Monday, January 04, 2010

Look For My Body In The Spring Thaw

We went to "First Night" on December 31.

I've written about this festival before--it starts with late afternoon events that are geared toward kids, then turns into a late night party leading up to the midnight countdown to the New Year.

In past years, we'd had a good time, particularly when the Congress Avenue Bridge was turned into a gigantic chalk mural, with people given individual squares to decorate. The street was closed on both sides, and the resulting mural stretched for almost a hundred yards.

They didn't have that this year.

Please note: this is known as "foreshadowing."

It was 62F and calm when we parked a few blocks away from the festival at 4:15 p.m. It was a little warm for a jacket, since I was a wearing a long-sleeve shirt, but I decided to carry it anyway, because I don't like being cold. We walked across the bridge and Eli 8.5 immediately zeroed in on the human slingshot ride.

I'm not sure it's actually called the "human slingshot," but that's the effect--two metal poles with attached bungee cords connecting to a harness between them, and a trampoline underneath for additional propulsion. Eli loves these, and I can see why.

There was a small line--only a dozen people or so--so we decided to wait. I looked around while we were waiting, and I noticed that things seemed a little sparse this year--instead of cool-looking, silly art installations and bridge murals there were lots of fried food stands (fried cookie dough and alligator FTL), a band playing, and a few activities for kids much younger than Eli.

The line moved slowly. In the meantime, though, I noticed that it was getting colder. And windier. "I'm glad I brought my jacket," I said. "I'm actually a little cold."

"I'm sorry I didn't bring mine," Gloria said.

At this point, I'm supposed to give Gloria my jacket. I know. It's in the chivalry code or something. But tell me this: if I don't survive, who's going to dedicate the park in her honor after her untimely freezing death?

See, it really is a conundrum.

"I'd be happy to walk back to the car and get your jacket," I said helpfully, clutching the front panels of my jacket to my chest like a nursing baby monkey holds on to its mother's fur. "Eli's, too."

"Maybe later," she said, shouting to be heard over the wind, which was gusting to 30MPH by now. At this point, I'm guessing that the temperature has dropped by about 10 degrees in the last forty-five minutes.

We'd been in line for about half an hour, and there were four kids ahead of Eli in line. Every time a kid goes and jumped, though, there were still four kids in front of Eli. "I've heard of this before, but I never thought it was real," I said.

"Heard of what?" Gloria asked.

"A regenerating line," I said. "It always regenerates to four people."

"Dad!" Eli said, laughing. "That's crazy." Just then another kid went to jump in the slingshot.


As he did, his brother, who had been running around playing, came over and got in line.


"Agghhh! Dad, you were right!" Eli shouted, laughing. "Four kids!"

At this point, the wind was so strong that it seemed really cold. "I'm going to go look for a bear stand," I told Gloria.

"What's a bear stand?" she asked.

"A stand that sells bears," I said, even though I thought this was perfectly obvious.

"And why do you need a bear?" she asked.

"If I buy a bear, we can slit open his stomach and crawl in it for warmth," I said. "Actually, I need to go look for a bear stand and a knife stand."

While all this was happening, a carny was crawling all over the jumping apparatus. As designed, it should have accommodated four jumpers, with the superstructure being eight separate metal poles, but there was some sort of problem with six of them, apparently, so this heavily tattoed fellow was spidering between them, trying to fix various structural problems that were invisible to the naked eye.

This is known in the industry as "a confidence builder."

Incredibly, the regenerating line ran out of mana at some point, and Eli 8.5 finally progressed to the front of the line. He put on quite a show when he finally did get to jump, and as a bonus, he didn't break his neck.

It was so cold by then, and there was so little do, that we decided to go eat and go home (yes, that secretly was my dream scenario). We walked back to Spaghetti Warehouse, where Eli proceeded to eat so much bread that I think there might have been a citywide yeast shortage at one point.

"That's enough bread, little man," I said, after he'd had five pieces.

"But Dad!" he protested. "I'm STARVING!"

"You really are a bread predator," I said. "You're the Breadator." Gloria laughed.

"Oh, really?" he said. "Well, you're the Not-Nearly-As-Funny-ator," he said.

"No, I think the Breadator was funnier," Gloria said. I laughed.

I parked in the ideal position for a getaway--a parking lot that happened to be between THE PARADE that had just started and the street where they detoured all the traffic. Damn it.

On the way home, we stopped at the Wendy's drive-through for Frosty's. Gloria shouted her order into the speaker, and we drove around. "I can't believe it!" I said.

"What?" Gloria asked.

"Did he just try to sell you an extended warranty on that Frosty? Man, everyone is trying to sell those now!"

"DAD!" Eli 8.5 said from the back.

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