Mike Buzzelli

Waxing my nostalgia at Kennywood

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I spent another Italian Day at Kennywood. Every year, the amusement park celebrates many different cultures with their own nationality day. A big group of my cousins go every year, and I have joined them since I moved back to Pittsburgh.


Is it my imagination or is the park shrinking? I know there are more thrilling rides (the Black Widow … yikes!) than ever before, but the park feels smaller to me. It used to take all day to get from the Jack Rabbit to the Thunderbolt. It used to seem like a far, far way to go. At first I thought it was because the lines were short this particular Italian Day. There was a cloudburst and it rained in the middle of the day for a few hours. My cousins entertained themselves by dancing in a pavilion to a bunch of favorite songs and polkas (yes, Italians can polka).


I think my nostalgia factor has been working overtime lately. Revisiting anyplace from your childhood has the tendency to make you wistful.


Have you ever gone back to your old elementary school? The water fountain is down by your kneecaps. The rooms look itty bitty. Have you seen the desks? They’re teeny tiny. If I were to sit in one of those chairs now I would need the Jaws of Life and three paramedics to get me out of there. Maybe a crane. I am picturing a crane trying to pick me out of the seat like a SpongeBob SquarePants plush wedged in a claw game at the arcade.


Nostalgia is one thing, but this is ridiculous. My mom’s old high school has become an apartment complex. I can’t imagine going to live where I went to high school. If I’m going downstairs to do laundry, do I need a hall pass? Am I going to be pelted by a dodgeball on the way? Will elderly women be dressed in their old cheerleader outfits?


I know a lot of people who like to whittle away their hours, remembering the good old days. If we’re lucky, we only remember the good stuff, and that’s not really an accurate account of the past. I remember having a lot of fun at Kennywood Park. I forgot about the time I went with two friends who were dating, and I ended up riding by myself most of the day.


That wasn’t so fun, especially when the ride attendant says, “Do we have any single riders?” I mean, why do they have to point it out? I felt like Steve Martin in “The Lonely Guy.” Mike, party of one.


But I digress (that’s what happens when you wax nostalgic). Forget the good old days; today is a good day. There’s a lot of promise in the present. It’s happening right now, and that’s where I always seem to find myself. Not the past, not the future, but right here, right now.


The train is chugging, the coasters are rolling and the merry-go-round is going around merrily. I hear the calliope music, and I’m ready to ride again!


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