On the fourth day we went to the tourist city, Seaside. Where all the distractions that appear cheap and absurd in your adult's eyes will hopefully be magical to the kids. The tourist boardwalk . Replete with what I assume to be reconditioned rides from carnivals that have long since folded, merry-go-round, saltwater taffy shops, t-shirts shops that show their political bent a little too readily, an arcade, of all things.
Oh, and the standard small train ride that raptures every boy and some girls below a certain age. An age that, I think Owl Jr has sadly passed. Actually, we steered him well clear of it because we only have so much energy to wait in so many lineups. It was all the way across the street, for god's sake, I used up all my overachieving in high-school.
There were bumper cars though. A ride I always preferred in my youth, favouring a ride in which I had some say in the matter notwithstanding the 22 year old 11th grader who seemed expert in all things mildly violent (a detail that was infuriating to kid-me, and not tragically sad to adult-me). Owl Jr was of the same opinion.
Owlet was fine with me driving, and screaming and hollering as we slammed into and were slammed by various other cars. Owl Jr actually drove, with startling malevolence, accuracy, and bloodlust. Where do children learn how to drive? What is this instinct to bash and crash coming from? It was the first, and probably not the last time one of my children drove me somewhere. The abuse of prescription painkillers in the elderly is no longer a mystery to me.
In the other bumper cars were the other dads and the alternately timid and wild teens. One quickly finds who is perfectly acceptable targets (most), and who aren't (the kid who's just there trying to obey the rules of the road, for some reason).
Then the tilt-a-whirl. This was what Owlet seemed to enjoy the most. This thing went fast, fast as in "Am I in a reboot of The Right Stuff and/or hurtling towards dangerous re-entry and humming "Battle Hymn of the Republic"" fast. Fast as in I start to wonder at what speeds does the brain develop instantly fatal aneurysms. Fast as in the very vivid thought about how Mrs. Owl would make a striking widow. Fast as in my entire faith (never that much) in the FDA or whatever regulatory body that regulates the speed and safety of worn-down carnival rides housed in long-forgotten tourists traps in a desperately eager beach-town crumbled dust.
Of course I had to maintain what little cool I possessed. It's a well known fact that dads must, generally, Maintain Their Cool. Regardless of me clawing over my children to make sure they didn't get flung into the ether. Small whimpers of terror must be overridden by what I think are robust, devil-may-care laughter. Like from a war-bassoon, or, something equally manly and not at all made up.
They put this bar.. thing, which I think is supposed to simulate some sort of control? But I couldn't ascertain -- in the blinding minutes on what I'll generously call a ride and not "A Machine That Makes You Seriously Consider Life Insurance" -- how exactly it worked. Illusion of control, is what I'm guessing, like traffic signs or gun safeties or elections.
Later we made a trip to the toystore. 'Mass-produced junk mostly made for nostalgia and largely forgotten 15 seconds after purchase store' being too wordy, if accurate. Many items in the store were obviously put there to hook the nostalgia in the parents. Silly Putty, Slinkies, Simon Says. You can just feel the embittered pleas as Gen-X parents try and get their kids play with an archaic toy (only really fun in the 80's because of the inexplicable cartoon tie-ins). And the trains, and puzzles, and the sorts of toys you would've swore were banned in the 70's because of eyes being poked out or lead based paint or a bit of both but some factory in the hinterlands of China never got the memo and is still pumping out GoBot knock-offs with military grade spring-loaded missile-launchers.
Owlet took a sizable portion of a geologic epoch to decide, having been given a budget, and what seems like one quintillion combination and possibilities. Owl Jr lasered in on Lego Star Wars. Not the last time I've been grateful for otherwise heinous media empire cross-overs.
We finished it off with ice-cream, because, you have to finish off a tour of the tourist trap town with some ice cream (ardently-assured to be Real with just sugar/milk/cream and NO ADDITIVES like you have in the city what with your Sushi and hybrid cars).
It's a day I hope my kids will remember with nostalgic fondness and not a wry cynicism. Wonder, exhilaration, joy. And if they have even a smudge of that in their memory, then it was well worth it; Fond memories that will stay with them through whatever they decide to become, anytime anyone mentions the beach or Seaside.
At least until the FDA shuts it down.