Monday, October 27, 2014


Rite of passage for our family this past weekend.

In turning 18 in September, Claire had one request for her birthday. She wanted concert tickets. Having never been to a mass-audience, big-scale, arena-type night of music, she wanted to go.

We bought her tickets to Demi Lovato at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa.

The logistics were daunting. I would have to take a half-day vacation to leave enough time for arrival before the 7:30 show. And then, because I had 0 interest in attending the concert itself, I would cool my heels in the parking lot for the intervening hours until the show was over.

I wasn't looking forward to it but was willing to make the sacrifice.

We pulled into the Giant Center somewhere before 7 p.m., and I sent Claire and her giggly-with-excitement friends inside.

Within 10 minutes, nature called. 

I banked on the fact that I could get into at least the lobby of the Giant Center without a ticket to use the bathroom. No soap.

I walked toward the adjacent Hersheypark, which looked dark in the distance. Between the Giant Center and the park was a public bathroom, and I made that destination my immediate priority.

Afterward, I decided to keep walking toward the park, just to stretch my legs.

When I arrived at the gate, it was bustling with people. Hersheypark was holding a Halloween-themed opening, advertising the rides and shows as a "Park in the Dark" experience.

I thought about how to fill the next four hours and decided immediately to buy a ticket. The price was a little hefty ($38), but the boredom relief made it worth the expense.

I entered amid an array of Halloween-themed decorations and troops of toddlers in costumes. The carousel was ablaze in lights (and swamped with riders), but I was happy to hear that the carny-like music was Halloween tunes (ala, "Purple People Eater"), set to an oompa beat.

I wandered a bit, just to see what was open and running and what was not. The coasters were in full operation. The waterpark was not. 

I love rollercoasters. But at age 51 (almost 52), I am now a little more hesitant than I used to be. The last time we were in Disney, I rode both Rock-n-Rollercoaster and Expedition Everest, and each time, just prior to launch, I sat there and looked at the teenagers I was sharing the ride with and thought, "What the heck am I doing here?"

But the thoughts were always short-lived, as we rocketed forward.

And at the end, I loved those coasters. So the opinion of what other riders thought of me didn't really matter.

Some of that feeling still followed me to Hershey, so I hesitated a bit.

Coasters remain one of the only "boardwalk"-style rides I can do anymore. I have never liked anything spinning, even as a kid. So now, a half-century behind me, they are absolutely out of the question. But for some reason, coasters -- even those that flip riders upside down -- are still within my comfort zone.

Eventually, the call of a wooden racing coaster was too difficult to avoid. I figured it was a good starting point and that I would make a decision on what else I was willing to try after successfully tackling one of the older models.

I strapped myself in. It was a great ride; as if this old, slatted beauty was saying, "I may be retro, but I can still give a kick."

Boy, could she ever.

Having delighted in one, I couldn't resist the call of the others. The finally tally for the night was five: Three wild wooden ones and two high-tech steel ones.

The Hershey event ended at 10 p.m., and as the crowds made their way to the exit at the end of the night, I walked away with my pulse still pounding from the thrills of the night.

Demi Lovato... Two thumbs up for the night of entertainment you provided.