I’m not a Rochester guy. Never have been. I guess it come from my clan having emigrated to Batavia from Buffalo in the early 60’s. Rochester was always a foreign place to me. That odd city that had all the same TV channels as Buffalo, but only on the higher numbers instead.
Everyone in Batavia has allegiance to either Buffalo or Rochester. There is no middle ground. In my youth Buffalo was the place we went to see family. It was the news we watched on TV. Watching Rochester news, or reading the Democrat & Chronicle, instead of the Courier Express was just bizarre. Like being in a different time zone. Things seem the same, but are slightly off.
To me Rochester was always a minor league place. Buffalo was the majors. Buffalo had the Sabres! Rochester had their farm club, the Amerks. Buffalo had the Bills and OJ Simpson! Rochester had… Kodak. Unfortunately, both only had AAA baseball. (actually, Buffalo was AA for years, before jumping back up to AAA in the late 80’s). But the Trojans/Clippers/Muck Dogs were the only minor league ball I cared about.
Comparing the two cities, Buffalo was old school rust belt, heavy industry, steel mills, and factories. Rochester was cutting edge technology, Bausch and Lomb, Kodak, and Xerox. For a while it seemed like Rochester was better positioned to survive the 40 year long depression in Western New York. And yet, they ended up in the same mess as Buffalo did. There’s no escaping fate in Western New York. We’re like a Greek tragedy that way.
As I hit high school I began to frequent Rochester more, and more. At first, it was just to shop at the Marketplace Mall with friends, the end all be all of shopping in WNY in the mid 80’s. Later, when we had driver’s licenses and access to cars, we started coming up to see movies, or just drive aimlessly, looking for entertainment. Entertainment usually involved pots of coffee, and french fries with gravy at a Diner.
Still, even after friends started attending college at RIT, and the trips to Rochester bars followed by a “garbage plate” at Nick Tahoe’s became more frequent, Rochester was never quite “my town”. I could find my way to anywhere in the city of Buffalo, but Rochester is still a place that puzzles me. I get lost here more than anywhere else in the world, which is kind of odd. A built in blind spot in my sense of direction.
So being here this week is the usual odd Rochester experience. It feels so familiar, but it’s not quite home. Batavia is home. Buffalo is home. Rochester is just a step through the looking glass. A looking glass made by Bausch & Lomb, I guess.