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Perchance to dream

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Sick days... gotta love 'em, right? While in a Nyquil-induced coma today, I had a dream involving Theme Park Review that I thought I would share. If nothing else, maybe it's good for a few laughs (and not a stern warning of things to come):


The curtain rose as my friend Kris and I were reminiscing on the beach at Ocean City, Md., some months after a nuclear holocaust. Most of the buildings (along with the amusement parks and miniature golf courses) were gone, but we saw a lone tent in the distance. Drawn to it, we found it to be a gypsy tent, the inside of which was set up like some kind of makeshift general store with a bar. Kris was excited to find apples (which apparently were in short supply) and bought six of them. We were then invited to stay, have a Natty Boh and watch the Ravens game (because apparently even nuclear war couldn't disrupt the NFL season--or the cable feed or electrical grid, for that matter).


Not being much of a football fan, I elected to drive home instead. Depressed, I began scouring the Internet (also not disrupted by nuclear bombs) and came across a story on CNN.com about one webmaster in California who sold roller coaster videos and apparel with his site's name on it for years in an effort to fund construction of a secret bunker where he, his family and a few close friends could remain safe in the event of a nuclear attack. That man's name: Robb Alvey.


The report went on to say that due to the instability the attacks had caused in the California infrastructure, Robb was moving his operations to the East Coast and building a new Theme Park Review headquarters in Linthicum, Md., that could withstand everything from hurricanes and earthquakes to another nuclear attack. It hailed Robb as the one gleaming hope for the survival of mankind.


Even at that point I didn't realize this was so preposterous that it had to have been a dream! The story concluded by giving the location of the new headquarters building and saying Robb planned to celebrate that day, just 30 minutes from the time I read the story, by throwing a cookout at the new facility for all TPR members. "Well," I thought to myself, "I'm a TPR member!"


Sadly, Linthicum is a good two-hour drive from my apartment. I was depressed again. Until I decided on a whim to check Orbitz and found out that a USAirways flight from my municipal communter airport to Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Linthicum had been reduced to just $30 and was leaving in 15 minutes! I dashed to the airport (OK, drove, really), caught the flight and took a cab to the new TPR site. There stood a gleaming modern stainless steel skyscraper, at least ten stories tall.


At first I wasn't sure I was in the right place. After all, Lucy the Elephant from Margate, N.J., was inexplicably in the parking lot right next door. But my fears were quelled when I spotted an open-air computer terminal against the rusted chain-link fence that separated the TPR property from Lucy, inviting me to sit down and try a "coaster simulation." I sat in the desk chair directly in front of the terminal and clicked the mouse. A random POV coaster DVD played, but I was confused. How was this a simulator and not just a movie? Then I saw the hand-written note taped to the corner of the terminal. Turns out the "simulation" normally consisted of Jahan's standing behind the desk chair and shaking it while the DVD played, but he was busy inside grilling hot dogs for the cookout instead.


Before I had time to contemplate that grilling the hot dogs indoors technically defeated the literal intention of a cookOUT, I turned around, looked up and saw a sight that gave me goosebumps: Robb Alvey himself, the savior of the human spirit, standing nobly in front of one of the building's hermetically sealed windows, looking for all the world like that grainy picture of Alvar Hanso from that orientation film on "Lost."


I went inside and immediately was surrounded by the TPR gift shop. One item in particular caught my eye: a Pedro bobblehead from South of the Border with a "Theme Park Review" sticker sloppily applied over the "SotB" logo. At that point Robb and Elissa enthusiastically entered the room and introduced themselves.


I asked about the bobblehead, and Robb told me that after the first attack, he sent wave after wave of faithful TPR volunteers--many to their deaths--out into the rubble of destroyed amusement parks and tourist traps in an attempt to salvage the relics of America's theme park heritage for future generations. Duplicate items, like Pedro, were rebranded with the TPR logo and sold in the gift shop to help pay for the new building. I noted the price: only $3.95, with several available. I bought two and had Robb autograph them both--one for me, one to sell on eBay (you know, since CNN was calling him the savior of mankind and all).


Then I noticed something (or more specifically, someone) was missing and instinctively thought the worst. I barely got the question out when Elissa informed me that yes, KidTums was safe, just down for a nap in a separate, secure area of the TPR complex. Relieved, I started to follow Robb through a doorway in the back of the gift shop as he informed me if I needed anything at all during my stay at the TPR complex, I should just ask Jahan. Turns out that in exchange for giving Jahan space in the radiation-proof bunker back in California, Robb forced him to sign papers making him his slave for life.


"Two hot dogs, Jahan!" he called back. "We have a guest!"


I smelled the hot dogs, but never got to see what was on the other side of that doorway, for that was the very instant I woke up hacking and coughing and aching for my next Nyquil fix.



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