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Cityitis | 2012 | Not the Beginning of an End


Everything the same; everything distinct.  

-Zen proverb


Lake George Magic

Daniel and Amber  
Daniel planking, Amber suffocating a stuffed lemur.
Normal vacation activities.

Grayness drizzles down as Amber drives us to Great Escape, hardly the most auspicious omen. I had planned this Lake George trip as the capstone to my two week vacation from work, though there was little concrete in my plan beyond this theme park. Always before, under the direction of my family, Lake George vacations just happened. Certainly a goodly amount of planning occurred beforehand, but I was left out of the loop by virtue of being incapable of doing more than contributing my presence (and often that of a girlfriend). It feels as though there is a curious magic that I cannot be sure I possess.

Over the last twenty years, my family had come with such regularity - last year being the exception - that the shop workers had begun to recognize us on sight and greet us with more familiarity than strict friendliness. For monetary reasons (my parents do not have enough of it owing to my mother's unemployment, my older brother and his wife are occupied making quite a lot of it this summer), my family had no intention of going on vacation for the first year in memory. Though it would not be a week by the shore, an overnight trip with my friends had to be better than nothing.

I wonder aloud if the rain will mean an alteration of our plans, if we will have to go to the park the following morning. It is too late to turn back entirely - I bought us tickets and reserved a room, I am not prepared to sacrifice either for a bit of unfortunate weather - but I like to pretend they have an option. Daniel says we soldier on and ignore the rain, since we brought bathing suits and clearly intended to be wet. No more needed.
Daniel is excited to be here.

Our trip up was an almost constant conversation, of the inherent natures of people we know, of sexual misadventures in our past, of the misapprehensions of the Higgs boson's discovery (specifically that the so-called "God particle" does not checkmate atheists by proving God). There is something remarkable about combining three otherwise inward and taciturn people such that they cannot shut up, as though we do not otherwise get the opportunity to express ourselves (aside from writing and art).

The park is almost empty, far more than should be the case on a Saturday after the Fourth of July, precipitation or no. We pass ride after ride that is open and functioning, in no way affected by a bit of moisture. All we can figure is that the gray clouds were enough to scare away those who would otherwise fill the lines. Their cowardice is our pleasure.

Amber and Daniel refuse to change into their suits, though I had made Daniel buy his last night in preparation for the water park portion. (I admit to wanting to see Daniel in swim trunks, so antithetical to the buttoned, black shirts and ties that make up most of his wardrobe in my mind.)

This does not mean we remain dry. After Amber hops and twice drags us to the Comet, a wooden roller coaster of which she is fond, I suggest we try the Raging River.

"There is a chance you may remain dry," I caution, then the sky starts to spittle at us a bit more earnestly. "Well, dry from the ride."

It seems as though the operators have conspired with physics to soak us. The park is sparse, they must be bored, and they sky will certainly get us if they do not, so I cannot much hold their use of water cannons against them.
Daniel and Amber  
We couldn't let it die!

Outside each water ride is a brown booth that resembles, for reasons of irony as much as function, a shower stall. For several dollars, it will bake one so that one can be dry enough to get saturated again on the next water ride. I begin to question why anyone would use these, especially on a rainy day, when a father gives this machine $30 to make his children marginally less damp. He seems to observe no dissonance in his actions and his sprogs delight in the roar of the chamber as the drizzle further infuses our clothes. I cannot comprehend.

Later, as we wait for Amber to get off a ride called the Boomerang - one that shoots the rider in one direction and then backwards, one that made me severely nauseated six or seven years ago and that I (a bit ill already from the rides) have opted not to chance - a boy in camo and a baseball cap reading "Git-R-Done", his mouth in need of fluoride and orthodontia, comes up to Daniel and shouts, "Your bag is cool! I like your bag, I like poison."

Daniel is holding Amber's de facto purse, a satchel liberated from the dumpsters at Bard, that has a skull-and-crossbones above the legend "Poison" in a neutral font. "I have good taste," Daniel says. The boy runs back to his father - a similarly dressed and shaped man a couple decades his senior - to convey that he likes poison.

I mention to Daniel that a large portion of the other people milling about to be flung at high speeds or dropped from height seem to be from the peed-in section of the gene pool, an experience that had recently occurred at the Kingston fireworks display and what Amber had written off as simply the sort of people who frequent free fireworks displays where alcohol is served. Perhaps they are also more willing to attend theme parks in the rain, but it would be nice if they showered beforehand. A few who get close to us carry the distinct funk of a week of body odor exacerbated by the dampness. "When I was younger - and had more homicidal rage - they used to bother me, too," Daniel says. "Now I figure that they are just NPCs."

I grin. "Yes! You've put your finger on it! Non-Player Characters."

"They all have similar character models, not much to say, and tend to repeat one another. They walk around doing human-like things, but their programming is basically to bump into one another in this specific area. If you tried to remove them from their designated area, they would flip out and glitch."
And Amber is excited to be here.

Oddly, this makes me feel a bit better about their prevalence today, as I make memories with my friends. When Amber and I coo at a hobbling duck with an injured leg, they ignore us because interacting with a broken duck sprite is outside their purview.

The park seems different to me today and I can't attribute it to the weather (or NPCs) alone. While in the past I had tended to break off from and rejoin members of my family as we discovered them, there was a feeling I was on my own (with specific feminine company) until they declared it was time to leave the park and the would not see again for a year.

Lake George has always seemed a realm I needed my family to open for me. It is irrational, but I had very rarely been here without them - the only exception being a wedding while dating Emily. Getting here was not even an especially taxing, just a couple of hours chatting in the car. Owing to my union membership, the Great Escape tickets were less than half price. I could manage this every weekend and be fine. All this makes me feel oddly adult, that I can manage this and not be poor. From years of marginal employment, I still feel every paycheck is to be my last and that my bank account will go into the red if I indulge in an ice cream cone without double checking it.

Fairly exhausted with the park,though the sun has come out, we check into our motel. It is considerably less quaint than their website suggested, but we are not picky. We relax in the dark and rehydrate before attempting dinner.

I give them only two options, both of which are the sites of culminating meals for my family in the past. I paid for most of this experience upfront (though Daniel pays for meals to recompense me) and I feel entitled to shape it to my liking.

We select the Adirondack Brew Pub and, once there, talk almost exclusively about sex positivity, to the occasional unease of the families seated around us. This is the benefit of adult vacations, of course. One can get blitheringly drunk - though we don't, unless the raspberry sauce that comes with Amber's sweet potato fries is 80-proof - and joke of the epidemic of body-shaming amongst American politicians. Though I love my nieces and nephews more than I ever imagined loving kids, the oldest of them is at least eight years from finding that a fun activity. It has been at least that long since they joined are family, so there was the smallest of windows to experience this with other adults (at least on someone else's dime).

To aid digestion, I goad them to walk the town with me as the sun sets. These jaunts into town have always been what most sticks out in my memories of Lake George. Not parasailing one year, not the cruises, not even horseback riding, but poking about kitschy shops long after night has settled in. It is perhaps here that I first felt autonomy, as my parents would trust we could find our way back to the hotel on our own starting just as we became teenagers.

It is not that I hold out hope that Amber and Daniel will care about the tourist shops. I would be shocked if they did, but this is so great an aspect of Lake George to me that I need to show them, if just because I can pretend 24 hours in Lake George can satisfy my need for a vacation.

As always, enough in the town has changed to annoy me. Several of the shops are switched around, though I know they are all owned by the same three people. The mini-golf course I patronized for many years has been razed for a glitzy carousel that no doubt earns them a great deal more, but is still wrong to me. Of course, I don't what them to see this Lake George, but the Lake George of my memories, one that possibly never existed outside of them.

As we walk by the lake, I notice on an electric billboard mention of a firework cruise. I stop my party so it can cycle through and show this again.

"Oh, fun," says Amber. "Do you want to go on a cruise?"

"No, don't you see? There will be fireworks! They are always on Thursday, but it is Saturday and they will happen," I say, not unlike an overly sugared child.

"It was the fourth of July," Daniel reminds me.

"Fireworks!" is my most salient argument until they give up trying to have a conversation with me.

We stop by a headshop on the way back to town (by dint of being a tourist trap, Lake George does not lack for glass pipes and Grateful Dead posters) and the Ukranian saleswoman does all she can to burst my bubble. "No fireworks today. Never on Saturday, only Thursday."

"But the cruise says-"

"Never Saturday," she admonishes as I pull this my friends away from this dream-killer.

I suggest we buy ice cream cones, something at which Amber enthusiastically jumps before I can get the sentence out. What is a fireworks display without a belly full of Ben & Jerry's?

I lead them to the public park, which seems to be the best vantage point for fireworks that most certainly will be happening, no matter what anyone says. Through my sheer force of will, there shall be fireworks.

The moment we sit on a ledge, they begin and I feel exuberant. I made this happen. Okay, perhaps I did not strictly manifest explosions out of the ether (my pact with demons is confined to literary fireworks, not literal ones), but I am the reason that two of my favorite people in the world are gazing at these on this night. We watch enthralled for half an hour, then Amber and I dip our toes in the lake, splashing with all the reverence of a Discordian baptismal.

Soon in Xenology: Male friendships. Burlesque. Melanie.

last watched: Paradise Lost
reading: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland
listening: Garfunkel and Oates

Cityitis | 2012 | Not the Beginning of an End

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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