"Our most ancient metaphor says life is a journey. Memoir is travel writing, then, notes taken along the way, telling how things looked and what thoughts occurred. . . .This is the traveler who goes on foot, living the journey, taking on mountains, enduring deserts, marveling at the lush green places...as a pilgrim, seeking, wondering." -Patricia Hampl

May 31, 2005

Park Avenue, When Spring Breaks


This is not Greenwich Village. It ain't Soho, and it doesn't want to be, as far as I can see. But my friend Ben, apparently miffed because I haven't stayed in Boston, calls my hometown "Crotchfester." I tried not to take offense to his obvious Boston-centrism (doesn't everyone in their respective big city think it's the best one?), so I write this in homage of my favorite part of this new, old hometown of mine.

It's late May; the International Lilac Festival has just ended, and people are finally walking with their arms bare, throwing caution right back in the faces of our fickle weather gods. If Dorothy's spinning house were to land here on Park Avenue in Rochester, she'd step trepidly out of her unshingled door to find a bunch of folks who like nothing better than to eat, drink coffee, and hang out on wide sidewalks lined with restaurants, cafes, wine shops, spas, and--oh yes--galleries.

But you won't find pretense amongst the popular haunts here. Even the swanky CiBon cafe, surely Rochester's most successful answer to a European bistro, has the look and smell of something not-quite-Rochester: until you peer into their magazine rack to find the past six and the latest issues of the local, used car guide. Their martinis are pretty fabulous, as are their chai teas and array of fine wines: and you may be fancying yourself well beyond city limits until your waitress does something not typically seen in our sororal equivalents: she actually lingers by your table to ask how you're doing.

Park Avenue revels in its quirkiness, I think: among the joggers and the NYTimes browsers and the ice-cream-licking, baby-stroller-pushing young parents is the element: the Hog drivers, the belly-tats, the college kids, starving for random fun by running, slalom between the cafe tables, on stilts. There are a bunch of folks, like me, who like to take it all in; we walk here for the sake of seeing what's going on, who's out, to soak in a little bit of our version of Parisian soul. I'll tell myself that someone's birthday is coming up just so as to have an excuse to walk from my boyfriend's house on the corner of Park and a sidestreet to the ever-intriguing, catch-all boutique, the Parkleigh. Thus, invariably, there'll be a handful of us walking sans leashed dog, sans carriage, sans purse, sans another person, taking in the funky Victorians on one side of the street, and the beautiful loiterers on the other.

Some like to think that this is the see-and-be-seen area; they're right. The other night, while enjoying sushi and soba (noodles) at Kobay (next to CiBon), outside, with Heath and our friends Dave and Rachel, our conversation was punctuated with an assortment of Dave's and Rachel's friends stopping to say hello. I was surprised to have known a couple who'd stopped into the same restaurant for their dinner (because I still don't know many people here at all. Then again, this is a small, small city.) Every time our friends waved at passersby, the neighborhood became, more and more, it's own microcosm of twenty- and thirty-something Park Avenue-ites.

Even sitting in the the wi-fi-friendly Spin Cafe, I see from the great front window some people petting each others' dogs, greeting one another with handshakes and pats on the back; spontaneous meetings between friends happen here, because
here is the place to be.

This town isn't so crotchety. See for yourself, Ben. Visit.

May 06, 2005

Moxxie's Ice-Cold Word of the Day

Okay, so it's really Merriam-Webster's WOTD, but hang on to yer hats. . .


The Word of the Day for May 6 is:

moxie \MAHK-see\ noun
1 : energy, pep
*2 : courage, determination
3 : know-how, expertise

Example sentence:
It took a lot of moxie for Moxxie to stroke Kenneth Branagh's voluptuous, suede jacket while he graciously signed her "Hamlet" programme. (This example is not from the M-W website, but it is from personal experience.)

Did you know?
"Hot roasted peanuts! Fresh popcorn! Ice-cold Moxie!" You might
have heard such a vendor's cry at a baseball game -- if you attended one
in 1924. That was the heyday of the soft drink called "Moxie," which
some claim outsold Coca-Cola at the height of its popularity. The
beverage was a favorite of American writer E.B. White, who wrote, "Moxie
contains gentian root, which is the path to the good life. This was known in
the second century before Christ and is a boon to me today." By 1930,
"moxie" had become a slang term for nerve and verve, perhaps because
some people thought the drink was a tonic that could cure virtually any
ill and bring vim back to even the most lethargic individual.

* Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.