Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

City Living: Forget the Car, Grab Your Walking Shoes

In the spirit of Summer and life/work balance, I thought I’d share the following article I wrote some time ago. I updated the number of years now spent in our neighborhoods, but the enjoyment of walking in the city remains the same for us.
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I grew up in Rochester, on the east side of the city, and I’ve continued to live in the city for most of my life. The sounds of the city, including passing traffic, lull me to sleep at night. I find myself missing the traffic buzz when I’m traveling and staying in a suburb or country setting. I understand that a small city like Rochester, NY is a far cry from what you might experience in Chicago or Boston, but I love it here.

My husband and I have felt at home in the Park Avenue/Neighborhood of the Arts neighborhoods for over 30 years. We raised our children here. They attended city schools and enjoyed a diverse group of school and neighborhood friends.

One of the things we love most about living in the city, is that we can go out to dinner, take in a movie, shop, or people-watch, without ever getting in the car. If we want to take it slow, and enjoy our surroundings and each other, a pair of walking shoes will carry us from dimly lit neighborhood bars, to casual bistros, bright diners, European-style coffee shops, and a variety of international restaurants that offer casual to fine dining.

We can walk to a supermarket, bakery, ice cream shop, gift shops, a beauty salon and spa, and the Post Office. We have Cobbs Hill Park, the Memorial Art Gallery, a variety of small art galleries, the Eastman House, and the Museum and Science Center and Planetarium, all within a three-mile radius. We can walk downtown and check out the calm or raging river depending on the day. And we can enjoy a mix of modern and old architecture along the way.

We share our neighborhood with many long-standing merchants and residents, as well as a robust rotation of businesses and neighbors. Our neighbors—from the Monroe, Park, East, and University Avenue areas—range from affluent to poor. It’s not unusual to encounter a wealthy business man sitting at an outside café with his client, while another man is pushing a clanking grocery cart full of returnable cans and bottles, reflecting his hard work and his day’s wage. Once in a while we’ll encounter the transient or familiar individual who will pass through and approach us for money. Or we’ll enjoy guitar music from the guy who’s playing on the sidewalk hoping to collect a few dollars in his music case.

On a walk through the residential neighborhoods on a summer afternoon, from one vantage point on the street, we might hear jazz coming out of one house and hard rock from another. We’ll see children playing, college kids gathering on a nearby roof patio, and an elderly couple walking on the sidewalk that they’ve shared for 30 years. Or, we might pass a formal garden wedding reception taking place in the yard of an old and beautiful home. After dark, while walking through the same neighborhood, the glimpse of flickering lights and movement in each house window profoundly reminds us of the simultaneous realities taking place only 50 feet apart from one another.

We have our share of visitors in the area—people who might take an afternoon or evening to visit this part of the city. So, if you’re in the mood to slow down a bit, even just for a couple of hours, take a break—park the car, grab your walking shoes, and enjoy.

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