Somewhat fallen from grace.
Recently, we took the wee beasties on their first journey to Adventureland, a small amusement park on Long Island. I have tons of extremely fond memories of this place from my childhood. Everything from my repeated rides on the looping star, the bumper boats who floated on an even mixture of oil, water, and gasoline, turning upside-down while the gravitron was in motion, the ‘chainsaw’ tree on the haunted house, and of course, the arcade. The part that saddens me, is that my children will not have any of those specific memories.
Upon walking in, the first major change I noticed was that the mini-golf course is gone. This doesn’t bug me, per se, since I only played there once or twice, and it was replaced by a pretty kick ass looking log flume. Afterwards, though, the changes started really hitting close to home.
There are two changes that make me incredibly sad, and filled with a sort of nostalgic longing that I wish my car had a flux capacitor so I could relive those amazing times over and over again. The first of these, the haunted house. The original haunted house actually looked like an old mansion. You sat in a car, went in one side, and out the other. While waiting on line, you could listen to the conversation between the huge animated tree and the owl. They’d talk about chainsaws, and the tree would let everyone know “I don’t like chainsaws. I once had a close shave with a chainsaw!”. The house was mostly tame, with 2 good scares in it, King Kong and the loud-as-fuck horn at the end. This entire house, is gone.
In its place is the “Ghost House”, which is a pre-fab square supported by wood and cement blocks, with airbrushed graphics. It looks like something the local fair or carnival would have. I gave it a shot, hoping against hope that it’d be at least close to as awesome as the old one. I was sadly mistaken. Instead of 2 good scares, there were zero, none, nada, niente, nothing, good day sir! Instead, the entire ride was basically just rolling past displays while listening to a generic soundtrack. I remember the original having some cool music too, but this crap was just absolute garbage. Maybe once or twice, a display actually twitched, but instead of a jolting, seat stirring surprise, it ended up making my face drop in sadness at how the mighty have fallen. I walked off the ride, and literally ran over to the Hurricane to try salvaging some of the nostalgia and joy. It did not disappoint, thankfully.
The tree was kept, though. They removed it from the haunted house before its demolition, and it’s mounted across the way from the new ghost house as an homage to its former greatness. I made sure to have my picture taken with him, just in case they do away with him someday. They removed his eyes, which used to move, so it resembles my feeling about the park these days. It’s there, and still good with some nostalgia, but in comparison it’s just an empty shell that used to contain things I used to adore….
Following the path down towards the other rides, I saw the rest of the replacements for the rides I loved. The bumper boats were done away with. In their place is this alligator ride that actually looks pretty fun AND diesel free. I didn’t go on it, but I do plan to. Next up, the Gravitron. This was replaced a long time ago, but I’m still saddened by its absence. Right next door was my favorite ride as a kid, the Looping Star. I’d go on this ride at least 5 times in a row when I went to Adventureland. Hands down, some of the best memories of my childhood! This has been replaced with some big discus looking thing, which looks like a pisser. I didn’t get to go on it this time, but it’s on my list.
Beyond the rides, I got to the second supremely sad change. This is the one place I spend the most time in, and got the most joy out of. Saying it has fallen from grace is actually a gross understatement, and even as I write this I literally feel pangs of sadness at the loss of such an awesome place, knowing my kids will never get to experience how awesome it truly was. The arcade.
I remember so much about the arcade at Adventureland from when I was a kid. Walking in, the fighting games were on your left. Games like Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat. On the right, some crane games, giving way to the games where you roll handballs into numbered holes for tickets. The token machines where you drop tokens onto a pile of them, hoping it’ll cause a bunch to get pushed off the ledge and into the return. 6 islands of arcade games, like T2, NBA Jam, and older coin ops like Galaga, Pacman, Donkey Kong, Tempest, etc… The back wall and next room over, filled with skeeball. The rectangular room adjacent to the main arcade room was filled with pinball machines and other old coin ops. It was always full, always loud, and teeming with awesomeness. I played countless hours of games in there, from fighting and skeeball, to Rolling Thunder, my favorite older game.
Now, this is the saddest place in all of Adventureland. You won’t find any classic skeeball. You won’t find those token sweeping games. You’ll find all of 2 classic coin ops. No fighting games. No sports games. 1 lone pinball machine (Rolling Stones). The rest of the games are prize games, racing games, and shitty ticket games. The floor was very open, and the room felt nothing like the crowded hall of awesomeness it once was. I walked around, crestfallen, as I felt my childhood and nostalgia being laid to rest in my mind. This used to be such a fun area, but the fall of Arcadia has left very few true arcades remaining. The rise of PCs and home gaming consoles drove the arcades into the ground, and it’s one of the saddest downfalls for older gamers such as myself. Even though I own an all-in-one classic arcade cabinet, I’d still play the originals if I saw them out somewhere. There’s just something about it. Knowing you only have so many quarters and so many lives, the punishing difficulty, and most of all, the social part of it. Waiting on line to play the current champion of Mortal Kombat or Marvel vs Capcom or Tekken, was awesome!!! Watching the matches, one after another, was absolutely awesome, and the shit talking and joking around represented some of what made arcade gaming great. Nowadays, you have online play, where you get cursed out by obnoxious 13 year old kids in desperate need of an ass kicking. Back then, no such issues. There was a respect involved, as well as a fear of getting the shit kicked out of you if you stepped out of line. It was a much better gamer culture, and sadly it is dying out. Newer gamers have no such respect or dignity, for the most part, and it depicts the fall of gaming society as being similar to the fall of Rome: what once was mighty and great, has now fallen to chaos and despair.
Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not ALL bad. There are much more kid rides, and the carnival games are still around, as well as some of the classics like the Hurricane, Music Express, and Pirate Ship. But there are many changes here that make those with happy memories of this place in its heyday a little sad at the loss of childhood icons of happiness, fun, and ‘better days’. I just hope my kids will get similar types of memories, even though they won’t be the same. Everyone deserves them!