Friday, June 5, 2015
I lived in Key West, Florida from April 1975 until October 1982, before the Navy sold Truman Annex and the cruise ships arrived. For most of those years I drove a 1958 Nash Metropolitan just like this one. It was a hardtop with bench seats and the gear stick on the column. It was "Caribbean Green!"
I bought it for $260 from an older woman named Shirley who lived on the Gulf side of Big Pine Key. She purchased it "new" in Miami and drove it into the Keys and it had never been further north than Miami in its life. It had 5,800 miles on it when I bought it and it had been sitting in her garage for a few years. With the help of a friend, we put a new battery in it, and it started right up. The body was made of galvanized steel making it resistant to the rust that permeates vehicles in the subtropics and it was a very sturdy little car! It was an awful lot of fun to drive!
During the years I owned this car I was involved with the local community theatre group at the Waterfront Playhouse. One of the directors, Ruth Newton, brought guest artists into town for one or two shows at the theatre to raise money. One day, she asked me if I could pick up a man at the Key West airport. His name was Kevin McCarthy and he was doing his one man show, "Give 'em hell, Harry." I was to take him to the Pier House so he could check in to his hotel room, then bring him to the theatre.
I also had the privilege of schlepping Academy Award winning actress Estelle Parsons around in 1979 when she came to do her one woman show, "Miss Margarida's Way." My girlfriend and I were her "handlers." They didn't call it that back then, but, that's what we did. We took her shopping, out to eat, drinking, and, I'm telling you, she was a wild woman! She called us on stage during her performances and I do believe Kristy and I held our own during the improvisations! It was a dynamite experience to be that close to that kind of talent and I prayed some of it would rub off on me!
Superman's love interest, Lois Lane, drove a custom Metropolitan on the 1950s TV show, and that did as much to make it famous as any of the television commercials. Mine was the only Metropolitan in the Lower Keys and for those few formative years I was someone special because I drove that car.
I grew up in the Commonwealth of Virginia with a very bossy (some would say overbearing) mother, so driving around a tiny island at the southernmost point in the United States, far away from her, in my little Lois Lane car gave me the freedom to discover myself. I really needed that. I needed to be around other people, especially other women, who lived their lives on their own terms. It showed me the way I wanted to go. And, while it's not an easy path to travel, I think it's much of the reason I've been able to find joy in the face of despair. I had great role models and for that I am eternally grateful.