How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story

cheetos

This post has nothing to with the band Korn, finding God, or kicking drugs. Well, sort of. There’s an actual book with that title by the member of the band Korn, but I’ve never read it, nor do I know anything about Korn, except that I used to work in a record store, and all the kids who bought their records were terrifying socially awkward a little raw around the edges. There. That’s a good way of putting it.

I’m getting ready to have this kid in four months. That’s weird. I keep picturing him at different stages of life — as a newborn infant (HOLY SHIT WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS) or as a teenager talking back at me (HOLY SHIT WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS.) I’m picturing this while I’m eating Flaming Hot Cheetos out of the bag, in the middle of the hallway, considering it part of a balanced lunch.

Surely an adult would not be eating these — or would at least choose the more conservative regular Cheetos that aren’t the color of cartoon acid. At the very least they’d politely pour a serving size out onto a napkin first. And consider it more a snack than actual lunch. Nope, there I am, chewing open-mouthed and mindlessly, over the bag, in the hallway, not quite even dressed for the day, realizing no child is ever going to take me seriously as some sort of authority figure.

Some things I can picture easier—like playing with a five-year-old, sprawled out on the floor with Legos or action figures. That, I can handle. But then I also picture him doing sweet jumps off the deck with a trash bag tied around his neck as a parachute, just like I used to do. I wonder where the line is between letting him be a child and letting him paralyze himself from the waist down. I wonder how quickly he’ll cross that line, or I’ll cross that line. I guess we’ll meet in the middle, that place of childhood disappointment, parental anxiety, and bribes of ice cream instead.

But this post isn’t about me going on and on about the pending doom most fulfilling event in my life. I’ve been thinking about a lot of things during my Serious Reflections on Life Cheetos Binges (TM). Childhood happens just once. Being a teenager is once. But then we spend the rest of our lives in this thing of being an adult.

Yet being an adult is never just one thing, this one frame of life. You end up being many adults, as you evolve and learn over the years, as you bump into people you’ll know forever and others you’ll never know again, as you whittle away at time in various ways, until you make a nook where you decide to stay awhile.

I have been many adults. For a few years I worked at a sporting goods store. I was twenty-one, in college, glorious in my laziness and boredom and disdain for everything—particularly the rich, yuppie soccer moms who insisted on only the most high-end of shin guards for their blonde-haired, sun-kissed spawn. They were not me. I was not them. I was a rebel, a chain-smoker, a poet, a dreamer.

I was an asshole.

I’ve often said that sometime I’m going to write about all my experiences at the sporting goods store. But the stories always end up feeling too slight, too thin, and not really that interesting. Except for maybe the story about the Ab Energizer.

Ah yes, the Ab Energizer. It was one of those infomercial exercise gadgets—part abdominal workout, part Medieval torture-device—promising that you could get the tight abs you’d been dreaming about without breaking a sweat and with only the touch of a button.

The Ab Energizer was an electronic ab belt that you strapped around your stomach, placing electrodes on the target muscles. The electrodes then delivered electric impulses to the muscles, forcing the muscles to involuntarily contract and relax. Basically, it delivered hundreds of tiny jolts of electricity to your gut. So basically, it electrocuted you into shape. Or something.

I used to ring up customers on the register, next to the Ab Energizer display, listening to the infomercial play in loops on the television, featuring Kita Pelly, “nationally recognized fitness expert.” Recognize that name? Nope? Exactly. The Ab Energizer was sketchy as fuck. So naturally, we sold hundreds of them a day.

That’s it though. That’s the whole story. Oh yeah, there’s the salacious part of the story with the lawsuits, third-degree burns, and cancerous lesions, but in retail land, that just meant that eventually I set up the display area with the Ab Swing instead and then went outside for a cigarette break afterwards.

Another story I’m going to write sometime is the one where I got addicted to drugs. See, but the story stops being good right there, because the drugs were just those alternative medicines like Bee Wax pills and Echinacea. And I wasn’t really addicted. I’m just being dramatic theatrical. I’d gotten dumped by an ex, which was like getting dumped into a lifeboat in the middle of an ocean. I remember that’s how life felt. Like floating.

There was a massive Christian bookstore/emporium down the street from my office job, where I’d sometimes end up wandering around on the my lunchbreak. More than just books and tacky Jesus trinkets, the store was also an apothecary of alternative medicine and herbal remedies. There were remedies for every ailment—things you didn’t even know you had, like an alkalinity imbalance or other things I became certain I had, although it was really just severe depression.

For a while, I had a little regimen of random pills and powders and flax seeds I took. Acai pills for allergies. Chokeberry for all the free radicals—whatever those were, but I was sure I was bogged down with them. Royal Jelly for insomnia. Ginseng for high blood pressure. I probably had it. After all, I felt like I was dying all the time. The more I spent on feeling better, the more sick and unhealthy I began to feel all the time.

One day I realized I had no idea what the hell a Chokeberry was, and realized I was completely insane. After that, I got clean, quit Korn, and so on. I quit smoking cigarettes and started exercising. But that’s a pretty boring end to the story.

Here’s a weird story. For a brief, very strange few months of my life, I worked at Yankee Candle as a second job to help pay a few bills. Yankee Candle is America’s best loved candle. Or perhaps you just know them as that store in the mall that sells those garish candles in jars. Ahem. That jar is called the Housewarmer. Do not refer to it as a jar. (Page one of the employee training book.)

I’ve never really talked about the time I worked Yankee Candle. Partly because it’s embarrassing that I know more about candles than what is socially-appropriate among my peers. And partly because it was the end of a certain stage in my life, the one right before I grow up, get married, buy a house, and have kids. It’s so strange to talk about a past self, a temporary self.

Then again, the main reason I never talk about it is because nothing exciting ever happened.

Retail stories are war stories. They’re about the comradery with your co-workers, a unique little band of people whom you’re in the trenches with every day. War is hell, and so is customer service. But at Yankee Candle, the customers are middle-aged women who have dumped their husbands off on the bench outside and are shopping for expendable luxury items for themselves. At that moment, they are the happiest, most pleasant people on earth.

At Yankee Candle, the war was entirely mental. Besides customer service, the main job description was making sure all the candle jars were facing the same direction, each label front and center across the wall, with not a single deviation. For some reason, I enjoyed this immensely.

It was around this time that Bath & Body Works, a little ways across the mall, began selling their own competing line of White Barn candles. Let me tell you, that shit was like a gang war, east coast vs. west coast. Okay, I’m lying. It was nothing like that. The manager of my store, a slight woman with mousy gray hair and a penchant for turtleneck sweaters, raised an eyebrow and dryly said she “never even cared for the smells of their soaps that much.”

Okay, here’s a good story. Once, I was reaching for a candle—like Citrus Tango or some shit—and I dropped it. Glass shattered and somehow a large chunk of glass lodged into the middle of my finger, splitting it wide open, leaving a bloody mess and permanent scar.

I have a scar from Yankee Candle, of all places. And that about sums how exciting my life has been. Upon that realization, that’s when I pull out of my Serious Reflections on Life Cheetos Binge (TM), only to notice I’ve eaten an embarrassing and shameful amount of the bag.

I can handle this parenting thing. Life lessons always end up being the same, no matter how mundanely you learn them. Always stay away from drugs, son. Remember, there’s no such thing as a one-minute workout. You won’t be able to fly with a trashbag tied to your neck. I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried.

I was pretty cool once, you know. No seriously, I was—even if I have to lie and tell you this scar came from the time a White Barn thug tried to jump me.

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11 responses to “How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story

  1. Can I share my “I have to make up a better story about where my scar came from” story? For a while I worked at a series of zookeeping jobs, and zookeepers like to trade scar stories. I do have one scar from a job at the zoo. Unfortunately, it’s from when I taught a zoo summer camp class and cut myself with scissors while doing a craft project.

    (I did get bit by things, by the way, but none of them ever happened to leave a scar.)

  2. This was a cool read…thanks for sharing.

  3. Someone should pay you for writing these things. Not me, of course. But someone. Because you’re ever so much better than Dave Barry has come to be, even though he was once as good as you are now. But you could take a hint from Dave’s own stint at parenting, way back when he lived in Miami. During the time when real estate used to change hands via briefcases filled to the brim with cash. I was there. It was interesting. The way Dave handled parenting was to set firm boundaries when his son went out to play. “Don’t go past the drug dealers house!”, he’d yell. Yeah. Boundaries are important.

  4. In Japan we have fried chicken flavored Cheetos. They come with a little bag of soy sauce which I guess you’re supposed to dip them in. They do taste like fried chicken, but just the area that’s fried skin and batter that doesn’t have any meat on it. like the bottom half of a drumstick.

  5. WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T FLY WITH A GARBAGE BAG TIED AROUND YOUR NECK? That was my ticket out of here, man…
    Once at my job we had a turf war with a woman selling tomatoes on the street. I swear my boss marked our heirlooms down to 99 cents a pound, which was a loss, but it was okay because that bitch couldn’t sell anything and we won.

  6. I feel like the fact that you’re already thinking about what you’re going to teach your child puts you ahead of most people.

  7. Your posts amazingly appeal to both genders. I’ve noticed that in all the ones I’ve gone back to read randomly. A real talent, you’ve got there. Plus I really like how you Trademarked “Life Cheetos Binges!” lol.
    Stephanie

  8. Duke Blastington

    I’ve been to multiple wars… retail is worse. You guys are the real heroes, lol.

  9. Crazy work injury: cut by bread. Apparently dry skin plus ornery baguette crust equals bandage city. No scar, other than the memory.

  10. a) Eating Flaming Hot Cheetos sounds like my kind of parenting prep; b) my middle school bf told me he liked Korn, but I misunderstood and replied that I preferred popcorn to corn and my coolness factor has really only gone downhill from there; c) retail is the worst.

  11. I worked numerous retail jobs over a twenty-year period and it scarred me for life. Even now if someone speaks to me on the sidewalk, I recoil, thinking, “Ah god, what do YOU want, scumbag? How much of my blood do you have to drink? Get your avaricious soul away from me!”

    Yeah, the therapy isn’t going all that well. (Thanks for asking, though.) Anyway, what I meant to say was: Very good post! Funny stuff.

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