Monday, July 28, 2008

Patience is a Virtue

I awoke at 5:15 yearning to play backgammon, and found myself faced with the eternal question: let sleeping spouses lie, or dare to live the impossible dream?

On the one hand, if I attempted to wake my spouse for amorous purposes, she might respond favorably. This is the “maybe” case.

She may also wake up, see me sucking her breast, and slap me silly. This is the “not today you sick bastard” case, with possible repercussions of “how-dare-you-touch-me-there-when-I’m-sleeping-you-pervert” that will shut down your sex life until she has suitably gotten revenge, like leaving you high and dry until after the reality television fade wanes, sometime around 2012.

Ultimately, two roads diverged in a horny wood, and I chose to take neither of them. I wasn’t enamored with the choice between maybe and never again, quite frankly.

Oh, sure, I could have played a game of solo backgammon. But at 5:15 I was looking for somebody to assist me. After all, I’ll still be there later if it comes to going it alone.

So I went back to sleep.

At 7:30, Wifey finally stirred. I strategically placed the dice cup in her hand (so to speak) and proposed a little pre-breakfast backgammon. After all, the children were sleeping soundly.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “I gotta pee.”

“What, is it Wednesday already?” I asked.

Note to self: camel jokes cause Wifey to clench her fists, and should be avoided while she’s handling sensitive equipment. While she relieved herself, I writhed in a non-erotic fashion in the bed.

So we got up. Well, I was already up, but we got out of bed and got dressed and went for breakfast. And then we headed into Gatlinburg to soak up all the tawdry tourism we could possibly handle.

First on our list of must-see attractions was Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum. It’s got the perfect mix of family tourism fun: not too bawdy, not too scary, and full of amazing things that bring to mind Jack Palance.

And more Jack Palance means more fun. Dean Cain sucks ass.

So we went inside. The guardian of the museum was a pig-faced woman with one single tooth who spoke like she was straight out of Shakespeare, which was somewhat unbelievable in and of itself. She never once suggested us buying a package which would have saved us a ton of money, since Ripley’s has bought about half of the attractions in Gatlinburg.

You know what? That’s totally believable.

So it was into the museum to view the strange, the odd, and the unbelievable. Only it’s all totally true. Because Ripley would never lie, would he?

My daughter immediately announced that she was a skeptic, and she didn’t believe anything. The boy said that he felt that Ripley was a reliable witness, and so everything was totally believable, especially the shrunken heads.

As we wandered through the exhibits of dog-headed boys and two-headed goats, I decided to see if I could get Wifey’s motor turning. In my best Jack Palance voice, I said:

“There is a man in this museum who can give you a mind-blowing orgasm. Believe it…or not!”

“Nah, I checked,” she said. “The wax dummy of the eight-foot man isn’t anatomically correct.”

“I meant me,” I said.

She smiled at me. “Past performance does not indicate future success in this area.”

After Ripley’s Museum, we went to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokeys. It is, and I kid you not, one of the greatest Aquariums I have ever been in, and I’ve been in Aquariums in over ten states. And before anybody asks, no, I do not have the same problem as Troy McClure. I just like looking at fish.

We also picked up a three-pack pass to go see the Aquarium and two other Ripley exhibits in Gatlinburg. We had several options, but after reading them over it was clear what we were going to do: Ripley’s Davey Crockett Golf, because the boy was still channeling his inner Davey, and Ripley’s Mirror Maze, because everybody loves a Mirror Maze.

In Ripley’s Aquarium there is a thousand-foot shark tunnel that takes you inside the tank, with sharks and rays swimming all around you. It was awesome. A good time was had by all.

After that we were starting to get a little tired. “So,” I asked the family, “Anybody wanna go back to the room to get a little rest, maybe take a bath?”

“Yeah!” said the boy. “I want to play with my new toy shark in the super fun bathtub!”

“Yeah!” said the girl. “I want to play with my new manta-ray toy in the hurricane bathtub!”

“Not really,” said Wifey. “I’m feeling a little nauseous from the fish stink in there.”

So we went to the Mirror Maze. Now, this was great, except it cost me 10.50 to buy a ticket for the boy (the lady at the aquarium assured me it was cheaper this way).

“This better be one hell of a mirror maze to cost 10.50,” I grumbled.

If you’ve never been inside one of these things, let me tell you: they are terrifically disorienting. Poor lighting, mirrors everywhere, and your wife slapping you for even groping her reflection.

And the slap you get if you grab real boobie? Unbelievably hard.

They also make you put on little plastic mittens to keep from smudging the mirrors, which in the East Tennessee heat (average July temperature: 92 degrees) and humidity (85%, except just after the rain, when it plummets to 84%) begins to be a little bit of a problem.

After about ten seconds I was dumping sweat out of my glove. Since Wifey was wearing white, I was trying to get a wet T-shirt thing going, but she dodged too well and I ended up hitting an old lady from Louisiana. That actually started a scuffle over whether or not I then owed her beads since I had displayed her saggy goodies, and she hit me in the head with a purse, one of those macramé bead affairs that left a small cut just over my ear.

Meanwhile, my family left me behind in the mirror maze. Which was okay for me, since they played the same ten seconds of music on an eternal loop, much like the elevators in hell, and all I wanted to do was get out of there.

What was not okay was that I couldn’t find my way back out of the mirror maze, and when I finally got out my family had been standing out there for like ten minutes waiting on me.

“Am I glad to see you,” Wifey purred. “Let’s got take a nap, handsome,”

Then (and I was not expecting this) she stuck her hand down my pants. I almost didn’t even notice the guy in the cowboy hat with the big sweaty handprint on his ass complaining to the desk manager that somebody grabbed him in the mirror maze.

You know what? I have a motto: I don’t care who lit the pilot, as long as I get to cook the roast.

And I think you know what I mean.

So we rushed back to the room, over the loud protestations of our children. This ended up being a good thing, because about two minutes before we made it one of those southern summer storms popped up that drops five gallons of water per square inch for about fifteen minutes.

It was enough to drench us all. Inside, we put on a DVD for the children to watch, while Wifey and I went into the bathroom to “dry off and clean up.”

“So,” I asked her as she stood in the tub so I could close the door. “You wanna play some backgammon?”

In response, she jumped on me like I was a trampoline.

You know how sometimes, as married people, you make love? We didn’t do that. It was pure lust, a fire of need deep within us. I was powerful. I was passionate. I was aggressive.

I was finished in two seconds.

“Was that it?” Wifey asked me.

“Um, I think so,” I said.

“That was not even remotely worth it,” she said.

“I suppose I don’t need to ask if it was good for you?”


“Well, look at it this way,” I said. “Later tonight, I’ll be sure to satisfy you.”

“Why? You got a friend coming over?”

Okay, I deserved that, but it was something of a cheap shot.

After we’d rested some, and I’d wallowed in feelings of inadequacy, we headed out again. I had a very simple plan for the evening:

Go to dinner at Burger King (damn Pokecards).

Play minigolf at Ripley’s Davey Crockett course, located just across the street from the aquarium.

Come back to the hotel room and restore my manhood and amorous reputation by rocking Wifey’s world with the most complete Backgammon game she has ever played in her life.

“Should we take the car?” she asked me.

“Nah, we can walk,” I said. “I saw on the map that it’s right across from the aquarium.”

“I just don’t want you to be too tired out tonight,” she said. “Don’t forget that you owe me.”

I snickered. “You won’t be sorry, I promise.”

So off we went. As we reached the main strip, the girl saw Ripley’s Moving Theater, complete with giant dinosaur head breaking out of the front of the building.

“I want to do that,” she said.

“Sorry, we’re going golfing,” I said.

“I didn’t get to pick anything,” she said. “He picked golfing, you picked the aquarium, and mommy picked the mirrors. I didn’t pick anything. I pick the theater.”

“It’s only fair,” said the boy. “Unless you love me more.”

I sighed.

“I will not go in there,” Mommy said. “It says it causes motion sickness, and I get motion sick. But you guys can go, and I’ll just meet you in Burger King.”

After verifying that it should be thirty minutes, we were on our way. The children and I entered the waiting area, where we found a family reunion of about ten people, a knot of Indian (from India) tourists, and assorted other people in front of us.

“This isn’t too bad,” I said. “We should be in the next show, since this little area is hardly filled.”

Time passed. And passed. And passed. The children read every brochure for every sleazy place and crappy attraction in the greater area. But, finally, the one-eyed clerk came out and announced we were going to start the next show.

He then proceeded to admit people. He had to look at their ticket, then make a tick mark on the piece of paper, then make a mark on the ticket, then let them in. That’s it. This took a minute per person. I know it took a minute because I timed him.

The second problem was the knot of Indian tourists. It was like watching a clown car unload. Every second another kid or adult came out of the group, but it never got smaller. It just stayed there, the same size, to disgorge another person. It really helped me to understand how the hell they fit a billion people on the Indian subcontinent watching them. Indians are apparently compressible, unless this group was giving birth to ten-year-olds, which seems unlikely, since all the women had chosen to wait outside and it was an all-male group of tourists.

Finally, they ran out of people, and the usher announced we’d have to wait for the next show.

In eighteen minutes.

I did a quick count of those still waiting: we weren’t going to go in then, either. We’d go in the show after that.

“Let’s go,” I said.

“What about my choice?” the girl said.

“See, I told you mommy was better,” the boy said. “She’d never let this happen.”

“The tickets don’t go bad,” I explained. “We’ll come back after golf.”

We met mommy at Burger King, which was curiously empty even though it was 6:50.

“You’re early,” she said.

I explained the situation. “We’ll just swing by after golf,” I said. “No problem.”

“Will we have time?” Wifey asked.

“Of course!” I declared. “No problem!”

So we ordered our food. First problem: no credit cards. Okay, I had enough cash to cover it, but barely. It took every penny I had.

Second problem: no Pokemon cards.

“Can we finally stop eating at this godforsaken hellhole?” I asked.

“The next one might have them,” said the girl.

We ate in silence after that, the children subdued from disappointment, me subdued from failure, and Wifey wishing she had a husband who could live up to all his blustering talk. I swear she swooned when Desperado came on the radio, but she admitted nothing.

Then we were off, down to Davey Crockett’s Mini-Golf.

Once we’d hiked a mile past the Aquarium, she became suspicious that I didn’t know where the hell I was going.

“Let me see the map,” she demanded.

“The map shows that it’s right next to the Aquarium,” I said, using that voice that you only use to accuse spouses of calling you a dumbass for daring to question your decision. If you’re married, you know that voice.

She opened up the map. “The map clearly shows it way the hell and gone past the Aquarium.”

She handed it to me, but I had to step beneath a streetlight to read it in the purpling light of the growing dusk. I easily found the dot that said “Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokeys.”

“Right there!” I pointed to the Davey Crockett dot. “It’s right next to the aquarium!”

“It’s right next to the R in Ripley’s, dipshit,” Wifey said. “The actual aquarium dot is after the word ‘Smokeys.’ Look, there’s a shitload of street between the two of them.”

“Oh hell,” I said. “I think you’re right.”

“You know, a forced bataan death march after dinner is not conducive to intimacy,” she said.

“I am aware of that!”

“And you’re hardly proving me that you’re competent to finish the job that you started so poorly earlier.”

“I’m aware of that, too!” I said.

So we continued the march, with Wifey and the children voting about whether I was stupid, evil, or both. Only the girl took any pity on me.

“It’s okay, daddy, maps are hard to read,” she said. “Especially when they have words on them.”

Finally we reached Davey’s, and I have this much to say: it is at least worth the price of admission, assuming that you like mini-golf. And you get tickets for 36 holes, even though no one in their right mind plays more than 18 holes of mini-golf with a five-year-old.

After our round, Wifey looked over at me. “If you think I’m walking back up there, then you’re as stupid as I was this afternoon.”

“There’s a shuttle,” I said. “It goes to the Aquarium.”

“How does that help us?” she asked. “It’s right across the street.” And she used that totally fake voice that you use to mock your spouse.

“Don’t be a smartass,” I said.

So we headed over to the tram stop and waited for it. After about fifteen minutes, it finally came, and we boarded.

“That’ll be two bucks,” said the conductor. “Exact change only, please.”

Wifey dropped in six quarters. “We’re not with him.”

I patted my pockets. Nothing.

He shrugged at me. “Sorry, sir. Everybody’s gotta pay.”

The tram was just about empty. “But-but-but-” I gave Wifey a pleading look. “Please?”

Sighing, she dropped in two more quarters. “You better last longer than a fart tonight,” she said. “Or I’ll be squeezing those quarters out of your balls.”

“I understand!” I said.

And we were off.

“Look, daddy, it’s almost eleven!” said the girl.

“It’s waaaay past our bedtime!” said the boy. “I love vacation!”

“Me too!” said the girl. “Don’t you love vacation, mommy?”

“Yeah, except it’s too short,” she looked at me. “Especially when your father and I play backgammon.”

“You can play backgammon at home,” said the boy.

“We’ll see,” said Wifey. “We’ll see.”

Soon we were walking up the road towards the hotel. Just as we were about to turn off, the girl stopped and tugged on my hand.

“Daddy, what about the theater? Don’t you love me?”

“For the thousandth time, NO!” yelled the boy. “They love ME more!”

“I forgot all about that,” I said.

Wifey sidled up next to me. “Don’t worry,” she purred. “I’ll pick up some dessert, go back to the room, and slip into something more comfortable. When you’re finished with the theater, come finish what you started earlier.”

So we went to the theater. Luck was with us: we were first in line. I was worried that meant the theater was closed, but no such luck: eventually more people shuffled in. Finally, after the standard fifteen minute wait, we were ushered inside by a much more competent attendant.

“Here we go!” said the girl.

“I can’t wait!” said the boy.

I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about Ripley’s Moving Theater in one simple sentence: so awful even a five-year-old is disappointed.

The idea here is that while they project an image on the screen, your seats move and vibrate to give the impression of motion. The reality is that the seats don’t move very well, and the image is so poorly shot and chosen that you are continually jarred out of the idea that you are moving.

Like when, in the monster truck rally, you are continually shown shots of the driver’s face or the truck’s rear bumper. Listen, watching Cletus’ brow furrow as he runs over a school bus is just not exciting, okay?

After the monster trucks, we went on a dune buggy ride through the desert. After that, it was over.

“We didn’t go underwater,” said the boy. “Like they showed in the preview.”

“You’re right,” I said. We headed outside, me somewhat quickly in anticipation of having hot buttered Wifey for dessert.

“HEY!” the girl screeched to a halt. “Where was the dinosaur?” She faced the theater, which had a huge T-Rex head bursting through the façade. “There wasn’t any dinosaur!”

“Um, that’s true,” I said. “There wasn’t.”

“This ride sucked,” she said.

“Yeah!” said the boy. “It sucked bad.”

Typically I don’t like such language, but they were right: it sucks.

Speaking of sucks, I was in a hurry to get back to the room, so I frogmached them out of there at double-time.

Soon we were back at the room. Inside, I found Wifey face-down in an empty powdered donut box, completely naked except for the cowboy hat and sleeping like a log.

Looks like any backgammon played tonight will be played alone.

Tomorrow: Spend ‘til it hurts.

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