Monday, May 24, 2010

On Being Vader and The Coolest Kid on the Planet

Friday afternoon a friend of mine offered to don the Vader costume for my son's birthday party.  This would accomplish several things.  First, it would allow me to witness the excitement as my son's favorite bad guy visited his party.  Second, it would allow me to spend more time at the party and less time in the back room getting in, and out, of the 40 pound costume.  Lastly, my son wouldn't start wondering where his dad was while Vader was in da house.  I was thrilled at the prospect of someone being so selfless as to come to a 5 year old's party to sweat his ass off and have a bunch of kids jump all over him.

The night before the party, I got sick. Bad chicken or something. I spent a great deal of time that night on the throne. I feared standing up. Every time I did, it was like gravity was laughing at me, pulling more burning liquid thru my ass. By the time I was brave enough to crawl into bed, my body was ravaged by the shits. I was physically exhausted, drained and dehydrated. I felt like death. I woke up the next morning weak and afraid to eat.  My body was rumbling, begging me to put something in it but every time I walked into the kitchen, my gut turned over and I swear I heard laughing from within. 

Fortunately, I wasn't going wearing that giant pleather jumpsuit, the helmet, robes, pads, codpiece, shin guards and electrical gear.

Then I remembered who the friend was.



The party started at 1.  Vader was supposed to arrive around 1:30 and he'd get in the gear and make his appearance when the kids came into the fun house to eat.  The party was held at a place called Carnival and, thanks to a friend who knows the owner, we were given the fun house for privacy.  A perfect means of having Vader show up and not be mobbed by kids from other parties.

First, the kids got to play the various carnival games.  They've got the strongman thing where you ring the bell by slamming the sledgehammer down on the target.  They've got the milk can game, ring on a bottle, ping pong ball on the bottle top and the water balloon pop with a water gun game.  They've got a few other staples and then they have a dunk tank.  The dunk tank was closed and when I asked the manager why he explained that kids don't go near it unless they know who's in the tank so, if I have someone who wants to sit in the tank, he has shorts and a shirt for them to wear, and keep.  I agreed to do it, provided my Vader showed up soon.  He sends the text, he's running late, so now I'm scrambling to figure out who can go in the tank and I'm beginning to dread the prospect of getting inside that costume. 

I spot my nephew hanging around, talking to his mom and my mind slaps me.  He's perfect for the tank.  He's my son's favorite cousin and he's a real sport.  The problem is, he's 15 and the manager told me anyone over 18 can do it.  Fuck it, I'll lie.  I walk over to my nephew and ask him if he's interested in making $20.  He asks what he has to do and I tell him.  I explain that it's a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds and there's no way anyone will hit the target.  He says he'll do it but he makes me swear no adults will take a shot.  I promise.  He signs the waiver and the manager takes him into the dressing room to get ready for the tank.  I tell my son that his cousin is going into the tank and he goes berserk.  He grabs his friends and they all run over to the table in front of the curtain.  Patiently waiting for the lights to go on and the curtain to open, the kids lined up.  The stood around bragging about who would be the one to dunk him. 

In the meantime, I get another text.  Vader won't be arriving until much later and I'm fucked.  It's me in the costume.  I tell my wife that I have to do it and I ask our assigned hostess if there's a place to change and she says she'll have the staff keep the kids out of the fun house and I can do it there.  She asks what I'm wearing and I tell her.  She laughs and tells me she used to work at Disney as a character assistant and I asked what that meant.  She said she helped dress and undress the characters and Vader was one of her assigned characters.  What're the odds?

The lights flip on, the curtain opens and there's my nephew, sitting up high in the box, feet dangling in the water.  The Kids go nuts.  My son goes first, takes three shots, hits the target once, not hard enough.  A few more kids go.  One girl hits the target too weakly and the kid remains dry.  My dad starts tossing balls at the target each time a kid does. 

It's getting late.  I need to change so I leave them there, balls flying at the target, nephew dry.

I head into the fun house and take off my shirt.  Slip on a tee shirt, drop the shoes and then I see the food is out.  I'm fucking starving so I grab a burger and eat the dry, overcooked patty.  Then I grab the cheese off a slice of pizza and, for good measure, I inhale a hot dog, no bun.  Wash it down with a glass of diet coke and I'm back to the costume.



The jumpsuit is on, unzipped.  Chest lights on, codpiece in place, shin guards next and I'm almost home.  I'm already sweating like mad but I tell myself it's all worth it.

She zips me up and it's like I'm in a body bag.  The robe goes on next.  Then the shoulder pads, cape and helmet.  I snake the wire that leads from the helmet to the button that makes the Vader breathing sounds inside my jumpsuit, down the arm and into my hand.  Then I slip the helmet on and then, at last, the gloves. 

I am Vader.

The girl tells me I look as good, if not better, than the Disney character she dressed.

I tell her I want to donate money to help those poor bastards get out of the costumes forever.  I can't even fathom doing this outdoors, in 90 degree weather.  I'm in a relatively cool, air conditioned room and I can feel rivulets of sweat crawling down my scalp and body like tiny little spiders.  I want to claw at the costume, tear it off and free myself from this wet hell.

The manager comes in to tell me that my nephew was dunked.  By my son, of all people.  I asked him who helped and he smiled and said he did.  He told me he went in the back and pulled the release on the target to make it easier for the kids. 

Then my dad dunked him, two other kids dunked him and his other cousin did too but, this last one was, apparently, done via my dad's hand hitting the target.  Seems the snivelling little brat was crying that he didn't dunk him so my father gave him an assist.

The kids were going to be hitting the fun house any minute so I went into the back entrance to hide until they were all there.  I'm standing there, my wife is trying to figure out what she did to the video camera and I cannot help her because I can barely move and holding the camera with the gloves would be a total waste of time.

Suddenly I hear my son.  I step out from the shadows and I'm standing there, looking down at him.  He stops dead in his tracks.  The biggest fucking smile I've ever seen spreads across his face.

He mouths "Darth Vader" and backs away from me.

I hit the breather button and take two steps towards my son.

He takes two steps back.

In my best James Earl Jones voice, I say "Jackson, I've come to wish you a happy birthday"

He looks me up and down and says "I have to go get my friends" and he bolts from the room.

I look around, as best I can.  The lenses of the helmet are fogging up and I cannot really walk or move since I can barely see.

I take two tentative steps into the room and I'm mobbed by my son and his friends.  I can't look down and see them all that well so I kneel down. 

And then I'm attacked.  Hands pulling, touching, hitting me.  One kid asks where my light saber is.  My son tells his friend that Vader was invited but he could only come if he promised to leave his saber at home and  he wasn't allowed to force choke or kill anyone. 

I'm playing with the kids, talking about how long a trip it was, how my new death star is really shaping up and how I'm looking forward to ruling the galaxy.  The kids are loving it.  Boys and girls around me, jumping up and down, trying to get into the Vader act.  The parents are all hysterical.  Other than my family, nobody knows it's me.  My son asks my wife where I am and she tells him I had to go move grandma's car. 

I suddenly realize that I'm standing in a pool of sweat.  I can actually feel the water dripping into my shoes.  I must've sweated out 2 pounds already.

I stand up to take some pictures with the kids and I realize how dizzy I am.  So dizzy that I reach out and put my hand on the photographer so as to not topple over and crush my son and his friends.

My wife comes over and asks if Vader is ok.  I tell her I'm fine, just worried that the little jedis are going to make me lose my deposit by wrecking my chest electronics. 

I put my arms around the kids, they all want to push the buttons on the costume and take pictures with me.  They want to hug me and kiss me and a few of the  boys want to fight me.  It's all great fun.  Then my son says "you're my father." I deny it.  I tell him he doesn't look like my son and he says it again.  He says "you're my father."  I say "I'm not your dad" and he says, "no, not my dad, my father."

Then the burger and the hot dog decide to remind me why I wasn't going to eat.  I feel the watery hell moving back and forth along my intestines.  My stomach flips.  It flips again.

I am going to shit in the Vader costume and I will lose my deposit.

My son is still calling me father and I'm starting to feel like I'm going to faint again.  I'm now kneeling on one knee, wondering if I will pass out before I shit myself.  That would be preferred.  That way I can have no memory of shitting myself in front of all these kids and parents.

I realize that Vader shitting himself might very well destroy the galaxy that my son lives in.  I stagger to my feet.  I tell the kids it's time to eat. 

"Dad, will you eat with me?"

"I'm not your father"

"yes, you are"

"No, I'm not."

I can no longer take it.  I need to get the helmet off.  If I get some air, I will avoid passing out and I might actually make it to the bathroom.  I have no choice.  I lift off the helmet.

My son looks at me, puzzled over the discovery that I am Vader.

"Dad?"  Then he acts real cool and says he knew it was me.  I tell him I figured that since he was calling me father and dad.  He tells me that he knew but he was calling me father because he was pretending his was Luke Skywalker.

My wife turns around from whatever she was doing and sees the sweaty, pale mess that is her husband and she lets out a small, horrific shriek.  Apparently, I look wetter than my nephew after being dunked.

She comes over and hands me a glass of water.  I tell her I'm going to own the costume if I don't get to the bathroom asap.

She laughs at me and tells me to go.

I bolt towards the bathroom, helmet in hand, racing thru the crowded game area.  Heads turn but I'm too fast to be more than the passing "was that Darth Vader?"

I make it to the bathroom, I put the helmet under one arm, reach back and FUCK, I need someone to unzip me.  Mother fucker.  I don't want to put the helmet down on the floor or on a sink because I'll probably have to put it back on again so I put it on my head and start reaching and gyrating, trying to get the zipper off.

Suddenly, two boys walk into the bathroom.  Maybe ten years old.  They're standing there, staring at me.

I accidentally hit the breather button in my glove.  They back up.

In my best James Earl Jones Voice I tell them "don't be scared,  Vader needs to poop, can you unzip me?"

"yes" they stammer and I kneel down so they can reach the zipper.

They unzip me and I hit the stall, helmet on, fully geared up, save the jumpsuit, which is bunched up around the knees, and the gloves, which are in my lap.

I'm ultra careful not to dunk the robe or cape into the shitter.

Vader takes a shit.

It's a good one.  Nothing like the night before.  The gods are kind to me.

Vader cleans up, gets the suit pulled back up and then I realize I can't rezip it.  Fuck it, I've got the cape to cover it.  I walk out of the bathroom, all geared up and there's a crowd of boys standing there.
The two boys who unzipped me are standing in the middle of the crowd and one of them says "see, I told you Vader was pooping."

I hit the breath button and, in my best James Earl Jones voice, I say "It smells like a wookie dump in there."

The kids are all dumbfounded.  I walk thru them, cape and robe flowing, back into the fun house.  I walk by my son, who's eating and telling his friends something about star wars and he grabs me and smiles.

I walk towards the back of the room, up into the dj booth and I get out of the clothes.  The party's almost over and there's no need for me to suffer any more in the walking coffin.

I slip off the helmet, peel off the pads, jumpsuit, robe etc and then switch back the the shirt I wore there, balling the soaked tee shirt up, wringing it out and putting it all in the bags I brought.

I walk back into the party, sit down at a table and grab a glass of water.  I'm sitting there, talking to a couple of parents who are telling me they had no idea it was me, that it was the coolest thing, the kids loved it etc, when my son walks over to me and hugs me.

"I love you Dad.  That was the best present"

After the party we headed uptown to our apartment to open presents.  I changed into shorts and a tee shirt, weighing myself before getting dressed again.  Three pounds lighter than I was before I left.

It was worth every ounce of sweat.

Later, when my son was asked what his favorite present was, he said Daddy Vader.  When asked what the best part of the party was, he said "when Jake went into the dunk tank, he's the best cousin in the world."

That's right, I nearly died for the cause but my nephew is the coolest kid on the planet.  Truth is, I don't disagree with that declaration.  I don't know of many kids that age who would go actually go through with.  So, while I was the evilest bad guy ever, my nephew stole the fucking show.

1 comment:

Trenton said...

So, the Force IS strong with you after all!!! Who knew? LOL

Man, that's some impressive shit there, and I'm not talking about what ya dropped in the bathroom. That will rank up there as one of the best birthday gifts that your son will get, I bet.

Too bad I wasn't there. I woulda thrown that costume on in a minute. Only thing is that I'd look funny, being 5'5" and all...

I can see it now... "Look Mom! It's Mini-Vader!!" Hehehe.

Trent :-)