Wednesday, April 4, 2012


I bought the black Honda 90 at the end of March of 1970 from a young man in Framingham, telling him to hold off on depositing the check for a few days (in those days there were still pockets of trust in the world). Then I headed north and west to Templeton to borrow from my mother the money to cover the check.

It seemed like a pleasantly warm day when I got on the bus from Boston to Framingham. By the time I left Framingham it was around 3:30 PM, still warm but with something ominous in the air that reminded me that late March in Massachusetts is not summer, or even reliably spring. This Honda wasn't my first scooter. For half a dozen years I had experienced a rich education in the effects of wind chill; but the previous five years of living in California had blunted my respect for real cold. With the optimism of youth I set off hoping for the best, not that there was any alternative.

I had never been in Framingham before. I had a vague idea that it was on the way from Boston to Templeton. It isn't. I promptly got lost; I had no map. Long before I got to anything I recognized, night fell, fulfilling the promise of renewed winter. I hoped I wouldn't have much farther to go. I did.

I was wearing a dress. I didn't own pants at that time. I must have had gloves. I think I had some kind of light windbreaker, and a crash helmet as required by law. At some point, numb with cold, I stumbled upon a shopping mall; stumbled off the bike and into a clothing store, where I bought a pair of pants; and stumbled back to the bike, being stared at all along the way. I don't belong in suburbia - but that's another story.

Much, much later I stumbled on Route 31, which I knew eventually crossed Route 2. In subsequent years of motorcycling up and down Route 2 I learned that one of the places where the temperature suddenly drops is, in fact, at the junction with Route 31. My father confirmed from his days of plying between Templeton and Worcester on his motorcycle that Route 31 was where he well night froze. On that evening in late March, there was still snow in the woods beside the road.

When I pulled into my parents' yard -- on, as my father put it when the bike wouldn't start the next day, the last explosion -- I discovered that they weren't home and the house was locked. Thinking the people across the street might know where they were, I knocked on their door. "Mmmmm mmmmmmm mm prrnts," I said. The neighbor exclaimed, "My God, your face is all blue, come in and sit down." I had to brace my arms against the edge of the table to hold the cocoa she gave me.

I drove back to Boston the next day, in daylight, armed with Mother's check and a set of her thermal underwear, into the next thirty-odd years of open-vehicle wind chill.