Michael Connelly, novelist and former crime reporter, makes occasional reference in his books to an Edward Hopper print called "Nighthawks", which shows three customers and a cook in an all-night diner. The street outside is deserted.
It captures -- for both me and the fictional Harry Bosch -- something of the quintessential aloneness that attends those who prefer to haunt the small hours of the day in such places, takin' care of business and workin' overtime.
You learn the damndest things on the job.
Somewhere between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., I was sitting in my usual place near the back of the dining room at the Husky Service Centre just off the 401 outside of Windsor.
I was in there several times a week in those days -- the late 1970s -- after last call at the press club wound down another long work day.
It was hot and muggy outside, where my bike was ticking as it cooled after a particularly high-speed run out of the city. Beside me on another seat were my helmet, goggles and a pack containing notebook and ever-present camera.
A couple of long-haul drivers were sitting across from each other, exchanging desultory conversation while fuelling up on 100-mile joe, hamburgers and french fries slathered in gravy.
As I recall, it had been a somewhat interesting evening, starting with me showing up at a council budget session in my motorcycle gear -- to their horror and discomfiture -- and continuing through a heated argument with a brain-dead copy editor who didn't understand how mill rates and assessment combined to produce tax totals.
I was chain-smoking, inhaling coffee, and idly flipping through a copy of the truckers' companion, Overdrive magazine. I was as relaxed as I ever would be back then, among people I understood implicitly.
I got up and went to the counter, mug in hand. A tired middle-aged waitress came over with the coffee carafe, and noticed I was holding the magazine.
"That's where they got the name, you know," she said.
"Who got what name?" I asked, lighting up another smoke.
"That rock 'n' roll band."
"Bachman-Turner Overdrive? BTO?" I asked, incredulous.
"Sittin' over there just about where you are," she said.
Turns out that the Bachman brothers -- Randy (of Guess Who fame), Tim and Robby -- and fellow Winnipegger Fred Turner, then performing under the name Brave Belt, had about reached about the end of their tether in early 1973.
After playing a gig in Toronto, some 250 miles east, they stopped in at this Husky for a break and were discussing what to do with their future, or so the story goes.
At some point, Turner noticed Overdrive and seized on the name, scribbling down Bachman-Turner Overdrive and BTO.
The change of name seemed to change their fortunes, because late in 1973 they struck recording gold with the seminal Bachman-Turner Overdrive II. The rest is rock music history.
"Far out," I told the waitress, who walked away with a smile, and left me with my own, one that I would carry with me when I finally went outside and fired up the big twin for the rest of the trip home.
"Ride, ride, ride, let it ride...."
(Originally appeared in a slightly different form on Fictionique )