I ran yesterday in the early afternoon on the streets of the city of Rochester.
A short loop, about four and a half miles, out from my office to the northwest and back.
It was cold but bright and two days before it had been more than 80 and I had sweat my t-shirt through. But the weather turned and yesterday I wore a long-sleeve shirt and knit gloves and I never got moving fast enough to truly perspire.
I didn’t really have a course, but I knew I wanted to go someplace different. I’ve been running on my midday break pretty much every work day for four years and the routes have become somewhat predictable. And in a city with hundreds of streets and countless combinations of streets, there is no need for repetition.
So I started up St. Paul and turned at Andrews and hung a right at State and went by High Falls on the way to Lyell, but when I got to Lyell I thought I’d go up Smith instead, just to Plymouth, and take Plymouth the block or two to Lyell.
It was that stretch that got me thinking.
First in front of dying Kodak where I got a pretty good gust from the brewery across the river. That struck me as funny because mostly the wind blows from west to east and you don’t smell the brewery on that side of town. Years ago, when I was a newspaper columnist, I’d go out and just walk the city, looking for stories, and I’d boast that if you drove me blindfolded to anywhere in the city I’d give you a pretty good idea where I was by how it smelled.
And the brewery is one of the classic smells. One of the great smells. I don’t drink beer, but I love the smell of Genesee because in so many ways it is the smell of Rochester.
Or, one of the smells.
Which is why I went up Smith instead of Lyell.
In the random association of thought that fills most of my runs, I smelled Genesee and got thinking about smells and how I loved to smell the bread baking at DiPaolo, and DiPaolo, of course, is just a block up Smith and I was coming up on Smith and so I went left when I’d thought I’d go straight and I ran up close to the loading docks to smell the warm scent of the ovens.
And if you’re at Smith and Plymouth it’s only natural to head north and cross over to the west side of the street to catch the rich scent of the curing and smoking meats at Zweigle’s.
I resolved as I passed to pick up some white hots or red hots on the way home as a treat for my kids.
As I turned left on Lyell, in the direction of Gates, I remembered that there used to be another scent along that stretch, maybe 20 years ago, another bakery, with a lunch counter, and back in those days I swear if you went up the avenue to the old Roncone’s, where the cops and the gangsters ate lunch, you could smell the sauce and the sausage and 50 years of Italian heritage.
But I didn’t go that far yesterday, I just went up past Saratoga to Brown or whatever that street is that leads past the street where the kids died in the fire a couple of years ago and then goes on alongside the soccer stadium. A soccer stadium whose name was bought by the Buffalo hot dog company. Within sight of our hot dog company. I’ve got nothing against their hot dogs, they’re fine, if you like ‘em small, but they’re not our hot dogs and in our town I’m going to eat our hot dogs.
I continued on south along that street and turned left on the one that goes past the firehouse and continues on to become Maury Silver Way by Frontier Field. A city cop was setting out cones in the street, a paramedic had an ambulance gurney by the main gate and Engine 10 roared by with its lights and sirens going. Those three things had nothing to do with one another, it seemed, and as I came alongside the back of the north edge of the ballpark’s concourse I could smell the things they were cooking for the day’s ballgame.
It was a run to smell things, the wonderful things, of this city I love. As I trotted on, that was the theme I identified.
But it was getting toward the end of my break so I swung by City Hall to see what was parked in the mayor’s space and then ran up to the county office building and the Gannett Building and the War Memorial and crossed the river to the Rundel Library and crossed South Avenue back toward my office when I saw a series of posters in the windows of the new main library.
Large, splashy posters of smiling people.
Each one had the word “READ” emblazoned on it.
It was mostly people I recognized. Media people, people like that. And political people.
Maybe half of them were political people.
With their big smiling faces in oversized street-level posters.
Kind of like campaign posters.
The taxpayer funded library had put up full-color, campaign-like posters of various politicians who happen to be powerful voices in funding the library.
What a coincidence.
I stopped to take a picture to post on the Internet to see if anybody cared. Then I ran on past the old Wegmans at Midtown to my office.
It was a great run.
Several great smells, and one familiar stench.
Genesee and DiPaolo’s and Zweigle’s, and our own special brand of pay-to-play politics.
All four are Rochester traditions.