Wednesday, August 13, 2008

For Fathers of Daughters - Dennis Park at the Plate

I was never a ladies man. I was always surrounded by hot chicks, but that's not because I was interesting. If the crowd of cool guys and fly girls were a ship, I'd be the gnarly barnacle on the stern. I did have girlfriends and I was extremely monogamous. I've only kissed 5 or 6 girls in my life and I was terribly shy around the fairer sex. I've only picked up the phone ONCE in my entire life to ask a girl to a movie, and that was because I was bored as hell and she was a good friend. I didn't have any romantic feelings at all. My romances always blossomed from group dates or school dances. It was the least confrontational option with the lowest probability of failure and humiliation.

There was a girl my junior year in high school that I was attracted to. I never had the guts to really ask her out or anything, but I always thought she was cute. Somehow, fate would have it that some of her friends became friends of my friends which made us distant mutual friends. The stage was set.

In Utah, beginning in September, young and old alike flock to "haunted houses." When I was haunted-house-hopping they were relatively small, cheap, and innocent. Now they are so over the top with blood and guts and death, and they cost $20 per person. Unfortunately what was once a lot of fun has now become terribly overdone and tired.

A large group of us had congregated at my friend Tony's house in late September to go hit "The Haunted Old Mill." As more and more people showed up, Tony surfaced at the front door and yelled, "Cori needs a ride over here, can anyone go pick her up?" My hand shot up like a vaulting Chinese gymnast; this was my chance!

Now, I may not have had much experience with women, but I was batting 1.000 when it came to their parents, specifically fathers. I was well-spoken, somewhat preppy, complimentary, and non-threatening. I had mothers that adored me and I actually played golf with a couple of girls' dads. This particular night I had on a lovely white IZOD sweater and neat jeans. I further prepared by tucking my Grateful Dead necklace into my t-shirt, checked my breath, approached the door, and rang the bell. The door slowly swung open.

There to greet me was a large, intense looking moustached man with thinning hair and a wicked half-grin. Cori was standing relaxed to his left. A blonde woman, I supposed it was her mother, was politely sitting on the piano bench. "Come in please."

"You must be Mr. Park." He nodded. "It's nice to meet you." He didn't speak or smile. He just looked at me, considering the threat. He slowly raised his hand to shake mine, then proceeded to squeeze it with vice-grip doberman strength. His message was clear...I wasn't getting over easily this time. My smile vanished.

"Where are you headed tonight young man?"
"Well sir, we're just going as a large group of friends...erm, acquaintances, to a haunted house."
"You driving?"
"Yes sir."
"Any tickets?"
"No sir."
"No sir."
"You a good student son?"
"I think so."
"What's your GPA?"
"3.5", I lied.
"B student is good, huh?"

Now I'm starting to get a little heated. Terror was giving way to annoyance. If there is one constant in this universe besides death, taxes, and country music being BAD, it is that I always have been and always will be a square peg. The only times I fit in the world's round holes are when I'm pounded so badly with a Thoresque hammer that I barely squeeze in, splinters flying everywhere. It is never pretty, and my square peginess was starting to surface. I'm not even taking this chick on a date...I'm doing her a FAVOR by picking her up for a group trip to Wheeler Farm...

"You a Mormon?"
"Yes I am."
"Go to church and seminary?"
"Every week."
"Tell me about your family."

Without skipping a beat he broke the plane of personal space and lifted his hairy bare hand up toward my right cheek. Holy crap, this psycho is going to smack me! Instead he felt my right earlobe, then my left.

"No earrings, that's good. Any tattoos?"
"You drink or smoke?"
"Of course not."
"Any drugs?"

And then one of the most bizarre things happened. He went too far. Dennis reached down and gripped my right kneecap. Then he moved to my left knee and fondled that kneecap. I half expected Zed and The Gimp to come around the corner with furry handcuffs and a leather whip. I stood there stoically. Violated and rigid.

"Wow, you've got some nice knees there son."

At this point his face somewhat softened...I didn't know why. He then pointed to his daughter.

"You see this girl here? She's my only daughter."

I'm not stupid. I clearly saw Cori's older and younger sister sitting at the kitchen table watching the show. I wasn't stupid, but I wasn't dumb either. I didn't argue. However, I also wasn't very observant because as I pondered the molesting of my knees, Dennis had reached behind the door with his other hand to produce a solid wood Louisville Slugger baseball bat.

"And son, if you don't bring her back looking EXACTLY how she does right now, I'll break both your knees."

There was no smile. No shred of humor or tease in his voice. Just the stare. Cori never changed expression, nor did her mother or sisters. I swallowed hard.

"What time will you have her back?"
"What time would you like us back sir?"
"Midnight should be fine."
"See you at 11."

Dennis patted his daughter on the shoulder and we walked out into the welcoming brisk night air. I'd survived with my life, and my knees, intact. Somehow I managed to get to the car and made absolute sure to open Cori's door first, then my own. As I drove off I looked in my rear-view mirror to see Dennis on the porch with his Slugger resting lightly on his shoulder.

I looked at Cori incredulously, "what the hell was that?" "My dad loves me." "Yeah, well what's the deal with the baseball bat?" She smiled, "You'd better have me home by 11."

Cori and I went on to be friends and we dated for a period of time. I quickly learned that Dennis had a wicked sense of humor and we got to be pretty good friends. While he never really planned on shattering my kneecaps with a baseball bat, his message was sure. This girl is off limits. Keep your hands and other appendages in their vehicles at all times.

As a father I get it. I realize that there are thousands of guys out there that are snakes in the grass, wolves in sheep suits. Men are pigs, period. Some are just less piggish than others. I'm not sure that I'll recreate the slugger experience for Maidie's dates...I'll let that legend rest with Dennis. But I'll build my own legend.

Young dudes of the world beware.


Paul Mayne said...

Yeah, now days it's even scarier to think of how hard it is to raise teenage girls. Best of luck my friend. Maybe I'll be blessed with boys only.

MorganMania said...

Come now. My dad wasn't that bad. I think you imagination and time has done something to your memory. Besides, he loves me and wanted to make sure that he did all that he could to protect me. No, I'm not mad/upset that you used your experience with my father on your blog site. I actually think it's very funny - your personal comments on the situation. Just remember this for your daughter(s).