market, with illustrations and everything?  Will I continue to have my poetry published?  Will my new idea fully form itself in my head so I can do NaNo again next year?  So many questions.  Only time will tell.

Happy New Year!