They’re Going To Feed Us All To The Monkey

by | Mar 22, 2022 | COMMUNITY

RVA Mag’s Ryan Kent is trying to say yes to things, if for no other reason than to escape the demons in his head. But when he agreed to ride Kings Dominion’s Tumbili, he didn’t realize what he was getting himself into.

Most of this isn’t about a roller coaster.

You learn to start saying yes to things. People invite you to go places. Sometimes these are friends and neighbors. Relatives. Coworkers. Sometimes you’re invited by people you don’t even know.

You say yes to pull yourself out of wherever you are mentally. Yes, to dull the incessant inner monologue. Yes, to living beyond your corporate job. Unless you want to stay wherever it is you are.

Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of waiting around for the right thing to pull the roof off the house. So, you start saying yes to anything within reason. Even if it’s not your thing. It’s something different. This you do out of desperation. 

Yes, I will go to the Dave Matthews Band concert.
Yes, I will go to the botanical gardens.
Yes, I will go ice skating.
No, I will not talk about my shit.

Here are three relatively simple things to do and one fucking impossible thing to do. 

Maybe it’s just responding to an email that gets the momentum moving forward. This isn’t taught. But it becomes a thing.

Amy from Marketing at Kings Dominion said Tumbili (pronounced toom-bee-lee) “only goes 34mph, but you’ll remember every one of those 34mph’s.” RVA met with Amy, who was our guide and liaison to Chad of the Kings Dominion and Kings Island Communications Team. Chad sent me an email about testing out the new ride and having it recorded using their GoPro.

Yes, I will test your new 112ft tall, magnetically powered rollercoaster.

Chad said I could bring some friends along. So, I brought some friends along. Five of them.

The ride opened to the public on March 12th (located in the former jungle gym of the park known as Safari Village – now rebranded as Jungle X-Pedition) but shut down early on the same day due to a freezing, mid-March temperature. RVA tested it out the following Monday morning when the park was closed, and it was baseball weather.

The RVA Mag team prepares to ride the Tumbili. Photo by Amy from Marketing.

Each car rises up a 90-degree, vertical lift hill before engaging with the track. The 4-D free spin model steel coaster is 770 feet long and stacked on top of itself in three layers. Similar looking to the anatomy of a drunk Japanese dragon, and narrow as a building-tall book on the art of the drunk Japanese dragon. During the course of the ride, the chairs of each car will flip independently of one another, which is induced and regulated by magnetic technology given to S&S – Sansei Technologies — by aliens. Because the weight of each rider differs from the last, each ride of Tumbili is a personal experience, unique on its own. You never quite know when or how much you’re gonna flip. 

Just like acid.

Tumbili is Swahili for monkey which is an odd thing to hear roll off the tongue of someone mid-conversation in central Virginia. Unless it’s mentioned in the same breath as a shopping list from Whole Foods. Then it could easily be confused with tabbouleh. 

Standing in front of Tumbili is like standing in front of an 11-story magnetic Gyro Wheel. Like the lost toy of some baby Kong, bounding through the woods of Doswell. Suddenly, the baby’s crazed, lunatic mother appears through the empty trees, hell-bent on murdering everyone in sight. She steps on those who scatter and peels the rest of us down like Chiquitas just before noon.  

Could this scenario have been planned out by Chad, and Amy from Marketing, and the rest of the Kings Dominion and Kings Island Communications Team from the get-go? It’s not hard to imagine. Once the National Guard has wrangled Mom & Baby Kong with missiles and ketamine, they’ll open the park again. Tumbili will be an East Coast phenomenon. Sellout park admissions. Action figure playsets. The plush retail revenue alone would be astounding. Clothing brand. Soft drink. Jimmy Fallon.

It’d be easy, really. 

Sweep up the bodies. Pour bleach on the blood stains. Replant the native-to-the-region shrubbery. All the while Amy from Marketing, and Chad laugh straight to the bank. Waiting in a holding pin at Goldman-Sachs, they’ll fall in love and soon marry underneath the great Tumbili, with the Kings Dominion and Kings Island Team in attendance as honored guests. Amy from Marketing and Chad will then retire to a secluded bungalow on Harbor Island to write their memoirs while our lifeless bodies will harden under the newly laid concrete for the next thousand years.

You can’t pay for press like that. Makes you wonder why you ever answered that email.

Yes, I will test your new 112ft tall, magnetically powered rollercoaster.

Joshua and Ryan, strapped in. Photo by R. Anthony Harris.

When they strap you in, it’s like they’re preparing you to go into orbit. Each “car” is a four-seater, and unless you close your eyes before the ride, you’re gonna be looking directly at the person across from you until the nine-story vertical climb begins. That goes for the car on the other side of the train. Each 55-second ride of Tumbili can seat up to eight passengers. Amy from Marketing was right. I remembered every one of those 34mphs. 

You forget about the other three passengers in your car when you reach the top of the incline. A lot happens quickly. If you’ve opened your eyes at this point, you’re busy wondering whether or not you are going to die. If you’re lucky, someone will shout this proclamation at the pinnacle of the incline.

After five rides, they let us go. 

On the way back to Richmond, I thought about the last several hours. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have responded to the email from Chad. This was a routine I’d dialed myself into, and the loss would’ve been mine. Maybe after you lose enough, you start grasping at pieces of the living to hold on to. Things you didn’t appreciate, and took for granted. How a person clinging to the edge of a precipice will have a newfound respect for the thickness of plant roots. Sometimes it’s the little things that save us.

Or maybe it’s just a 112ft tall monkey here to kill us all. 


Top Photo by Ryan Kent

Ryan Kent

Ryan Kent

Ryan Kent is the author of the collections, Poems For Dead People, This Is Why I Am Insane, Hit Me When I'm Pretty, and Everything Is On Fire: Selected Poems 2014-2021. He has also co-authored the poetry collections, Tomorrow Ruined Today, and Some Of Us Love You (both with Brett Lloyd). His spoken word record, Dying Comes With Age, will be released by Rare Bird Books in 2022. Ryan is a staff writer for RVA Magazine and maintains a pack a day habit. (photo by D. Randall Blythe)

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