Ups & Downs
C. Derick Miller – Head Writer
Your Stories on Video
Have you ever witnessed the true face of fear? No, not from an actor or actress in Hollywood hamming it up in front of a green screen as some CGI nightmare barrels down upon them, but the nerve shaking, overpowering face of fear? It was out in full force yesterday and I was fortunate enough to catch it on camera.
My six-year-old son isn’t exactly the epitome of bravery, but he talks a fairly big game. After watching me play hours of Roller Coaster Tycoon on my gaming laptop (yes, that 20-year-old game is still popular), he wanted to try his hand at being a thrill seeker. Even after he watched me design virtual steel monstrosities for the sole purpose of killing my park guests, he wanted to be a coaster junkie. Well, who was I to deny him this opportunity?
I decided to document the entire day on my new Canon since it’s been sitting on my dresser collecting dust like a professional. I’d originally purchased it for the purpose of filming a documentary movie, but I won’t have the opportunity to get that first scene out of the way until January first at the stroke of midnight. At least, that’s what I’ve promised myself. There are some substantial changes coming into my life, but I don’t dare release them to the public until the moment occurs. That’s how you jinx yourself. There are people out there in this cruel, unforgiving world whose sole purpose in life is to crush the hopes of dreamers. Not this time, society. Not this time. I’m finally going to win for once, no thanks to you!
The morning started out with my son running around the living room in his Underoos being as happy as a Lark on a sunny morning because he was going to get to ride the rollercoasters at Six Flags Over Texas. We joked and jested with each other, saying childish things on camera like the word “poop”. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, even in the year 2021 in the height of a global pandemic, there is still nothing funnier than recording a six-year-old saying the word “poop” on camera. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself! After all, we have a camera in our pockets, right? Use it! Pull it out now (the camera) and record yourself saying the word “poop” without laughing. Now, if you’re successful, upload that video below in the comments. I’d personally like to see it because I don’t think it’s possible. Show me your “poop”!
We arrived at the parking lot, and I tried my best to park near the largest, most terrifying coaster in the park. It’s a twisted mess of steel known as The Titan. I recall when this coaster first came into existence twenty or so years ago because it had a sister coaster out in California at Six Flags Magic Mountain called Goliath. I was living in Long Beach at the time and recall the local news covering a story where a guest had arrived back at the station after riding and was dead. Yep, suffered a heart attack while riding the beast. At that moment, I couldn’t wait to try it!
Here’s a video of what it’s like to ride The Titan. It just so happens to be my wife’s favorite rollercoaster on the planet!
Still, my wife and I knew our son was still too small to ride The Titan, so we headed into the park for a little test ride on Six Flags Over Texas oldest rollercoaster, The Runaway Mine Train. Without whipping out Google, I believe it may have been the world’s first tubular steel coaster, but I can’t officially back that up with paperwork. I’ve watched it change a lot over the years and it’s still pretty fun, as long as you don’t mind a few bruises here and there from the numerous bumps and jerks caused by time.
You can check this one out below as well. This was the bomb back in the day and the favorite ride of everyone’s inner child who was born in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.
My camera caught the smiling face of a young boy with his entire life ahead of him as he entered the que line. I followed the ride around the corner, catching every second of joy remaining in his soul. Then, the rollercoaster cars disappeared into a tunnel where he’d encounter the first of three chain lifts. If you watch the video I’ve placed above, what follows is a twisting and turning trail of tubular ease leading you into a replica saloon. That’s when things get a little tricky.
Not only does the rollercoaster decide to drop you while you’re distracted by the cowboys playing poker, but it forces you into the total darkness of a tunnel. To make matters worse, you exit the tunnel only to realize that you’ve been underneath a lake! Yes, the ride goes underwater! I was already standing by the exit to the ride when my wife and son came walking toward me. I believe he left his happiness somewhere up in the replica saloon.
With my trusty camera rolling, I captured the true face of fear in a six-year-old child. The false courage brought on by the kid’s wonder in a videogame came crashing down due to his other senses. The force of the drop, the rumble of wheels on steel, the feeling of being out of control in his own skin, and the sounds of the surrounding screams unraveled the nerves of the once brave young boy. He rode nothing else other than the back seat of a Toyota Tacoma on the way home. He’d been beaten by the real thing, and I doubt very seriously he’ll be interested in rollercoasters for a while. He’s a different kind of kid, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
What was your greatest fear from childhood? Here at Your Stories on Video, we want to know! Did you ever stand up to and overcome them? Do they still haunt you today? Did you gain any new fears as you got older? Tell us about all of them! Who knows? Perhaps the story of your life is a horror film? Now, that’s MY kind of movie! There’s only one way to find out…
C. Derick Miller – Head Writer
Your Stories on Video
You know what instincts are. I don’t have to explain them to you, provide a link, or send you on some kind of crazy quest to know what the word ‘instinct’ means, right? I mean, if I do, I have no problem holding your hand and going through all the necessary steps to get you there, but why? After all, Google is free and in your pocket. Use it.
I’m sorry, perhaps I started this particular blog off on the wrong foot. I had a bit of trouble coming into the office this morning. I’m not sure what it is about Dallas traffic, but it rivals some of the best/worst in the country depending on your point of view. I rank it right up there with Los Angeles and Seattle. Still, New York City has us beat by a long shot. If you can drive in New York City, you belong in NASCAR!
Still, there’s a pecking order in Dallas when it comes to traffic. The bigger trucks and more expensive cars do not care about you at all if you’re in a Toyota Tacoma or anything less expensive than what the aggressor is driving. I’m not kidding at all! For reference, look at a pen full of puppies. The larger ones always get to eat first and push the smaller ones out of the way. The runt if you will. That’s how Dallas traffic works. The rich people from the Park Cities will run you over if you’re in a dirty, beat up Rollscanhardly.
Wait. You’ve never heard of a Rollscanhardly? That’s when you have an old car, barely running, and it rolls down one hill, can hardly get up the next! Hooray for Dad humor!
On top of that, the super large pickup trucks (which have never been on a ranch, never had a speck of dirt on them, and owned by some wannabe cowboy who lives in an uptown high-rise) will do the same to you. Cars are a status symbol in Dallas, and that’s why the city gives less than a damn about our rickety public transit system. I kid you not when I say it’s mostly a mobile homeless shelter. No, I’m not being rude and I’m not kidding. I had a DART police officer tell me that they were instructed not to remove the homeless and panhandlers from the Dallas trains as a way to keep them all contained during the pandemic. Paying customers or not, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office said they didn’t want them filling up their jail. I wish I was making this up.
Anyway, back to traffic. I was driving along Northwest Highway this morning (which actually used to be a highway back in the day rather than a dragstrip and basic multi lane city street) and people were cutting me off left and right. Out of pure instinct, every time they’d do so or every time I’d crazily accelerate to pull past them, my right hand would instinctively come off the steering wheel and onto my gearshift knob on the center console. Ladies and gentlemen, my lovely readers, I haven’t driven a stick shift vehicle (except for some old, beat-up military five-ton trucks) since I was a teenager! Why did I do this?
I believe a lot of it has to do with residual self-image or even traumatic experiences during my most impressionable years. My high school girlfriend taught me how to drive a standard car rather than the typical Texas father and/or grandfather story of back roads and Old Milwaukee beers. Ack! She, sweet, little, misunderstood angel that she was, was quite possible the most traumatic friendship of my entire life! If she was in the passenger seat of my vehicle when I was sixteen years old, I could guarantee it was destined to be no ordinary car ride through the country.
That is why every swerve and gunning of the engine sent my right hand to the gear shift of the center console in a vehicle with an automatic transmission. My brain still thinks its sixteen years old.
It’s the same thing with residual self-image. No, this isn’t something you need to go to Google for either. To be quite honest, I didn’t even know what this was until I watched the Matrix back in 1999. Residual self-image is how our mind perceives our physical appearance. If I stop to think about it, my brain tries to convince me that I still look like the photo on my very first driver license. Sixteen, thin as a rail, sporting a mullet that would’ve made Billy Ray Cyrus cry!
I know that I don’t look like this because I’m constantly surrounded by mirrors! I’m forty-seven years old, fat (but getting much thinner thanks to cycling), and my hair is super short from continuously shaving my head during the pandemic. I wasn’t quite sure that I wanted a complete stranger breathing on me while cutting my hair, so my wife did it for me. Super easy. Barely an inconvenience!
Unfortunately, the rearview mirror on my truck doesn’t believe the reality of my age. That tiny shard of glass is meant for displaying the past. That’s its sole purpose! To it, I’m sixteen years old with windows down on a cool night, my wavy hair flapping in the breeze, blaring Van Halen into the night (Sammy Hagar, of course), and searching for the next adventure. It knows nothing of family, bills, or writing deadlines. That lucky, lucky mirror…
Do you have any instincts that kick in from your youth during moments of high stress? Also, what is YOUR residual self-image? How do you see yourself when you’re not looking into the mirror? Are you your current self or does your mind wander more into youthful times when you had your whole life directly in front of you? Here at Your Stories on Video, we want to know! Maybe we can all still be young and pretty together? Start a band? Go to Vegas? Yeah, let’s do that. I’ll drive!
C. Derick Miller – Head Writer
Your Stories on Video
I can’t believe it’s finally here! The temperatures have dropped in Dallas, Texas and fall is definitely in the air. I’m sure this has absolutely nothing to do with the overrated Dallas Cowboys and everything to do with the Dallas Stars hockey team, right? Yes, we have a hockey team in Dallas. They won a championship in 1999 and almost won another one a year ago. The football team hasn’t won anything since 1995. So, who are the boys of Autumn? I think I rest my case!
To be quite honest, I didn’t spend too much time out in the crisp, cool air this weekend like most of you probably thought I would. Sure, my wife and I did our fair share of cycling, thirty miles to be exact, but I had something else in mind altogether. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I had business to attend to on the inside!
I am the proud owner of an iiRcade system. If you don’t know what that is, feel free to look it up at http://www.iircade.com. Yes, I was one of those kids who were born in the seventies but cultured in the eighties. I spent the majority of my quality time from those years inside of a videogame arcade. Even though we barely use cash nowadays, I will never forget the value of a quarter. So…the centerpiece of my living room is a standup arcade cabinet that I can download tons of classic games to like people do on their phone. They’re not cheap but it was worth the money. At least to me.
Every Tuesday and Friday, this company releases a new game to download via a live stream and, when I can get away with it, I shush my art clients and watch whenever I can. On Friday, they released a game titled Elevator Action and my life seemed to go on hold. It was at this exact moment that I new what I’d be doing all weekend long. Riding virtual, low-resolution elevators and shooting bad guys.
So, I did what every red-blooded American who was raised in the eighties would do at a time like this. I purchased the game, set it for download, (Which only takes a few seconds. All of those old arcade games from my childhood can be measured in kilobytes and megabytes rather than the gigabytes of todays offerings) dropped a easy hundred dollars at my local liquor store, (something I didn’t do as a child but always dreamed of) and prepared my eighties music playlist.
After a couple of matches, a switch flipped in a room of my brain that no one had entered in decades. I realized I was obviously a lot better at this game than I remembered. I’m currently sitting an #1 in the world with a high score no one else has been able to beat. I don’t know whether I should laugh at their misfortunes or cry because I’m the owner to such a wasted talent.
Other than the classic arcade games, I haven’t really been involved in them much over the last few years. They’ve gotten so complex and it’s almost like watching a movie rather than playing a game. It takes less and less skill and more time. I find it rather lazy compared to the ones I spent hours per week playing on in my local mall. Wow. Malls. Arcades. Where has the time gone and what in the heck happened to it all? The arcade is in my living room and the mall is on my phone. Technology changed but I didn’t.
I wasn’t much of a shopper when I was younger, but I still went to the mall daily. Why? That part is easy. Socializing. I couldn’t wait to go there every day after school or during my summer break to spend time with all my friends. There was no such thing as cell phones (other than those huge ones doctors carried in giant bags because they were rich showoffs) and no social media to connect with my closest of the close. We used the mall and arcades as a way to communicate with one another.
The difference today? First of all, I paid for these games, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let someone else beat them up. These things are expensive Second? I live an hour away from everyone else I cherished as a child, and no one is willing to make the trip. Finally, we’re all still living in the middle of a global pandemic and I’m not so sure if inviting tons of people into my home is the right thing to do. As a matter of fact, I’m fairly certain that inviting tons of people into my home is the WRONG thing to do. I have an immunocompromised wife and a young stepson who spends the better part of his life inside the walls of an elementary school.
What does this mean? Really, all I have of my childhood is my memories when it comes to things like this. Every time I press ‘play’, I’m living a moment from long ago. How long? This particular game was released in 1983 so thirty-seven years. It has nothing at all to do with wiping people out on the leaderboards and maintaining the highest score in the world. No. Every time I begin playing this game, my mind wanders back to simpler times when everything lay ahead rather than behind me. I’d never known the love of a woman or the joy of having children. I wasn’t able to understand the value of a dollar or how hard you have to work to make it. At that time, I didn’t even know the sorrow of death. It was the most alive I’d ever been at that point in life and the most alive I’ll ever be again. This is why this game is so important to me. It’s a cheap version of time travel.
Was there something in your life that seemed to mean the world to you but others just couldn’t understand? Here at Your Stories on Video, we want to know! Have you forgotten that cherished object or activity completely or do you cling to it as though it’s the only thing keeping you alive? Did you share this with friends or siblings or where you the odd man/woman out among your circles?
Whatever that thing may be, all that matters is that you loved it and that you still love it today!
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Ever.
C. Derick Miller – Head Writer
Your Stories on Video
Are we sure it’s October? I mean, I know I live in Northeast Texas and the month of October rarely gets cold until the very end, but it doesn’t even feel like Fall to me! I’ve traveled the entire country from top to bottom, left to right, and I know what Fall is supposed to feel like! Trust me, it’s not this.
I remember many times as a kid getting all excited to pick out my costume and go trick or treating in the neighborhood. The weather would stay warm and almost summer like, teasing us all that we wouldn’t need to cover up our costumes with some ridiculous, bulky jacket. Then, October 31st would roll around…
We’d all be shivering up and down the street, filling our bags with candy as quickly as we could just to get out of the cold! Most people didn’t even want to answer their doors because the heat would escape from their comfortable living rooms. As an adult, I truly don’t blame them. Being the guy who pays the bills and is in total control of the thermostat is a hefty responsibility! Next thing we knew, we’re all sniffling down the hallways of school with a well-earned head cold from the change in the weather.
At least, I think it was the change in the weather that caused us to have colds. That’s what my grandmother always claimed. She said that a change in the weather would always cause you to get sick or if you went outside after taking a bath without drying off properly. Something about your pores being open. You know, to be quite honest, I never bothered looking that up to see if it was factual. She also tried to convince me that putting butter on a burn would help it heal. She was so convinced of that little piece of falsified medical knowledge that it caused a rift between us that lasted until her passing. I’m sure there were other things that drove us apart but I’m fairly certain the whole butter on burns argument was the kickoff.
One of the things I looked forward to the most when I began traveling the country was experiencing a real Autumn rather than the fake one we receive in Texas. Not just for the sake of Halloween but because it’s always been my favorite of all the seasons. Sure, as a writer, I tend to be an extremist, but I enjoy my seasonal temperatures to be somewhere in the middle. Comfortable, with just a hint of hoodie, if you will.
In Arizona, New Mexico, and California, it was a beautiful thing. The days were nice and cool, and the nights were even colder. Still, it was sunny without a hint of harsh weather during the daytime. At night, a light jacket or sweater would keep you right where you needed to be. You could sleep with the windows open if you chose to do so or even drive down the street in your car without your air conditioning. It was the nicest time to be in the desert in my opinion.
Then, there’s the Pacific Northwest. Whether I was in Portland, Oregon or Seattle Washington, the rains would bring the cooler temperatures while rustling up the scents of the forests. Everything was wet and shimmering no matter where you went. It didn’t get too cold, but you didn’t dare walk around in short sleeves and shorts. You could definitely tell that winter was on its way!
The Midwest? Meh.
Almost constant cloudy skies and wind. Lots and lots of wind! Wind that would chap both your lips and your butt at the same time and, fortunately, there’s no such thing as a product called “Buttstick” to moisturize your chapped butt! I’m joking, of course. Not about the lack of a product knows as Buttstick, but the fact that your butt would be chapped at all. That would imply you were running around the Midwest without your pants, and I would do no such thing! The Midwest didn’t deserve such treats. To sum it up? Windy and cloudy. Not my cup of tea.
And now, for my favorite…
I’ve been lucky enough to spend a Halloween in New York City, but I’ve also been luckier and spent one in Salem, Massachusetts! The leaves on the trees turn all kinds of Fall colors (These are things we don’t get in the South. We have either green or dead. No in-between.) With a chill in the air cool enough to warrant a fireplace! It’s something you must experience for yourself before it’s all said and done. Don’t let the television con you into being enough. Your eyes need this treat.
I recall driving at night through the small New England towns with the moon high behind the trees on cloudless nights. Most of them look the same. Like something out of a Norman Rockwell poster and still laid out the same way they were upon their initial construction. Usually, there is a large church in the middle, surrounded by small businesses on the town’s square. Then, the homes all branch out from there into different grids and neighborhoods. It was a surreal feeling, and, after dark, it was rare when I’d pass another vehicle on those quiet rural highways. Maybe those families were too smart to be out in the older parts of our country at that hour to avoid what lurks just beyond the shadows of the city?
I also recall a lot of the houses having candle shaped lights in every window that faced the roads. When I inquired as to what this meant with the locals, I was told it was a long-standing tradition meant to provide a beacon to those who were away from their families. Again, I never bothered to research this, but I think it was because I didn’t want to know the truth. Isn’t that the best reason you could think of? Knowing that someone back home loves and misses you enough to light a beacon to help you find your way back home? Even in the time of GPS? That’s a kind of symbolism I can get behind without knowing the truth. Just taking it on faith!
What is your favorite part of the country to experience Autumn? By any chance are you a resident of the Midwest and suddenly upset with me for selling it short? Here at Your Stories on Video, we want to know! Prove me wrong in the comments below and tell me your favorite Halloween memories from Oklahoma, Kansas, or Iowa! Have you ever walked the streets of Salem on a chilly October night or Central Park under a full moon? Does the crisp, desert air in October suit you better than anywhere else you’ve ever traveled? Have you ever fled to the protection of an umbrella in Seattle, laughing like a child as you splashed through the puddles? I recall many of these memories and it makes me smile as they dance through my mind. I want you all to smile with me.