Remember when you’re a kid, and there’s always some older guys at your school that you look up to? Not just because you were 2ft nothing. But you know the ones. The embodiment of everything you wanted to be? Purveyors of coolness and suave-erity?* Despite appearances, being fully aware of the amazing mullet, John and Walter, sadly, were not those guys. They were the reason why most fun things are now illegal.
To their credit, as a kid I thought they were both amazing. John wore leather jackets and a pair of jeans that looked like they’d been in a blender. Or maybe it was just from the hordes of women clawing at them. He rode a BMW motorcycle bigger than our toyota wagon, and as far as I was concerned, it must have been specially built for him by the folks in Germany, ’cause up till then all they made was cars. Just like me, Abi had a crush on John for a while too, but over time focussed her guile on his younger siblings. It’s possible she’ll kill me for that last revelation. Such is life on the interwebs. I stayed over at Walter’s place once, since I was cool enough at one point to be friends with his younger brother Frankie, who was in all likelihood the missing member of New Kids on the Block. After watching about 15 horror movies in a row Walter kindly let me know we were sleeping above an Indian burial ground. Awesome. They found me that morning in the bathtub, trying to scoop my brains out of my ear canal with a dessert spoon. Anything to make the voices stop. Those Indians just didn’t understand I had no muskets to trade.
Anyway, while we all idolized John & Walter, they weren’t exactly lifetime members of the brains trust. They did enjoy adventuring however. John had always been good with mechanical stuff. And computer stuff. And musical stuff. I can’t recall if Walter had any skills, apart from the ladies. One fateful day they decided to fix up an old Willy’s Jeep, built just before the American Civil War and driven 1000 miles every single day over landmines since then, and take it out on some of the worst highway in the world. The trip from Cochabamba to Santa Cruz can take anywhere from 13 hours to 49 years depending on mode of transport, and is never a pleasant one unless you’re watching it on HDTV and sitting next to Cameron Diaz. In a pool. Even then: arduous. And the snacks keep floating away. In an old Jeep: the worst. John and Walter thought it’d be fun to attempt the trip in the junky Willy’s. Overnight. With bad headlights. Obviously, such a tale deserves a better hand than mine, so I’ll let John (helpfully in the third person) take it from here, with excerpts presumably from some kind of journal written in haste lest his life expire during the trip:
We were flying down the paved hill doing about 110km/h (jeep’s max on flat was 86km with a tailwind). John was driving, using the bits of dirt left on the sides of curves to do a bit of sliding so as to not bother with brakes. One corner had no cool patch of dirt, which caused us to flip on two wheels as we continued down the hill. John managed to flip the jeep back to four wheels only to flip it over onto the other two. A man down the hill saw us coming and ran way up the mountain. Walter had a radio in his hand and the batteries kept falling on john’s head.
Walter was driving and fell asleep. As the jeep went into the ditch towards the mountain John woke up and yelled at Walter to wake up. As he woke up, he overcompensated. Walter was thrown out of the jeep into a thorn bush, John was thrown off down the road.
John was driving and decided for some fun they would fly through a little patch of mud which turned out to be a huge lake of mire. After flying through that, the brakes wouldn’t work and the jeep slid into the mud shoulder and over the cliff they went…
See, this is the stuff heroes are made of. Broken, Dying People. And it took them 3 goes to get it right. It does raise certain questions in my mind, like; Why did neither of them learn to drive beforehand? Who were they planning to talk to on the radio in the middle of nowhere on the edge of Andes? And why didn’t they stop the Jeep first, before deciding to go to sleep for the night? My favourite part of the limerick is the terminally understated ‘over the cliff they went‘ at the end. They really did go over the cliff, leaving Walter in hospital for what may have been several months, once they got all his organs shipped back. John I recall, escaped with minor tearing to his jeans. The insurance company argued it was a pre-existing condition.
Later in life I spent a lot of time with John and the rest of his family. I have no doubt you’ll hear about it here, like a 3 day hike through the wilderness with his brothers. We used to play extreme spoons, which was like a normal game of spoons, except all the spoons were in Beirut. No! They were just on the other side of the house, but it still felt on a war zone once someone slapped those winning cards down. After years of making Audio Adrenaline video clips in Macromedia Director on his mac, John is now in a band called Entregados which you can check out here. I have no idea what Walter is up to these days. Let’s go ahead and assume neither of them drive Willy’s Jeeps anymore.
*Totally made-up word.