I’m not a big fan of most amusement park rides, especially the gravity-defying beasts that whiplash your heart between your stomach and your throat.
I do like Dark Rides, though – the more imaginative, the better. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland is my all-time favorite.
The beginning is peaceful, idyllic even. You climb into a caravan of horseless carriages going “merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, to no place in particular.” Suddenly, the seemingly benign adventure goes berserk! No matter how hard you crank the steering wheel, your car careens in all directions. You crash through the Toad Hall fireplace, barrel through haystacks, nearly run over pedestrians, and narrowly avoid an explosion in a dynamite-filled warehouse. After managing a daring escape from the long arm of the law, your car twists and turns through the darkness, until…OMG! You meet your demise in a head-on collision with an oncoming train. Then – get this – Satan awaits you at the fiery gates of Hell!
But don’t fret: In the Magic Kingdom*, all passengers return safely to the sunlit
shopping kiosk disembarking area. Hi-tech, it’s not. But I think it’s great. It’s a C-Ticket ride to Hades and back, with a happily-ever-after ending.
I also think Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is a great metaphor for memoir writers. There’s no instant rush of adrenaline…just a series of wide-awake encounters with your scariest nightmares. You’re not always sure you can push past the obstacles, nor can you be 100% certain that your project won’t hit the skids. Sometimes the pitch-black gets to you. You’re never in real danger, of course; still, you’re always choking back the fear that you could be stuck for a very long time in the cobwebbed surreality of this emotionally charged adventure. But when you tunnel your way out of a difficult passage—wow, that’s magic! You emerge from the darkness with a huge smile on your face, ready to go again.