Apr 9

Green Man

Category: nostalgia

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.


15 Comments so far

  1. Lead Balloon April 10th, 2008 2:29 pm

    I would like to be a member of the Erin Rulz 4 Lyfe club.

  2. Tuna Tar-Tart April 10th, 2008 5:08 pm

    Send $5 in an SASE!

  3. Lead Balloon April 10th, 2008 8:39 pm

    Only if you promise to send it back filled with assorted candies.

  4. Bueno Mexicana April 10th, 2008 8:35 pm

    the green man… i’m intrigued now.

    lucia IS pretty awesome.

  5. Tuna Tar-Tart April 10th, 2008 8:37 pm

    we should have a photo shoot with him!

  6. Janna April 11th, 2008 10:24 pm

    I remember driving out to the South Park one with you and others (on one of my birthdays!) to see it. But that might’ve been the only time I’ve been to that one. I have no idea how to get to that Green Man’s Tunnel, even though that one is closer to here than the other tunnel.

  7. Tuna Tar-Tart April 11th, 2008 10:29 pm


    Did we go to see the tunnel, or were we out there to go to a playground and had to go through the tunnel to get there?

    That was a fun day. Except that, you know, Keri was there.

  8. Janna April 11th, 2008 10:35 pm

    Yes! Let’s go! Did we go to the playground? I remember it was a hot day and driving out there, but can’t remember if we stopped at the playground. Good times though!

  9. Tuna Tar-Tart April 11th, 2008 10:39 pm


    But yes, I know how to get there because I’m smartee so we’ll go soon. it would be a good place for a photo shoot.

  10. Sarah April 15th, 2008 6:37 pm

    My god! My mom told us the very same story about the very same tunnel and would drive us there in the summer to scare the crap out of us.

  11. Tuna Tar-Tart April 15th, 2008 7:11 pm

    I’m glad I’m not alone! Parents can be so cruel!

  12. John February 22nd, 2012 9:55 am

    I drive through the tunnel that is right next to this one (the one with the creek on the side) twice a day, every weekday on my way too and from work, I’ve never lost my electricity…but people around here need to understand the way to drive through a one lane-blind corner tunnel… I swear I’ve almost been hit more times than I can count, and you would think people would stop when they see flashing headlights and hear a horn going off repeatedly…but honestly, most of the people are on the phone, with their windows up, and prob listening to porn audiobooks… :)

  13. Tuna Tar-Tart February 22nd, 2012 10:38 am

    I made Henry let me beep the horn when we drove through – I missed doing that!

  14. kara February 22nd, 2012 10:17 am

    We used to go have fires and drink beer out there. Oh memmmmmoooorriiiieeesss!

  15. Tuna Tar-Tart February 22nd, 2012 10:39 am

    It was surprisingly difficult to find a discarded beer bottle for the photo shoot! There was, however, a pregnancy test.

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