Roller coasters are my secret Mastermind subject. My passion and knowledge for them is a little surprise that I like to keep up my sleeve. I know a lot, and little gets my heart racing, eyes wide, and palms sweaty, more than being in the presence of a good one.
I love riding them, but at its core it’s more than that. It’s about the beauty, the science, the sheer extravagance of them. For over a century these huge, cutting edge, structures, that cost tens of millions of dollars, have been built and maintained for no other purpose or use than sheer human pleasure. How incredible!
So I was really excited today to learn that one of the Greats is celebrating it’s 90th birthday – the Cyclone in Coney Island.
I remember spending hours staring at the Cyclone in my roller coaster book, my most treasured possession, as a kid. I was obsessed with statistics of the rides – which structures were the highest, longest, fastest, most inversions. However in this regard, the Cyclone wasn’t the most impressive of any of those things. In fact, on paper, it was really tame. And yet the photos…a tightly wound coil of wooden track, doubling up on itself, twisting, cramped, and frantic. The wood looked old and rickety, battered and weathered by the salty air, sun and harsh storms. And to be honest, it looked like a death trap. The paragraphs about it stressed that despite its tame appearance, it packed a terrifying punch. This built up it’s legend and mystique in my head, and it’s danger made it even more alluring.
Twenty years later, when I finally made it to Coney Island in person, she did not disappoint. It looked exactly the same all all the years of photos, and appearances in film and TV. She was old, manic, and despite all the years of maintenance and restoration, still had an intense air of fragility and instability. As I approached, you could almost see and hear the structure rattling in the wind.
I was blessed by the coaster gods that day, because even though we were visiting out of season and I was prepared for the fact that all the rides and attractions would be closed, when we arrived, there was a huge orthodox Jewish event happening, and Coney Island opened just for the occasion. I almost burst from excitement.
And so I got to take a ride this famous beauty. She felt every bit as unstable and wild as she looked, like the track below could disintegrate underneath the enormous roar and speed of the train…but that’s part of the thrill. She was so fast, the turns so sudden and violent, the drops so surprising that it was impossible to catch a breath the entire two minutes. I emerged at the end, dizzy and high on adrenaline, full of life. That’s what a good coaster does – it reminds you that you are alive, here, now. That feeling is what it’s all about.
So this weekend, I may not be there in person, but I am in heart and spirit – my Grand, Batty, Old Lady, Cyclone is 90. I’m so thankful I got to enjoy her on that glorious day, and here’s to 90 more.
Happy Birthday, Darling