My sisters and I took our annual trip to Six Flags Great America last week, this time without the little ones (so we could ride the coasters that they are still too short for).
Indulgent? Yes. Juvenile? Maybe. A total blast? Absolutely. And the big old wooden American Eagle rollercoaster is still the highlight of the park, in my opinion. More bang for the buck than the fancy iron coasters (though the original Batman coaster is still a winner).
As “stay-cations” go, I can’t think of a better one than a day in 90+ degree heat, making fun of fellow park-goers (c’mon… you KNOW they’re doing it to us), and getting mildly brain-scrambled on a spinning ride designed with 15-year-olds in mind. Even the heat is part of the package, for me. I’d rather bake than be there in 72 degree weather. This is just for the sake of tradition, …or maybe because I’m a little nuts. But my sister Karen said the same thing, so if nothing else, the insanity runs in the family.
The waits in line are not so bad, really. To me, they’re bonding time. Shoot-the-s**t time, with people who know me as well as I know myself. Laura, Karen and my fifteen-year-old nephew Bill (a fellow NFL fanatic) are good company, partly because no topic of conversation is off-limits.
We play silly word games, we try stumping each other on trivia, we share honest concerns about the coming year, or we poke fun at each other relentlessly. Karen (six years younger) and I have similar music tastes, so we often talk music, past and present. Laura and I (two years younger), range back and forth from recalling old family stories and running various public figures up the flagpole (like Mel Gibson– who I used to really like, but he clearly needs help at this point in his life).
But our favorite trivia topic overall is movies. While I may know more about the pretentious intellectual stuff like Kurosawa or Remains of the Day, I’d be hard-pressed to find more well-informed and enthusiastic cinephile among my acquaintances than my sisters, when it comes to the last fifty years of Hollywood output. (Okay, maybe my cousin Nick Pullia… a screenwriter and former film critic for local newspapers, knows and cares more. But he got paid to know more, so that doesn’t count.)
We love quoting dialogue in particular. In fact, Karen calls it our “family illness”, and invented a term for it: movie Tourette’s. When I blurted out “Ya filthy animal!” the other day, Bill immediately said Home Alone. I tried correcting him, having in mind the hotel room scene from Home Alone 2. But then he reminded me the same old gangster movie clip had been used by Macaulay/Kevin in the first film. I was both pleased and horrified that Bill knew this. He has apparently succumbed to the family illness as well.
The girls also invented a new nickname for me that I rather like:
Moogle (a combination of Mark and Google).
It’s a playful reference to the fact that when someone wants to recall a random useless factoid about history, politics, popular culture, religion, maybe even science, then I’m the go-to guy to ask if one doesn’t have a computer and search engine handy. My skills have been slipping lately, as the beginnings of age set in and more and more stuff is “on the tip of my tongue”. Nevertheless, I’d probably still do okay on Jeopardy, and I would totally rock on some easier tv game show. Maybe I ought to buy a plane ticket?
So if you’re gonna stay in town for vacation, or you’re planning a trip to Six Flags sometime, drop the Moogle a line. I have a few dozen good ideas to make the whole day easier and more enjoyable, whether or not you’re bringing young’uns.
But if you’re looking to find out who did the voice of Ken in Toy Story 3, use Google or IMDB. Because this Moogle is still exhausted from ten hours of loop-de-loops and walking from shade tree to shade tree, …only to find the Viper is closed for repairs yet again.