[This Commentary originally appeared in the May 25, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]
A few years ago, I began searching Monroe County for a home suitable for my needs. I looked at a few houses in Pittsford, but something just wasn’t right for me. I didn’t know what it was then (and I still don’t). My quest for living space continued until I saw Mendon. “Wow, what a nice place,” I thought. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew Mendon was the right location.
I’ve had some time now to settle in and meet other people like myself. Mendon denizens really don’t talk about their community the way a high school cheerleader might enthusiastically root, root, root for the home team, but you can catch a certain specialness in the way these people talk and in a glint in their eye. I suspect even I do the same thing now. What is it? Who knows? In both the newer residents and the more established home owners, one thing is clear – they don’t live in Pittsford. I think that says a lot.
It’s not as though people are allergic to Pittsford or harbor any sort of ill will. It’s more likely they have made a decision to become that which Mendon is and Pittsford is not. Mendon, above all else, represents a pleasant secret.
It takes time to become aware of the secret. I doubt anyone ever moved to Mendon on account of this enigma. Maybe they felt it deep inside, but it’s kind of hard to believe they would really know what it is without first living here. Even after just a couple of years, driving along our fair country roads, experiencing the joyful townsfolk – from the approachable people of Honeoye Falls to the friendly neighbors in and around the Hamlet – living the life of Mendon begins to instill an aura in one’s soul.
I can’t describe it. I can only smile when I think about it. Maybe part of the mysterious essence deals with self-satisfaction (the kind that can lead to atrophying complacency). Maybe not. Rather, I speak of an inner tranquility of the type we normally associate with certain Eastern religions. It’s the kind of self-confidence and presence of being which permits our citizens to present a subtle non-conformist air.
It’s like my friend who sports an obligatory TV in his Park Avenue apartment, yet never turns it on. Now that’s the definition of cool: To stare the lemming right in the face, yet still not go over the cliff. When you feel right about yourself, clichés can’t tease you. If you feel really right about yourself, you can tease clichés!
Then again, there’s the “establishment” thing, as George Bush might refer to it. Several years after publishing his radical views on relativity, Albert Einstein once grieved he was so successful confronting authority that he had become authority. Mendon most definitely is not establishment. Just ask any Monroe County realtor – they’ll merely snuff at you, “If it doesn’t begin with a ‘P’ I don’t care about it.” Perhaps it’s just a little bit more fun not to have front row seats all the time.
Don’t get me wrong. I know many people in Pittsford and I think they are just great. In fact, there are many similarities between my Mendon acquaintances and those from that little town just north of the Hamlet. If you work in downtown Rochester, most other people simply group the two townsfolk together.
Sort of. Even city dwellers detect a subtle difference in character. This happens in part because these urbanites are more familiar with Pittsford and its clearly excellent reputation. But Mendon,… Aye, there’s the rub! They see Mendon as a slightly different story. They don’t know too much about it, and what they do know is as much hearsay as fact. Ask them. A few of them have told me on more than one occasion that Mendon is the only town in Monroe County whose residents do not have a covert desire to move to Pittsford. I think that says a lot.
They see it, though. They see there’s a secret, a fraternal bond which sets us Mendoners apart. They just can’t put their finger on it. Maybe, just maybe, it has to do with our keen ability to sit back, relax and enjoy the show. The slow, steady course. The persona of one who can be competitive during the working day, but still have the self-assurance to leave it all at the office.
Each night we come back home we enter paradise. The calming drive from Rochester, through slow curving roads and gentle rolling hills, transforms us. The metamorphosis returns us to a serene state. We are once again wise with the full knowledge of Mendon’s secret.
Mendon is not Pittsford. That’s why many of us chose to live here. I think that says a lot.
Last Week #9: The Difference Between Wright and Rose (originally published May 18, 1989 as Rose versus Wright)
Next Week #11: Excelsior!!! (originally published June 1, 1989)
[What is this and why is here? See Interested in Discovering My Time Machine? for more details.]