The Lakeside Effect

May 2006
Cruising along I-70 at dawn on a weekend morning, an awesome landscape stretches before me: the almost-frozen Berkeley Lake to the south, a rather plush Willis Case golf course to the north, Table Mountain rising solemn and snowy in the distance. And then something man-made rises against the blue: a solemn white-wood roller coaster, and next to it an exotic gold and white tower. There is no sign, but I know this place—Lakeside Amusement Park, dormant, waiting for the sun.

Everybody has a Lakeside story. When my father-in-law was a kid, every summer he’d attend his father’s union picnic, where his father would get drunk in the beer tent before riding the Cyclone. He remembers this as the only time his dad ever seemed to let loose and celebrate the child within himself. (Until one year, when he lost his favorite hat, and the Cyclone was blamed.) Another friend tells me that Lakeside was always the cool place you went as a teen, where you could “neck” (his word) with your girl and hang with your friends, safely away from adult eyes. It was the place to go wild, says another, straining your vocal cords and bashing your knees on the Wild Chipmunk, and then glimpsing something dreamlike and primordial: a school of massive carp, just off the dock, lazy-rolling over one another, crumpling the water’s surface, snacking on whatever was tossed over the rail.