November 4, 1960
When Brian woke Chuck was already up and wiping his motorcycle with a cloth. He soon folded the cloth and tucked it into the boot. He looked over and saw Brian was awake. “Good morning” he said. “Let’s go find some breakfast.”
Brian got up, picked up his pack and joined Chuck as they went through the door the station owner had shown them. They were behind the station. It was just beginning to get light. Moving to the front they looked around for a diner. The only thing around was a Howard Johnson across the highway. “Shall we try it?” asked Brian. “Sure” said Chuck. They looked down the highway, nothing was coming so they dashed across to the median. When they got there they had to wait because there were some cars coming from the other direction. “Early morning commuters to Worcester” said Chuck.
Finally there was a small break in the traffic and they started running. They didn’t quite make it before two more cars came speeding toward them.
Brian scurried past in front of the oncoming car and made it to the edge of the road. But Chuck was stuck in between the two lanes. Brian looked back horrified. He expected Chuck to be hit by one of those cars. The nearest one sped past blocking Brian’s view for a moment. The second one, with its horn blaring, swerved out of the center lane to avoid hitting Chuck. Chuck gave its driver a salute and strolled casually to the edge to join Brian.
They walked jauntily into the Howard Johnson sat in a booth and enjoyed breakfast. Chuck wasted no time, but began chatting up the waitress right away. She was a feisty young lady but she enjoyed the banter.
When they had finished breakfast they walked outside and saw that the traffic had picked up a bit. Getting back across would be more difficult. They also had another problem. What were they going to do about what was soon to be waiting for them on the other side?
Brian and Chuck came to the edge of the highway and watched a full line of cars come and pass them. The Massachusetts Turnpike was a three lane highway and all the lanes were busy. Finally Chuck saw an opening and dashed out into the road barely making it to the other side amid more honking of horns. Brian waited until he was sure he could get over and when the chance came made a run for it. When he got to the median Chuck said “We’ve got a problem.”
“What is it?” asked Brian.
“Look” said Chuck and pointed toward the gas station. Brian looked down and saw a police car sitting in front of the station.
“What’ll we do?” asked Brian.
“We’ve got to go down there. No choice” Chuck said.
So, since the westbound traffic wasn’t heavy, they soon found a break and ran back to the station. When they got there the police car door opened and Officer Brand got out. “Step over here please” he said.
They walked over to where the officer was standing. Chuck said “Yes, Sir,”
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” asked Brand.
“Well, we were just coming back from breakfast” said Chuck.
“Is that so? It’s against the law in this state for pedestrians to be walking along the highway. That’s a good way to get yourselves in the Worcester morgue. Where did you come from?”
“Where are you going?”
“No, Sir. By motorcycle.”
Brand looked around. “Were is it?”
“In the back.”
“Go get it.”
Chuck went around to the back of the station. Brand looked at Brian. “You got any ID?”
Brian pulled out his wallet and handed it to the Officer. Brand looked at it and said “In what part of the state is Waynesburg?”
“In the northern part. Near the lakes.”
“You’re a long way from there.”
“Yes, Sir” said Brian
“What brings you to Massachusetts?”
“Visiting a friend in Boston.”
Brand handed the ID back to Brian as Chuck arrived with his bike. Brand looked at it and said “That’s a Harley Panhead.”
"Where’d you get that?”
“Bought it from a friend. He went to Europe, didn’t want it anymore.”
“You got a license and registration?”
Chuck went into the boot, took out some papers and handed them to Brand. He looked them over, handed them back to Chuck and said “You takin’ good care of that bike?”
“Yes, Sir. See, I’ve got new handlebars for it. Gonna put them on when I get to Cleveland.”
“Panhead’s a good bike. Treat her well.”
"Yes, Sir, I will.”
“All right. I’m gonna let you get on your way, but no more running across the highway. We don’t wanna be scraping you up.”
“No, Sir, thank you.”
Officer Brand got back into the police car and, after a few moments, pulled out into traffic and drove off.
After the police car was out of sight Chuck said “Let’s wait a while. I don’t want to catch up with him,”
“Right” said Brian and sat on the seat of the motorcycle. He noticed that the seat was comfortable when he didn’t have the handlebars in his lap. “Chuck is there some way we can attach these to my backpack. I’m riding too far back on this seat and it’s killing my ass.”
Chuck opened the boot and took out some leather boot laces. He went behind Brian and tied off the handlebars, threading it through the loops on Brian’s pack. “How’s that?”
“Much better. Now I won’t have to stop so often.”
“Okay. Just make sure it doesn’t slip out.”
Chuck got on, started the bike and off they went.
The day was bright and cool. They made good time: Springfield, Chicopee and on into western Massachusetts. Now they were in agricultural country, New England rock farmers. They were called that because every winter the earth pushed rocks up out of the ground and farmers had to clear them before they could plant. That’s why there are so many stone walls in New England, there isn’t much else you can do with the rocks. Even with the rock challenge it is said that a New England farmer can make a living off of land a Midwestern farmer wouldn’t have in his back yard,
Finally they reached Pittsfield and soon after crossed the border into New York State, a totally different world.
Shortly after they crossed the state lines Chuck pulled off the highway, down a ramp and after about a quarter of a mile pulled into the parking space of a diner called The Empire Seafood Palace. Chuck turned off the motor and said “Let’s have lunch.”
He got off, went inside and Brian followed. They were immediately ushered to a table and given menus. Everything was seafood except the sides of vegetables and the deserts. Brian had a Manhattan Clam Chowder in honor of being in New York, he supposed. He followed that with a Filet of Sole Almandine. Chuck had a Lobster Bisque and Swordfish Steak. The food was delicious.
“What a great place!” said Brian. “Did you know about this place?”
“No” said Chuck.
“How did you know it was here?”
“I don’t know.”
They finished off with coffee, paid the bill and left. Chuck turned back onto The New York State Thruway and headed west.
Northern New York State, or Upstate New York as it was known, was a mixture of various cultures, British, Dutch and Iroquois mainly. There were classical names like Troy, Utica and Syracuse, British names like Albany, Auburn, Liverpool and Rochester, Iroquois names, Oneida, Canandaigua, Mohawk, with some Dutch and French names here and there. And at the end of the line there was Buffalo. Brian wondered, how did a city in the northeast get the name Buffalo? But then there were many mysteries for Brian in the days to come.
Chuck and Brian made good time across New York State. Every time Chuck could he got behind a truck and let the slip stream pull the bike along. Chuck said the truckers hated it because they couldn’t see the motorcycle even though they knew it was there. But he wasn’t being malicious. It just helped and saved on gas.
They arrived at the outer edges of Buffalo by mid afternoon. By the time they got into the center of town it was dark. They reached an intersection and stopped at a red light. Chuck looked straight ahead and in both directions. Then he pulled the bike over to the side as if to park. But instead he waited for the traffic to move after the light changed and when he saw an opening he darted out and to the left of the street, making a sharp turn onto another street. They drove on for about three blocks until they came to a motorcycle shop. Chuck pulled in and came to a stop.
“Did you know this was here”? asked Brian.
“No” said Chuck.
“How did you find it?”
“I don’t know.”
A woman came out of the front door. “Hi, boys” she said. “What can I do for you?”
Chuck explained that they were on the way to Cleveland ad he needed to replace the handlebars and have the bike looked over.
”Well, you’ve come to the right place. Bring it on in here.” She opened a side door and Chuck wheeled it on in. Brian followed. The woman went right to work removing the old handle bars. She was evidently the chief mechanic of the place and she didn’t expect anyone to question that. It wasn’t long before the two of them were in an intense discussion about motorcycles.
There was a brief lull in the discussion while she went into a side room to get something, during which Brian told Chuck that he was going for a walk to check out the town.
“Okay” said Chuck. “I’ll be here.”
Brian left, went down the street and found the busy section of the city. He stopped in for a burger and a beer and then just walked for a while checking out the buildings and shops. He thought about going to see a movie and looked for a movie theatre. But what he found was even more interesting than a movie.
Brian stood in front of the theatre, read the marquee, looked at the photographs, saw that a show was about to begin, went to the box office, bought a ticket and entered. An usher tore his ticket in half and handed him a program. Then Brian took a seat at The Buffalo Burlesque.
This was burlesque on the cusp between the old fashioned variety shows and what would become tawdry stripper acts. There was a pit orchestra warming up and a curtain across the front of the stage. Brian saw from the program that the star attraction was Chili Pepper. He read that she had made a film called B-Girl Rhapsody back in the 50’s, that she was a dancer and an acrobat as well as being a stripper and that she was a big star in the burlesque circuit. So Brian sat back to enjoy the show.
Soon the house lights dimmed down, a conductor came out and the orchestra played an opening ditty. There was a Master of Ceremonies who came in front of the curtain and told some rather funny jokes, said there would be a raffle later and invited everyone to enjoy the show.
There were some scantily dressed dancers and singers, some stand up comics, some funny skits, one with a judge behind the bench who kept hitting people over the head with his gavel, some guy came out and played the spoons.
Then there was the raffle. They rolled out a drum with a handle. The MC turned the handle, took out a number and read it. It was the number on an admission ticket. Brian fished out his stub to see if it was his number. It wasn’t, but some guy in the balcony won a $100 bill.
After the raffle the curtain closed and over the loud speaker came the MCs voice introducing Chili Pepper. The curtain opened and she came on stage, stopped and smiled at the audience. She did some sexy dancing during which she finally twirled off her top and part of her bottoms. There was a big trunk on the stage. She opened it and took out some costume pieces to put on. They looked like they were from various countries: furs, a lace cape, wooden shoes, bonnets, a beret and smock, a silk shirt, etc. And while the orchestra played appropriate music she did a Russian dance, a Spanish dance, a Dutch, a French, a Chinese dance. Each time teasingly taking off what she had donned. It was multiple stripping. She finished wrapped up in red, white and blue while the orchestra played a snatch of America the Beautiful.
Then she closed the trunk, did some gyrations against the curtain and as the lights dimmed way down lay down on the trunk, removed everything else she had on and, to the sound of the thumping drum, gave her all to a very dark, overhead magenta spot light. Brian had never seen anything like that in his life.
After the show Brian went back to the motorcycle shop where he found Chuck with most of a large pizza and a six pack. “We can sleep here tonight.”
“How did you arrange that?” asked Brian.
“Oh.” Brian wondered which one of them had more fun.
They settled down to finish the pizza and the beer. Chuck told Brian all about motorcycles and Brian told Chuck all about The Buffalo Burlesque.