Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunny Side Up

You know that a trip to the water park is ordained when you wake up and see that the sun is shining and there’s not a cloud in the sky. Weather report called for sunny skies and temperatures in the 90’s all day. Perfect water park weather.

The Holiday Inn North Little Rock once again proved itself staffed by competent, friendly professionals as they agreed to store our critical baggage in a side room while we played at the water park. So electronics and chocolate stayed nice and cool while the car spent the day parked in high heat in the sun.

Everything was coming up Plebian!

The water park was Wild River Country, in North Little Rock. It has a wide variety of attractions and fun for the whole family. The plan was to spend the morning and early afternoon there, then drive to Memphis, where we were meeting an old friend.

WRC was a reward to the children for many long hours in the car and being dragged to the Alamo. Everybody in the family likes water parks, so this should be a winner all around, right?

I knew that this was going to be my kind of place when, as we came in, I saw the cowgirl stripper heading up to the birthday party decks. She wore a lime green cowboy hat, a sarong with golden tassels on it, and a skimpy top with gold nipples emblazoned on the center of each cup. I started humming happy birthday and following her, only to be stopped by my family because “we’re supposed to stay together.”

It was enough to make a guy long for breakfast in White’s City.

We stored our stuff in the storage lockers, applied sunscreen, and went out to enjoy the park. First disappointment: the whole-family ride, where all four of us could ride down a tube together, was closed.

Almost everything was coming up Plebian!

We had a lot of fun going down the various rides, splashing in the wave pool, taking the lazy river course that circled the grounds, and generally enjoying our time together. Particularly fun was the wild raft ride, where everybody got in their own tube and then went down a rapids course in them.

I will admit a certain amount of perverse glee in watching Wifey get in and out of the tubes. She is not tall, so she finds it very difficult to get in and out without some serious flailing of arms and legs to finally get inside. She’s mastered this sort of hop/fall backwards move that gets her in, but afterwards must do some serious readjustment of herself to be comfortable, then her suit to remove the mother of all wedgies.

Like a good husband, I help by laughing during this procedure.

Well, we rocketed down the first rapids, Wifey in front clearing them no problem. Then came the boy, who is light enough that his tube rides almost atop the waves. No problem for him, either. The girl also flies through with no issue.

Then comes dad, who has been shooting off his big stupid mouth the whole time making fun of his family. Guess who hits the bottom of the rapids sideways, flips out of his tube, and hits his head on the bottom of the river? Yup. Then a ten-year-old girl crashes atop me as I struggle to grab my tube, which is floating away.

Lots of things were coming up Plebian!

As we frolicked in the water, having a great time, I noticed that there was something in my pocket. You know those little key fobs that have the buttons on them so that you can lock and unlock the car? I’d swum with mine.

We’d received two, and fortunately I’d taken one off and given it to Wifey. But this morning when I’d changed into my swim trunks at the hotel I’d stuck my keys in my swimsuit pocket. Now, here I was, in the pool with my key. Oops.

I always wondered if they were waterproof. Now I’ll find out.

Turns out they aren’t.

Some things were coming up Plebian!

I finally made it down the course, somewhat worse for the wear but otherwise alive. Except for the extreme mocking from my family, lead by Wifey. But isn’t that what togetherness is all about, poking gentle fun at one another?

The other noteworthy ride was one called The Vortex, which allows you to see what a turd feels like when it is flushed down a toilet bowl. You come shooting down a long tube, into a giant funnel, which swirls you around and around, until you finally fall out the bottom into the pool.

Wifey would have no part of it. The girl went first, screaming her head off and loving every minute of it. At the bottom, she ran out of momentum and had to jump into the pool. Then the boy went, hollering and having a good time. When he reached the bottom the lifeguard caught him and he didn’t even hit the water. Then along came dad.

It turns out that what a turd feels like is disoriented. Somehow, I ended up shooting out the bottom of the damned thing head-first before I even knew I’d entered the tube. As I surfaced I was having a serious debate with myself about who I was, and what I was doing here.

I’d settled on Amelia Earhart when I spotted my loving family, pointing and laughing.

Several things were coming up Plebian!

Eventually we went looking for lunch, and found it at the ridiculously overpriced food stand run by those not trustworthy enough to be bored-looking lifeguards. Halfway through lunch, Wifey pointed at the corner of the food court.

“What’s going on over there, are they worshiping the cat god or something?”

Sure enough, a small group of fanatics had gathered bringing offerings to the cat god, a scruffy-looking feral tabby that occasionally emerged from the rotted wood that made up the retaining wall. The children were trying to entice it to come close enough to pet.

“Can I go pet the cat?” asked the girl.

The image of a diseased feline biting my children ran through my head. Just what every vacation needs: rabies shots!

“No,” Wifey said. “Eat your chicken.”

Because it’s a water park, in order to keep trash from filling the pools there are no straws or lids. So my son did what every five-year-old does when given a giant cup of fruit punch with no straw or lid: he dumped it all over himself within ten seconds.

A few things are coming up Plebian!

After lunch it was time to hit the water again. Did you know that when exposed to sunlight, concrete can become very, very hot? It felt like we were firewalkers trying to get from one part of the park to another. I find it difficult to believe that there’s not some remedy for this problem. By the end of the day, my feet felt like they’d been flayed.

We went back to the Lazy River, a good way to relax after eating but still participate in the joy of the water park.

“Closed,” said the lifeguard. “Somebody pooped in the river.”

“The Skankletons are here?” asked Wifey.

Not so many things are coming up Plebian!

So we settled on going to the wave pool, which was a lot of fun. While there, the children decided they wanted to do one last run down White Lightning, a giant water slide. Wifey, who hates heights, wished us well.

Atop the slide I had a nice conversation with a few Arkansas locals, who told me two bits of information:

Mystic River is a much, much better water park. This came from the woman, who said the only reason she was at WRC was because they had free passes.

The Memphis Zoo is not to be missed. This came from the man, who giggled like an idiot when he told me this. I figured he was soft in the head. But they were a nice couple.

Finally we made ready to leave. As we dressed, I noticed that my skin felt a little tight, despite the fact that I’d applied suntan lotion liberally to myself.

Wifey came out and I saw that her arms were very red.

“Lift up your shirtsleeve,” I said.

She revealed a lobster-red arm, with a long purple bruise to boot. It looked like she’d been hit with a sledge hammer.

“What happened there?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “But it sure hurts like hell.”

I lifted my shirt. “Does my back look burned?”

“Yeah,” she said. “But I don’t understand; we put on sunscreen.”

“It must not be waterproof,” I said.

“I’m not burned,” the girl bragged. “Because I play in the sun all the time.”

“I’m not burned,” the boy bragged. “I was wearing a vest.”

Wifey produced the sunscreen and looked at me in horror. “Oh my God, look what I did.”

It was SPF 15. Now, you have to understand, we are pasty white people. We do not tan. We burn. We need SPF 80, then we work our way down from there gradually, at 5 SPF per week, until we get to SPF 50. We can tan with SPF 50 to an off-white, sort of an ivory-meets-eggshell color.

The only way we’ll look tan is if they bronze our corpses. SPF 15 sunscreen to us is like basting sauce to a turkey. We’re pretty much screwed.

“Oh hell,” I said. “This is going to be an interesting couple of days.”

Nothing was coming up Plebian!

We hopped in the car for Memphis, with a brief stop back by the Holiday Inn to pick up our luggage. Best hotel ever. I would not hesitate to stay at it again.

Then we were off. About two hours into the trip, quite close to Memphis, I began to feel the effects of sunstroke: delirium, tiredness, and extreme pain in my sunburn.

“I don’t feel so good.” I mumbled.

“You want me to drive?” Wifey asked.

“Maybe,” I said.

“Tough shit,” she said. “I feel like hell.”

She looked it, too. The bruise was swollen up out of her arm like a snake was trying to work its way out from underneath.

Somehow we made it to the hotel and checked in and made it to our rooms. I do not remember any of this. As soon as we were inside, I collapsed into sleep to shake off my heatstroke.

An hour later, after rest, rehydration, and a shower, we were ready to go. I phoned our friend and we went out to dinner. It was a wonderful time. Though he’s not related, we give him the honorific Uncle, so for purposes of blogging we’ll call him Uncle G. The G is for Great, because he picked out a really awesome restaurant for us to go to called SkiMo’s.

After a good dinner, during which we were helped by a new hire on her third day of the job, we headed over to Baskin Robbins for ice cream.

By now Wifey was wincing from the pain of her clothing, as well as having a massive purple bruise up the side of her arm. Never in all my life did I look more like a wife-beater. All I could think about was those old commercials exhorting you to call police if you suspected battery, and the knowledge that Uncle G would be happy to step in as pater familias if I had to serve 5 to 10 for spousal abuse.

At Baskin Robbins I got the true introduction to Memphis. While we were enjoying our ice cream, an older man (maybe 45-50) came in with a much younger woman (20 to 25). He was dressed normally, but she had on stiletto heels, short skirt, fishnets, sleeveless blazer-blouse, and teased-up hair.

Daughter? Well, sure, if he was a creepy incest father who needed to have Social Services called on him for inappropriate touching in the Baskin-Robbins. And as long as the cops were involved they were there they could pick up the creepy wife-beater in the corner.

Halfway through their order her cell phone rang and she excused herself to go outside and take the call. I leaned over to Wifey and said,

“I need to go change my wig.”

If you’re not as much of a Simpsons geek as I am, you will doubtless miss the reference (from when Milhouse’s parents divorce and his girlfriend Starla steals his car by using this line). Wifey, though, knows Simpsons and so she laughed so hard that mint chocolate chip ice cream came out her nose.

The boy decided that the line itself was hilarious, so he started to repeat it to his sister as loudly as he could, then would laugh like a hyena.

The John thought we were all crazy and was thankfully not a Simpsons fan.

“So she’s like a hundred-dollar-an-hour girlfriend?” I asked Uncle G.

“About twice that in this neighborhood,” he said.

I didn’t ask how he knew that. I don’t want to know, quite frankly.

After that it was back to the hotel, and bed, because we had a lot planned for the next day.

Only, Wifey couldn’t sleep because of the sunburn and the bruise. And I didn’t sleep so well, either, because of the sunburn and because I was terrified that I'd brush up against her bruise and in retaliation she'd do something horrible to me.

But the children slept soundly. That’s of little comfort, quite frankly.

Tomorrow: Memphis’ X-Rated Zoo

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