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Rock Street, San Francisco

The sweltering heat seemed to mitigate as brilliant blue sky mellowed into a placid orange, the salty sea breeze spraying onto the light brown boardwalk. The pink cotton candy sticks were like the feathery clouds dotting the sky, but those clouds above weren’t nearly as sugary or fluffy. Only static black thread and toothpicks molded into an infant’s building blocks from afar, the bright multicolored lights flashed here and there on the solid spinning structures as I gaped in awe from the mobbed ticket booth.

Shrill screams burst out. Creaking metal clash. Clowns guffawed. But together, with the jovial, timeless carnival music accompanied by giggles of laughter from prancing children, a mellifluous tune was composed. Overwhelmed by a strong scent, I became a hound dog, searching for the source – was it the gooey, cheesy-caramel mix of popcorn? Or wafts of the rich, indulgent burger flowing from the small cafe? A man held the sides of a filthy tall trash can, retching, his face dunked in, his whole body wriggling like a caterpillar. Food – later.

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Like a thin stream of ants to a lollipop, people trickled into line, which was getting longer than the 250 foot drop itself, and would take longer than four seconds. Chattering like monkeys, they were oblivious to the lengthy stretch, prattling on and on about the supreme banana that they would experience in around an hour. They were as enraged as bears as I flashed my VIP pass, gritting their teeth as if ready to take a bite out of me. And I, like a fluffy rabbit, hid my face and scuttled quickly away from the scowls of the predators.

Floating with the clouds, the ferris wheel was a rolling bracelet, the water slide a twisted loop of string, the cable cars moving marbles. It looked just as small and tidy as the map on my brochure – ah! I had felt weightless – my stomach was in my throat, my sweaty hands clenched the seat, my eyes popped open. I was shaking like a tambourine, yet a wide grin rested on my face, like my comrades.

Giant fluffy bears, elephants, and dogs, their arms outstretched, beckoned me over to small shops, where money was sure to go down the drain. The ring was to be placed on the giant open mouth, and three would result in a perfect marriage – me and my lion. One, two and three! I had emerged victorious from the exhilarating battle. Lugging my trophy around as a sign of great skill (perhaps luck), licking a triple-scooped rocky road ice cream cone, envy shone on every child’s face as they gawked at me. I lived the life of a child as an adult, for that brief evening.

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