You’re Next, Cherry Hill

One of my earliest memories is of being terrified of the long, covered water slide at Cherry Hill. I’m not sure how old I was. 24, maybe 25. Kidding. I was probably 5 or 6. My parents tried to convince me all day long to go down the water slide: Just once! You’ll love it! I imagine some bribes were offered: We’ll cut your yard work in half, so you should be able to go play with your friends by 7 PM, assuming you can get your bleeding knuckles bandaged quickly! And the thing was, I really wanted to. I was perfectly aware that various 2 year-old girls were happily climbing into their mother’s laps to go down the slide, and I knew that people were looking at them, and then looking at me, and then looking at them, and then at me again. I also knew that few people were buying my line about having to be careful on account of my osteoporosis.

Not daring to do something that others did without hesitation was humiliating, and besides, the water slide actually looked like fun. But every time I waited in line and got within a few feet of the slide, my legs lost their ballast and my entire body seemed to collapse in around my heart, which started beating like a hummingbird’s wings. It wasn’t a mental or emotional process. It wasn’t that I was scared of something specific. I just felt terrified, in a purely physical way. I spent days like that pretending that I had just gotten done with a ride, or acting as though I was just about to go take another ride – “No, go ahead! I just have to take my osteoporosis medicine and then I’ll catch up!”

It’s not that I never got to the point where I’d do things like go down water slides as a kid – it’s just that I first dared to do them around 2 – 3 years after most kids my age. This embarrassing situation was made worse by the fact that Kook, 3 years my junior, was born with only two fears: work and Ryan’s preternaturally strong hands. Thus, I was sandwiched between Ryan, who was reasonably daring for his age, and Kook, who was reckless to the point of self-endangerment. The fact that my Dad successfully concealed what I now know must have been nearly overwhelming anger, shame and disgust with my cowardice will be what narrowly saves him from being placed in the Guatemalan Working-Rest Home alongside his wife, who will be free to return home when she’s picked three weeds for every one that I did from ages 4 – 18.

As I got older I gradually learned to do my best to ignore the fear I felt when I was confronted with a rope swing/roller coaster/girl. And to be honest, I think I did a fairly good job of overcoming the fear that was hardwired into my system. I don’t think any of my friends from childhood or adolescence would tell you I was Evel Kneivel, but there wasn’t ever anything they did that I didn’t, which is no small accomplishment, given that the years from 5 to 20 were filled with almost daily opportunities to face and overcome physical fear. Unfortunately, adults don’t get too many chances to overcome fear, which is why I love longboarding.

I spent my first 3 or 4 years in New York longboarding pretty regularly. We started out by going to a parking garage downtown late at night, which is more or less where I learned how to longboard. Take the elevator up, skate down 6 winding, oily floors, hop in the elevator, and repeat. And while it definitely took me some time to figure out the skills and techniques involved, it took me much longer to learn how to ignore the physical message of fear that my body sent my mind at every turn and carve, demanding that I bail out any time I started moving faster than the speed at which a little girl can ride her bike up a very steep hill. I started out by telling myself I had to go two whole levels of the garage without bailing out. It would take me a few runs to meet that goal, but I eventually got there, at which point I’d set a goal of 4 floors. And then the whole garage. And after a little while, the garage started seeming kind of easy.

So we moved uptown, and tried a bunch of hills – The Big Easy, The Poop Chute, Slippery Summer, The Stam. I eventually developed the ability to get down some decent-sized hills without killing myself. And while I was always more or less scared when I went down The Stam – the whole time, every time – I learned to ignore that fear, that constant demand that I bail out, go home, and take up Bingo. (And in my defense, the Stam is really scary. It’s about 7 blocks at a pretty steep angle on one of the busier avenues in New York. You have to know how to time the lights, and there always exists the possibility that a garbage truck will come plowing through a perpendicular street, looking to give someone a closed casket funeral. But there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts at the bottom, and if you time it right, you can get warm donuts, so it all events out.)

After going a once a week for 3 or 4 years, we kind of stopped. It’s been three or so years since we did, and the other night after a rough day I grabbed my board out of the loft and went for a ride in the park. It only took me a few runs to remember the physical motions involved, but I was shocked by just how much my ability to ignore my fear had deteriorated. I’ve been a time or two since then, and it’s taking me longer to build that immunity than I would have liked or expected. But I’m going to build it back, and I’m not going to lose it this time. And then I’m going to put on some water wings and go down the water slide at Cherry Hill all by myself.

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13 Responses to You’re Next, Cherry Hill

  1. Ryan says:

    Lol. Great post. Poor Mom in the Guatemalan working-rest home. I got some credit for being more daring as a kid, but I honestly don’t know if I’d dare go long-boarding down any significant slope. So you’ve won. I hope that makes your osteoporosis feel a little better.

  2. Elisa says:

    I was a pretty daring kid– ignoring the Danger! signs on the side of the Grand Canyon by jumping them, then tripping and skidding to a stop with my nose hanging over the edge only to proclaim “Man! That thing is DEEP!”

    That’s why my Dad went Gray at 28. For Reals.

    As an adult, I am a wuss. We took the kids to Park City this weekend to ride the slides and zip lines and I was a WRECK the entire time. Imagining my children plummeting to their death… Not. Fun.

    I made them all stay planted firmly on the ground one time so I could ride the slide alone. I went down that thing at mock 20 and it was AWESOME!

    PS: Cherry Hill *IS* scary. Sort of.

  3. craig says:

    you forgot about the cloisters, and the consequences of ignoring that fear when you probably should have listened to it

  4. Davis says:

    And by consequences you mean sliding to a stop in a pile of mud and leaves on top of my head?

  5. Ben Pratt says:

    Your physical fear seems well attuned, but HELLO! You hang out in parking garages in downtown Manhattan late at night! Everyone knows this is just begging to run into a drug deal gone bad, or a supervillian, or a burned spy cracking some enemy’s ribs.

    It’s as if your fear seesaw is so off-balance that all the movie-plot fear slid clear over to the physical fear side. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that if you’re not even afraid of anything, then the terrorists have already completely lost forever.

  6. What my dad put us up to on Saturday mornings would make your mom and dad look like the Brady Bunch.

    Did you ever have to clean the cement in your pool area with muriatic acid (read: highly toxic) with an iron brush while on your hands and knees?

    Did you ever have to mow a 52-acre lawn….with a push mower?

    Did you plant more azaleas in one year than have ever existed in the entire state of Utah?

    Were you ever asked to weed the FOREST??

    Did you ever level your backyard by hand using only shovels and a ten-foot high pile of sand?

    I didn’t think so.

  7. Amy says:

    This brought so many memories of not jumping off the high dive at the park pool. It seemed so high and I got up there and had to come down every time. They don’t have high dives at community pools anymore. Think about the kids falling off the side. Total law suits, which reminds me of one of the recent posts about liability that you guys did that was also great.

  8. Nate bray says:

    Thank you. I have now tuned into this blog for all my time wasting opportunities. Few things to note….. The scariest thing about cherry hill is the amount of urine flying out of the 4 million kids that frequent that biological dungeon. Ahhh not so cherry is it? The second scariest thing is all the mo mo moms rolling in there with their suburbans sporting 21 inch rims. And their recently purchased twins ( you got it) yes I just said that.. Finally the slides. They are scary especially when the husbands of the mo mo’s I previously discussed spend countless hours picking the fasestt track and race all their fellow fur branded backs down the slide only to pop up at the bottom arguing who splashed down first….. I can hear it now ” dude I hit turn seven at mock speed man and almost flew out” wonder if it would be scary when I shove all their faces in the water till they turned blue?

  9. ron says:

    ever since my debacle on the cloisters, me and long boarding haven’t been the same.

    i felt a bit of nostalgia thinking back on those late night rides with the guys. makes me sad to think about. makes me even more sad to know i’ll probably never conquer the stam.

  10. Ryan says:

    Rachel, are you being serious? They really made you weed the forest? That’s one of the best things I’ve heard in a long time. Thanks for sharing that.

  11. Braden says:

    LOL Guatamalan rest home. Nailed it, Dave.

  12. Maweesa says:

    My fall at the cloisters has mentally ruined me too… Those are hard to get over

  13. Oh my, you are way too funny, boyeee. So many great lines in here. I am with Ben – hello! You were seriously hanging out in a parking garage in NYC at night. You are at a whole different level than most people. I admire your successful effort at doing scary things until you can handle them. And I laughed a LOT reading this.

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