Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Near-Death Experience, And Them What Love Them

Photo by Beth Glisczinski

It was a wildly successful trip we took to California. We accomplished all goals. We wanted, depending on which of us you asked, to ride roller coasters, or stand on the ground near them. And we wanted to visit friends. Good friends! One was a former boyfriend of mine, something I have in common with his husband. And two of them I married. Signed the certificate and everything.

It was Beth and Dean who ferried us to Six Flags amusement park. The way it works, you hand the people a wad of cash and they let you in, and then you can ride all the rides you want. Ordinarily this works out to about a thousand bucks per ride, because the lines are so long. But we were clever, and arrived the day after Halloween, which is a major holiday in San Francisco. Every adult was too queasy to contemplate a thrill ride, and the kids can't drive. We had the place to ourselves.

Dave and Dean in the front row
Wasting no time, Dean and Dave shot off to the first deeply terrifying ride they could find, and Beth and I sat down at a table outside a snack bar because it looked like it wasn't going anywhere. We lost sight of the boys, until Beth spotted them way off in the distance, upside-down against the sky. Beth would make a terrific birder.

Neither of us really understands why a person would want to get on these rides, but there are plenty of people who do, and many of them are not despondent.

Beth and I did gamely agree to climb aboard a tiny roller coaster that didn't get any more than six feet off the ground. Unfortunately, I still couldn't handle it. That sucker was taking the corners just a little too fast for safety, if you ask me. An hour later, I consented to strap myself into a flimsy bench seat and go way the hell up in the air and sail slowly around in circles backwards. Maybe some people wouldn't find that frightening, but they lack imagination, and do not realize that all the straps could conceivably disintegrate at once and then all they'd need to do was climb over the bar and jump off, and they'd be pizza.

Perhaps it makes no sense for someone like me to go into such a park, but in my defense, I had a good idea there'd be ice cream in there, and I was right. And it did my heart good to see those men smiling as hard as they were. And they were. I still don't get it. Why do some people want to feel as though they're about to be killed?

"That's just it," Dave explained. "You might feel like you're about to die, but your brain knows it's not true."

Hon, you just described waterboarding.

I looked it up. Although there is no consensus on the reasons some people are so enamored with thrill rides, it's generally agreed that it's hard-wired in. In some cases, experts guess, people like to feel as though they are defying death. Whereas I prefer to defy death by going about my daily business while not dying.

Others speculate that thrill-seekers tend to depression and anxiety and feel relief only when they are forced to be in the present, experiencing immediate terror and not worrying about the future. Also, they have a different relationship with their brains. They have a powerful compulsion to stimulate their own amygdalas, and while I might not understand it, I am willing to accept they are born that way. Who am I to judge? Would I want to stand in the way of a thrill-seeker getting a few hours' respite from the daily wretchedness that is his life? No sir I would not.

Not as long as there's ice cream.

55 comments:

  1. I don't like rides, but I do like to do some risky things when I'm in control of the risk. After spending 8 days alone in the Boundary Waters, I came out and experienced the biggest case of euphoria I'd even had. I think that these rides make
    endorphins in people and they get addicted to the rush.

    The way to a drug free high involves exercise and risky behavior, including speeding and these kinds of rides.

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    1. I'm probably more prone to euphoria than most people, but it's more of a joy thing than an excitement thing. So I have a lot of endorphins but they don't exactly spike? I don't know. 8 days alone in the Boundary Waters. If I had a hat, it'd be off for you.

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  2. See, Marilyn hit the nail on the head: it's a drug-free high. Personally, I prefer to stimulate my amygdala in the safety of my own home by ingesting fermented liquids.

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  3. I've always thought that the parabolic aerial paths described by the jets of vomit streaming from fast-moving roller-coasters must be pretty mathematically interesting. That's probably why fairground junk food is so colorful -- it makes them easier to see.

    The comparison with waterboarding is apt. Strap a jihadist into that thing in your second-to-last photo and send him round the whole track a couple times, and he'll spill everything he knows (or just ate). Unless, of course, it convinces him he's already in Hell.

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    1. You can be so dang vivid, Inf. Now I'm going to have to scrub the movie-screen portion of my brain for the rest of the day.

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  4. I can become physically ill just looking at a roller coaster. I am a real barrel of laughs. I'll meet you at the ice cream place.

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    1. Our local ice cream place has bubble-gum ice cream, and even that's too exciting for me.

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  5. By the way, got myself a Friend of Pootie lonzg sleeve henley. Love it.

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    1. Yay! I think that one puts the Poot in the corner of the shirt?

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    2. Yiss, and the writing is small enough to be inscrutable, except the FOP, which makes me wonder if people will think I am a fop.

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    3. People KNOW if you're a fop. This way, they will give you credit for being ironic, or something.

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  6. Don't love near-death experiences. Just spent 3 ER visits and one ENT visit to stop a nose bleed. More than enough excitement for me.
    AND I ordered a FOP shirt, long sleeved, and I will try not to bleed on it.
    I think I should start keeping a list of "favorite Murr sentences." There are two in this post alone!

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    1. Now you've got me curious which ones they are. Yay again! I have one of the white long-sleeve ones myself. They run a little large, but they're good about replacing them if you don't like it. What the heck is wrong with your nose? How horrible!

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  7. Twenty years ago, the ferris wheel was enough excitement for me. These days it might be too much.

    And HOW DID DAVE'S HAT STAY ON???

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    1. Interesting you should mention it. Dean's hat fell off on the first ride. Dave's stayed on all day until the very last ride, and then it sailed away. When he got off the ride, the people in the car behind him handed it to him. Good catch!

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  8. I prefer to defy death from the ground. And don't really do ice cream either. I am with you on joy endorphins though, and have all the spikes I need.

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    1. I'm not sure if what you have can truly be called "joy" in the complete absence of ice cream.

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  9. I've never been on a roller coaster.the worst ride (for me) was a thing called The Octopus; I was with 2 girlfriends and I drew the middle seat in a whirling, twirling bucket at the end of a long arm that went around and around and up and down.It was New Year's Eve and I really thought that I would not live to see 1965...

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    1. I know. All I do is scream, and not mindless screaming either, but pointed and profane screaming directed at whoever talked me into climbing aboard.

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    2. You're not fooling me. You were dizzy even before.

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  10. I'll get back to you with some clever comment on this latest posting....just as soon as the nausea subsides. Honestly, just watching those things whirl around makes my tummy squeamish...and the paradox is that I'm perfectly fine with blood and guts and watching surgery. As a matter of fact, I'm happy to send you pictures documenting my "bone graft and sinus lift" .....go figure, it all must be a hard-wired thing.....

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    1. I love surgery shows. Dave can't handle it at all. Yeah. Doesn't make sense.

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  11. As a teenager I dated a guy who took me to an amusement park. He said that if I went on the roller coaster he'd take me on anything else I wanted. I was scared but I eventually went on it. I loved it--I made him keep going back on!!

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    1. After a while he's probably thinking: Jeez, can't I just win you a giant stuffed panda?

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  12. The last time I rode a roller coaster was when I was 17. I promptly barfed my brains out afterwards, and have not gone near a roller coaster since.

    I loved the adrenaline rush of roller coasters when I was 11, but as I aged, the rush was replaced by dizziness and nausea. As my physiology changed, I lost my love for thrilling rides.

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    1. You know, they don't make me sick at all. Just terrified. I hate terrified.

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  13. Sara (age 20) has never met a thrill ride, no matter how terrifying, in which she didn't want to sit in the front car in order to achieve the full experience. When she turned 12, we took her and a friend to Cedar Point (in Ohio), The Roller Coaster Capital of the World (look up Top Thrill Dragster). Last year she went skydiving. The kid should become a set pilot.

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    1. Back up there, missy, AGE 20? When did that happen? Oh hell, Life is a thrill ride, isn't it?

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  14. In contrast to Sara, after I went on the teacups at Disney World for the first (and only) time, I had to lie down on the grass for half an hour to recover.

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    1. If the teacups just stayed put and you could sit in them, they'd be just fine.

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  15. I know far too much about engineering and maintenance to be at all comfortable on those things. Give me some control, and I'm your excitement guy. Whitewater, riding downhill exorbitantly fast, and so on. Also, a week long canoe trip sounds pretty sweet...

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    1. Speaking of, riding downhill exorbitantly fast is also on my list. I can't bring myself to go over 35 mph and by the time I get to the bottom of the mountain I've been sworn at by hundreds of other cyclists and my arms ache.

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  16. I'm right behind you in line for ice cream and staying far away from any of those whizz 'em up, spin 'em around and drop 'em down again type rides.

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    1. They do make you pay to Not Play, but it's worth it!

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  17. Your comment about directed screaming: that is me in a whitewater raft. I curse bloody blue hell at the people who told me it'd be a "mellow float." Once was too many times for me. WIld rides? ferrrrrget it. I love your observation that just living is defying death enough for you. Me, too. Have you noticed that everyone who commented hates the damn things? xoxo jz

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    1. Well, Murrmurrs readers might be a chicken-shit group. I mean, they might be.

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    2. And yet, Julie Zickefoose, you pickup all sorts of wild birds and nurse them to health. Didn't you watch the movie "The Birds"?

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  18. I would much rather have ice cream than scream on a roller coaster. I have been on the Mountain ride at Disneyland many times but always had my eyes closed and never saw the Big Foot everyone tells me is inside! I scream, then giggle, then scream, and rip the flesh off the knees of whoever is riding with me.

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    1. Yeah, you don't sound all that scared to me. "Many times?"

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  19. "Beth would make a terrific birder."

    That line alone is why I come here.

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    1. Swear to God, we were sitting there having not laid an eyeball on the boys for twenty minutes, and we had no idea where they were, and suddenly Beth points at a dot in the sky and says "there they are!" And the dot was going a hundred miles an hour. Them birds go EEEK EEEK EEEK.

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  20. I loved all amusement park rides as a kid - keeping in mind that they were MUCH tamer back in the middle of the last century. Now I still love the old fashioned rollercoaster, but absolutely refuse to get on the new kind. Upside down? Hell no. Also, I can no longer do ferris wheels or anything that goes round and round. I can't even swing on a backyard swing! I guess that's maybe more of an inner ear thing. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is clearly weak.

    I'm not really a big ice cream fan, though, so if I go to an amusement park there'd better be cake.

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    1. I'm pretty sure there's always funnel cake. But I don't know if that's really cake. I never did know what funnel cake was. Seems like there's be a lot of empty space in it.

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  21. It's probably close to 40 years since I last went to one of those places and I could always handle the wildest rides, although as previously mentioned, they were tamer then. I'm all about ice cream, however. "Eagle Eye" Beth should definitely take to birding.

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    1. She's pretty good at getting stop-action photos of really fast rides, too. Oh! I need to attribute some of those photographs! Back in a minute.

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  22. I don't do rides. Not at all.
    However, when I was ten, we lived twelve miles from Magic Mountain. Every night throughout the summer they had fireworks I could watch from our deck. The banging was still loud and scary, and sometimes I had to go inside to escape the terror.
    That whole place was a terror. So glad to have escaped to the northwest.

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    1. Huh. Dave loves fireworks too. Me, not so much. It must be a brain thing. You, however, do plenty of scary things.

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  23. I looked up funnel cake because the name has always intrigued me and I didn't know what it was either. I put the recipe and pictures on my blog Http://river-driftingthroughlife.blogspot.com.au
    so if you're interested enough, come on over and see them.
    They look interesting enough that I'm going to try and make some. Soonish.

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    1. Since I've never bought a funnel cake at a carnival, I still don't know if that's what they are. I know someone I can ask though. And good luck with that. It looks like a recipe for Having Your Kitchen Professionally Cleaned.

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  24. that should be a lowercase "h" on the http.....

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  25. I can't even ride in the back seat of a car. And after I saw someone barf on the Tilt-A-Whirl when I was 12, destroying the couture of the person further around the wheel, I just knew that rides of this ilk were not (and never would be) for me.

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    1. You're right--even if you're not the type to lose breakfast yourself, you're still not safe.

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