For the past couple of years or so, I have been making an effort to explore new-to-me parts of the greater Chicago area. By “greater Chicago”, I suppose I mostly mean areas within city limits and also the northern suburbs of Evanston and Skokie, which are also easily accessible by public transportation from my north side neighborhood of Edgewater. On one Sunday afternoon about a year and a half ago, my companion and I decided to head up to the college town of Evanston just for a change of environment.
After wolfing some truly delicious, freshly baked cookies from local, favorite insitution Bennison’s Bakery (with the burgundy awning, on the right in the background of the above shot), I happened upon this 4Runner. After a bit of research, I was able to narrow down the model year to either 1990 (the first model year in the U.S. for the four-door 4Runner) or ’91, based on its front grille.
At first, I thought the “graphics” on the side of this vehicle were a gloriously homemade, abstract expression of fire. Some of my favorite vehicle sightings have been in college towns, where a limited budget often leads students to express themselves very creatively on a dime. In terms of collegiate eclecticism, I imagine Evanston is something like “Eugene-lite”.
I can remember being a college student and perpetually broke, but for my bi-weekly selling of my immune system at the local plasma center, after which my supplemental income came from a part-time job at the local golf course. I tended greens, tees and approaches in early morning before heading to class smelling like (actual) grass, even after showering. (Call me crazy, but I have actually had a jones for house-brand TV dinners and ramen noodles, lately, just to remember what it was like to be that age again.)
On closer inspection of this Toyota, though, it appeared that the duct tape used as a makeshift mask to hide and cover what I had presumed to be rust had perhaps been all the same color red when it had originally been used to bandage this vehicle’s open wounds. What an artful job was done, here. Remember in elementary school, when you were first learning to master the use of crayons, and your teacher recommended that you “color in the same direction” instead of scribbling? Someone did something approximating that here, as the duct tape has been applied with near-parallel perfection across the entire passenger’s side, cut into neat, little strips that sort of resemble Tetris blocks. Maybe this project had been an afternoon activity for a group of friends among which this 4Runner was owned by the primary giver of transportation.
Those tires, though. Oh, my gosh. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near this thing on fast-track North Sheridan Road or Broadway, let alone Lake Shore Drive, when one of those threadbare tires blows. The apparent care that had gone into the concept and execution of patching up the rusty sheetmetal seemed at odds with this Toyota’s then-current condition and disintegrating rubber on each of the four rims. Hopefully, the owner / driver had the tires attended to before deciding on fresh, red Band-Aids for the exterior. As far as the fading of the tape on the outside, I think I actually prefer how it looks just like this over what it probably looked like when the tape was first applied. This 4Runner definitely has / had just a little cinnamon-flavored fire. Let’s hope it hasn’t later ended up like an Atomic Fireball on wheels.
(Chicago suburb) Evanston, Illinois
Sunday, March 12, 2017.