It was about August 9, 1981, and I was visiting the Baha’i House of Worship which was something I did a lot when I ran into my friend Charles Young. He invited me down to his neighborhood the following Sunday to meet at the South Shore Country Club to see Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. This sounded great to me as the Count Basie Orchestra is my all time favorite musical group and Dizzy Gillespie is the Father of Be-Bop and is also a fellow Baha’i. The South Shore Country Club is a big place but Charles told me that to find the other Baha’is all I will have to do it look for the balloons.
The next week went well and that Sunday I had the bounty to run (jog) my first road race in Des Plaines. But instead of making my first race an easy one, I ended up in a 15K run which equates to around 9 miles. I did train for it as best I could but I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I did finish the race (I don’t remember my finish time but I did finish it) and crawled to breakfast afterwards with some friends who had run the race as well. I got home totally exhausted around 12 noon and decided to take a nap (which tells you how tired I was because I NEVER take naps). I knew the music was starting at 5 so I set my alarm to wake me at 3 so I could get there in-time (as I try hard to fulfill all commitments that I make).
When I got down there I found that 20,000 of our most intimate friends decided to show up for the concert as well so i ended up parking about 8 blocks from Charles’ apartment which was another 4-5 blocks from SSCC. I was still exhausted from my morning jog but I did survive my hike to the concert. Once on the grounds I was able to find the other Baha’is (the balloons made it much easier to find everyone) and I joined the group just before the music started.
I loved the music. It started off with Dizzy and his small group. Everyone there was groov’n to the tunes, dancing, talking, playing with love and fellowship wafting through the air. And after Dizzy finished they brought out the Count Basie Orchestra. Afterwards I felt truly blessed to have been there as it was the last time I got to see The Count before he passed away.
During the music I noticed a woman who was in our group. I had never met her but she truly caught my gaze. If I had not been so exhausted I definitely would have made more of an effort to get to know her but my energy level at that point was that I had to remain conscious so I just admired her from a “foggy” distance and enjoyed the rest of the concert.
After the concert the group of us walked back to Charles’ place for dinner and fellowship. By this time I’m sure I looked like one of the walking dead, going through the motions and incapable of doing much else. Charles at this point took me off to the side and asked me if I could give someone a ride back to Evanston because she as new to the area and had come down on public transportation. I immediately agreed becaue, though it was safe for her to come down to the south-side via public transportation during the day, for a single female it would be a completely different experience at night.
Charles introduced us an turned out to be the woman that had caught my eye during the concert. Her name was Nancy Perkins (I don’t recall if any of these details had penetrated my fatigued brain that night or not) and she was newly arrived from upstate NY. By now I was ready to head home so I left with Nancy to go find my van and then drive back to Evanston.
I don’t know what Nancy thought of me at this time as I was anything but talkative. As I said, by this hour I was using all my energy to stay upright and conscious. Soon we were about a block from my car and in the dark I could see that the hook had been poped. At that point I remember saying my first words to Nancy, “The battery has been stolen”, or something to that effect.
Once we got to the van I lifted the hood and yes, the battery was gone. If I had been there my myself I might have just climed in the van and gone to sleep but with Nancy there, it wasn’t an option. We were a block from the 63rd street business district so we walked down there so we could try to find a gas station or similar store where I might be able to get a replacement battery. It was nice and bright and there were several businesses open but none with auto batteries. We found a pay phone and I called Charles.
For those who are unfamiliar with what a payphone is, back before the cellular revolution there were little sheds that had a telephone mounted in it with coin slots so you can pay to make phone calls.
Charles had everyone leave hs place so he and Lucky Wilder could come and give us assistance. Charles picked us up a we drove around and found a gas station that was open and they did have a battery but things can never be that simple. Though they had a battery they would not take my credit card nor my check and they were closing. We convinced the owner to wait for us while we went to Charles’ business so I could write Charles a check and he could give me cash so we could go back and buy the battery.
Once that was accomplished Charles drove up back to my van so I could install the battery but once again things cannot be that simple. The posts on the battery were reversed from what we needed so I was unable to install the battery. What I was finally able to do was take everything apart so I could get the posts to reach the opposite areas. Once this was done I was able to get the van started so I could drive Nancy back up to Evanston.
Once we were moving I asked Nancy where she was living and she told me the Cornyn’s house (which I was familiar with) so I drove her home and walked in with her to deliver her in person. As it turned out they were very worried because it was 11:30 when I got her home and they were expecting her much earlier than that.
I said good night to everyone and went home to collapse. I did not see Nancy Perkins again for another 2 months when we got to talk to each other for the first time while I was conscious...