This trip was planned in about five minutes in a dorm room at Oklahoma University. My friend Scott Andersen said, “You know what we ought to do. We ought to drive to New York for spring break.”
We set out on a Friday afternoon in my 1973 Volkswagen Beetle. Some months before, I had removed the back seats and replaced them with padded flat panels, greatly increasing the storage space.
The first leg of our drive took us through Columbia, Missouri, where I was born, to see an old girlfriend. We were there around midnight.
We drove straight through the night and day for a total of about 20 hours, until we arrived in York, Pennsylvania, at the house of one of Scott’s relatives. The next day we drove to Philadelphia, where we stayed at Scott’s brother’s house for three days.
Scott and I took a walking tour of Philadelphia, including South Street.
We visited the visitor’s gallery atop the World Trade Center in the day, followed by the top of the Empire State Building that night. While attempting to board the elevator at the Empire State Building, a security guard said we couldn’t bring our tripods. We asked him if we could bring them if we didn’t extend the legs, and he let us in.
Also at night, we visited Times Square, which in the mid-1980s had yet to be cleaned up by the City. We made some images and walked around, looking at the lights.
At one point as we walked along Broadway, Scott leaned close to my ear and said, “You know what I always wanted to do in New York? Buy a switchblade.”
Within a second or two, out of nowhere, there was a small, skinny man in a shiny leather coat right next to Scott. “You want a switchblade, Man? I got anything you want. Six inch, eight inch, anything.”
Scott said he also offered to sell weed, cocaine, heroin, etc.
He talked really fast, and for reasons unknown, Scott went into an alley with him. I waited on the street, halfway thinking I would be driving home to Oklahoma alone. In a couple of minutes, though, Scott and the leather coat guy emerged from the alley. Leather coat guy opened a zippered pocket on the outside of Scott’s camera bag and stuffed an object wrapped in brown paper into it. Then as quickly as he appeared, he vanished into the night.
Scott and I walked around the corner. “I got the guy talked down to $15,” he told me. He pulled out the object, supposedly the switchblade he just bought, and unwrapped it to discover he had just paid $15 for a Clark candy bar.
We spent a day in Washington D. C., where Scott took time to photograph the World’s Greatest Siamese Pickle, which we brought with us from Oklahoma.
I only have a small number of images from those two days because as college kid, I could only afford four rolls of film for the entire trip.
We drove to Atlantic City, New Jersey and hung out on the Boardwalk for a while. An obese man in an overcoat and fedora, smoking a huge cigar, walked past said, “You take a picture of me, I’ll break your f*cking camera.” As far as I know, it is the only time I have been threatened by the Mafia.
For our trip back to Oklahoma Scott and I bought a stash of hoagies, cheesesteaks, and Tastykakes. As we were sitting in a restaurant with a map open, planning our drive home, a waiter approached us and asked where we lived. When we told him it was Oklahoma, he looked at our U. S. map for 30 seconds but was unable to find Oklahoma. It was our impression that people on the east coast must think of Oklahoma as one of the big rectangular states out west.