Monday, September 04, 2006

Reaching For The Brass Ring

In Santa Cruz, just south of San Francisco, they have a small amusement park right on the ocean called The Boardwalk. It opened in 1915 with saltwater bath houses, daredevil divers, and a penny arcade. Now days most of it is nothing to get too excited about, but they do have 2 rides that are worth stopping for. One of them is The Giant Dipper Roller coaster (Take a virtual ride). It is a wooden roller coaster built in 1924 and is so fun to ride. It doesn’t have any corkscrews, and you don’t hang from a basket, or go upside down. It doesn’t matter though, because they just got it right. I’ve been on dozens of roller coasters all over the country and this one is my absolute favorite. It may not have all the bells and whistles, but it really has a great feel to it. It’s kind of like a great old house

The other ride is The Looff Carousel, built in 1911. It has spectacular carved horses and other animals, and it still has the original German 302-pipe organ in the center. The best part is it has one of the few remaining ring machines in the country. The Ring Machine is a long chute that stretches out towards the carousel. It is filled with rings that feed out one at a time for the riders to try and grab at as they ride around and around. I never new what the term Reaching For The Brass Ring meant until I road this carousel. If you are lucky and fast enough you can get on one of the outside horses and you will be within reach of the machine. If you get on the center row of animals it is a tough stretch, but it can be done if you’re tall enough. Trust me, I know.

As the carousel goes around and around you have a chance to reach out to the ring machine and grab one of the brass rings (these days they’re steel). Then with another half turn of the carousel you try and throw the ring into a giant clowns mouth. If you hit it, the clown lights up and bells go off. It sounds mundane by today’s standards of virtual 3D games with surround sound and first-person game play, but it is surprisingly fun. It’s a combination of the dizziness of going around in circles (who doesn’t like that?), the pipe organ blaring away, the echoing of all the voices in the cavernous hall, and the thrill of actually grabbing the brass ring. It really is thrilling! And if you actually manage to get a ring in the clowns mouth, then it’s the highlight of the trip.

I started thinking about this today when I was up on the ladder scraping shingles (the mind wanders). Because of the spider infested tree I can’t always place the ladder where it needs to be and I’m forced to stretch to get to places that are just out of reach. Doing this while you’re waaay up on a ladder is almost as thrilling as Reaching For The Brass Ring. It also made me think that, in a way, that’s what we do as house renovators. We are not content with just being in a space. We need to make it better. We want more out of life then just to be housed in a box. We are Reaching For The Brass Ring.


purejuice said...

i've always thought it was a vision of utopia. or -- just watched "the shakers" on PBS -- of heaven.
good one, thank you.

merideth said...

at the santa cruz beach the warm california sun...BOARDWALK!!

I LOVE THAT rollercoaster. It's so awesome. AND of course, that's where the filmed The Lost Boys...which makes it even more awesome

I used to live a few blocks away

Greg said...

I had a feeling I'd hear from you Merideth. I used to work there, if you can believe that. I worked in The Coconut Grove banquet facility above the arcade. One of the perks was free rides!

Eric V. Kirk said...

You're supposed to throw the rings into the big clown face's mouth on the wall and make the nose light up and the bell ring. On the carousel that is.

Greg said...

I think that's what I said.

merideth said...

glad i didnt disappoint!