Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dear Rochester: An Intervention

Dear Rochester,

We need to talk. You are really down on yourself for some reason, and I don’t know why. This is the only possible reason why you would, for the 7th time in a row that you chose Wegmans as the City Newspaper’s “Best Place to Take an Out-of-Towner”. Your collective self-esteem is lower than it ever should be, because Wegmans is a supermarket, and there is no reason to think that any out-of-towner would think that this is the best that Rochester has to offer.

I know you know that both Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, two of the most pivotal civil rights activists in US history, are buried here, and you can visit and see their graves. There is no way anyone would think that is less cool than a place to get groceries and menial goods.

On First Friday, the Hungerford is a Shangri-La of artists of all types. The creativity is so diverse that walking through the different exhibitions is like walking through different dimensions of reality. It is better than San Jose’s. But you think that the bulk bin is what will mesmerize people.

You have some of the most fun festivals I have ever seen. I always regret having to travel in the summer, because I’ll miss at least two. For example, Jazz Festival and Fringe Festival are weeks concentrated with pure bliss. Even though there are paid/ticketed events, I don’t think I’ve seen festivals with so many free events that are so extravagant, I sometimes wonder if I missed the ticketing booth when I am watching and dancing to some of the best local and international artists in the middle of Gibbs Street or on the East & Alexander or in MLK Park. There is no way anyone who thinks highly of their hometown would think that the festivals are less impressive than fresh produce (which I believe is the law for them to be fresh).

You have a Museum of Play here, and it has a giant butterfly-shaped room that is full of BUTTERFLIES. If any bugs got into Wegmans, they would exterminate them, and they would definitely not let you play with the merchandise, so how is Wegmans a better place to take an expat than a museum where touching is encouraged?

I have gotten to know a lot of your citizens. I do not think I’ve met such welcoming, caring, community driven people in my life, and I have literally lived all over the world. My friends here are always doing five things at once, and all of their goals are aimed at making you even better, Roc. Whether they’re running their own restaurants or are involved in the Willow Center or the Gay Alliance or B.L.A.C.K. or if they just like to pay it forward in their own way, you have a population that cares about its fellow people a lot more than about where to get sushi and bread in the same place.

High Falls at dawn is dazzling. The old Subway system is an adventure. Cobbs Hill at dusk on that Parthenon-looking thing at the top of the hill is probably one of the most relaxing things you can do with your Sunday. I can give you a myriad of landmarks and events that you can take an out-of-towner that are better than a grocery store, so stop short-selling yourself. Take it from an out-of-towner, Roc: you are better than a supermarket. Don’t take an out-of-towner there and think it’s the best you have to offer. That is what small-towners in B-movies do right before disaster happens. You are much bigger and better than this, Roc, so start thinking it.

A Baltimorean Expat.

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