Monday, June 9, 1997
It's not too late to build ark

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Another rainy weekend. Another 48-hour eternity of gray skies and storms.

Where does all this water come from? Will summer ever get here? For answers, I figured I'd go to where the water experts congregate north of town, where people worship summer with bronzed bodies and gobs of sunscreen, out to the dueling water parks straddling Interstate 71, the Beach and the WaterWorks at Paramount's Kings Island.

Cyndy Maloney thinks it's her fault.

"Every time I put this winter coat away this year, it gets cold," she says and jams her hands into the pockets of a nice blue wool number. She plans on leaving that coat out until August, if that's what it takes to warm up this place.

The West Chester woman stands next to the Banzai water slide at the Beach. Her daughter, 11-year-old Megan, just stepped from the water.

Wrapped in a towel, Megan shivers by her mother's side. Droplets of cold water cling to her hair. The sixth-grader's teeth are chattering. She has goose bumps from head to toe.

And, she nearly has the water park to herself.

It's high noon on a, well, partly cloudy day in June. Where is everybody?

Megan was supposed to hit the Beach with three friends. They chickened out.

One had a cold. Another said it was too cold. The third friend didn't want to get any colder.

I suspect fear of frostbite.

Rain stained

Lifeguard Todd Mosley looked down at Megan and her mom from the top of the Banzai. He's a lonely guy. No one wants to walk in the cold drizzle to his perch - 65 feet above the ground - to whoosh down the even colder water slide.

To pass the time, the Miami University freshman looks out over the park. The wave pool is empty. Each water ride entertains no more than a handful of people.

"I just wish someone would come up here to ride the ride," Todd says. "Standing here all by yourself is boring."

It can mark you for life. Todd's official Beach staff T-shirt bears the scars of two weekends' worth of spring downpours.

Rain saturated the green rope that holds his lifeguard's whistle around his neck. The rope was so soaked, it stained his white T-shirt.

"I'm almost hoping for more rain," he says with a laugh. "I'll put my whistle on backwards so it'll stain the back of my shirt." One flight up, lifeguard Matt Taulbee - dressed in a warm-up suit - watches the water fall five stories down the Cliff water slide. This is the highest and breeziest point in the park.

It gets the most honks, too. In warm weather - remember that? - truckers pass by on I-71. They blast their horns at bathing beauties waiting in line to slide down the Cliff.

"It's peaceful up here today," Matt says. No line of bathing beauties. No honking truckers.

Rubbing his hands together, the Miami sophomore says the temperature doesn't bother him: "The cold keeps me awake."

But the gray skies are really getting to him. Actually, it's a lifeguard's worst nightmare.

His tan is fading.

Warming up

Across the interstate, the WaterWorks at Paramount's Kings Island just got the bad news. For the sixth time this season, the water park was closing early.

Temperature (20 degrees below normal), rain (way too much), wind and a sunless sky conspired to shut down the recently expanded park six hours before its regular 8 p.m. closing time.

Two ninth-graders from Fishers, Ind., race up the steps of the Plunge for one last dive down the slide.

Minutes before, Jon Wiltshire and Damian Cornacchione shot down the Plunge's seven-story plastic sluice.

"Oh my god, that water's cold!" they yelled as they went into a whole-body shiver before plunging down the slide.

On their way up the steps for more, Jon and Damian shake from the cold and swear in unison, "It's going to get hot someday."

Until then, Damian insists it's mind over matter.

"Just think summer," he says.

"If that doesn't work, wait for global warming."

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax 768-8340.