When I lived in Phoenix in the late ‘70s, there was this local second-rate amusement park called “Legend City.” The tired-looking park was totally themed on the clichéd Old West where cowboys, saloons, mines, and Miss Kitty were the artifacts of the genre, and our anchors to a specific history of the American West.

On hot summer southern Arizona nights, Legend City was my Gateway to Escapism during that fragile and naïve period of my teenage years. One might even venture that the park was the Zeitgeist of a certain time when there were no cell phones or Internets. Instead, you had a “family” phone with a 10-foot coiled cord you might stretch to twenty feet if that was necessary to obtain some privacy.

In contrast, Legend City offered freedom. The freedom of jumping aboard the Sky Ride’s open cars that traveled high above the action in the park below you or of yelling on the Log Jammer.

To walk the midway with its smells and the heat of summer and the smiling girls you’d make eyes with.

Back then, we flocked to Legend City to ride the rides and chomp down slick Bar-S hot dogs and slam back wax cups of iced-cold Coca Cola—all the stuff I couldn’t do at home! As I would wander Legend City, I would wonder if Lana was there on any given weekend night because she told me in school during fifth period that she “might just be there with her big sister,” and, if we met up, there was the promise of playing a game of miniature golf or going on the Superstition Mountain Mine ride, which was scary, but that might have necessitated sitting close to each other and, perchance, clumsily holding hands, if only for a brief moment.

I never saw Lana. Not even a glimpse.

Moreover, the cruel reality was that I mostly went to Legend City in the company of Matt, my best friend. To say Matt was mischievous is a total understatement. When we were on the Sky Ride high above the park, Matt would pour out his Coca Cola from the cup, thereby showering the crowd below, which would require us to take off running as soon as the Sky Ride arrived at the other end of Legend City, least we get our asses royally kicked by the cola-covered mob that had been furiously running on the ground below us to keep pace with the Sky Ride. Or, when we rode on the Antique Car Ride, which was basically, old-looking miniature vintage cars (think Model T) powered by lawn mower engines on a fixed cement track, and Matt knew how to override the engine’s governor such that we’d rapidly accelerate on the back part of the track, a shower of sparks emanating from under the car caused by either the stressed engine or the runners on the metal center of the track, or both. Or he would simply jump off the car and run back “to go exploring” in the employee-only parts of the park.

One Legend City night, however, is cast firmly in my memory similar to when you eat a rancid corndog and never, ever want to eat one again, and even the sight of one makes you retch. You must first understand that, in general, I’ve never really enjoyed going on amusement park rides. Back then, I had this irrational fear that the primary bolt that holds the whole shebang together would fail due to metal fatigue and send me careening out over the park, my last glimpse of life being Lana holding hands with David Green (who always was better than me in Mister Hopkin’s Geometry class) as the two of them rode the Legend City Railroad and shared a pink cotton candy, and, maybe, even a non-French kiss.

With that framework in mind, it is inconceivable how, on that fateful night, Matt completely talked me into going on the park’s newest attraction: The Zipper (check Wikipedia if you’ve never experienced this man-made terror).

Basically, The Zipper’s cars are made of uber-reinforced chicken wire, and you lay supine in the car’s lounge chair-like seat. When the carney shuts the door, you’re locked in with the metal grate of the door that is like inches from you. It’s akin to transparent claustrophobia, which is bad. In any event, I got in this thing and, once it was fully loaded up with people, the carney set The Zipper into motion.

I’d never been so terrified in my life. We also rode this monstrosity at night, which only raised the terror level an additional notch because you have no reference point, and the lights that you did see seemingly flashed by you.

As we spun around, and were subjected to G forces beyond all know limits, I suddenly heard, even above the din of the ride and the screams of the riders, a young person’s voice, to wit:

“Dad! My stomach hurts! I think I’m going to…”

Then, all went quiet and seemed to be in slow motion as Matt yelled: “NOOOOO!”

We experienced what I can only call a high-velocity vomit shower. The car we rode in passed right through this upchuck contrail at speed, similarly as the Earth moves through the remnants of Halley’s Comet.

I even got some in my mouth because I’d been screaming.

When we finally got off of the ride, we were covered in the cold filth of it. Needless to say, this kind of put a damper on the evening’s activities. We saw the kid, too, who still didn’t look too well. Suddenly, I wasn’t hungry for that Bar-S hot dog anymore. We licked our wounds (that’s totally a metaphor, B.T.W.) and left the park, only to be told by Matt’s Dad when he picked us up how much we “stank’d” and “to sit on that damn blanket!”

Tis a night I’ll always keep near and dear. Alas, however, I’ve recently read that Legend City was razed decades ago. It’s now nothing but a memory. Maybe that’s a good thing. I do wish, however, that I had found Lana there at least once, if only to hold hands and walk the Lost Dutchman Mine together. And maybe even share a pink cotton candy.

And that the Legend City management had equipped their rides with a supply of Handi Wipes.

As I drive home, my hand shields my eyes from the brilliance of the moribund Fall sun that paints the rain-pregnant cloud underbellies salmon.

And just like that and without warning and despite the wash of the intervening decades, a daydream supervenes, and I’m back-timed to nineteen eighty-one when I was a young boisterous man.

In those days, I lived just west of Washington, D.C. in what was then a provincial sleepy bucolica called “Herndon.” In contrast to the Arizona desert where I’d been born, Northern Virginia offered all four seasons, something that was new to me.

In the fall when the leaves were turning and the daylight grew shorter with each passing day, and the air was crisp with the odoriferous taste of wood smoke, one would think the world itself was on the cusp of change as if following the rotation of the seasons. I was a senior in high school back then. I was lonely back then, and, one day, I met a girl who was lonely, too, and she had a fetching smile and green eyes.

One late-afternoon, we drove on Route 7 to a nondescript farmers market near Wolftrap. It was all fields and farms back then, and the market’s proprietor made his own apple cider from the orchards on his property, and the cloudy liquid had a wild earthy taste and would ferment if you let it, and she and I would drank the cider and our gloved hands found each other’s and we walked outside among the tractors and hay bales and ornamental colorful corn and she came close and smelled of woman and apples, and we, with deliberate slowness, kissed, and I tasted her lip gloss and my heart raced and we slowly walked back to the car.

And the snow started falling.

The smell of burning citronella candles mixes with those aromas of young love and pours over the backyard, not yours but hers, and you take a bite of the red plump candied apple that is too sweet like she is, and it’s night and her father looks at you and he’s not happy his 17-year old daughter (even though you’re only sixteen) is going off with you in your butterscotch-colored VW Bus and suddenly you’re freed by her father and leaving with her, her warm sweaty hand in yours and you drive to Goofy Golf, just with her, where you will par all nine holes and you will win a stuffed bear and give the stuffed bear to her, but not yet, and you stand next to her at the counter and she wears form-fitting cotton shorts and a loose tied dyed t-shirt, and she smells good as each of you select your colored golf ball and old beaten club and your arm brushes hers and you are excited just standing near her, and you are both teenagers on that hot summer night when Love will be forever, yet desire is tempered and checked in a bashful unsure way (after all, you’re teenagers) and when you kiss her she responds and kisses back and you drive her home after and she gives you a long throbbing kiss before she leaps from the passenger side of your butterscotch-colored VW bus and sprints to her doorstep, the porch light shining down on her from above so her face is dark and hidden, and she and you know this, this mutual messy conglomeration of desire and feeling and excitement that will never end and months later when it does, you are left sullen and wounded, and remark on Life’s Tragedy as if you and you alone are dammed by the Universe until another day comes and you walk in darkness until it yields to day, and another, and your life goes on, and so does hers.

It rained most of the gray morning.

It was a clean rain cast down from the Heavens like a stream, pure and good, of sugary glaze onto the fragrant round orbs of baked yeast-cum-dough that await consumption by hungry mouths to satisfy a desire innate, yet nebulous. Overhead, the clouds are an indistinct blanket (perhaps more “comforterish” than “blanketish”) that speak to me in the arcane language of first and second proofs, and rise time.

The language of ‘Donutland.’

She stands on the desolate platform waiting for that train that’ll never come as a woman will wait for a delicate flaky crust with a bit of marzipan and slivered toasted almonds to come out the oven (and not in a sexist ‘she baked it’ kind of way). A swirl of smoke drifts from the cigarette she’s holding. She’s waiting for me under the roof of the small train station shelter. She’s out of the rain, which is now coming down in sheets (1,000 thread count Egyptian cotton). Her trench coat is tied around her waist, and drops of water adhere to the highly-polished toes of her black stiletto pumps, and my mind drifts to the place that there may be nothing but trench coat and woman.

Seeing me approach, she inhales one last time on the cigarette before dropping it onto the wet pavement and crushing it under the toe of her shoe.

“You’re late,” she says. “And, if you’re wondering, I do have a dress on under the coat.”

The Sword of Damocles falls, my fantasy crestfallen hard onto the hard concrete of the train platform on which I’m positioned.

“I have a poem for you,” I say.

She frowns. “Not again.”

I ignore her. “I call this poem “’Elegy on Doughnut Love’.”

Then I speak’eth the poem to her, to wit:

“We stand beside the Lemon Tree

We, hand-in-hand, hold a pastery

Upon the Glaze a spectacle to see

Upon the Cream our Life most prix

Our Love is vouchsafed like good kimchee

Our Love comes to us always like lustily

If the Universe rose in yeast-like fashion

Then Maple Bars asunder are Brazen

And Donutland hails with buns a’Blazing”

A lascivious smile creeps across her mouth, her lips colored in lipstick ruby red and full in stature.

“You always were the poet,” she says.

I move closer to her.

I smell her uniqueness mixed with a hint of White Linen. I crave her, her heart-shaped face and sharp chin and oh-so-supple lips in a way most desperate as a man who craves a crème-filled bun, but, alas, is unable to satisfy that bite as the baker is already sold out of the item.

“It comes to me,” I whisper. “The words.”

“You’re inferring that my remark was praise,” she whispers back. “But, never mind. I’m here for an altogether different reason.”

“Which is?”

She turns her head from me and gazes onto the pleasurable aspect of Donutland, naked in all of its strip mall glory, the establishment’s outdoor mail box hanging crooked and showing the tops of letters stuffed one too many in the box like an exotic dancer’s g-string when the fleet is in port.

“You’re unfaithfulness,” she says.

I fumble. “I, well, what do you mean?”

She turns her head back to me, her mane of red hair swirling over her shoulder, he eyes wide and green under her eyebrows that are extremely well plucked (but not too severely) and of an agreeable shape.

“You’re buying grocery store doughnuts now,” she says. “The betrayal. Do your people know? The ones who, under your dishonest guise, consume these, ah, ‘doughnuts?’ Not knowing their true nature?”

I stutter a response, but not a good one.

“That’s not a good response,” she says, her voice reeking of derision. “I’m disappointed in you. You can do better.”

I look away from her.

Across the glowing steel railroad tracks, Donutland is framed against a mass of dark clouds. A rumble of thunder moves past us.

“We all make mistakes,” is all I can muster.

“There’s a storm coming,” she says. “Of glaze and yeast and other yumminess. Like an unleavened Pillsbury Doughboy. Pray you take care.”

And she walks from me and into the cold rain that still falls like heavenly glaze onto the world, making it all, for a minute minute, a Universal Doughnut for you and me to chow down with open mouth, to take in the pleasure of that magic.

I watch her go, and I still wonder if she’s wearing anything under that trench coat.

We light the fires in the early afternoon in hopes the People of the Forest will see the smoke and heed our warning.

The day is cloudy. The rain falls on and off.

Sometimes the rain falls a lot, sometimes not so much. When is does fall a lot, I hear the hiss of the water drops on the fire. I put on more wood. I fan the fire. I work hard to prevent the rain from extinguishing the flames.

Although I doubt this will do any good.

The People of the Forest tend to leave, almost evaporate into the forest, during times of strife. This is one of those times. When Ezekiel returned early this morning from his advanced scouting far away from our mountaintop dwellings, he told us he saw the Metal Man down on the plain near the wide River.

There’s something dark coming. I feel it in my old bones. For the first time in long, long time, I grow frightened of what Ezekiel’s encounter heralds for us. We’ve been at peace and undisturbed for so long, I’ve forgotten the warrior in me.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to revive that warrior if events necessitate his resurrection. My body is weary and worn. This challenge is coming at the failing half of my life. But, it was only a matter of time before they would come again.

So, I dutifully tend my fire and try not to concern my thoughts with the Metal Men or what their appearance foretells of the future. My future.

From news that reaches us in fragments, the rockets are still leaving from the North Country. They take their cargo of people to a place far away from here.

I didn’t make the cut.

“Too old,” they told me.

And that was it. No escape for me.

Until we learned of the promise of the Slipstream and the fabrication of the Airfoil by the last of our intelligent machines. This offered the hope of escape, of departure from this place. But, with the reports of the Metal Man, the assumption we’ve been operating under for the last few cycles is all for not. Before long, we will be compromised. We will be overrun.

Still, we will continue work on the Airfoil. Earnest told me at last Council that she was making a few last-minute alterations to the instrumentation.

The Slipstream awaits. Let’s hope there’s still time for us