Thursday, February 25, 2016

Carowinds, 1976: A taste of Freedom

     I never told anyone I did it on purpose, but my best friends figured it out after a while, maybe.
     Nobody ever said anything, but they didn't worry when I was gone because they knew I would show up again before the bus left.
     Carowinds is the first place I remember doing it.
     I've done it all over the world by now, on purpose and by accident.
     It happened sometimes in California when I was shopping with Ronnie, by accident. By the time we made it back to my cart again, it was gone. The salespeople had already put everything back.
     I don't remember deciding to do it that first time, just the feeling of freedom once I was lost in the crowd and no one knew where I was.
     It was exhilarating in a way I had never experienced before.
     I was lost on purpose.
     It was almost too easy to slip away, like winning that very first bet.
     Even then, I was short for my age so the grown-ups surrounded me on all sides. I'm sure no one expected it, and if they noticed, no one told on me.
     Part of Carowinds is in North Carolina and part in South Carolina, even more of an adventure.
     By then, I had traveled much further than South Carolina, but it remained exotic, one step away from Mexico.
     The only ride I remember going on was The Oakin' Bucket. Everyone stood around its insides, against the wall, while it spun around.
      I wasn't sure what it would feel like to ride, but The Oakin' Bucket didn't look so bad when I checked it out from above.
     Once it started spinning around, I felt it in my head and not my stomach, but it wasn't a sick feeling. It wasn't White Lightnin' or Thunder Road. It kept spinning around faster and faster until everyone's hair started sticking to the sides of the wall.
     The faster it went, the more we stuck to the walls, our arms and legs and everything, even the sides of our tee shirts and fringes on our shorts. It was almost the coolest thing ever. Something was pulling us from inside the wall.
     Then, the bottom dropped out, and it got even better.
     There I was, floating around in a circle..with a bunch of strangers. When we realized we weren't going to fall, all we could do was smile at each other in amazement, looking all goofy.
    We were being pulled away and together and the same time, and couldn't help it...none of us!
     For the first time in my life, I actually considered being an astronaut.
     Is this what it felt like to be free?
     I was hooked.