I have made the drive from LA Live to USC countless times, and nothing ever changes. I drive the scenic route cruising down Figueroa, passing the Convention Center, a few car dealerships, a church, and countless fast-food restaurants.
However, when I was driving back from dinner at LA Live one night and saw a bunch of lights in a parking lot in front of St. Vincent’s School, I was intrigued. As I drove by, I saw that the lights belonged to a Ferris wheel, and there were a number of rides, some games, and a lot of people at what looked like a local carnival. Though I had no idea what it really was or why it was happening, I thought it looked like a lot of fun! So we decided to go check it out.
In addition to the Ferris wheel, there was one of those tea cup-like things where you have to turn yourself. Kids were lining up to go on that ride where you sit in a little box that moves up and down - essentially trying to get you to hurl. There was a mini merry-go-round that was so small it looked like it could be a toy and an even smaller roller coaster that looked like a train-set I used to have. The rides were clearly meant for 12-year-olds, but they looked so fun that I decided to go on them.
But, my friend Georgie is afraid of roller coasters, so he wanted to play the games before we went on the rides. All of the games had the traditional carnival/theme park prizes like enormous stuffed animals, blow-up hammers, and little stuffed monkeys. But some of the guys were giving away their PS3s and Nintendos as the grand prizes: something I’d never seen before, so it seemed a little weird.
Georgie played a game where you had to try to get a ping-pong ball in a little glass jar with a narrow opening. If you got one in, you won a goldfish; so I was hoping he would win a fish for me. His first shot went in and then bounced out, and none of the others came close. So much for me getting a goldfish! On the other hand, I played a game where you throw a wiffle ball against a wood board to get it to fall into a basket. It looks deceptively easy, but I didn’t make one.
Clearly we were on a losing streak, so I chose to play an easy game I could win. The lady was very motivational and told me everyone was a winner! All I had to do was pick a rubber duck out of the hundred floating around. So I picked up a duck and on the bottom, it said “Loser.” Even in a game where everyone wins, I managed to pick the one out of the hundred ducks that prevents you from doing so! I think she felt bad for me, so she let me pick again… and I ended up winning an inflatable hammer, which Georgie loved. He kept hitting me in the head with it the whole night. Great prize!
Finally, it was time to go on a ride. One of the rides had little cars that were elevated high above ground so that they simultaneously went up and down while moving really quickly in a circle. Georgie is afraid of heights and hates turbulence, but I somehow got him to come on the ride with me – even though he was not excited about it.
The second the cars went up, his stomach dropped and his face lost color. But, the faster we moved in a circle, the less he spoke. As we we started going up and down, Georgie went mute. He was holding on to the safety bar so tightly that his arm was actually tired; his face was white, and he looked terrified. When the ride was coming to an end and the cars were returning to the ground, he turned to me asking if it was over. I told him we actually went up again. Though he did not think that was funny, I couldn’t stop laughing.
After one ride and a number of games, we were out of money and couldn’t afford to do anything else at the carnival. The color in Georgie’s face finally came back an hour later…