I’ve been working on a script for hours and the words aren’t coming. So, after consuming a pot and a half of coffee and chewing on about a dozen chocolate-covered espresso beans, give or take a dozen, I go down to the local amusement park. To clear my head.
I wander. Until I come across…The Scrambler. ‘To clear, one must first scramble.” I’m sure I heard Deepak Chopra utter those words. Or was it Wavy Gravy? Doesn’t matter.
For the uninitiated, The Scrambler is an amusement ride with three long arms which revolve around a central post. At the end of each arm hangs a group of seats which revolve in a circle. When the ride starts up, the arms spin, the seats spin…there’s a lot of spinning, in all directions.
I’m standing by the ride in progress and see an 8-year-old girl whipping around, laughing, waving at her friends, having fun. Fun. I can have fun. Fun is fun. Fun is “nuf” spelled backwards. I must get on that ride to scramble and clear and save the script.
The ride’s flashing lights and blaring organ music was, no doubt, a disorienting technique the ride owner picked up from the CIA.
Beads of sweat convene on my forehead. My right leg shakes like I’m doing an Elvis impersonation. Teeth grind. It’s not the coffee. Don’t blame the coffee. Did I have too much? NO! You didn’t have enough. Who are you? I’m your coffee conscience. I know Juan Valdez. We’re not close. Fresh mountain grown coffee from the hills of Colombia.
Buy a ticket.
I hand the operator a bunch of money and tell him to give the change to support concussion research on the mole in Whack-A-Mole. He laughs. “I’m serious, man,” I say.
There are two seats available. One is next to a really fat kid eating an ice cream cone. Who lets a fat kid with an ice cream cone on a ride? Ice cream can become airborne. The other seat is next to… a vision of beauty in the form of a woman who looks like she stepped out of the pages of Vogue, after stepping out of the pages of Mother Earth, The New Yorker, American Heritage of Invention and Technology, and Die Freundin. She has silky dirty blonde hair, wears cat’s eye glasses and has on a flowery light 70’s dress. Her face radiates glowing luminosity. Not sure if I just broke some kind of law using all those words together. I’ll accept the consequences. I have in my back pocket a copy of Viktor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning just in case I’m imprisoned. No need to flip a coin on this one.
While the operator locks us in…
“Um, hey, hi… Alan,” I say.
“Cali. I have a cousin named Alan. Are you ready?” she says. And smiles.
I break my 100-year ban on the use of the letters OMG together in succession.
After the ride I must get her number. Who knew The Scrambler was the place to meet beautiful women?
“Me? I was born ready,” I say.
Turns out I was not born ready.
The ride starts up. Our car whips around, gathers speed, and heads straight for the fence. We are heading straight for the fence, my coffee conscience says. HOLY SHIT! We are headed for the fence. We will hit the fence. We will go through the fence. We will topple. And nosedive. And plunge. Our heads will bang the ground repeatedly. I won’t be able to eat pudding without assistance for many years.
It might be instructive at this point to interject my experience on amusement rides. When I was a kid I ventured on the merry-go-round once. Two words: death trap. The horse behind me was always this close to taking a nip from my back. I had to continually spur my horse to stay out of reach. The ride’s flashing lights and blaring organ music was, no doubt, a disorienting technique the ride owner picked up from the CIA. Rides were really not my amusement park thing. I preferred the bench.
“We’re gonna die!” I say.
“Isn’t this fun?” she says.
I close my eyes and pray to every deity I ever read about including the Norse Goddess Frigg. What the frig, Frigg? WHAT THE FRIG?!
“Noooooooo!” I say.
Cali LAUGHS. LAUGHS MORE.
If I survive I promise to devote my life to the lepers of the lepers of the world: actresses over 40 in Hollywood.
Her laugh echoes like she’s a mile away. I’m feeling stretch and squash. Arms rubbery.
I get panicky. What’s happening?! Be cool, Coffee Conscience says. Coffee Conscience sounds a lot like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.
After a time I open my eyes. I’m still alive. However, everything looks different. The lights shine bright and swirl and twist. We’re moving slowly. I look over at Cali. She’s standing on the seat with her arms outstretched. “I’m Queen of the Scrambler,” she says.
I feel so light like I could fly away. Chocolate-covered espresso beans appear. Float in the air. I grab and stuff my face, offer a few to Cali. She’s pre-occupied… reinventing the wheel. Literally. She has a wheel in her lap and a toolkit beside her. She’s a dream.
This is when I notice them: small elvish characters. Purple skin. Stripped to the waist. They all look like James Franco. They’re taking apart the mechanics of the ride. “Not cool, mini James Francos,” I say. “Write another self-critically acclaimed novel!” They don’t listen. Parts of the ride fly past. My heart beats faster and faster like hummingbird wings. “We’re gonna die! Again!” I shut my eyes and pray mini-Seth Rogens will show up and talk some sense into the mini-James Francos.
“Open your eyes. You’re missing all the fun.” It’s Cali’s voice.
I open my eyes. WHOOSH! SNAP! Back in the present. Just in time to catch another car whipping at us. At the last second it turns away. If I survive I promise to devote my life to the lepers of the lepers of the world: actresses over 40 in Hollywood.
“The safety bar’s loose. I’m sliding out!”
Cali laughs and LAUGHS.
I shut my eyes again and like Brontes the Cyclops who loses his contact and has shown up at Lenscrafter 15 minutes before it opens I must hold on and wait.
And wait. Wait.
“Hey Alan. Alan. You can open your eyes now. Ride’s over.”
I open my eyes and see Cali’s radiant face. It’s all good, Coffee Conscience says. You’re comin’ down. It’s like the space capsule has been opened and I’m stepping out. Then the embarrassment washes over me. I lost my shit in front of a beautiful woman.
“That was fun. I’d do it again,” I say. “I mean, not now, but, you know, another time.”
She hands me a card. “Call me.” Leaves with a small wave.
The card reads:
Dr. Carolina Mallett
Perfect. Because. I am. A no fear kinda guy.