I got a lot of great feedback from Monday’s post about the first five things on my list of what I’ll miss about Rochester.
Some of the things people added and commented to this list are not tangible things. For some, it’s more of the community mindedness of the place that you come to know once you’ve lived here for a while. There is a great sense of collaboration between government, businesses and grass roots organizations that create a wealth of cultural offerings here.
What are they, you ask? For one, there was last September’s Fringe Fest, the first time Rochester has hosted this festival celebrating all things creative.
Another development just in the last 12 months has been the collaboration between wo Rochester treasures: WXXI, our public radio and TV station, and The Little, a great indie movie theater. Over the last year, the two non-profit organizations have put together free and open to the public discussions on many thought-provoking films that don’t come to bigger commercial theatres. Don’t take my word for it, check out The Little while you are in town. From the great films to the REAL popcorn with REAL butter, find out more here.
But for those of you are purely visiting, or are planning a visit to Rochester and the area, here are some more must-sees:
- Water – Okay, I know there will be water where I’m going. Michigan is famous for its lakes big and small. But I will miss the variety of kinds of bodies of water within an hour’s drive from my home in Rochester. I’ll miss taking a stroll or a bicycle ride on the historical Erie Canal. Blogger Renee a. Schuls-Jacobson loves to have lunch along the canal on a summer afternoon at great restaurants like The Coal Tower in Pittsford (don’t miss their pumpkin soup in the fall) or Aladin’s Natural Eatery for great vegetarian and vegan cuisine as well as micro brewed and local beer. I’ll miss taking a short 15 minute drive and taking a walk along the shore of Lake Ontario, flying a kite with my kids at Durant Beach or taking our end-of-the-summer outing to Rochester’s great local amusement park Sea Breeze and cooling off with a chocolate almond cone from Abbot’s Custard, more of Renee’s favorite things. Hell, I’ll even miss the radio ad, “Come Get Your Summer!” that plays from Memorial Day until Labor Day.
- Artisan Works - It’s an art gallery. It’s a working artists colony. It’s a great place to have a wedding or a Bar mitzvah. But if you are an art lover, you must visit this funky gallery tucked into a huge warehouse on Blossom Road off Winton Road (right near the new Wegmans!). Eclecticism does not begin to describe this place, which boasts over a million pieces of art; a library with furniture from Frank Lloyd Wright to a fire house themed room with some naughty art (adults only in this section please). I can say this place is loaded with paintings and sculptures, photos and films, but it wouldn’t do it justice. Just GO.
- The National Museum of Play- What started out as a bunch of toys collected by philanthropist Dorothy Strong has turned into one of the country’s leading children’s museums and home to the Toy Hall of Fame for playthings like The Hula Hoop and The Stick (yes, the stick, like the kind that falls off a tree, is in the Toy Hall of Fame). You don’t need a kid to have fun here (but if you do have a kid and they’ve pooped in their last clean diaper, they’ve got you covered with their own supply!). Revisit your own childhood by taking a stroll down Sesame Street, “shop” for food at a kid sized Wegmans Market; twirl a hula hoop; make a craft with your kids and leave the scraps and glue sticks and other clean-up behind. Play in bins full of Leggos, play some retro video games like Pac Man and Space Invaders. Visit a Treasure Island, climb a beanstalk or explore a mysterious old house in Reading Adventure Land and then borrow a book from the museum’s library, which is connected to the Monroe County Library system.
- The Finger Lakes - Need more reasons to visit Rochester now that I’m gone? Well, the Finger Lake Region, about an hour away from Rochester, has been voted one of the 10 best travel destinations in the world, people! While you are in Canandaigua strolling along the lake and checking out the cute stores and art galleries, dine at a great Mexican restaurant called Rio Tomatlan. Get the flan for dessert, you won’t be sorry.
- Apples & Wine – okay, that’s two things. But a visit to this part of New York in the fall is not complete with either a trip to an apple picking farm, like The Apple Farm in Victor, NY or a Finger Lakes Winery like Fox Run. This year had a cold winter, no freak warm ups or frosts in the early spring, so the apple season this fall is supposed to yield a great crop.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – Okay, that’s five things. I can count! That’s all I’m going to add to this list, but what can YOU add to a list of must-sees in the Rochester area?
And Detroit – what have you got in store for me to see? In a few weeks, I’ll have nothing more to do than to explore, so tell me what I shouldn’t miss in the Motor City. I’m listening. I’m waiting.
It’s been an emotional weekend.
Our friends, neighbors, and extended community threw us not one but two good-bye/sendoff parties on Sunday. One was a brunch in the morning and the other a dinner in the evening.
Hubby and I, as we saw friends file in bearing platters of fruit and food, agreed that we felt the love. But to hubby, who has already moved on, who is already living in Detroit and only coming “home” on weekends, the day was anti-climactic.
I asked, what was he expecting?
He said, finality. Closure.
But to many of us, maybe all of us, good-bye is too hard a word. So instead of hearing good-bye, when friends left the party they gave us a departing hug with the reassurance of “I know I’ll see you in the neighborhood before you go” or “I’m sure I’ll see you again before you take off.”
Maybe their claims are true and maybe they are not. But it’s easier to say than “when will we ever see each other again?” or “I’m going to miss you so much!” That stuff is for high school. For the end of camp. Not for a move in mid-life.
Between the morning good-bye brunch and the evening good-bye dinner, the new owners of our house stopped by for an hour-long visit.
The newly-minted home owners are a sweet couple who cannot be more than 30. The young woman held a 16-month infant boy with cherubic lips in her arms.
They told us how much they loved the old charm of the house and it’s “flow” for entertaining and living. They loved the basket-weave tile (original from 1929) in the bathrooms. She loved the shady backyard and the swing set that my dad and husband built for our kids.
Now I know who will be sleeping in “our” bedrooms when we leave. Now I know there will be a tiny boy sleeping in the room with the sailboat wallpaper, the pattern I picked out for my own little boy 13 years ago.
Outside of friends that have come into our life, there is Rochester itself. I’ll say it:
I am going to miss you, Rochester. A lot.
To all those friends from “downstate” New York Metro area (and that means you too, New Jersey girls and boys) who ever told me they would love to come up and visit me in Rochester, New York, your time has run out.
It’s too late babies, it’s too late.
Maybe the reality of moving has given me perspective on just how great a little city like Rochester can be. Maybe the coming move has finally made this Rochester transplant feel like a native.
Even though I will no longer be living here, a trip to Rochester in the summer, the fall, and yes, even the winter is totally worth it. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Wegmans -
My first twinges of separation anxiety about leaving the Rochester happened not in the company of friends, but in the produce, health food, and patisserie departments of the world’s greatest supermarket. Yes, Wegmans has elevated food shopping from a mundane chore to an art form. What other supermarket will employees approach you if you seem puzzled and proactively ask you “are you finding everything okay?” And if you cannot find that box of pre-cut Asian gourmet mushrooms, they will send out an APB throughout the store, and check their latest shipment, to make sure they get it for you. What other grocer has designated employees waiting for you in the parking lot with huge golf umbrellas, eager to help you put your groceries in your car in the rain, or who will help mothers with young children?
Wegmans, you have spoiled me for life.
So, Michigan grocers, I give you my warning. If someone in your check-out line starts to cry or whimper because you didn’t give me a smile and a hello while you asked if I prefer my milk in a bag, or you didn’t bag all my frozen items together (or maybe you don’t bag customer groceries at all!), that will be me. And you’ll have to comfort me and give me a tissue because I am mourning and pining for my WEGMANS!
2 – Small size – On our first area tour of Rochester, our realtor drove us West on Monroe Avenue. In the immediate horizon stood three or four tallish buildings. “There’s our Rochester skyline!” she proudly boasted.
The big city New York City woman in the back seat covered her mouth supress a laugh. That’s a skyline? I’ll show you a skyline, she thought smugly, thinking of the imposing New York City skyline of her childhood.
But now, I so appreciate a city where it’s not a huge production to get into “the city.”
In 10 minutes, I can leave my house, find a parking spot on the street or in a $5 garage and be downtown. To take in a museum, a parade on Memorial Day or a film at The Little Theatre, meet a friend for lunch or coffee, or a concert at the Eastman Theatre.
3. Festivals – Rochesterians relish the weather when the snows melt and the sun finally arrives.Nearly every week from May through October, there is a festival going on somewhere, complete with great food, crafts and music. From the Lilac Festival, to the Xerox International Jazz Festival
The Barrel House Blues Band performed for free last year at the RG&E Fusion Stage
(it’s become one of the best in the country, no lie!), to the Park Avenue and Clothesline Festivals, there is something to enjoy every week.
4. Music – Spiraling out from the Eastman School of Music, Rochester has fantastic musical resources. My kids took lessons and had recitals starting in preschool at the Hochstein School of Music. There has never been a shortage of dedicated and talented music teachers to share their love and gift with our children. Time and time again, the Brighton School District, as others in the Rochester area, have been bestowed awards in excellence for music education. My children each play several instruments and have been exposed to so many opportunities to perform. Most recently, my youngest, along with other local young musicians had his budding piano skills tested by the Canadian Royal Conservatory of Music. Thank you to the dedication of his piano teacher Sherry McCarthy for bringing this program to Rochester for the first time this year!
5. Rochester Public Market – When the weather warms, I skip my trip to Wegmans and make my way to the century-old Rochester Public Market. Voted one of the best public spaces in the world (yes, right up there with Seattle’s Pike Market), it has grown from a market where you can get the best local corn New York has to offer after July 15, to a center for music, plant sales, a newly established Food Truck Rodeo each Wednesday this summer, and yes, another great venue for local festivals.
That’s about all the nostalgia I can handle for one post. Tomorrow, reasons 6-10.
Rochesterians, what would YOU have a hard time leaving behind?
Detroit: what do you have in store for me to explore?
I’m all ears.
The first time I saw the musical RENT was on Broadway back in 1998. My husband surprised me with orchestra seats for our anniversary. He even arranged for our infant daughter to be watched by a friend who lived on the upper west side of Manhattan so we could enjoy our night on the town. As we exited the theatre, volunteers from the organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS gave out red ribbons in exchange for a small donation.
Flash forward to last week. That same 18-month old infant, now 13 years old, sat between my husband and me as we experienced a phenomenal performance of RENT at the Rochester Jewish Community Center’s Hart Theatre.
We prepared her for RENT’s mature themes days ahead and she listened to the show’s musical score for hours in the privacy of her room. During and after the performance, she made two striking comments that opened the doorway for several important conversations.
First, she was surprised at how many of the characters had AIDS. She didn’t realize the disease was “that contagious.” Now, I know that our school district starts AIDS education in the fifth grade. But I guess a pamphlet on the disease is no match to watching someone on stage who is portraying someone living with and then dying from AIDS.
Secondly, when the show was over and I told her about the red ribbons — and how red ribbons once seemed to be everywhere, on the lapel of a jacket by the ordinary person on the street, to adorning the sequined gowns of celebreties and entertainers on TV award shows. I remarked how odd it felt that the red ribbons should be absent at this performance. To my shock, she replied, “Well, mom, I guess AIDS is not such a big issue anymore.”
But then again, why would AIDS/HIV seem a big issue to her and her peers? Did it unfold itself on a daily, horrifying basis as it did when my generation, the Gen Xers, were coming of age in the 80s? And, why would it be a big issue for teens her age in this age? AIDS is not new anymore. An entire generation has gone by not even knowing that a time existed before AIDS.
Did she wake up one morning to her favorite radio station to learn that Freddy Mercury, one of the greatest voices of Rock ‘n Roll had confirmed the rumour that he was dying of AIDS? Sadly, my kids know about Freddy Mercury, but only posthumously. Or what about Magic Johnson? Can they appreciate the fact that he is still alive today after announcing he was infected with HIV nearly two decades ago? Do TV characters on the Disney Channel or any other program she watch portray those who suffer with AIDS/HIV, as the television shows like “ER,” “My So Called Life” and even “A Different World” did?
Then, it made me wonder, when was the last time the AIDS quilt was displayed, or pictures of it appeared in the media? She had never seen pieces of the AIDS quilt when it was small, or lived through the time as time went by that the AIDS quilt grew to the size of several football fields, and then to a size so big it could no longer be displayed in one place.
She didn’t ride the subways in NYC in the 1980s and 90s to see young people laying on the floor with a placard containing these words: Homeless with AIDS. Please Help.
Though there were no volunteers distributing red ribbons in the JCC lobby that evening, I did find a display with brochures for AIDS Red Ribbon Ride to benefit AIDS Care. That the JCC in its wisdom produced RENT, and that my daughter and many teens may not see AIDS as a contemporary issue, prove that there is still much work to be done. AIDS Care hopes to raise $50,000 from a combined five-day Finger Lakes tour on August 18-22 culminating with a separate one-day tour on August 22 to provide funding for AIDS education and services and clinical research for people living with AIDS/HIV.
In Monroe County New York, 2,026 people are diagnosed each year with HIV and 56,000 are infected annually nationwide. The AIDS Red Ribbon Ride will help those living with HIV/AIDS gain greater independence and get the treatment and care they need. Prevention services geared towards high-risk populations will ensure that future generations will not experience the same level of loss that we have faced in the last two decades.
One rider, Phyllis Fleischman of Pittsford, was so dedicated to this cause that she spoke to me while away on business in the Netherlands as to why she is participating. She and her cycling team over the last several years have raised $200,000 for AIDS research and services. As she makes her way along the 420-mile five-day course through the Finger Lakes region and back to Genesee Valley Park, it will be her team, and thinking about the people she will be helping, that will inspire her.
“When you ride with a team, it is the laughter, even in bad weather that keeps you going. Knowing you are doing something good gets you through the miles,” she said.
Quoting from the lyrics of RENT, there’s no day but today. If you would like to learn the details of the cycling course, participate in a riding team, volunteer or donate to the five-day-long fundraising event, visit www.AIDSRedRibbonRide.org, call 585-210-4183, or email jdavis@acRochester.org.