Friday, December 5, 2008

Tuesday @ Knott's Berry Farm theme park

BUENA PARK, Dec. 2 - It was a gray cold Tuesday, and we had free tickets to Knott's Berry Farm. The last of Monday's deep fog (strong enough to elicit a freeway advisory) still lingered over Orange County, so when the sun briefly came out, it lit up the mist and made the drive feel like a road trip to Heaven. At some point near the 57/91 junction, we passed through a region of hills and gullies all scorched bare by last month's Yorba Linda-Corona Fire. That part was more like a trip through The Lorax.

To get to Knott's Berry Farm from inland, you have to pass the Movieland Wax Museum. Even though the place closed in '06, the entire structure remains intact, including edifice, neon marquee and the beautiful road sign. The only difference is that you can't go inside, and someone parked a Starbucks on the front lawn.

The glitzy Hollywood lights over the front doors still blinked. A piece of paper taped to one of the doors angrily told me that the museum "is CLOSED & will NOT RE-OPEN". I tried to peer into the darkness beyond but couldn't make out anything. Then I thought of all those wax statues, still posed in the shadows, whispering about the electric bill and hey, who's that guy standing by the front door let's nab him, and I got creeped out and left to buy a latté.

If I had my druthers, the first building you'd see past the KBF entrance would be Knott's Fairy Barn. Maybe it's a delightful place to take your daughter. Maybe it's an anything-goes men's bathhouse. Only way to find out is to step under the big picture of Mr. Furley and actually find out.

I'm not sure what kind of barbaric war crimes this middle-aged woman committed in a past life, but now she has to guard the teepees under the Silver Bullet coaster supports for all eternity. For the entire time I sat with my $9 mini pizza, she slowly paced back and forth and back again. It was like something out of Dante. Only as I was leaving did her 12-year old supervisor materialize to chew her out for not pacing the Knotts Berry Farm way.

We rode the Boomerang coaster. I screamed like comedian Steve Agee, meaning like an overweight grown man screaming like a small girl.

In his superb biography Born Standing Up, Steve Martin talks about his early days performing magic at KBF's Bird Cage Theater. Strangely, there's no mention of his name anywhere in the park (in contrast to Disneyland, which recently replaced the talking Lincoln robot with an entire film congratulating Steve Martin for his minimum wage work in their own park in the 50's and 60's). Towards the end of the book (p. 201) Martin describes returning to the park years later and breaking into the theater through an unlocked employee door. This was another bit of contrast between Knott and Disney; if anybody tried the same stunt in the Magic Kingdom, they'd have about 2.4 seconds to enjoy their accomplishment before getting slapped in plastic handcuffs and tossed into Disney jail. Does Knott's Berry Farm even have a jail?

Something bugged me all afternoon. I didn't figure it out until we left. Where were the punk rockers? This was my first visit to a theme park in the last twenty five years where I didn't see a single mohawk. Come to think of it, I haven't seen many punks at all recently. I know they're out there, but where?

In Dreams Of My Father, Barack Obama talks about hanging out with "punk rock performance poets" in college (p. 98). Incoming Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice will be the first cabinet-level figure in American history to come of age in Dischord-era DC (lady was 16 when "Legless Bull" came out). Gens X-Z: this new administration will understand your subculture far better than your parents ever did. Meaning this may be a good time to pick a more offensive subculture.