Saturday, September 17, 2005

RollerCoaster Nazis

Sometimes what is happening in your life and what is happening in the world can make amazing parallels.  When my grandfather passed away last year it was eerie to look back at some of the things that had happened on his land in the preceding six months.  It was almost as if the land knew the king was dying and therefore some of the things he had built for us were crumbling away.  I wrote about this a little in my poem “The Swing Tree” but I do not know if the connection is clear or not.

Recently I have moved back to The Woodlands, the town where I spent most of my young life.  With this there has come a small flood of nostalgia as I reconnect with some of my old haunts.  Most of them are gone, washed away by the hand of progress, but this was brought in to sharp relief by a recent article in the Houston Chronicle announcing that Astroworld will close at the end of this season and the land will be sold to developers.  There are a myriad of reasons this is being done, and I certainly don’t blame Six Flags Inc. for doing it as there were many problems with the park, not the least of which was the current fight with the county over parking space at the Reliant Center.

All that aside, the news was a bit of a shock to me and when I first read the article I was hoping it was some sort of bad joke.  While I was not an Astroworld habitué and have grown to generally dislike amusement parks as I have gotten older, when I was a kid Astroworld was always something to aspire to.  It was the site of many birthday parties and summer church trips.  The place where I finally learned to not be scared and rode a roller coaster for the first time, and many times since.  In my small world Astroworld took on a greater significance than just that of an amusement park.  It was a strange land crowded with all sorts of forbidden and rare pleasures that you could only touch for a brief time.  It was the exotic and unexplored land just beyond the horizon.  A Timbuktu.  A Shangri-La of strange delights.

Even as I grew older and the park lost its mythic sheen, I still enjoyed seeing the park.  I would be driving on 610 and you would always know when you were getting close to Astroworld.  You could see the coasters rising above their cement counterparts.  It always brought a smile to my face and while I am certain we will soon have a replacement located somewhere in the surburbs (Six Flags Over Katy?  The Woodlands Land?) there is something sad in the thought that Astroworld will no longer be there; that a place which brought so many people some joy will now be torn down and parceled out, gobbets of meat to the maw of commercialism.

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