There always comes a time when we need to make a change; sometimes small, other times large; occassionally enormous. I reached the point where it was time to make an astronomical change. I needed a new life!
Some of you know me and my story, while others have yet to take a ride on the 'Rob experience'. Hold on tight! It's always bumpy. Many have been wondering what's been going on lately...where I've been...what I've been up to. David Bowie did a song that somewhat wraps things up into a nutshell. It's called "Changes". I've been going through many changes...major changes...in my life. As it is, I've changed my entire life!
I was born and raised in the small town area of Waterloo and Seneca Falls in the heart of the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York. Both towns have about 4,000 residents each...Waterloo best noted for being the official birthplace of Memorial Day; Seneca Falls being the birthplace of the women's rights movement. For the most part, both are sleepy, little, rural communities; nice places to raise a family. Many of the people were born and raised there, had families of their own...and died there. I could see that happening to me and I was scared of the thought. Even though I was a redneck woodchuck; I wanted more out of life than to live out my days being a hick.
The road I traveled has always been a rocky one, but I've always managed to make it through and get by; sometimes, just barely. When I was younger, lots of things simply didn't matter and I marched to my own beat. As I've grown older, I've realized I wanted more than 'home' had to offer. I tried to lead a normal life. I should have known from the start there was no way I could accomplish that seeing how I was anything but normal. Despite being homeless and living on the streets for a couple of years in my late teens, I got an education and began working...high school physical education teacher, on-air radio personality, bartender to name a few of the many careers I've tried my hand at. I've been involved in entertainment; operated my own band management agency, done a little stand up comedy, even appeared in a couple movies. Something always seemed to be missing and I wanted more.
As the years passed by, my friends grew up, got married and had families of their own. We drifted apart and lost touch. I've always been estranged from my family and we were never close. Dad passed 3 years ago after suffering from Alzheimer's for nearly a decade. Even though they lived in the same town, I hadn't spoken to my mother or sister in years; hardly any contact since my father died. Here I was in the town where I was born and raised, gained 'fame' and fell from grace. I was alone; a virtual stranger in my own home. With no friends or family and little to do in a small town, it got to the point where I rarely left my house. My health was deteriorating and I hardly ever went out; an occassional trip to the bank and post office, grocery shopping, laundry and once a week to the dairy store I lived next to for the Sunday newspaper. I was becoming a hermit. I was failing...failing myself.
I had but one bright spot in my life; my angel; my best friend, Scott. He and I met almost 6 years ago when I was in the process of discovering who I really was and we grew close very quickly. Scott was the one who was there for me when I went through the process of accepting the fact I was gay. I couldn't have done it without him. He helped me find myself and become the person I really am. We hung out all the time and if we couldn't get together; we'd at least talk to one another every day. Due to circumstances, including my health going downhill, we weren't able to get together all that much the past couple of years. We were an hour apart and he had a life, too...work, his family, other friends, a social life...but we kept in touch on a daily basis. He knew I wasn't happy where I was; not only where I was living, but my state of mind, too. Scott was concerned about my health...and the fact I no longer had any joy. After discussing the situation, we both agreed it was time for a change...time for me to relocate to where he was so we could hang out together and so he could 'keep an eye on me' and my health. I could have died where I was living...and my body wouldn't be discovered for weeks...or months.
Toward the end of this past summer, I decided to move from the dead end town I was in to Rochester; a city an hour west with a population of about one million in the metropolitan area. I checked into apartments on line and Scott went to look at a couple and took pictures to send back to me. I decided on a place on Park Avenue; the most popular area of the city with urban 'yuppie' living surrounded by college students and young professionals. Called the "Greenwich Village of Rochester", Park Avenue is diverse and architecturally rich with an old world ambience that looks and feels like a touch of Europe. Scott ended up getting an apartment of his own just half a dozen blocks away right on Park Avenue, too. My place is in the business district; a three block strip filled with sidewalk cafes and restaurants, shops and boutiques and lots and lots of people...pretty much everything I needed within walking distance...and right on the bus line if I had to go elsewhere in the city.
That was the easy part. Now, I had to get rid of most of the possessions I had acquired over the past 20 years going from a two bedroom house to a small city apartment. I didn't want to part with one thing, but knew I couldn't bring it all. I ended up bringing way too much and luckily, found room to at least store things I didn't have space to put out. It's a difficult task going through your life and deciding what to keep and what must go. I went through every item I owned; touching some for the very last time. I lost count of how many trash cans full I set out to the curb. Some things were too good to throw away, so it was yard sale time. I was selling my belongings for pennies on the dollar. Better to have someone get some enjoyment out of them than throw them out. Even my entire music collection had to go...thousands and thousands of units; some rare, some unreleased...the songs of my life no longer to be sung in my home. I did keep a couple hundred compact discs, but the rest went out the door. I did manage to make a couple thousand dollars selling stuff off; money that would go to finance my move.
I didn't tell anyone I was leaving, let alone where I was going; not even my family. The moving company pulled up to my front door in early September and I was loaded and on my way in about an hour...on the road by 9AM. What I didn't sell or take with me; I simply abandoned...parts of my life just left behind...tossed to the wind and just memories now. I even had to find a new home for my F.N. Kat; the little guy I had taken off the streets a couple years prior; as pets weren't allowed in my new home. I think that part affected me most. He had been my friend all the while I was alone. It was a tearful time. Though I loved that fur ball; I had to go and leave him behind. I had to think of me and hoped he'd understand. As I pulled out of town; I never looked back. I knew I'd never return.
It didn't take long to get settled into my new home...and new life. Once I stepped inside my apartment; I could feel my spirits immediately begin to lift. The building is three stories with my place on the top floor. There are two balconies stretching across the front along with a large verranda elevated above the street level at the ground floor entrance. Stepping out of my door onto the balcony, I have a view overlooking the street and cafe strip. I can watch all the comings and goings and am surrounded by people. I'm right there in the midst of all of the activity. Life! At last! I can't believe what a difference it's made. There may not be any joy in Mudville, but there sure is happiness in my heart...and mind. The 'Mighty Rob' hasn't struck out. He's hit a home run...and a grand slam at that! I'm able to smile again...and have fun. I try to make it a point to get out every day now; even if it's just to go for coffee at one of the cafes, do a little shopping or simply take a walk and watch all the people. My move has even affected my health. It's improved. Where I could barely walk a couple blocks back home, now, I think nothing of walking a dozen blocks. Scott and I have even gone out for walks lasting over two hours; not just two blocks. The change of scenery has definitely done me well.
The most important thing is all the life here...all year round...even in the winter. There are people out everywhere...walking, talking, living. It's a city and there's always something to do...music, parks, fairs, parades, celebrations, museums, a zoo, theaters...people! On my strip alone, there's a couple dozen sidewalk cafes and restaurants...and several bars. In the summertime, the street is packed. It's difficult to even find parking. People from throughout the city come to my little neighborhood to visit and sample fares from around the world. There's Jembetat featuring African art and jewelry for sale. Stever's Candy is three doors away with their own hand made sweet treats. We've got pizza and Italian specialties at Cobbs Hill, Chester Cab and Pontillo's. There's Jines with a American menu; the most popular of all the eateries; at the main intersection of the strip just one block from where I live. If you like Mediterranean foods, you can stop by Sinbad's on the next block. Across the street is Cibon; coffees and cocktails with a French flair...Kobay for sushi...and Esan featuring specialties from Thailand. We also have two drug stores, a bank, a laundromat, a convenience grocery store, clothes boutiques, a printer, several real estate offices and countless beauty salons and day spas. We even have an ice cream shop.
It doesn't end there. People like to party and enjoy themselves in this neighborhood; even in the winter. A week after Thanksgiving; no matter what the weather, even with a blizzard; the merchants association hosts the Park Ave. Holiday Open House. All businesses offer free refreshments, chestnuts roasting on the street, ice sculpting, caroling, horse-drawn wagon rides, live music, and of course, Santa Claus. Tens of thousands show up for the evening to help kick off the Christmas season. The annual Gay Pride parade marches down Park Avenue every July and the city turns out en masse to show its support as the procession winds its way to a huge party at the route's end. The largest event is the Park Ave. Festival held the first full weekend of August. It features over 350 crafters from across the United States and Canada, a couple hundred food and drink vendors, live entertainment everywhere. Park Avenue is closed to vehicular traffic and over 300,000 people take over the street during its two day run.
So many people...so much to do...and now, there's me, too! Just by being out and about, I'm starting to get known by sight. Many times, you can find me relaxing, either with Scott or by myself, day or night, enjoying a cup of coffee at Camille's on the corner or further down the strip at Spin Caffe. It was the best thing that's happened to me; the right decision to make. I'm alive! We all need to make a change once in awhile...and I changed it all. I hope to get myself together again and back on track with my move. I shopped around and got me a new life...and I didn't even have to look for the blue light special.