Like last week. I drove myself to the emergency room in the middle of the night thinking I had a kidney stone, leaving my three kids to fend for themselves to get up and out the door for school.
This week, it was my car’s health that made for an interesting week.
Of course, these are the weeks my husband is on Japan on business. the plane can not jet across the skies fast enough to get him home.
Every day, people on the road see me coming because I am not ready to turn in my New York license plates.
You see, to save taxpayer dollars, Michiganders do not have plates on the front of their vehicle. So, when you drive a car from New York, especially with the retro Orange and Blue old-style plates that hearken back to the gas guzzlers of the 1970’s you really stand out.
Because drivers can see me coming, the plates compel me to take on the role of an ambassador of the Empire State. And this ambassador is a very courteous driver.
I leave intersections and shopping center driveways clear so my fellow drivers can exit and enter.
(Detroiters, have you ever tried to get out of the Trader Joe’s parking lot on Telegraph and Maple? How many of you keep that intersection clear? You know who I’m talking about.)
I don’t tailgate.
I yield to pedestrians to cross the street, even the ones with canes, and don’t honk at them to hurry up.
All this to dispel the myth that all New York drivers are assholes.
I took my car in for a routine oil, lube and filter change the other day.
In the old days back in Brighton, I knew exactly who to use. I would leave my car at one of two reliable garages within walking distance from my home, use my coupon, and I knew my car was in reliable hands as I left for a walk,
So, I figured I would give the closest lube guys a chance. Lube Tech is about .7 miles from my house. It was a nice morning, the bike path is nearby and I was looking forward to a walk as my car got checked out. For safety’s sake, I lock my co-pilot, my GPS system, in my glove compartment
It turns out Lube Tech is the kind of speed oil change places, where the work is done in less than 20 minutes. Fair enough, I’ll wait for my car in the tiny waiting room filled with magazines about cars and sports.
Then, a swarthy mechanic tells me that my car requires synthetic oil. Which of course is more expensive and I can’t use the coupon.
I’ve never used synthetic oil, please use the regular oil, please.
Ten minutes go by and the mechanic approaches me with a concerned look.
“Do you ever have problems taking your key out of the ignition?”
“Em, no, never. “
What is he talking about? I just drove my kid to school this morning?
“Because now the key doesn’t come out.”
Oh this can’t be good.
He tries again. I try. One of his associates tries. The key will start the car and turn her off, but won’t come out.
Next, another question:
“Have your power windows been giving you problems? Because they don’t work now either. And neither do your tail lights, ma’am.”
And I’m supposed to be PAYING for this?
So, now, I’m sitting in my car with a stuck key in the ignition and windows locked shut. I’m a woman in a garage with four guys with my husband across the globe. And I don’t feel like paying for my oil change for some reason.
After giving them a piece of my New York mind, I drove off without paying. And I set out to locate my nearest Chevy dealer.
Now this would be easy if I could use my GPS. Too bad it is locked in my glove compartment. Locked with the key that won’t come out of my ignition.
With a little know how, and recalling how my son taught me how to use Google Maps on my smart phone, I make it to the nearest Chevy dealer. Who reassured me that all is under warranty and they will provide me with a rental car, all paid for by the good people of General Motors.
I was hoping to not get a compact car, because on any given day I have to drive at least three kids around town, plus all their stuff.
Turns out the only GM car the rental place had available was the biggest “car” there is: A Chevy suburban.
The rental agent behind the counter, a woman, asked me if I can handle a vehicle this big.
Another rental agent looks up from his computer, raises his eyebrows and smiles at me: “Awww yeah girl, you can handle it.”
So, for a few days, while my car was being fixed for a problem that had NOTHING to do with the oil change, I felt untouchable on the road. Completely confident on making that Michigan left on Telegraph. Or Woodward.
And what’s more, people still saw me coming.
Except this time, Detroiters thought I was from
This summer, I traveled around meeting great people in the Great Lakes State. And I’ve also taken up palm reading as a new hobby.
When you meet a Michigander, one of the first things they will talk about is where they are from. And to do this properly, they will show you on their palm. Their right palm to be exact.
Michiganders proudly refer to their state as the Mitten. So much so that you can buy Michigan Mittens or oven mitts at kitschy and cute tourist shops Up North (yes, it’s capitalized) or like the ones I found on Karin Marie’s “talk to the mitten” Pinterest site.
To demonstrate, I will call upon my lovely assistant and local hand model.
See, we live in the Detroit suburbs, right here:
If you want to vacation on Lake Michigan and swim and sail where the water is warm and mostly calm all summer, go to any town located here, like Bay City, between the thumb and the index finger.
Last week, I went “Up North.” for a quick getaway. We stayed at a lovely Inn in Leland, on the Leeelanau peninsula. That’s here, in the pinky:
While up in the pinky, we went on a hike in one of the last remaining Cedar forests in North America. On the trail, we met an older woman who lives in the thumb, near Port Huron
We stayed at a wonderful place called the Whale back Inn, named so because the area where it is situated, when viewed from Lake Michigan looks like….
yes, you get it.
The grounds of the Inn overlooked a pristine and inviting lake (of course it did, we are in MICHIGAN!). There, we met native Michiganders now living in Palo Alto, Calif. (I don’t know what body part California looks like.) They have relatives who farm land in the center of the palm, right between the fate and life lines.
Finally, a guy I met in synagogue the other day held up his palm and said he grew up around Benton Harbor, and that’s right here, at the heel of the palm.
All this palm reading and thinking got me thinking about a country famously known for its shape:
If you travel in Italy and converse with Italians, do they locate their cities of origin on “the boot?” Do they point to their knees, heel or toe when asked where they are from?
Or, what about New York, my home state? Sure, New York has the Big Apple, but what is it shaped like? My best bet, if I had to make a hand shape for New York, it would look like the Vulcan hand salute. Rotated. And reversed.
Or, or, as my hand model – his hand getting tired from twisting from these poses and working for me for 20 minutes -said maybe we should just leave the hand symbol for New York at this:
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.