Roller Coaster Wars

I made a present for you today. I built you a roller coaster and we’re going on the very first ride. You can thank me later.

Because I’ve always found the “dark rides,” the haunted house rides, neither scary nor fun nor innovative, I thought I’d remedy this with your custom coaster. Your coaster is called the Inferno in tribute to the defunct Dante’s Inferno at Brooklyn’s Coney Island.

Because I’m like the Pentagon, I have an unlimited amount of money to make you the greatest coaster in the world, one with all the bells and whistles and none of the whistle blowers. I am the Rhombus goo goo g’joob. I located your coaster back in the motherland (Ohio) on America’s Roller Coast: Cedar Point in Sandusky, right along Lake Erie. Your coaster is made of wood, the lift hill is 1,000 feet tall and the first drop is 1,500 feet so it goes deep into the earth to give us that going-to-hell feeling. And no sissy ratcheting lap bars which keep us immobile — we have fuck-the-insurance-companies fixed lap bars so we can get popped up out our seats a lot — “air time” in the vernacular. At various points we’ll be standing and feel like we’re flying. But remember: it’s a dark ride, it’s all enclosed, though there are strobe lights, black lights, flames and illuminations. Your coaster meets the qualifications of a Coaster Classic by the American Coaster Enthusiasts.

I want you to take note of how uncluttered the entrance is to your coaster, how few rules and regulations are posted. Imagine had your coaster been placed at King’s Island in Cincinnati where every single commonsense safety measure has to be spelled out for the genetic misfires coming across the river from Newport, Kentucky. There, right next to the height requirement sign, you might get admonitions like this: “All firearms must be secured while ride is in motion. King’s Island is not responsible for any items lost or stolen or heads blown off, any heart attacks, back injuries or pregnancies that occur while riding. Shooting people, including black people, is strictly prohibited and may be cause for removal from the park.”

Great company though you are, it wouldn’t be as much fun if it was just you and me so I packed this coaster with some wild and crazy guys and gals: Dave, Julie, Taylor, Lisa, Mark, Joan, Sam, Mary, Mike, Dina, Tory, Linda, Rox, Raheim, Anteneh, Jeffrey and Josh. I also convinced Arthur Silber, Sam Greenlee and Linh Dinh to ride plus the 2016 Glen Party presidential ticket: presidential nominee Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report and vice-presidential candidate Glenn Greenwald. The Glens, replacing the Greens who never really caught fire, were originally going to flip a coin to see which Glen/n would get the top slot but I successfully made the case that it was about goddam time for America to have its first black president. Like the Lizard King, the Rhombus can do anything: I can bring back the dead, so I gave the sacred back seat to Alex Cockburn and Joe Bageant. And because he’s already been gone way too long I brought back Hugo Chavez and to give him someone to screamemente with I also brought back Che Guevara. These haunted house rides are usually “ghost trains” in name only — to do the supernatural right, it always takes us agnostics and atheists.

The outside entrance of your Inferno is a replica of the United States Capitol. As we clickety-clack up the lift hill we have plenty of time to appreciate just how high up we are. Feel the breeze, the ebb and and flow of the wood as it “breathes.” Boy, some of those nails need pounded in a little more. A bright sunshiny day. You would never know what horrors await in the Inferno. Look at the fleas and ticks: Avalanches, Sierras, Tundras, Yukons, Sequoias. We’re in the first car because, like the late great Screechin’ Eagle at Americana, this is a front car ride, this is where the best air time will be.

Now we’re at the summit. We’re about to bust through the Capitol’s saloon/whorehouse swinging doors (your coaster has a bit of a Wild West motif) and peer into the darkness. Hands up, comrade! The only thing I’m going to rob you of is your fear.

What? You want to hang on? You won’t put your hands up? I have to explain the facts of life to you, right now, just before unwrapping your present? I made you this great baba ganoush of a coaster and you’re not going to try it? Jesus Christ…We ride with our hands up because we are participating in a work of art, a coaster is a living sculpture where the number, distribution and weight of fellow passengers and the weather can effect what kind of ride we’ll have, we’re like in that Robin Williams movie, a kind of What Heaves May Come, we’re letting ourselves go so that we may experience the line, the design, the mind, the freedom that some creator chose to have — if you hold on and brace yourself, you’re working against it — you’ll never know what you could be experiencing or what the holy designer had in mind. Convinced? Good.

Is it going to be fast? Damn straight. I hired dozens of former Blackwater mercenaries at $120,000 per season to grease the tracks early every morning to make sure we have a fast ride. I know that sounds like a lot of money but I am the Rhombus. They get to do that fun shit they used to do — like rappelling — and they don’t’ have to worry about getting strung up under the coaster supports or dragged down Route 250 here in beautiful Sandusky, hearing the world anthem: “Death to America! Death to America!”

Start whooping, comrade! Here we go! Whee! Hey, look back real quick there’s something I want to show you. The saloon doors are still letting in enough light so that you can see this: I made the angle of descent 85 degrees so it gives us the illusion that the whole back of the train is going to fall over on those of us in the front part! See it? So cool! OK, face forward, the scary monsters are coming.

Whee! Alriiiiight! Oh yeah! Plunging into the darkness, where will it stop…? We’re going to go through a couple of enormous camel backs at the bottom of which, on either side of us, I made long halls of mirrors except that they’re really forests of mirrored spires and funhouse glass but what you’ll notice is that they function really well as cages. This is special material paid for by the taxpayers and developed by the Rhombus. I’m going to give it away to my cronies at Kennywood, Knoebels and Holiday World so they can make a bundle – these fantabulous parks deserve a bundle — but that’s down the road. The exhibits are going to come fast and furious and will look quite ghastly and distorted.

OK, look right: There’s John Kerry, the man who shot both peasants and pheasants in the back and could never make up his mind whether he was a war hero or war criminal. He lost a presidential election to one of the stupidest and most hated figures in American political history — WTF. Salute him, comrade, all several dozen of him, it doesn’t matter if we can’t tell which one is the real one, he’s reporting for duty in there somewhere and he was against droopy faces before he was for them! See how bloody Kerry’s exhibit is: it represents the Iraq War that he supported and every Arab that Israel has ever killed that Kerry has always justified. But it’s all fake blood! It’s ketchup! Heinz ketchup! Kerry could no more be in your funhouse than he could be in the United States Senate without wife Teresa Heinz’s money. In fact, in exchange for some signage, she donated all of the ketchup for your Inferno and that’s a lot of ketchup. Because all of your exhibits hungered for blood and because Ronald Reagan said ketchup was, after all, a vegetable, ketchup is all that we’re feeding them.

Quick, look left: there’s former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She’s not nearly as scary as usual because she’s still not up to speed from her recent stroke. Anyone who saw her crazed face over the past four years, screaming for Iranian blood, knew that her head could pop at any moment and it finally did. Of course, Bill’s with her.

“Did you know that Bill Clinton’s a vegan?” say my excited animal lovin’ friends. To which I reply, “Did you know that his ending of welfare as we know it gave us a homeless population like we’ve never seen it? Did you know that his ‘humanitarian’ bombing of Kosovo set the model for Libya? Did you know that his deregulation of the financial industry paved the way for the greatest transference of wealth from the working class to the capitalist class in the nation’s history, that the ‘good times’ of his entire bubbalicious presidency were a mirage for the working class? Did you know that he was chosen by the ruling class to gut the working class with NAFTA because a Republican president never could have pulled it off? Did you know that NAFTA made it possible for Clinton’s buddies at Archer Daniels Midland to dump cheap subsidized grain on Mexico and drive thousands of peasant farmers off the land and across the US southern border? Did you know that Clinton, as a wholly owned subsidiary of Tyson Foods, let slaughterhouses regulate themselves so they sped up slaughter lines, resulting in epidemic levels of salmonella in meat and millions of animals killed while fully conscious, all of which is still going on today? But now he’s a vegan, praise Jesus! Did you know that he well represents America: individual ‘salvation’ for the privileged who have destroyed many parts of the world wholesale and then are lauded as role models. Didja know?”

Well, it’s a starry night here in your coaster. See all the twinkling lights and glowing planets? We’re coming up to the second hill. This thing is really rumbling. Hear that? Stand up and get down, comrade, they’re playing our song: “Roller coaster of Love — say what …” It’s the Ohio Players’ “Love Rollercoaster,” vintage Dayton street funk, as sung by the recently deceased Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner. “Roller coaster of Love – say what…”

Now we’re in the galaxy of the giant plasma screens: There’s one of America’s greatest artists, John Miller, the god of wood, the 1920s coaster sculptor virtuoso who gave us the “safety ratchet” that makes the clickety-clack sound and makes sure a coaster won’t roll back down the lift hill if the chain breaks. He also invented the “unstop” wheel under the coaster track to keep the trains from flying off. Nobody’s perfect! And here’s some of Miller’s masterworks: the aforementioned Screechin’ Eagle where I and a friend had 30 rides on its last operating day before being demolished. There’s the Coney Island Thunderbolt which survived four fires but couldn’t survive a heathen nation that doesn’t appreciate great art. This was the coaster that Woody Allen’s fictional family lived under in the movie Annie Hall but it was the real life house where coaster owners Mary Timpano and Fred Moran lived for forty years. On the sad day of the wrecking ball, Timpano regaled reporters with stories of finding false teeth in her yard and other objects dislodged from riders and the rattling of her living room with every ride. There’s the dead and gone Geauga Lake Big Dipper — air time central, comrade — and Kennywood’s still existing, still thrilling Racer, Thunderbolt and Jack Rabbit, and there’s Elvis’ favorite coaster, the Zippin Pippin, the site of many peanut butter, ‘nanner and Seconal sandwiches and midnight rides with the King. And John Miller gave us all of those things…

And there’s Ron Toomer, the man of steel, who designed Cedar Point’s perfect cloud-dwelling Magnum XL-200 with the best turnaround in all of coasterdom – the famed pretzel loop — and there’s Ron’s dearly departed and vicious Drachen Fire and there’s one of America’s greatest sculptures, the Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. Yes, John Miller and Ron Toomer did more for America than any painters or conventional sculptors ever did, they put us in the center of their art and let us feel it, not just visually or mentally or spiritually but physically. I bow down, guys — one day we’ll get that rot out of the Guggenheim and MOMA and get some flying turns and trick track in there.

“Priest! Priest!”

Hear that? Somebody’s calling for a priest — things must really be dire down here at the bottom of the second hill and hall of mirrors…Whoa, look who it is – it’s the Pillsbury drone boy, Harold Hongju (pronounced “hung you”, as in “hung you in a stress position”) Koh, the liberal lawyer darling who waxed indignant about torture and war crimes when Bush committed them but waned when Obama became the perp-in-chief. With ethics as pliable as his doughy face, Koh’s the man who set up Obama’s legal justifications for violating other nation’s sovereignty and drone murdering people without charge or trial, far from combat zones and including American citizens. One of his most Orwellian statements was saying that bombing the hell out of Libya didn’t constitute “hostilities” because there were no American boots on the ground. Using his Harvard-educated logic we could say that Russia hitting America with ICBMs during the Cold War or al-Qaeda leveling the Twin Towers on 9/11 wouldn’t/didn’t constitute “hostilities” because there were no Russian or al-Qaeda boots on the ground in America. Right wing fascists are entirely superfluous in America — all of their work is done by “liberal” professors, lawyers and politicians. I put this freak down here for the rest of his days but that’s not why he’s calling for a priest. Look on my side of the track:

It’s John Brennan. Professor Koh once referred to death squad leader (i.e, CIA director) Brennan as being like Obama’s “priest” when he would sit down on Star Chamber Tuesdays and help Obama decide who they were going to murder next. One of the scary terrorists on their kill list was a 17-year-old Yemeni girl. That’s right: a Yemeni teenager can cause the hilarious insecure reactionary cowardly fearful obedient gone baby gone nation of America to throw away hundreds of years of civilizing legal precedents in a heartbeat. In 2008 Brennan’s views on torture were considered too atrocious for him to head the CIA but when cretins like Obama and Koh moved all debate about “terrorism” and civil liberties further to the right, Brennan became a-okay. During his confirmation hearing, Brennan refused to answer Sen. Carl Levin’s question of whether water boarding is torture. “I’m not a lawyer,” said the 17-year-old-Yemeni-girl-whipped Brennan. Brennan said drone strikes on civilians were “rare instances” but here’s a list of children, their names and ages, killed by American drones in Pakistan and Yemen. Maybe Brennan is a kind of priest — a pedocide priest!

Our turnaround is an upward spiraling helix and the theme is Saturn and its rings with the body of the planet being Neocon Monkey Island. As we ride the rings we see the neocons are surrounded by walls, razor wire and electrified fencing to make them feel like they’re in their true home, Israel. (Your coaster has a bit of a rampaging mass murdering bloodthirsty worthless fucking Satanic bastard motif.) Look at them popping up out of their holes: Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Condoleeza Rice, Elliot Abrams, John Bolton, Donald Rumsfeld, William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, George W. Bush and others. See them “securing the realm” by playing in their own shit? Where else can you see such a collection of enemies of humanity, promoters of constant war and destroyers of civil liberties? Look at them swing on the monkey bars — kinda looks like an al-Qaeda training camp which is appropriate since they’ve used religious fanatics to wreck secular governments the world over and always created more “terrorists” than they’ve ever killed. I warned you there were horrors in your Inferno.

This next element is called a triple-down head-chopper. It’s going to look like we’re going to get decapitated by these cross beams but it’s an illusion because just before we hit them I’ve dropped the track down severely so we just miss them. One, two, woo hoo, and look at the third one: it’s Henry Kissinger hung upside down like a bat. This is where all future American presidents will have to make their post-inauguration pilgrimage to ask his wise counsel about how to get away with any contemplated genocides — the big picture stuff. See his forehead, that’s where riders will slap their chewing gum if they stand up and they’re really fast. Fuck the insurance companies! Why Kissinger? Because I think Kissinger is immortal — an immortal dumpy vampire, probably known back in his Transylvanian days as Schlub the Impaler. He was old when I was kid and he was killing Vietnamese and Cambodians, he was old when he was killing Chileans and he was old when he was killing the Timorese. But he never fucking dies. And he always looks about the same. A bonafide monster for your haunted ride.

This next section is special. Look right: I did away with the mirrored spires for this exhibit and made a terrarium with bullet proof glass. I put… wait a minute… oh, no… I tried to make this really cool for you: I put Antonin Scalia and Dick Cheney in there. After being pestered by the ACLU, I gave these two primates some enrichment, I gave them two AK 47s, two Glocks and a thousand rounds of ammunition. But all I see is a pair of shoes and a black robe and Cheney lying next to his water bowl. Dammit, comrade, Cheney ate Scalia! And then he had a heart attack and died! That guy would do anything to get out of going vegan! Didn’t he know that Scalia was probably poisonous! All we can do is use this as a learning experience: just because two species are very similar it doesn’t mean they’ll get along in close quarters. What a drag!

Look left (ha ha): there’s Barack Obama: no smoke, no mirrors, not funny, just the man who said he greatly admired Ronald Reagan and chose as his Senate mentor the neocon Joe Lieberman whose horrendous objectionable (back then) totalitarian dreams he made real. There’s his “historic” Cairo speech which he may as well have begun by saying, “Shalom, assholes!” There’s his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech where, while attacking a half dozen different countries, he made a defense of war and dissed Martin Luther King — because Obama’s in the business of repudiating the 1960s (e.g., the Vietnam War Commemoration Project), black militancy and dissent of every kind. There he is debating Hillary Clinton during his first presidential campaign where he said he intended, if elected, to chase Afghan peasants into Pakistan, thus destabilizing and warring on Pakistan — the equivalent of Nixon telling the American people he was going to bomb Cambodia instead of doing it in secret. There’s Obama at his ruling class coming out party, telling David Brooks that Social Security should be on the chopping block. Hear the haunted echoes and hollow sounds of his supporters who either defended him to the end or, perhaps, lamented his broken promises and lies — hey, Obombazombies, you should have been afraid when he told you what he “really thinks,” what he “really believes” in. It was all there in the open.

There’s Obama, always breaking new ground for the ruling class, doubling the million dollar bounty on 65-year-old Assata Shakur, setting her up for a drone strike in Cuba and her supporters for charges of “providing material support” for terrorism. And there’s more prizes in this Crackerjack box: Obama sabotages any normalization with Cuba and, diobamacally, implies an equivalence between an escaped political prisoner like Shakur and the mass murdering former CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles who’s walking around free in Miami and whose bombings killed over 70 innocent people including the entire Cuban fencing team. Obastard had to reach back 40 years to provide bumfuck America with a new villain of the month. The FBI billboards of Shakur are, in reality, Big Brother intimidation for the American working class. They’re for our “benefit.” I smell sulphur, comrade.

As we head back to the station I want to kick around some ideas with you. That’s the end of the exhibits — there’s plenty of room to add more. The ride back features severely banked turns and very low-to-the-ground rabbit hops taken at speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour. A kind of Mighty Canadian Minebuster on steroids.

Oops, holy shit, let me put you out, comrade. It slipped my mind, but I made the track dip down into Lake Erie and, a few times each day — totally at random and for old times’ sake — I set the lake on fire for a few seconds. I guess we’re a little singed. Many parks brag about their water rides but I thought you should be the first to have a fire ride. It is the Inferno, you know? That’s why I made the cues so long for the front seat — people are gonna be lined up for hours waiting to experience what we just experienced. You laugh, but wait and see.

Your coaster is actually a prototype for my dream of adding a little something to the Chicago skyline and transportation system. We’d take elevators up to the top of the Hancock building, walk out of the open air observatory onto a platform and get into the coaster cars. The track would snake around the building a couple times before entering a seeming death spiral cork screw and at the last moment it would break loose into some camel backs above Michigan Avenue, fly down to Grant Park, turn around over Lake Superior, hug Lake Shore Drive, then roar back to the River North and end up at Reza’s on Ontario where, for a quarter, Reza patrons could pelt us with the best falafel balls in America — one of those win-win situations we read about but seldom experience. Let other parks have water cannons on the ground to blast riders above — we can do better. To the city of Big Shoulders, I will bring a present from Philly, city of Broad Asses.

So here’s what I’m thinking (and don’t touch the lap bar — it’s God’s will that we slam into each other): you’ve heard of roller coaster wars between Cedar Point and Six Flags Magic Mountain in California, both of them competing to build taller, longer, faster, more innovative coasters. Well, I propose mothballing the Pentagon and turning that trillion dollar a year budget over to putting coasters and amusement parks all over America. You might say: “How can you spend tax dollars on roller coasters when there are so many crying social needs going unmet? Most people don’t even like roller coasters and wouldn’t get anything out of it.”

My answer: You and me and the rest of America don’t care anything about crying social needs — if we did we’d be rioting and burning this country down. We care about being amused. The working class isn’t outraged or getting anything out of the $15 billion we spend every month in Afghanistan even as the ruling class whacks Social Security. And all we get for that $15 billion a month is 1.5 billion Muslims hating our guts. So don’t tell me America will miss this money if we spend it on coasters.

You see, I’m envisioning bringing back the dead, the masterworks: the Idora Park Wildcat, the Crystal Beach Cyclone, the Coney Island Thunderbolt, the Geauga Lake Villain and Big Dipper and, by God, the Americana Screechin’ Eagle. I’m proposing to give teenagers 75K a year with full benefits and a pension for guessing people ages and weights when they enter the amusement park — that’s better than paying them a few years later to gun down Afghan children. We’ve got the money, the money is always there, just like the $15 trillion that was handed over to Wall Street — it’s just a question of if the working class wants to take it and put it into the economy — or not. The money is there for bombs and drones and killing and torture and surveillance and spying on Americans. The money is there for holding the working class down — I’m trying to give the working class some air time for crissakes!

Well, that’s it, we’re back out in the sunshine again. It’s a beautiful day here in America. It’s good having the monsters contained in the Inferno. Hey, let’s ride one more time and then we’ll go. Just one more… At some point we have to go back in there anyway and part out Cheney — his pacemaker must be worth something on eBay. I can’t make any promises about the flames from Lake Erie, though — that could happen again. Are you game? Awesome. I told you there was nothing to be afraid of!

Randy Shields can be reached at His writings and artworks are collected at

Randy Shields can be reached at His writings and art are collected at