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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Theme Parks

I can remember going to Disney World when I was in second grade like it was yesterday. I remember it in the way I wrote my memoir: in scenes, moments, snapshots of time and experience that are as vivid as a color, a taste, an image. I remember dad posing, silly as anything, beside a lifesize cardboard cutout of Jessica Rabbit and Amy pretending to be run over by the crazy weasels’ steamroller while mom took pictures. I remember eating the cheesiest pizza ever beside our hotel pool, with its blue-as-sapphire water and palm trees and water slides and everyone in their tropical-colored bathing suits. I remember how intense Space Mountain felt, hurtling through the dark at what felt like breakneck speeds, and how larger-than-life the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground felt, as we climbed up huge plastic stalks of grass and crawled through house-sized Lego holes.

I don’t remember my second trip to Disney World nearly so well. I was definitely older when we went back—maybe sixteen?—and when I looked around, everything had lost its sparkle. The Magic Kingdom was no longer magic; just a big, expensive faƧade, representing America’s capitalism at its finest. Space Mountain didn’t feel as fast, and although my sister and I were picked as the audience participants for one MGM studio show, the special-ness of such an experience was somehow lacking, since I knew that ten minutes later, two other nameless faces would be performing the exact same tasks we had just performed. Everything seemed smaller, duller, slower, less intense. I felt no need to do everything all at once, because I felt no need to do everything at all.

This is exactly how I felt going on the UR senior trip to Darien Lake. I suppose, in a way, my feelings of letdown were a bit my own fault. I had been told it was a former Six Flags theme park and, therefore, had six different roller coasters. I love roller coasters, and I found several different groups of friends who also love roller coasters, so I became increasingly excited about the possibility of spending my day riding roller coasters with different groups of friends. However, what happened in reality is exactly what happened upon my return trip to Disney World. I do love roller coasters, but the older I get, the more they lose their appeal. What used to be a terrifying, exhilarating experience is now just one that, the first time, is new, interesting, hopefully surprising, and unfortunately usually a bit jarring, but after one or two rides, I’ve had enough. Multiply that by six roller coasters, take into account the fact that our trip took place on Mother’s Day when the sky was the color of slate and the high only reached the low 60s, and you’ll understand that my trip to Darien Lake was pretty much over within two hours. Along with most of my friends, I stuck it out for two more hours, tallying up six rides on Superman (officially called “The Ride of Steel” and hands-down the best ride in the park) and even trying a spinny ride or two, but all of the rides that held such appeal when I was a child now fail to thrill me. If, past the age of sixteen, bumper cars can’t get me excited, forget about those half-bicycle cars can’t even veer off of their track.

Finally, all of this speculation brings me to some thoughts on parenting. How do parents deal with that childish excitement we exude as discover the world as a magical place of thrills and wonders without squelching it? Because surely they only see the world as the same tired old thing. Do they fake excitement over the things we jump up and down and squeal about? Or is our excitement that infectious? Perhaps it’s a little of both. I surely hope so if I am ever to become a parent. If not, it is going to be an even more exhausting endeavor than I anticipated, and trust me—I would never downplay the challenges of parenting.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

How to Get Things Done

My parents have taught me to 1) protect/defend what I care about, 2) take action against injustices, and 3) when lodging a complaint, go straight to the top. Case in point:

Dear Andrea*,

At masters' swim practice last night, we held a "mini meet" in order to get race times for various events and (potentially) judge our swimming progress. Unfortunately, according to the coach, Bryan Ferretti, we were not permitted to use the starting blocks. Several swimmers, including myself, were very disappointed, as we have had many years of competitive swimming experience and know that race times are greatly affected by a good start.

Furthermore, the masters' swimming website states that "members participate in a variety of ways including fitness swimming, local competition, and national and international competition," and that "practices will include technique work, interval training, race pacing, ***starting techniques***, and video analysis." If these are accurate descriptions of the program, then it seems illogical to prevent capable swimmers from using starting blocks.

I will be graduating this may and leaving Rochester, so this marks the end of my experience swimming at UR. However, I wanted to write to you with this concern, as it was shared by several other swimmers in the program, with the hope that perhaps next season it may be addressed. I think that the masters' program itself is extremely valuable; since I was not permitted to be on the UR Swimming and Diving this year, the masters' program provided me with a next-best team experience and put me in contact with a group of new wonderful, friendly, hard-working swimmers. I hope it will continue to be successful in the future.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Allison Goldstein

* Andrea Golden is the Athletic Director at the University of Rochester.

Allison,

Thank you for writing to explain the situation in the pool. I will review all of this with our instructor and with Jane Possee and Kris Shanley who also oversee the area. I am a little confused myself as to why you could not use the starting blocks but I will investigate to gain clarity. Glad you could use the master's swim to continue with your swimming. I know that people love swimming and master's really serves the needs of this community. Good luck with all your endeavors as you depart the University of Rochester. We wish you well and great success. Do return whenever you are able...for sure things will continue to develop at this institution.

Andrea Golden