Tag Archives: Rochester

Lucky to Live in the ROC (Part 2)

I’m back with another exciting installment of “Lucky to Live in the ROC,” an ongoing series in which I extoll the virtues of my hometown, Rochester, New York.

(Bonus tip: Scroll to the bottom to see the CUTEST PICTURE EVER TAKEN OF MY DAUGHTERS, and then return here to continue reading.)

Part 2: HIGHLAND PARK

When I first moved to Rochester as a child, I immediately noticed the abundance of trees.

Maybe my impression was colored by the fact that my former street was a busy four-lane highway, and my new address was on a quiet road covered by an arc of leafy elms. But to my twelve-year-old mind, Rochester was a green oasis compared to the drab Buffalo suburb I’d come from.

I soon discovered many lovely parks in and around Rochester that supported my first impression. And, of all the parks in the area, Highland Park turned out to be my favorite.

Highland Park was designed in the late 1800s by Frederick Law Olmsted (the designer of New York’s Central Park). Its 150 acres are located within the city limits. It’s an arboretum that showcases more than 1,200 lilac shrubs (over 500 varieties), as well as magnolias, rhododendron, azaleas, and many other beautiful plants, while maintaining a natural, flowing vibe. It also features an amphitheater, Highland Bowl, that is used for outdoor movies, theater productions, and music concerts.

Highland Park is a great place to visit in the spring, when many flowering plants are at their peak. For a guide to what’s blooming when, click here.

A Lilac Festival is held in Highland Park each May, with music, art, food, and – of course – lilacs.

Winter in Highland Park can be a good time for photos, too, until your fingers get numb from the cold.

Here are my top three memories from past visits to Highland Park:

#1: Attending a Sarah Vaughan concert in the 1980s at the Highland Bowl amphitheater. Fun fact: My daughter Erica (age 1 at the time) came along with me. About 30 years later, we learned that her husband, Richard, had been there, too. Coincidentally, they tied the knot at Warner Castle, located IN HIGHLAND PARK! Could their fate have been written in the stars that night?

#2: Seeing Herman’s Hermits there during the 1990s. Somewhere in my archives, I have a blurry snapshot of Peter Noone (taken by me) singing “I’m Henery the Eighth, I Am.”

#3: Taking my daughters there to see the flowers. One year, on Mother’s Day, a reporter noticed Katie and interviewed her. She was on the news that night!

Well, I guess you can see why Highland Park is special to me. I think I’ll go there today and take more photos.

Tip: Follow me so you won’t miss the next fascinating episode of “Lucky to Live in the ROC,” in which I’ll discuss the FOURTH-OLDEST ROLLER COASTER IN THE WORLD!

Lucky to Live in the ROC (Part 1)

A friend is staying with me this summer, and the weather has been cooperating. In fact, since his arrival, we’ve had almost constant sunshine (and that’s really rare for Rochester). As a result, we’ve been going out on little adventures every day.

Now, through my friend’s eyes, I’m starting to appreciate my hometown more than ever, and I’ve decided to write about this in my new series, “Lucky to Live in the ROC.” In each segment, I’ll discuss something really special about Rochester, New York – something that makes me glad I moved back home.

PART 1: THE LITTLE

The Little Theatre, a.k.a. “The Little,” is located at 240 East Avenue in downtown Rochester. It was built in 1929 as part of the Little Cinema Movement (an alternative to commercial movie houses), was constructed in the Art Deco style by Edgar Phillips and Frederick Pike, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In my opinion, it’s the best place in Rochester for movies, especially if you like independent and foreign films. In addition, it has a great little café with live music and food (including a light, delicious limoncello layer cake).

The Little Theatre, Rochester, NY

We recently visited the café at The Little to hear Hanna & the Blue Hearts. Hanna PK grew up in South Korea; her parents were in a rock band. She learned to play piano at a young age, but it wasn’t until she was an adult that she discovered American blues, and it knocked her out. (My friend Aleks, guitarist for the Blue Hearts, tells me she was “gobsmacked.”)

You can read more about Hanna’s evolution as a blues musician in the WXXI news story, “Music Heals Hanna PK and the Blue Hearts.

Tony Hiler (drums), Hanna PK (vocals),
Aleks Disljenkovic (guitar)
Gian Carlo Cervone (organ),
Hanna PK (piano, vocals), Tony Hiler (drums),
Aleks Disljenkovic (guitar)

I love Hanna not only for her musicality (she plays piano and guitar, covers the blues and American classics, writes her own songs, and sings), but also for her huge heart, which comes across in her original lyrics as well as her stage presence. And the music she and the band play is world class. To my mind, hearing Hanna & the Blue Hearts play the blues is one of the most uplifting things I’ve experienced, here or anywhere else.

And I’m getting an education about the blues, too. After hearing the Blue Hearts’ version of Memphis Slim’s “I’m Lost Without You,” I asked my friend Aleks about it, and he sent me a link to a video – Memphis Slim performing the song along with famed guitarist Matt “Guitar” Murphy. I’d never heard the song before, never heard of Slim or Murphy, and now I’ve heard both of them play another great version of the song.

Then I did three things: I looked up Memphis Slim (and learned his real name), I looked up Matt “Guitar” Murphy (and learned that he played in the Blues Brothers band and even played a role in the Blues Brothers movie), and I listened to Hanna’s version of the song, which is track 4 on her new CD, “Blues All Over My Shoes.” I learned a lot that day.

As I said, I’m lucky. Lucky to live where I can hear Hanna & the Blue Hearts playing LIVE at the Little Theatre (and all over New York State).

Do you feel lucky living where YOU live?


Where Did I (Gink)Go?

photo credit: olga drach on unsplash

Quick: What ancient Chinese tree is known for its reputation as a memory-enhancing supplement?

If you guessed “GINKO,” you’d be just partially right, because you misspelled it. The word is “GINKGO,” but I’ll forgive you for using only five letters, because you’ve probably been playing too much Wordle.

I’m writing about the ginkgo tree today for three reasons:

  • Their leaves are gorgeous.
  • They’ve managed to survive for thousands of years.
  • I have some photos of ginkgo trees to share with you.

But on a deeper level, my reasons are more complicated. As you may remember if you’ve been taking your ginkgo supplements (just kidding!), my dog Maya and I packed up and moved cross-country last year. You can read about our journey in my previous blog series, “New Latitude.” I stopped blogging temporarily, but now that I’m all settled in, I want to get back to my mission: writing stories inspired by my camera.

Yesterday, I uploaded 24 new photos, and I’ll be writing about each one, starting with GINKGO LEAVES:

And now for some Fascinating Facts about the Ginkgo tree:

  • Its scientific name is Ginkgo biloba.
  • It’s native to China.
  • Although its natural range is a small area of China, it has been cultivated in other parts of the world. (My photos were taken at Highland Park in Rochester, New York.)
  • Fossils in the Ginkgo genus date back to the Middle Jurassic period (about 170 million years ago). It was cultivated early in human history.
  • Its DNA genome is about three times as large as our human genome, which is thought to be why the ginkgo tree has many natural defenses against bacteria and chemicals. In fact, it’s so resistant to environmental assaults that six specimens growing in close proximity to the 1945 atomic blast at Hiroshima, Japan survived and continued to grow as healthy plants. They are still alive today.
  • According to an article by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, its use as a dietary supplement for the treatment of various diseases is mixed, and more study is needed.
  • It originally was two separate Japanese words pronounced “gin kyo.” Its current spelling dates back to a probable spelling error by a German, Engelbert Kaempfer.
  • It can grow to over 100 feet tall.
  • It’s considered a “living fossil.” Some living specimens are reported to be over 2,500 years old.
  • The ginkgo leaf is the symbol of Tokyo.

I’m glad I thought to take pictures of those pretty ginkgo leaves in Highland Park last summer. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been so inspired to learn more about this admirable tree. I’d love to read about what inspires you. Please leave a note in the Comments section if you’re so inclined.

Before I go, I just want to say it’s (gink)GOOD  to be back!

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If you haven’t already done so, please check out my brand new book, “Wordle Poems: A Poem a Day for Wordle Nerds,” on Amazon. It contains 30 original poems inspired by the daily act of Wordling. No spoilers! Reviews are greatly appreciated!

For more of my writing, visit my author page over at Bardsy, as well as my book, “Standing in the Surf,” on Amazon. It’s a photo journal about the Pacific Northwest area known as the Salish Sea, which includes Whidbey Island, Vancouver Island, Stanley Park, Butchart Gardens, and more.