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5:23 a.m. - 2001-09-29

FRANKLIN THE TURTLE ROBBED MY CHILD OF HIS YOUTH

Okay.

So last night, I did probably one of the dumbest things I've done as a father yet in my almost 11 months of experience.

...I took Andy to a "Franklin The Turtle" show.

For those of you who aren't parents and have no idea what the hell I'm talking about...no...I didn't take him to a pet store to watch a turtle for an hour.

Franklin is some TV character who happens to be a turtle. I don't know much about it myself because we don't watch it. I don't have any idea what channel it's on or what time it may come on.

We are not Franklin-heads. We are Bear in the Big Blue House-Heads. Bear rocks. Franklin not so rocks.

So anyway, I read in the newspaper that our local mall was celebrating its brand new look with a Franklin the Turtle Show at Center Court. And since I was watching Andy by myself last night, I thought to myself "What better father-son experience can we have that doesn't include semi-naked women sliding down poles than to go to see Franklin The Turtle?"

It was a very badly worded thought, but a solid one.

So I pick Andy up from daycare and asked him if he'd like to go to the mall tonight.

He answered with a high pitched squeal. The same squeal he emits when you ask him to please stop playing in the dog's water dish as well as if he's got a stinky diaper.

So I took him home, force-fed him a bottle and packed him back into the van.

We get to the mall five minutes later, I slap him into his stroller and we high-tail it inside to make sure we have a front row seat.

We get to center court and it's pretty crowded. I was frantically searching for a chair while Andrew surveyed the crowd of giddy children. He had never seen so many kids gathered together at one place in his life and was amazed that there were this many kids in the world.

What's this?

Three empty seats on the first row???

Before you could say "Slow down fat guy", I barrelled through the crowd and claimed the seat closest to the stage. I took Andy out of his stroller, sat him on my knee and told him to strap that diaper on...we're about to have a helluva lot of fun.

The show began with this red-headed girl in a colorful outfit coming out to welcome the crowd.

Andy was mesmerized. I've already noticed that he has an affinity for redheads. When he sees a redhead, he can't take his eyes off of her. Me personally, I don't care for them. Although I used to. But a redhead broke my heart at 19 and I've never cared for them since.

(IF you happen to be a redhead, I'm sure you're a very nice girl who would never cheat on me if we were dating...especially with my best friend and then go on to describe the sex in gory detail while I sat in a chair and cried and begged for you to stop but you just kept going on and on about the size of his pecker and how much better of a lover that he was over me and why did you leave me Treva?? What did I ever do to you?? Why??WHY???WHYYYYYYY????)

Ahem.

So anyway, Andy's watching this girl as she runs up and down the runway, warming up this crowd of kids. The kids are applauding her and acting very civil. The girl introduces Beaver and the kids applaud politely. Next, she introduces Fox and Fox comes out. There's now a Fox and a Beaver on the stage. This marks the first time that I've sat near a stage with a fox and a beaver on it and I wasn't shoving dollar bills in either's G-string.

Don't worry...Andy didn't get the joke either.

Next, the girl introduced Bear. I think both mine and Andy's blood started racing as we thought "BEAR?!?!?BEAR'S HERE???"

Well...it wasn't Bear from Bear in the Big Blue House. This was some cheap imitation Bear that didn't sniff us and have all kindsa crazy friends. This was some mute bear that just waved a lot and danced.

Then...Red asked the crowd who they came to see. About ten of the kids in the crowd knew what to holler, so they yelled "FRANKLIN!!!" The rest of the kids sat there, trying to remember who it was they came to see.

So Red says "Come on out, Franklin!"

This kid in a turtle suit comes bounding out onto the stage.

...And the crowd goes ape shit.

I swear...I was looking around to see if Britney Spears was with him. These kids were screaming like Franklin was the teen idol to end all teen idols. Except they were all preschoolers. And I don't really know if there's such a thing as "preschooler idols" or not, so we'll just stick with teen idols.

Andy's now mesmerized. We're sitting right next to the stage, in the angle where the stage meets the runway, so he's looking up at these four people in animal outfits in utter amazement.

They sing some songs and do some dances and they were actually pretty entertaining. And pretty decent dancers. Which made me think how much these people's lives must suck. Imagine...training all your life to be a dancer. You want to be in the ballet, on Broadway, or maybe in some rapper's video.

Instead, you're shoved into a Beaver costume and told you're going on the road with Franklin the Turtle.

It's kinda like being a drug addict. Nobody grows up saying "I wanna be a drug addict when I grow up."

Nobody wants to be a dancing beaver either.

Anyway, everything's going smooth. We've sang The Hokey Pokey and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (Which, by the way, was an amazing experience for the audience. We were all singing "Twinkle" softly and it was as if we were one. We had left our cares and worries outside the doors of the mall and were now just one singular entity, wishing for peace amongst the twinkling stars. I wanted to light a lighter and hold it above my head in a sign of unity, but I was afraid I might catch the guy in the Bear suit on fire).

Then, we start singing some song I wasn't familiar with, so it must have been from Franklin's TV show, because the kids knew it well.

I noticed that the animals and Red were leaving the stage and starting to wander through the crowd, singing the song and entertaining the kids.

Andy didn't notice this.

So Andy's watching a little girl three rows back, spinning around in circles and laughing. He's just staring at her, wondering what it would take to get into her diaper.

I see the Fox coming our way.

I tell Andy "Andy...here comes the fox!"

Andy's already staring at his own fox as the little girl keeps spinning around in circles in her own primitive dance.

Before you know it, the Fox is right there. Right in front of us.

I handle it pretty well.

When Andy turned his head and saw the Fox...well...he went ballistic.

A scream came out of my child that I feel quite confident I've never heard before. It was almost like a train whistle if train whistles could sound utterly terrified.

The fox brought his hands to his fox mouth and leaned back as if to mimic "Oh goodness!"

Andy was beyond frightened. He couldn't stop screaming. He was making sounds that would have made Mariah Carey green with envy.

Meanwhile, the fox was slapping everyone high fives and had completely forgotten about the trauma he just caused my boy.

The animals and Red all got back onstage and Andy was uncontrollable. He had already reached the gasping stage, trying to catch his breath between sobs.

I felt it best that maybe we got up and moved away from the stage. It's usually not a good thing for entertainers to have people sobbing in front of them while they try to do their jobs.

So we moved to the outskirts of the crowd and watched from there. Andy refused to watch these horrid animals and just watched the kids in the crowd instead while he managed to control his sobbing.

The show lasted 15 minutes and was over. I asked Andy how he liked it and he buried his head in my shoulder which meant "You sonofabitch. Don't EVER take me to one of these things again without warning me that I may come face to face with a guy in a fox suit."

Ah well.

Daddy had a good time anyway.

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