I was walking home on the dark vacant streets of Delaware, Ohio in 1988 when a young shirtless mullet-haired man holding a Budweiser in each hand burst through his screen door. He stood on the porch, motionless, eyeing me like I was a coyote and he had chickens to protect. For a moment I considered holding out my hand to acquaint him with my scent, but I’d been in this situation before and knew the safest choice was to avoid eye contact and show no signs of fear or weakness.
A man with no shirt and a mullet is either off his meds, unable to afford shirts, or drunk and out of trucker speed. Sometimes, he’s all of those things, and in the hillbilly jungle, there’s nothing more dangerous.
He was joined by a smaller man wearing a Rowdy Roddy Piper t-shirt that fit him like a dress. His acid washed jeans were tucked into the tongue of his white leather high tops: The off duty uniform of a Kinko’s employee.
The shirtless man wasn’t appreciating my aloofness. He mistook my carefully calculated effort to avoid confrontation as a passive aggressive challenge. In my peripheral vision, I could see him start to march in place, revving his crazy-engine in preparation to pummel me with redneck rage.
Then he finally spoke.
“HEY GIRL! HEY GIRL!”
I was relieved; there must be a woman nearby I hadn’t seen. Perhaps he knew her and just wanted to chat. I looked around, but there was no one.
I was 6’4′ with short hair, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. There was nothing that could have led him to mistake me for a girl. Yet he had. That’s when his tiny companion became concerned.
“Don’t do it, Shane! Please, Shane, don’t do it.”
And so on…
Was “girl” the new emasculating putdown? Shane didn’t strike me as the type of gentleman who might reside on the bleeding edge of trailer park vernacular; he was more into the old school, fundamental pejoratives of “sissy” and “faggot.” Either Shane thought I was a woman, or he was simply so FUBAR that he “got ‘dem sex names all confused ‘n shit.”
It was evident that Shane also had a pattern of frightening behavior which struck fear even in his loyal little friend. What exactly was he afraid Shane might do? Was there a specific move for which he was famous? Something that might violate his parole and land him on death row?
He jumped off his porch, and began chasing me, yelling, “HEY GIRL” while his pal pleaded with him not to “do it.”
I was running for my life. He was a drunk angry hillbilly, and I was a young, in shape member of the high school soccer team. I feared that might be an even race. I ran off the street and through backyards. I burst through hedges, and ripped my jeans off when they became snagged on the top of a fence.
I was sprinting in my boxer shorts through my neighbors’ yards, and even though the chants of “HEY GIRL” were quickly fading, I couldn’t stop running until I was in my bed, under the covers listening to Lionel Ritchie while clinging to a meat cleaver.
Shortly after it all happened, my band recorded a song about it. That’s me “singing.” Enjoy.