with my mind on random thought parade, I remembered this episode while sewing one morning, it's totally unrelated to anything I was doing at the time and I haven't thought of this in years
this is a memory that I've been meaning to right down before I completely forget all the details.
this is from when I babysat backstage for friends who were involved with the Organic theater company in Chicago. this would be around 1972-4
"I'll drive her home" Tom said with a smile. He had a warm engaging face, merry brown eyes, a small bulb of a nose, full lips and a bristle mustache.
His hair was still wet from a recent shower and was slicked back close to his head but would eventually escape into the wild mess that he could never quite control unless he cut it close or held it tight to his skull in a pony tail.
I picked up my bag and Tom put his arm around my shoulder to steer me towards the back of the theater. "the play is going well." said making nervous small talk. everything about Tom was loud from expansive hand gestures to his booming tenor.
"the applause were loud tonight and there were 2 curtain calls." he smiled down at me"yes, we did good" letting out a lusty sigh of pleasure, practically glowing from the high of a good performance.
we left the backstage through the heavy fire doors and crunched through the gravel of the parking lot to his "new" car. a era jeep still painted in army green camouflage, the gas can strapped to the back with webbing and no top.
"Isn't she a beauty?" he demanded throwing his arm wide to embrace the freedom of his new toy. "yeah, It's great" I said with all the skepticism of an 11 year old girl. I looked at him sideways wondering if he was seriously going to drive me home in this deathtrap.
"get in, get in!" he said taking my shoulders and giving me an encouraging shove towards the side of the vehicle. Tom swung himself gracefully up and over the door into the drivers seat saying, "the doors are welded shut so you're going to have to climb over." Great, I thought to myself, dumping my bag into the backseat and hoisting myself over the door frame, to land heavily into the cracked leather of the unpaded seat.
"Showtime!" he chortled, as he shoved the key into the ignition. as he turned the key, the jeep growled into surly life "Isn't she great?" he said again, with even more enthusiasm if that was possible. as I looked at him, with eyebrows raised and a smile plastered on my face, I couldn't help thinking to myself, OK, he's lost it.
I had to grab onto the door as he flung the jeep into reverse and backed out of the parking lot spraying gravel in the process. Jamming it into first gear with a crunch and clank of old gears he popped the clutch and the jeep zoomed forward, bouncing down the alley towards Clark street.
He started telling me the history of the jeep, pitching his voice so it could be heard over the roar of the engine, Tom yelled "these things were made to last." and mores the pity, I thought to myself, getting a tighter hold on the door frame and frantically reaching for the handle, conveniently placed on the dash in front of me.
As we bounced high over, yet another, pothole in the street, I glanced over my left arm to make sure Tom was still driving and that I wasn't about to be launched into a parked car or random tree. He was still in his seat, hunched forward over the stearing wheel, eyes alight with manic glee, teeth barred and a shit-eating grin on his face. I was terrified and this gave me no hope for my immediate future. Not to mention the random tree, I was still convinced, we were going to hit at any moment.
by the time we pulled up to my front door, his hair had dried, in the wind of our passing, to a dark brown halo that reached out into every corner of the night sky. "Here you go!" he declared heartily, slapping the side of the jeep with his hand, making a hollow thunking noise, "safe and sound!" With a pulse to rival any heart attack victim I thought. climbing unsteadily over the side of the vehicle I took in a deep inhalation of crisp night air, I hadn't realized until then, I had been holding since the start of the ride.
Reaching for my bag I thanked Tom for the ride home. "Any time, any time!" he was clearly pleased with himself for the good deed performed on my behlf, I was just glad to be home in one piece.
As I watched him drive off into the bright Chicago night, I sat down on the curb to let my wobbly nerves and shaky knees calm down a bit before climbing the stairs and falling into bed.
I didn't figure out until much later that no roller coaster, fast car, or thrill ride could ever come close to the excitement of riding home in Toms Jeep.