Tuesday, December 05, 2006

ode to the 585

[I just found this entry in my drafts, unfinished from July, so I decided to complete it and post it to remind myself of all the things I don't hate about enduring another winter in Rochester]

A clarification.

Recently a few people have told me, rather unexpectedly, that I 'shouldn't be so hard on Rochester.' Oh! I honestly didn't realize that I was hating on the 585, but if I ever implied that I dislike it here it was probably in reference to being unemployed and living at home. Nothing personal, Rochester!

Yes, I had (and, to an extent, still have) itchy feet to run away to a bigger city for a while. Living in London made it clear that I need all those trappings around me for a while longer, particularly after being without them in New Haven. Not to mention that I grew up here, so of course certain aspects of it seem a little stale after 20-something years.

This time, perhaps because I know I'll be here for a definite amount of time instead of 'until I can get out,' the familiarity is unexpectedly comforting. I felt so tired by the end of my time in New Haven--tired of thinking about my life, tired of dealing with decisions--that reverting to something familiar felt like crawling into bed after an extremely long day.

That's not to say there aren't things I dislike about Rochester. 80% of them pertain to winter. The remaining 20% consists of the pitiful job market, the stupidly high violent crime rate, its remoteness, and garbage plates.

So, since it seems I've been unfairly turning my nose up at Rock City, here are just a few of my favorite things:

1. The George Eastman House. An unparalleled international museum of photography and film, housed in Eastman's East Avenue mansion (which one can also tour). I'm a particularly big fan of the gardens, which are a beautiful place to read. The museum's movie theater often runs small films, or directors cuts of classics, for a mere $6 (or $5 if you're a student).

2. Speaking of gardens, there are small public gardens scattered all over Rochester, but you have to know where to look for them. One of my favorites is the garden of fragrance (a garden of herbs and roses) tucked behind the Rochester Museum and Science Center. It's very tiny, there are only two benches, but it's almost always empty. Sculpted hedges surround it and it's far back from the street, so it's a lovely and cozy place to read or just sit with coffee and a sandwich.

3. I'm trying to avoid gushing too much about food, because that's usually what saturates my 'favorite things about...' lists. So I'll simply slip California Rollin' in here with the Village Gate. The Village Gate was once a factory and sometime in the 80s (I think) it was renovated into a sort of indie shopping mall. The top floor is artists lofts (although now I think there might also be a karate studio up there too) and the bottom floor is peppered with independent stores and restaurants. It goes through phases, really. Sometimes it seems on the brink of desertion, but then it bounces back again with new businesses nestled among the old standards like Ricky's Place (surprisingly good vintage clothing) and Yankee Peddler Book Shop (used books, ephemera, and vintage maps and postcards). There's always a tattoo parlor there, although I think the place where I had my second one done is gone. I love that there's no spit and polish to the place; no directory to guide you through the maze of corridors, nothing but brightly-colored paint to disguise the fact that it's a converted factory.

4. The Inner Loop. Everyone seems to despise it but I think it's nothing short of genius. When I was first learning to drive and navigate my way around the city, I'd always be able to find my way home as long as I ran into the Inner Loop. Also, if you miss your exit... it'll come back around again! As teenagers we used to have contests to see who could make the complete circuit in the shortest amount of time, like our own little race track, although I think that might be a little bit of an indication of what it was like to grow up Upstate.

5. The Geography. My Lake can beat up your lake. I think growing up on a peninsula has made me feel a little claustrophobic when I'm not around a significant body of water (even a Finger Lake or a sizeable river will do...). Plus, our river flows north and there are waterfalls in the middle of downtown.

6. I still haven't seen a cemetery as stunning as Mount Hope. It's like stumbling upon Victorian ruins in the middle of a forest. The statues and carvings on the monuments and mausoleums are a gallery unto themselves (as you can tell I love looking at photos of the place).

Oh, I suppose that's enough to keep me happy for the moment. I also found this nice little article about visiting Rochester from the New York Times, which notes some other things I love about the city (charbroil and the Public Market for starters).

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