Saturday, March 4, 2017

Such an Appetite for Life


This was Tom's California coup, a postal jeep converted to hot rod by a real California Gear Head. It had a 327 Chevy Engine, Corvette distributor, Engle racing Cams, TRW pistons and rings, Offenhauser head, 350 Chevy Turbo distributor, Eagle Headers, and Oversize Dune buggy Tires. Listen to that throaty engine rumble. Driving the jeep was definitely a great California experience.

Excerpt from FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY HAIR

Athens, Greece: our dream come true trip. I was eagerly waiting for Tom to arrive from New York, so we could catch a shuttle flight back to Crete, where I’d spent two weeks shooting photos for a German fashion catalogue. But the domestic part of the airport was more like an open-air bazaar than an airport lounge. I was surrounded by Greek men who were deeply tanned, outdoor-hardened, and wearing homespun shirts, huge boots with thick wooden soles, and those familiar Greek fishermen’s caps above their stubbly faces. Their carry-on luggage consisted of string wrapped boxes and live chickens in cages. Back in the 1970’s, Crete was still very primitive and undeveloped. At last, Tom sauntered out of customs, wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt, unbuttoned halfway down his chest, and big smile. He was always like that, living life to the fullest, as if the world was his oyster. And I loved him for it. I was the worrywart type.

He grabbed me in his arms and planted a long, passionate, hello kiss on my lips. Then, with an amused glance at the rough-hewn Greeks and their chickens, in his best Dimitri Tiomkin imitation, he said, “We take the men and the guns, and we go to the mountains.” I laughed, because that really was what Crete was like. When the mountain men tried to be waiters and serve our crew of photographers and models, they stared us down, daring us to give them our order. We all just kept our heads down and ate whatever they brought.

When we landed on Crete, I told Tom that I’d had to rent an expensive sedan to drive around the island, because the only other vehicles were small, Japanese jeeps. “A jeep?” he exclaimed, his interest piqued, and I knew I was in trouble. But he was right. That little tin can jeep shivered and shook its way up and down the mountains of Crete with nothing over our heads but the Mediterranean blue sky. We basked in the glory of Ancient Greece as we bounced among the sunbaked ruins of a mythical civilization long gone.

Between the grilled octopus and the ouzo, we snaked our way up to the remains of temples that had been ancient when Christ literally was a corporal; all the while, Tom was doing comedy riffs in his sandal saga, dubbed movie voice, keeping me in stiches. “Let him haul stone in Lato! Maybe that will loosen his tongue.” Yes, he was an actor, a born ham.

Careening up and down dusty roads through the sparsely settled mountains, we stumbled into a small, rustic village and got out to stretch our legs. A weathered bandit of a fellow, with a rooster wandering by his table, offered Tom some homemade raki, exactly the alcoholic concoction our hotel keeper had sternly warned us against. Ever the bold rascal, Tom eagerly sat down to sip the nectar of the gods and filled my glass, too. That home brew raki was potent, alright. We sat at that table for a long time with our Greek friend, solving all the world’s problems until the raki ran out. Tom felt right at home on wild, untamed Crete.

Really, he was such a fun person to be around and had such an appetite for life, that you could forgive him everything. And I have, I guess. However, I think, when he got to the other side, it turned out that he was the one who couldn’t forgive himself for what he’d done to his life, to me, and to our marriage.

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