A Leisure Suit Christmas, Part Two
In last week’s blog, I started to tell you about the Christmas of the flying leisure suit. It was the mid ‘70’s, which is the only excuse this side of Mamma Mia for a leisure suit.
Five of us -- Howard and his boyfriend Stuart, me, and our friends Kyle and Nan -- had Amtraked from Manhattan to Baltimore on Christmas day to spend the holiday in the Ashman ancestral hometown. Coming off of the train, Stuart , the newly-minted owner of a green leisure suit given to him by Howard on Christmas Eve, realized that he had left a package on the train whose doors were, at that very moment, closing.
“Oh shit.” Stuart turned and ran back onto the train as we all yelled for the conductor to wait.
The doors closed.
We waited for them to open.
They didn’t open.
The train began its slow departure from the station.
And the doors still didn’t open.
“He’s going to Washington,” Howard yelled. “Jesus Christ, I can’t believe it. We’ll have to go pick him up in …”
And then, in true Christmas miracle fashion, the doors to the train finally opened.
But the train itself kept moving.
We watched, frozen, as a long, green clad leg peeked out of the door followed by an arm. Half of the train cars were out of the station. The green leg and arm still struggled with the door.
And then we saw Stuart. Flying out of the door in a stunning jete, arms outstretched for balance, Macy’s shopping bag in hand. He hit the concrete platform and did a shoulder roll befitting at least a bronze-medaled Olympian, before stopping at the far edge of the platform.
He lay unmoving as we ran to him, undecided whether to call for an ambulance or a hearse.
“Damn it,” he looked up at us and struggled to his knees, “I think I ripped my pants.” He was right. There was a ragged tear in the knee of his right pants leg and we could see bloody scratches through the hole in the pants. We got him onto his feet, bruised, battered and limping, but not at all bad, all things considered..
The stationmaster came running, “Those doors aren’t supposed to open,” he said. “It’s a safety feature.”
“Not safe enough,” Howard answered.
Back in New York, a guy from Amtrak visited Howard and Stuart’s tiny apartment wearing a dark suit and carrying a brown briefcase. When he left Stuart had a check in his hand, enough to pay for at least six months rent on the apartment.
It was a heady time of life for the five of us on that train platform. There was so much up in the air – way more than Stuart in his leisure suit. Howard was about to leave his job, gambling that he would be able to earn enough freelance money to pay the rent while he, Stuart and Kyle launched the WPA Theater. Howard and Stuart, who were a bickering couple but a couple that I thought were as solid together as my own parents were well into ending their 10-year relationship.
We were all just plain young and more interested in looking forward than looking backwards.
I’m not entirely sure why I treasure this story or why I felt like sharing it with you, except that it’s Christmas and memories spring up.
Mostly, I guess, I told this story because it’s December and that means it’s the time of year we all look back at ourselves – who we are now and we are were then.