Saturday, August 13, 2016

Murphy's Park

One of the things I missed out on this summer was a trip to an amusement park. No visits to the House of Mouse, or the Six Flags Great America Rollercoasterorama. The thrills I have experienced have been almost exclusively of the vicarious variety. Which is fine, especially when you consider what is at stake in a lot of these enterprises.
It was the late Michael Crichton who first hipped me to the frightening underbelly of amusement park. I went to Westworld back in the summer of 1973, and even though the resort depicted was for grown-ups, it didn't take much additional imagination to picture man-sized rodents running amok and flying elephants reigning peanutty death from the skies. It wouldn't take much to tip the scales in the direction of the toons. That's why the parade of Jurassic Park movies haven't done much to terrorize me, rather they are simply affirming the chaos theory spouted by anyone who made the mistake of putting themselves on a remote island teeming with man-eating reptiles. It's a recipe for disaster.
Which is pretty much what happened earlier this summer when a two year old boy was dragged to a watery grave by an alligator at the Walt Disney World Resort. It makes sense that a family from Nebraska would be ill-equipped to deal with the reality of ten foot long dinosaur relatives lurking just off the shore of their vacation cottage. What is surprising is the way Disney, which tends to avoid such acts of random savagery, allowed this event to occur. If you were to fall into the lagoon in Disneyland's Jungle Cruise, the biggest danger you might face would be the unholy repetition of the same banter that has been performed on those waters for the past three generations. Life and death are rarely found in close proximity in the Magic Kingdom, unless it's one of those Make A Wish kids, and it's not likely that being consumed by an alligator is on any of their bucket lists.
Still, it's the nature of amusement parks, even those run by Mickey and Minnie, to offer up a little danger. Michael Crichton's impulse for writing Westwold and Jurassic Park stemmed from that same impulse that we have all had to hold up our arms on the roller coaster. Even though the tired, pre-recorded voices tell us to keep our hands and feet inside the car at all times, we don't. It's the added thrill of not dong as we are told that makes the experience just a little more thrilling.
That thrill may have been on the mind of the ten year old boy who died as a result of a seventeen story plunge down a water slide in Kansas last week. Nothing spoils a trip to the local water park like a near-decapitation. Water slides are fun. Water slides are exciting. Do we really need one that is seventeen stories high? Wait in line for two hours for an eighteen second ride that might end in death?
Suddenly I don't feel so bad about sitting through Suicide Squad.

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