Thursday, September 18, 2014

Oregon Coast - Part 5 : Ecola Park


Our last day there we went to Ecola State park, which while also sounding vaguely like a non-lethal intestinal bug was apparently the place we went last time to take our family photo. It's high up over the beach and quite pretty. Wheeling gulls and ocean-wind swept vistas and the like.

There's a rather involved drive where you follow a twisted road. I'm sure it was laid down before any sort of laws were passed about turning radius, minimum shoulder width, and all things that make the average North American road not make you want to grip your steering wheel white-knuckled. At all times, anyways.

I was constantly reminded of professional drivers: truck drivers, delivery drivers, and any and all who have to operate multi-ton vehicles in anything more tricky than the Bonneville Salt Flats --who have a sixth sense where their vehicle is, bringing their tire within an eighth of an inch to the curb or building or small child running for her red ball -- apparently without worrying and sweating and accidentally hitting the horn twice and the high beams once in the process.

This was the sort of road made when men like THAT made roads.

You can imagine them, hacking away at the Pacific Northwest forests, making what they perceive to be a perfectly reasonable path and that would not tax at all the abilities of the average office worker whose trickiest spatial reasoning he has to make is how ergonomic, exactly, IS he sitting.  Optimistic, perhaps a little too generous with those who don't have an easy swagger, and skin made from calluses and rugged individualism.

The pictures were taken, with more squint than was desired, as these things tend to go. The camera balanced inexpertly on a camera bag, inches from the sort of fine sand you should ABSOLUTELY keep from your camera at all costs.

It turned out. It's funny how pictures like that tend to turn out, even when they turn out poorly (well, back in the days of no-preview film), it's poorly in a nostalgic way. The way your cousin is blinking and how dad's hair is something medusa would feel a little self conscious about, these become features and not defects. Mental watermarks on a day that only seem to get better in hindsight.

After that bit we went back tot he cottage for one last day just hanging out and, for whatever reason, not going to the beach. The kids can get in a rhythm where they actually enjoy playing with each other, and it's kind of the magic you want to keep going, not interrupting to go do this or that activity. It also perfectly suits my loosely realized vision of Hands Off And Lazy Parenting. Also known as 80's Parenting.

The cottage is tiny, even smaller than our townhouse, but because it has a somewhat odd layout and there are bunkbeds this makes for a WONDERLAND of fun, apparently.Sure it's a small boring bedroom, but it was a small boring bedroom with a bunkbed with a window that looks out into the family room, how CRAZY is that? Very, apparently.

So we let them have their fun, running around slightly different layout with odd choices for rooms made by budget rather than aesthetic. I'm sure it'll help them develop that spatial reasoning that will only atrophy in time; a skill they'll wish they had when, 20 years from now, they are driving white knuckled through some federal parks' idea of a reasonable road for drivers in 1932.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Oregon Coast - Part 4 : Rides

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.