Rochester is located some 6 hours away from NYC and 1.3 hour from Buffalo proper. An older town with a mid-western layout, colonial architecture, and a general air of being frozen in a time warp. Dunkin Donuts still reigns supreme here, and one must travel some 10 – 15 miles and search sedulously to find a grocery store or supermarket. Residents make a big deal over parking spaces and marked security guards sit at the entrance of the Rite Aid stores.
In Greater Rochester (anything to give it an air of distinction), at one of the main intersection, Monroe and Goodman, a Chase bank perched on the South-western corner, with its brick structure and modern industrial flair, was evocative of a mid-19th century Van der rohe archetype.
Tango in Rochester is similarly dated. My first attempt to dance was at the Tango Café, a venue which is popular amongst the locals, one which proved however to be not open for tango o the night I attended, although the website stated otherwise. The next adventure was to the Midnight Tango venue, tango at Clarissa’s which turned out to be closed for two months as the organisers ‘were old and had decided to take some time off;’ again, the webmaster was perhaps not informed as he listed on-going milongas every week for the next several months. I decided then to seek other venues outside of Rochester and found Dos Corazones in Ithaca, some two hours away.
Now, if we can all remember that the last time I drove for two hours on a Saturday night to Champaign-Urbana, there were two couples dancing, and this included the organisers. So, needless to say, I was extremely sceptical about this adventure, especially since it boasted a milonga from 9:30pm until 3:30pm. But then I got to thinking, if the milonga typically goes until that late, then more than likely it will be a sizeable attendance.
Logic sometimes get me into trouble, but nonetheless, since my options were to sit at home with my laptop and the crazy, ginger-striped, whoop-ass kitty that I was left to attend, then I made the decision that it was at least worth the ride and to be relieved of the constant onslaught from the clawing, jumping, biting, devilish cat, and my own ennui.
So, nursing my wounds from the two failed attempts at tango dancing in Rochester, I decided to make the long haul to Ithaca which boasted a monthly milonga at the studio Dos Corazones on Aurora Avenue. With Google directions in hand, some peanuts and water (basic sustenance), and ¾ tank of gas, I set out in my red rental Suzuki.
The drive to Ithaca was eventful and terrifying. Life went well for some 30 minutes and I safely made it to 318E, but the directions to get to 90E consisted of about 10 steps of tiny turns, state routes, and triple named highways. Now, let’s first establish that this is at 10:30pm. It is dark, peripheral vision is impaired, foveal vision is the only thing in place, and I am myopic. There is nothing but roads and what looks like corn fields, ahead and around me. And after driving for a while and not finding this connection, I pulled into a service station where I was informed that 89S is the most direct route to take to Ithaca. Although these armchair imperials could not tell me where this would bring me once I am in Ithaca, they knew with assurance that it will get me there.
So, with a new direction in hand, I set off on 89. This was the longest and most frightening 41 miles I have ever driven. I was terrified! But it was not until I was one third into the drive that I realised that I was terrified. So, at one-thirds, one must decide since one is already invested, to either back track or lose double the investment, or to continue to suffer double the time of the terrifying experience. I chose the latter, and really disliked myself for making such a decision.
Long, winding roads with miles and miles of nothing but trees on both sides, an occasional headlight creeping up in the rear distance and nothing ahead. I prayed silently. Then I saw a sign that announced a cemetery. And I prayed harder. Just as I passed it, to my right, I could have sworn I saw someone walking alongside the street. I reflected upon it and realised that they were wearing white. I wanted to look in the rear view mirror, but was too terrified to look back, or maybe I just didn’t want to know.
I hit the gas, and plunged through the swelling darkness at a speed that would shock the automobile manufacturers, and smoke Mario Andretti. I strained my memory muscles to remember if Hwy 89S was one of those haunted highways that I had read about, the one where drivers would look in their rear-view and see that they had a passenger in the back of their car. I focused hard on the road ahead of me as I felt a frisson travel my spine. I decided that it may be best to utilise this time and opportunity to practise my vocal chords, it would be good thing with which to occupy my mind also. I thought also that maybe, just maybe, this show of bravado and the melodious chords would warm the heart of any unfriendly ghost that may decide to accompany me on this journey.
After a good night’s rest in Ithaca and a mid-day cup of coffee, the return journey on Hwy 89N was the most charming, scenic, and warm ride I have ever enjoyed; total night and day, and in reality, it was!