Rochester: Of custard, Camaros and Ronnie James Dio

I recently had the opportunity to return to my hometown of Rochester, NY, and it was, without a doubt, the travel equivalent of comfort food. Most everything I remembered from my youth was still there, frozen in time. Sort of like Ted Williams. Except that he was a dude and this is a town. Pompeii, maybe? Yeah, that’ll work. Any-hoo, I invite you now on a journey to the land of Chuck Mangione, Susan B. Anthony and Foreigner’s Lou Gramm (he is, in fact, hot blooded – I checked it and saw).

My first discovery was that the local radio stations, in an act of obvious generosity toward me, had cued up all the songs I loved from my bygone youth. Imagine my glee as I started up my parents’ car (which I borrowed, promising to return it with a full tank – like that was gonna happen) when the magic music box in the dashboard delivered me the gift of Ronnie James Dio, Rush and, wait for it… Asia. If you grew up in the ’70s or ’80s, I recommend you visit just to drive around and listen to 96.5 WCMF. ’Cause when they say more rock, less talk, they’re seriously not fucking around.

One thing that was definitely on my to-do list was frozen custard from Abbott’s in Charlotte (pronounced: Shar-LOT), just over the Genesee River from my hometown of Irondequoit (pronounced: good luck with that). Right on Lake Ontario, Charlotte is a summertime hotspot where families, bikers, Camaro drivers in teal wifebeaters and a streetcorner troubadour, who calls himself the Beatle, have mingled for decades.

Charlotte was immortalized in song by Foreigner, in their (debatably) classic tune “Rev on the Red Line.” “Just let it go. Runnin’ all night on Lake Avenue.” And its Penny Arcade nightclub was very nearly the site of U2’s North American debut. Sadly, a cancellation handed that distinction to the Ritz in NYC (the 1980 Boy tour, for those of you who care about that stuff). Interestingly enough, the Penny Arcade was also once slated as the site of my North American debut. Unfortunately, I quit the band before the gig. It’s uncanny how similar my musical career has been to Bono’s.

But I digress. The purpose of my visit to Charlotte was two-fold. To get frozen custard. And to see the world’s cheesiest guy in a Camaro. ’Cause that’s what you do at Abbott’s. As I finished the last delicious bite of my chocolate/vanilla twist sugar cone, I’ll admit, my heart was a little heavy. Sure, I’d gotten my thick, scrumptious custard. But there wasn’t a muscle car in sight. Perhaps the place had changed after all. Then, as I turned to walk back to my parents’ car (now running on fumes – suckers), I saw it. Not a Camaro, but almost as good. A black Trans Am, occupied by not one, but two magnificent specimens – in all their tanktop splendor. As I watched them leer salaciously at a pair of tube-topped vixens, I thought to myself – it’s good to be home.