I regret to inform the South Coast Water District that I was unable to attend the Sewer Tunnel Renovation Tour held this past Dec. 3. I very much wanted to learn more about the improvements, but my own personal history kept me from accepting your kind invitation. I believe a short explanation of my absence is called for. I grew up in Pittsburgh, Penn., an area widely known for coal mining. Many high school friends worked in the mines during summer breaks. Because the work was dangerous, their pay was high. All my mineworker buddies drove the newest and fastest muscle cars, whereas, I, who am afraid of the dark, drove an AMC Gremlin. The Gremlin looked like a high top sneaker and was priced about the same as a Kobe Bryant basketball shoe. The shoe is bigger and girls love them. The Gremlin was smaller and girls hated them. Well, nearly everybody, except the coal miner’s daughter, who I dated.
It was sophomore year and I was head over wheels for the coal miner daughter’s 442 Oldsmobile. That was the king of muscle cars. For you two non motor-head readers out there, 442 stands for four-barrel carburetor, four-speed Hearst shifter, and a dual exhaust system. This car was Kobe Bryant cool, whereas, the coal miner daughter’s attraction to me showed that there’s no accounting for taste. Regardless, ours was a fatal attraction. I liked her car and she seemed to like Gremlin drivers. It was a match made in heavenly Detroit. Unfortunately, the attraction was not meant to last and our mutual admiration society went bankrupt many years before Detroit did and had to sell its art.
I fared better. I lost her cool car, but kept my handprint ashtrays, finger paintings, and stick figure portraits.
We broke up over a dare. She dared me to go down in her Dad’s mine. She tried coaxing me into it by comparing the mine to the ‘Tunnel of Love’ amusement ride at Pittsburgh’s Kennywood Park. The ‘Tunnel of Love’ required participants to sit in little gondolas (Italian word for Gremlin boats.) Her suggestion was not inspiring to me because several years before, I attempted my first kiss in the ‘Tunnel of Love.’ I was very anxious to get the kiss done. I made my move in the first few seconds of the five-minute ride. The tunnel was pitch black and the water stunk like the inside of an old milk carton. The Gremlin boat pitched crazily from side to side. We kissed. She threw up. I went over the side. The next boat picked me up and ruined their kiss. When I got to the end of the ride, I was informed that my date was taken to the first aid station where she was going to call her parents for a ride home. She would call me later. I’m still waiting for her call.
I chickened out on the coal miner daughter’s dare. I broke up with her car. I couldn’t muster the courage to reenact my greatest humiliation.
I hope that the South Coast Water District will understand the circumstances beyond my control and accept my regrets for not attending the free tunnel tour. However, please know that I’m dealing with my past difficulties by visiting a beautifully restored 1966 GTO at Laguna Classic Cars out on Laguna Canyon Road.
Mark is a transplant to Laguna from Chicago. He occasionally writes the guest column “Pet Peeves.” His recently deceased border collie, Pokey, is his muse and ghostwriter.