Apr 092008
 

When I was growing up, my mom would tell me stories about Green Man’s Tunnel. According to her, the Green Man lived in an abandoned train tunnel in a suburban town south of Pittsburgh called South Park. He was green because he had the horrible misfortune of getting struck by lightning. Electrocuted by a toaster while bathing.  Stuck his dick in Gumby’s light socket. He was green, OK?

I would argue with people for years, spitting in their faces that it wasn’t an urban legend, that the Green Man was real, that my mom went to school with the Green Man, that her best friend went to the prom with the Green Man, that I SAW HIM WITH MY OWN EYES.

(I never really saw him.)

Then there were the people who believed in the legend (hello, it’s TRUTH, not legend) but insisted that the tunnel was located in other wooded areas, next to a creek in another town, on a pot-holed rural lane in a different county. My friend Keri insisted it was in a town called Dravosburg. "Remember when me, you, and Dan went to Green Man’s Tunnel to set off firecrackers?" she’d start. I would shrug. "Yeah you do. Dan got hit in the face with one of them, remember? He had that big welt on his cheek?" I would stubbornly say, "Well Keri, I remember the time we went to a tunnel in Dravosburg, but not Green Man’s Tunnel. THAT tunnel is in South Park." For years, I wouldn’t acknowedge the memory of that day until she quit calling it Green Man’s Tunnel.

My mom would drive us out there, my brother Ryan and me, repeating the story in case we forgot how tragic and green the Green Man really was. "He was so nice, really good looking too, until he got turned green." Before we’d reach the part of the road where his rusted, graffiti’d, abandoned train tunnel could be seen, we’d have to first drive through a long underpass; a creek flowed along one side. Some people’s version of the story claim that when you’re in this tunnel at night, your headlights go out. Your car just shuts off, completely dies. The Green Man comes and steals your electricity and then I don’t know what. Fucks you with it? Shoots down planes with it?

Sometimes, in the tunnel, my mom would slow to a halt, the headlights would go out. My brother Ryan would cry, but I knew that the lights were out because my mom turned them off to scare us. My chest would tighten, palms would moisten, even though I knew that part of the story wasn’t real, that the Green Man was sad and just wanted some friends. Just wanted some friends to bring him some Hustler and maybe a forty of Miller Lite.

I couldn’t provide him those things, the booze and the porn, but I was determined to give him companionship, friendship, a membership to the Erin Rulz 4 Lyfe club. So one night I prepared a small sandwich bag of assorted candies. Tootsie rolls and Lifesavers and some mini Snickers, and in that bag, among all the candy, I tucked in a note that I wrote on a piece of blue paper. My mom drove me out to his tunnel. I had intended on taking the bag right up to his tunnel, right up to entrance, where I would then knock on the steel door and he would take me in and we’d sit down and drink some cans of Coke and talk about how tough it is, not fitting in, and then I’d give him half of a best friend pendant and we’d keep in touch and twenty years later he’d be my son’s Godfather.

Instead, I completely flipped my shit when I got close to the ominous tunnel, saw the "condemned" sign on the gate, heard fluttering noises in the patch of woods above the unused tracks, and I chugged my ass back down to the road where my mom idled in the car. Tossed the baggie of treats into the small gravel lot across the street and ended up back in the passenger seat, eyes closed and fighting to catch my breath.

"I thought you weren’t scared of him," my mom said as the tunnel became smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. And then she did what she did best when I was in distress: laugh at me.

I always wondered if he got the care package, my carefully prepared snack pack of love and frienship. I wondered if he ate the candy before a woodland creature scampered over from the other side of the creek and devoured it. I wondered if the Tootsie Rolls got stuck in his teeth and if he used his tongue to pry it from his molars and I wondered, was his tongue green too?

Today, while I was getting my hair done, my stylist Lucia was talking about her boyfriend’s sister.

"She lives out by Green Man’s Tunnel." She paused, waiting for a sign of recognition. I didn’t say anything, but my body stiffened, hoping she’d give the right answer.

When she added, "Out in South Park," I lit up.

"OK, I know exactly where that is," I smiled.

Just another reason I love Lucia — she knows the right story.

Apr 082008
 

Chooch and I took a walk around the neighborhood this morning. There were some pine cones scattered along the sidewalk in front of a house up on the corner and Chooch was inspired to collect five of his favorites to join us on our stroll. He carried two and I was stuck carrying the other three[1], which were prickly and sharp and I really wanted to chuck them into a sewer grate, but Chooch kept checking my fist to make sure they were still in there. He knows me too well.

On the way back, he recognized the pine cone-strewn corner immediately and climbed up a slight slope in the yard and plopped himself down under the pine tree, which he soon realized was a cone treasure trove. While he was maniacally harvesting pine cones like they were organs he couldn’t live without, I took a seat next to him.

And then I screamed. Screamed like I was being filleted by a native in the jungle. Screamed like I was seeing Michael Jackson’s penis darting in and out of a hole in the wall. This is the part where I screamed like an asshole, in case you couldn’t tell. Perhaps you heard me.

"Why are there tiny swords slashing my flesh!?!" That’s what I screamed, in case you were wondering. Probably someone else’s child would have looked at me in fear, possibly soiled themselves too, but Chooch is immune to my overreactions and continued piling dirt and moss into tiny mounds.

So it turns out Satan hadn’t sent an army of horned elves to siphon my blood like I originally thought, but that I had sat on a blanket of sharp pine needles. I mean, these fuckers were lethal, like I could probably give Henry a surprise sex change with one, or finally re-pierce my ears like I’ve been talking about for the past two years. I had to pluck some of them from my palms and brush the rest from my ass. Where is my tuffet when I need it? I glared at Chooch who was protected from pain by his diaper padding. Must be nice. Except for the wallowing in piss and shit part.

Nature Time was over for me at that point, so I dragged Chooch back home against his will[2]. Not before turning around to retrieve the five original pine cones at Chooch’s (very loud) insistence. Back at home, I panicked because the sites of the needle-pricks began to burn and sear. I was about to Google "pine tree poison" to see what grisly demise was in store for me, but then Chooch and I became distracted by "Bringing Home Baby" and I forgot — UNTIL NOW — all about the fact that I’m probably dying a slow death from nature-venom.


 

[1]: Being a mom means carrying shit. I learned that really quick.

[2]: Being a mom means lugging a bucking and wailing child back home while trying to avoid his big hard head from slamming into your nose.

Feb 252008
 

There’s something you need to know about me: I’m still the fifteen-year-old girl who turns to music when a boy breaks her heart. I’m still the sixteen-year-old girl who locks herself in her room and blares the stereo after fighting with her parents. I’m still the nineteen-year-old who sobs into cherry wine while listening to The Cure. I’m still the seventeen-year-old girl who thinks every emo song was written for her.

I’m the twenty-eight-year-old girl who gets in a fight with Henry and runs off to the cemetery to scream along to the lyrics that your little brothers and sisters are cutting themselves to.

Not too long ago, someone asked, "Aren’t you a little old to be getting excited about this kind of music?" If I ever stop getting excited about it, stop feeling it in my heart, then I’ll know I’m dead. Exactly what kind of music is someone elderly like me supposed to be listening to, anyway? Should I be donning loafers and sitting back with some John Mayer?

Last summer, when Henry and I were going through a rough patch, Chiodos was there to keep me alive. Their music inspired me to paint again and their lyrics inspired me to keep writing when I really wanted to give up. When I missed their set at Warped Tour, I didn’t care that I was essentially the mama amid a churning sea of other surly fans who missed them due to an unusually early start time.

Yesterday was going to be my first time meeting them. For me, it was worth the three hour drive to Columbus. I wanted to thank them for doing what they do, for making music that means so much to me. But by the time we arrived at Magnolia Thunderpussy for the in-store signing, my heart felt weak and my legs were spaghetti. (Marinara sauce, please.) Very few people were there; I anticipated a line full of unwashed hair and star tattoos serpentining out and around the store, but there were only a handful of messy haired kids loitering quietly among the racks of CDs.

I sat outside for awhile. I was thirty minutes early and Chooch was unable to be contained within the tiny record store. Henry let him play in snow while I tried to make idle chatty with two young people who sat on a retaining wall.  I admitted to being freaked out, hoping to bond with the girl of the pair. She laughed, but it wasn’t the encouraging kind. I think she was suspicious that some old broad was trying to make convo. Later, she asked me if I had come by myself, and I took that as her way of including me. She kind of looked like Rachel Bilson. Then I started thinking about The O.C. and realized, "Holy shit, I really am young……Oh well."

Inside the store, I was mindlessly flipping through used CDs when I looked up and saw three of the band members slipping behind the counter. There was no grand announcement or applause — they managed to slink by unnoticed by most of the kids. A short trucker-capped employee with a voice too husky for a girl came out and determined where the start of the line would be. I had the good fortune of being close by, so only fifteen or so people managed to be ahead of me. Henry and Chooch were still at the front of the store; the growing covey of fans made a barricade that he wasn’t trying to attempt to break through.

I turned around and wheezed, "I think I’m going to die!" to the girl behind me. She laughed. I liked her. She had nice glasses and she let me cut in front of her when I got caught up in the mad scurry to get in line. But I wasn’t kidding — my palms were getting sweaty and I was seeing double.

A trio of tiny girls wearing varying shades of grey and black and olive green huddled in front of me, giggling about what they were going to say to the band. One of the girls never removed her oversized black sunglasses from her pale face. Another had braces. The third looked around and disgustedly observed that there were so many scene kids there. "Oh wait, I am one," she added with a laugh. I wanted to punch her. I wanted to punch her and say that I liked Chiodos more. Then I wanted to steal her purse. Not because I liked it all that much, but because maybe it seemed like the right way to end things.

It was my turn way too quickly. I was barely prepared and my hands shook a little (a lot) as I unrolled my poster and slapped it down on the counter. The first person in line was Derrick, the drummer. He gave me a friendly smile and I felt slightly brave enough to speak. I started to tell him that I had come from Pittsburgh, but the girl in front of me had made it to the end of the line and wanted a picture of all of them. He held up his finger to me and moved in close to the rest of the band. But by the time he turned his attention back to me, I had lost my nerve and started to slide my poster down to the guitarist, Jason. I could have told him that I used a magazine clipping of his eyeball for one of the paintings I made last summer. I could have told him that there used to be a bar outside of Pittsburgh called Chiodos and my mom beat the shit out of the Chiodos daughter because of a guy. I could have told him these things but I didn’t because it probably would have come out sounding like something articulated by Corky.

Henry was standing off to my right, behind a wall of posters. I silently hoped that he wouldn’t embarrass me, because if those guys thought I was old….

Henry chose that moment to release Chooch who in turn came running toward me. Derrick shouted, "Aw, look how cute he is!" When Chooch reached me, I used him to my advantage and picked him up so they knew he was with me; it suddenly didn’t matter that I was "too old" to be there or that I couldn’t find meaningful words to say to them.

The band collectively said things like, "He’s adorable!" and "I like your shirt, little man!" Derrick looked at me and said, "You know, we need a mascot…" Everyone laughed and then he gave Chooch a high five. Even the scene kids in line broke down their steeled pretensions long enough to say "Aw."

Henry doesn’t like Chiodos at all. I mean, he wasn’t glaring at them and flashing Crip signs from behind the protective cover of a rack of Ramones t-shirts — he just doesn’t like their music. I thought that maybe after meeting them he would change his mind. Maybe their boyish charm and ruffled hair would inspire him to give their music another change.

"Do you like them now?" I asked, once we left the record store. (I’m kind of like the Verizon Wireless Guy — I re-ask him with every disc rotation.)

"No! They didn’t do anything but stand there." His standards are too high.

Thank you Chooch, for revitalizing some of my maternal courage and giving me another reason to add to the "no" column of "Was Having a Kid a Mistake?"

Then we went back to the hotel where Henry started snoring and I made him sleep in the car.

Sorry for getting all serious. I promise to resume my regular asshole-y writing style in time for the next entry.

Feb 192008
 

Sunday night, I had this strong desire to read a book. This presented an unfortunate situation, because I didn’t have any unread books here to choose from. The used stores were closed by then, and I didn’t feel like going to some gigantic book Babylon like Borders or Barnes and Noble because I wanted to get in and out and the choices there are entirely too overwhelming.

So I sucked it up and went to Wal-Mart. I know, I know. I hate Wal-Mart. It’s dirty there and bleak and makes me feel like I’m stuck in a state-run institution and I want out out out. But I figured the limited selection would enable me to grab something quickly and bolt.Convenience – that’s how they get you.

Since Henry was with me, we had to stagger down the completely boring computer aisle and then we had to look at lamps and then Chooch saw a large display for Cars magnets so I had to toss Lightning McQueen, Mater and Sally into the cart. You can imagine how disgusted I was since we were supposed to be there for me, to have my needs met. I could have gone off to peruse the books while Henry browsed what’s probably considered fine merchandise by people of his own social tier, but anytime I stray from him, he inaccurately gauges the amount of time I need before meeting up with me, and so I finish up in my aisle while he’s still off looking at butt paste and American flags. Then I go off in a panic-stricken search for him and my palms sweat and I whimper and I wind up tangled in racks of scarves and headbands and Looney Toons-emblazoned oversized sweatshirts and it’s just never a good scene.

Henry was having a troublesome time pushing the cart. "It must be one of the exercise carts," he grunted as he gave it another sharp shove.

"They have those?" I exclaimed.

"Um, no. It was a joke. Re-re." Here I thought Wal-Mart might be getting fun.

Henry stalled the cart in front of a row of magazines and I wandered off to the whole four columns of books. I peeked around the corner, expecting the row of books to continue on the other side, but instead came nose-to-nose with a blinding green St. Patrick’s Day headdress.

I skipped over the romance section and kids section and self-help section and Oprah section and was essentially down to one rack boasting a meager selection of current fiction. Now, aside from Harry Potter, I really haven’t had the chance to read in a very long while. I think the last new book I read was The DaVinci Code, and that was when it very first came out, before all the hype. So that was a long time ago.I used to read all the time when I worked at the meat place, but they were mainly James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell-type thrillers, nothing that really stuck with me so I don’t count those.

I tentatively tucked two books under my arm and held another in my hand, debating which to get. Some of the books I had actually heard of but wasn’t sure if I’d like them based on the cover art, because I’m shallow and I judge books by covers, evidently.

Just as I was about to put two books back and grab The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, a middle-aged woman with black hair and thick-framed glasses shoved her way next to me. Her body touched mine at one point, that’s how close she was standing. I withdrew, but then she spoke.

"This is a great book," she said as her arm jutted out and her finger jabbed the cover of Best Friends. The suddenness of her movement set me off balance and I took a step to the side. "I read it, then read it again immediately. It was great, couldn’t put it down." She slapped it into my hand, which was limply sticking out in front of me.

"Oh," I said with buzzing nerves. "Thanks." I’m always confused when strangers spontaneously speak to me.I learned all about people like her when I was in pre-school. She’s the kind of person who sticks razors in apples and drives rusted vans with tinted windows and has a doll collection that inhabits an entire bedroom in her old dilapidated farmhouse  and their eyes follow you around the room during the day and at night they come alive and fuck you with their porcelain hands. 

"This is great, too," she said. Her voice was full of self-assurance and confidence, as though she was recommending books to her sister or baby’s mama. She continued poking at books on the shelf, telling me what she thought of them, like we were having our own private book club meeting, while I casually skimmed the back of the first book she dumped into my arms. I’m thinking that if I wanted these kinds of suggestions, I’d just ask Eleanore for some good reads. Or Tina, though she strikes me as the type that enjoys Tim O’Brien war novels.

"Let me see what you got there," and I fearfully held out one of my original picks. "Oh, I haven’t read any of his books, but I hear he’s wonderful," she said of Nicholas Sparks. Then she titled her head back and pulled down A Thousand Splendid Suns.

"Have you read this?" I shook my head to the side. "All of my friends loved it. Me? Couldn’t get into it." She slammed it down and bent at the waist to look at the next row. I took that as my cue to leave. And I did, hurriedly, just turned and ran before she could talk again. And I was sure she wasn’t through talking to me. What was the protocol? Should I have said goodbye? Thanks? I didn’t really fucking care; I just wanted to go home before she made our bodies touch again.

At the self-checkout, I decided that the book she handed me looked really gay, so a Wal-Mart employee had to come over and help me since I already rang it up. Then I got home and realized that Nicholas Sparks is that asshole who writes all those sappy love stories like The Notebook. The one I bought is Dear John and I’m nearly done with it and it hasn’t done a damn thing for me. It reminds me of the stupid books my aunt Sharon used to read on the plane every time we’d vacation  together. She’d sit there and cry dramatically and clutch my arm and read passages out loud and I’d tell her to shut up and take a nap.

So please tell me what books you like. I really don’t know much about what’s "good" and "essential" these days — I’ve always been more into music. I’ve been having a hard time going to sleep when I come home from work and I’d rather fill that time with books and not TV. (I’m sure the fact that I chug coffee up until 11:30pm has nothing to do with my inability to sleep.) Tell me what to read; I trust you guys. No romance or science fiction, though. I really like horror and memoirs, and anything that’s unforgettable. Whatever that means.

Feb 142008
 

Happy Valentine’s Day! So far, Henry hasn’t made me want to kill myself. I finally got to present him with the Vietnam Veteran belt buckle I bought him from etsy. It’s flooding with gold-plated hokeyness. When it fell out of the bag and into his palms, he kind of stared at it with that amazing brand of disbelief that you hope every gift recipient is addled with, and then he looked at me, his mustache creeping into a confused smile, and he said, "But I wasn’t in Vietnam….?"

"But you were in THE SERVICE! Same thing." I was still standing there, waiting for him to attach it to his belt.

"No, if this said Air Force, that would make sense. Then it would be the Service…" He flipped it over to look at the lavishly coated back.

"Well, just wear it. No one will know you’re not a Vietnam Vet." I was getting annoyed, and I really wanted MY present.

"Yes they will! I’m like, twenty years too young!" And then I couldn’t stop laughing, imagining Henry being "too young" for something.

"Like I said," I repeated, "no one will notice!"

And then he realized he doesn’t have the right kind of belt for a buckle, but I think he was trying to just get out of wearing it. I knew I should have bought the rainbow one that had "JESUS" emblazoned on it.

Then UPS hurled my present against the front door. Henry, further enabling my wanton lust for living in the past, gifted me with a bottle of Versace Red Jeans, one of my favorite scents as a young slut. The gift box was adorned with an elastic red ribbon, which is now being worn as a headband, so I’m pretty content right now.

And we’re going to Columbus next weekend! This sure beats the time he bought me a Fossil watch for Valentine’s Day, using a gift card my mom got me for Christmas.

Jan 282008
 

“It’s just a little farther, I promise.” My neighbor Christina wears stained clothes and her ratty blond hair hangs in tangled clumps, like twisted tassels sprouting from her scalp. One limp arm swings back, revealing a cigarette clamped between two fingers.

My neighbor Christina is ten years old. I don’t know why I agreed to follow her, but I guess on that spring day, I didn’t have much else going on. Christina’s mother had a protruding jaw line and once enjoyed a wine cooler that she purchased from me with a handful of pennies and nickels. I told her to just take it, she was embarrassing herself. She only knew her daughter’s whereabouts when there were no soap operas to watch and no crack to smoke. That’s being generous, too.

Behind a row of townhouses in the complex we live in, there is a large field. On the right side of it sits the back of the office. That’s where the mailboxes are. None of this seems worthy of being dragged away from the Game Show Network. This was 1998, the year of digital cable.

I look around. I see trees. I see the apartment manager through her office window. I see a guy kicking a soccer ball on the field.

“What am I looking at?” I impatiently ask Christina, as she summons the boy on the field with one hand. He has red hair. He’s wearing Umbros and a hoodie. He’s running up the small crest to the edge of the parking lot where we’re waiting.

“This is the girl I was telling you about, Chad!” Christina proudly announces. I quickly understand where this is going.

He says he’s seen me around. I say I’ve never seen him once. He says he’s just graduated from Penn State and is living here in a furnished town home. “It’s one of the perks of the job I just got,” he explains.

I tell him I’m eighteen and a telemarketer. I tell him I live in a town home furnished by my mother. “Because I’m spoiled,” I explain. We laugh.

He asks me for my number. I tell him I don’t usually like red heads. But I give him my number. He calls me the next day and invites me over for dinner. I say yes, then feel overwhelmed by guilt.

I call my boss at Olan Mills. Gladys. She doubles as the mother hen of us telemarketers.

“It’s not cheating when your boyfriend is a crazy ass who treats you like crap,” Gladys yells into the phone. Someone takes the phone from her and shouts, “Go have dinner with him!”

No one likes my boyfriend Mike. I don’t like my boyfriend Mike. He leaves a very lasting first impression, like the taste that infiltrates your senses when your tongue accidentally drops down during a cavity fill. That bitter, tangy nightmare that makes your uvula curl up into itself and your eyes water. No one knows Chad yet but he’s got a flag-waving, confetti-sprinkling, horn-honking congregation in his corner. And he doesn’t even know it.

I’m not especially dressed up when I cross the parking lot that night. I’m not especially impressed by his corporate-furnished living space; it looks like remnants from the set of Golden Girls; vaguely comforting except for the fact that I don’t know the guy sitting across from me on a couch printed with giant pink water lilies. I’m not even especially impressed by the pasta with the watery sauce that makes a quiet squirt when he drops a heap of it in front of me, or the obligatory salad that accompanies it.

The conversation must not have been very savory either, over top plates of sub-par spaghetti, because all I remember is that he went to school for architecture. He tells me he sees me getting my mail every day and I guess this is  my cue to bat my lashes and blush because, d’awwww — that boy has been paying me some attention, ya’ll. But I just kind of snort instead. His corporate-supplied dining room table is a plain wooden square with matching chairs. The backs of the chairs are made from that annoying basket-like netting, the stuff that’s so thin and flimsy, like those stupid slats of holy willow the churches give out like candy on Palm Sunday, that any regular person could probably punch their fist through it, the stuff that snags your good sweaters and you keep saying you’re going to get new chairs but you end up getting new sweaters instead.

I’m bored by him but not so much that I’d decline his offer of an after-dinner joint. We sit on the Blanche Deveroux-style couch, boxy and stiff, passing a joint between us. “Can I see your iguana?” he asks breathlessly. My marginal buzz convinces me he said “vagina,” and I can’t stop laughing.

My townhouse is full of cushiony furniture, a blue couch with bright pillows and a dining room table with loudly vibrant vinyl diner-style chairs. I’ve not once sat at that table and ate. My townhouse has fluorescent Slinkies dripping off the ceiling. They glow in the dark. My townhouse would make his Golden Girls cower and shade their eyes. I lead him up to the bedroom of my townhouse, a Crayola box regurgitated by Sid and Marty Kroft.

Templeton, my choleric iguana, looks irritable in his tank. “He doesn’t do much,” I say as we sit on the edge of my bed and watch. My bed is made with cherry-hued jersey sheets. I can remember that, but not Chad’s last name. The only thing I remember about Chad is the red hair and phony toothpaste commercial smile.

Chad asks if I want a massage. I say no, but he still tries kneading me between the shoulder blades with his knuckles.

I shrug him off.

Chad asks if he can kiss me. I say no, I think he should leave.

So he leaves and I contently spend the rest of the night watching sitcoms.

With only a parking lot separating us, Chad and I have a few inevitable run-ins. We’re polite. Sometimes we nod to each other from afar and then walk in opposite directions. Eventually, we just never see each other again.

I don’t mind red hair on boys anymore, but I’m not sure that Chad should get credit for that.