How many times have you said: “Man alive! I need a 7-year old girl?”
The first time I uttered these words was in 2007 when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson starred in the movie The Game Plan. It seems pathetic today but at the time, I really, really wanted to see that movie. The problem is that if I showed up to that film on opening Friday by myself, I would have been hauled away to a pederass asylum quicker than you can say, “the people’s elbow.”
The Game Plan is about a fictional NFL player who finds out he has an 8-year old daughter from a dalliance while on the road. Johnson plays Joe Kingman—a selfish quarterback for the Boston Rebels who is a me-first kind of player until his estranged daughter makes her way into his life. Chaos ensues when The Rock tries to continue his philandering ways and selfish play while dealing with the precocious youth living in his house. Through a series of life lessons, The Rock comes to love his daughter and does right by her.
By all accounts, a very formulaic story but the previews made the movie out to be a laugh-out romp with a very satisfying ending. Rotten Tomatoes disagreed giving the movie a whopping 28% freshness but what do I care? It was the first Disney movie I wanted to see in over a decade and I thought it might be a break from the zombie/porn/slasher/nerd/art house malarkey that I have poisoned my eyes with for the last three decades.
The problem is: how can I see this movie without entering a social ring reserved for pedophiles and dangerous loners? My ah ha moment came when I realized that I had a 3-year old niece and I could play the role of good Uncle Benny by taking little Emma to the show. The problem is that I couldn’t convince her parents to release her to me to see a Dwayne Johnson driven story. Nuts! I did what nobody in America did and waited for it to come to Netflix.
For the record: it is a dreadful movie. It is probably for the best that I saved innocent little Emma’s eyes from Johnson hamming his way through a movie that can only be described as an abortion.
Five years have passed and I found myself looking for the services of an underage girl. Contrary to my body type which has been described in polite company as resembling an out-of-work Santa Claus, I am a very good swimmer. I enjoy being in the water and love water parks. Since moving to Utah, I haven’t made my way out to Raging Waters and I was thinking that with the scorcher of a summer we’ve experienced that an afternoon of riding the water slides would be awesome. Return to the problem of The Game Plan, I needed a youthful companion. Fortunately for me, little Emma was ready, willing and able for the challenge.
After checking with her mother, I picked her up and took her out to the water park. Instinctively, I wanted to refer to the park as being in West Valley City but it is actually in South Salt Lake. While it might be located at 1700 West 1300 South, Raging Waters has a very distinctive WVC feel.
We pay the $40 to enter the park and load our stuff into an $8 locker. I don’t want to begrudge the management at Raging Waters for nickel-and-diming me at every stop but Sweat Peter! Everything at the water park costs an additional $5 here and $8 there. Half of the rides at the park require a rental inflatable tube and the fact that I was shelling out half a sawbuck to ride slides I have already paid for wore a bit thin with me very quickly.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Emma was ecstatic. She ran throughout the park, swam in the wave pool and slid down anything in her way. I don’t remember being 7-years old very well but I do remember being afraid of almost everything all of the time. She is the exact opposite. Considering how fearless she was with every ride, the only thought that I had going through my mind was Thank God I am not her father. Kids this brave rarely turn out to be easy teenagers.
After getting our tubes, we headed up one of the numerous slides and queued up waiting to descend the watery tunnel. Emma being Emma insisted on going first on all of the rides. I acquiesced and let her go down first and quickly followed after her. Standing on the top of a structure that can best be described as rickety was nerve-wracking. I kept thinking the best nickname for Raging Waters would be Splinter-Ville or Abrasion Alley because everywhere I looked, the park was filled with a jagged edge or sharp corner.
Getting ready to go down the nest slide, I watch Emma go and wait for me to follow. The second that I sat down, I knew something was afoot. I wasn’t centered on my tube and after the first turn, I found myself thrown off the raft and heading down water with no protection. To keep kids from launching off of the slides, they installed these aquatic speed bumps in the style of washboards that slow down the riders. On a tube, they are nothing. Dislodged from one’s tube, it feels like a drive-by sport’s massage. It absolutely riveted my back as I was dropped into a pool of urine soaked water.
Ugh! Holy Shit did that hurt!
As I come up from the pool at the end of the ride, I see my smiling niece insisting that we go back and ride it again. I grasp my fatty back and start the long haul up the stairs to the point of disaster.
When we got to the top, we found ourselves waiting behind a couple of young women. The girl in front of me and I want to be absolutely clear that she was a girl, said that she was impressed with Emma for riding the ride. She said that her brother was older than Emma and wouldn’t have dared riding such a steep ride. I said that Emma was incredibly brave and foolhardy enough to ride any slide at the park. She goes on to tell me that she likes riding the slides here but she wished that there wasn’t the washboards slowing people down. I said, and I want to be clear, I was making bare minimum of conversation, that I actually went over the washboards on my bare back and hurt the bejesus out of myself.
The young lady at most was 15-years old. In forming a range, I would say she was somewhere between 12 and 16-years old at most. She was wearing a hooker amount of make-up and was barely filling out her two piece swimsuit. It felt incredibly weird talking with her but since the conversation was mostly about Emma, I played along. As she was sitting in her tube waiting for her turn to go down the slide, she looked up at me and said without a doubt the most jaw dropping thing I have heard in the last decade.
“Hey, if you’d like, I could rub your back when we get down from this ride…”
How is it that I had to fight tooth-and-nail to get my niece to accompany me to the park to avoid looking like a creep-o only to have the most awkward moment of my life? I did something that I will always remember and never forget: I took my right foot and pushed her down the slide without answering.
If I ever stray from my girlfriend, I would like to think it would be with an age appropriate woman (or man). If I ever get caught with a mother of two who is 42, Erin should be mad and disgusted with me for my infidelity. As pissed off as she might be, the only upside to that horrible moment would be, “Well, at least he wasn’t making it with a minor.” This South Salt Lake Lolita was nothing but trouble in a handbag.
I’ve seen myself naked and it is nothing short of a Union Pacific train derailed killing the conductor and a couple of locals. The fact that this confused young girl suggested that a soothing back massage is just what the doctor ordered is nothing short of a cry for help for her. I couldn’t help but think that the back massage was a window for me to buy her smokes and beer. Talk about daddy issues. On my very best days, I look like John Candy. Think I am being self-deprecating? Ask my co-workers from Keys On Main at our summer party. I am surprised most of them aren’t in therapy watching me run turbo-chubby at a slip’n’slide at full speed in my bathing trunks.
Fortunately, Emma missed the entire conversation. We avoided Lolita for the balance of the day and rode all of the slides at the park. Through the urine, chlorine and tears of scared kids, we had a wonderful day and managed to escape the park with barely a sunburn.
Driving Emma home, I couldn’t help but think that I needed her at the park to avoid looking like a creep. In reality, what I needed was a 36-year old woman on my side to scare off the teenagers. I would have thought my doughy chest would have been enough to keep the young ladies at bay but I was clearly wrong.
Emma and I probably should have just sat in a kiddie pool at my house and watched The Game Plan.
Ben Raskin works at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Check out his podcast, SLC PubCast, on iTunes. He still has water in his ears from Raging Waters.