Tuesday, July 9, 2013


I found a new obsession in my life. Ginger ale.

Specifically, diet ginger ale. Because I'm on a diet. I know, I'm not supposed to be drinking any kind of soda on a diet. Call it a guilty pleasure.

How is it I've lived nearly half a century and am only now finding enjoyment in this fizzy delight? I blame Grandma. When I was a kid, perhaps five or six years old, my grandmother was making a gingerbread house for Christmas. She constantly kept herself busy doing stuff like that.

Being a small child, I was fascinated by this candy architecture. Particularly in what it might taste like. In order to prevent my curiosity from undermining the structural integrity of her building project, Grandma baked up some of the cutaway odds and ends of gingerbread to occupy me.

Yummy, yummy, umm... ugh... oooooh, my tummy. Having gorged myself past satiety on the rich, spicy construction scraps, the room began to spin. Grandma did what grandmothers do and attempted to soothe my upset stomach with – you guessed it – ginger ale.

I'm sure her intentions where good. After all, ginger ale is still the home remedy of first-resort for an upset tummy, right? However it seems that, in cases when the gastric distress is caused by too much gingerbread, the medicinal use of ginger ale for nausea relief is contraindicated. A discovery which has haunted me for decades. Not to mention what it did to my poor grandmother.

But time heals all wounds, even if some wounds take 40 years to heal. Such as it is with me and ginger ale. And corn dogs. It's only been within the past couple years I've been able to eat delicious batter-dipped deep-fried hot dogs on sticks... without the haunting memories of echoing laughter, the shrill screams for mercy and the smell of diesel fumes.

I wasn't much older, maybe nine, enjoying my favorite week of late Summer... the Upper Peninsula State Fair. (Yeah, we didn't know we weren't a state.) After enjoying cotton candy, a large orange Crush and two corn dogs, I thought it would be a splendid idea to ride the Tilt-o-whirl. You can probably see where this is going.

Everything was fine at first. Tilting, then whirling; laughing as the unpredictable changes in angular momentum had their way with my huge pumpkin head that my body had yet to grow into. Then the spinning intensified. A dark billow of exhaust fumes from a diesel generator wafted over me. My corn dogs started barking. This wasn't fun anymore.

At the top of my lungs I begged the man operating the ride to stop and let me off. This made the two older girls sharing my cart, they were probably twelve or thirteen, point and laugh at me.

Each time the rolling, spinning cart circled the undulating track and approached the operator, I would struggle against the escalating centrifugal force to implore him to end this torture. This made the girls laugh even harder.

"Why won't this man listen to me?" I wondered. Surely the prestigious universities that matriculate future carnival professionals would dedicate entire semesters of coursework to recognizing the signs that little kids are about to barf. Maybe this guy flunked out? Still, the state of Upper Peninsula would never allow a person without the proper qualifications to operate machinery as complex as the Tilt-o-Whirl... Would it?

That was my last deep thought before things got... messy. All I remember is that the older girls stopped laughing at me. Now it was they who were futilely screaming for the Tilt-o-whirl operator's attention.

I managed to project most of my midway munchies onto the semi-circular bench between myself and my ride-mates. They could only watch in horror as my former stomach contents were now subject to the same capricious dynamical forces that only a moment earlier we all found so amusing.

Up, down, back, forth, clockwise, counter-clockwise, the girls' screams would rise as my corn-dog slushy advanced on their position, then fall when it retreated, then rise again. As if their vocal cord power alone could overcome the laws of physics and keep the randomly sloshing menace at bay. But in the end it was hopeless. I knew it. They knew it.

When the ride finally, at last, came to a stop, the two unleashed a stream of profanities on me the likes of which I'd only ever heard once before, when I accidentally closed the car door on Dad's hand. Not that it mattered to me much as I slumped to my knees still convulsively heaving.

The worst part? When Mom, feeling sorry for me and doing what moms do, bought me some ginger ale.


  1. I've said this in other comments, but I'll re-up: best. post. ever. ...and you use the word 'matriculate'. Bonus points!

  2. That was the funniest blog post I've ever read...