"Uh, I got a BFA, dude." He spits out that last word as if he had a mouthful of raw dog. It's his stock reply to the Bug Jar denizens who have bellied up to the bar over the last few weeks and remarked, "Wow, Herman, you paint?"
If you've been to the Bug Jar in the last... well, ever, you've no doubt crossed paths with Angelo "Herman" Gatto. Around the turn of the century he settled in behind the bar, and for some time before that he DJ'd its rowdy Friday nights. Over the past decade, however, in between the drink slinging and vinyl spinning, Herman has been painting, evidence of which will adorn the walls of the Bug Jar through mid March.
Herman wields the aforementioned Bachelor's in painting and photography but confessed his ideas usually start off as doodles on cocktail napkins (naturally) before they're translated onto canvas.
As he walked me through the installation he copped to a longstanding obsession with Big Boy, the star of a couple of pieces. Glug (the pink blob) represents "a certain helpless person I know" while The Three Phases of Drunkenness chronicles "my transformation from a nice guy to an asshole." And My Baby Left Me at the Liquor Store (the girl on wheels) was inspired by the one who got away.
Herman was actually kind enough to offer to write this piece for me, and the obvious Renaissance man whipped up a draft on a napkin he had used at Mark's Texas Hots. It mentioned that he loves The Sadies and club sandwiches, covets left-handed guitars, and lives with a "pet hipster." I think it also said something about Australian moms, but the Tabasco stain made it tough to read.
The moral of this story? Don't think for a minute that the Jägerbomb you just ordered is a man's reason for being.
Other presumed candidates for Rochester mayor are still being coy, but on Friday veteran City Councilmember Tim Mains made his move, announcing that he'll seek the Democratic nomination.
Mains' decision pretty much guarantees that the Democratic primary campaign will have some sparks: In temperament, he tends to be more aggressive than fellow Councilmember Wade Norwood, Police Chief Bob Duffy, and School Board Member Darryl Porter, all of whom are expected to seek the nomination.
Mains, who is in his 19th year on City Council, is principal of School 50 in Rochester. The decision to run for mayor, he said early this week, was a hard one. "But I had to do it," he said. "I don't believe the others are going to be willing to tackle the issues that need to be tackled."
Among those issues: education --- particularly the often-contentious relationship between City Hall and the school district. "I don't believe anybody understands the complexity we're dealing with," he said. "Changing the schools isn't just about changing what's happening in our schools. It's about tackling poverty head-on --- and not just a job-training program here, a half-way house there."
"If the [larger] community has decided to warehouse all of the poor in the city and in certain sections of the city, we have to address that head-on."
"We have the highest child-poverty rate in the entire state," said Mains. "The depth of poverty in certain segments of the city affects housing values. I want people to recognize that they have a personal stake in this. I don't think other people [other candidates] will talk about it in the race, and I don't believe the others have the passion about it that I do."
Mains will also focus on economic development, a longtime concern of his on Council. "Our approach to economic development is project-based, not strategic," he said. "Everyone is desperate for the next big project: Are we going to get RenaissanceCenter? Are we going to get a stadium? Not that those projects aren't important, but we need a strategic approach. And it can't be done by the city alone."
"There needs to be a strategic effort in increasing small business in the city," said Mains. "And downtown revitalization: There's no excuse for downtown being a ghost town. We have not put our collective will into turning things around. I'm tired of hearing that retail doesn't work downtown. It does in other cities."
"I believe we're at a crossroads," said Mains, "and it demands a very active, hands-on, aggressive mayor."
--- Mary Anna Towler
With a wealth of opinion about Renaissance Square, you might think people would be flocking to make sure theirs is heard where it really counts.
The Genesee Transportation Council has recommended $12.5 million in federal and state funding for the Renaissance project. But two recent GTC public meetings, with opportunities to comment on the funding, were sparsely attended, say officials. According to GTC Program Manager Erik Frisch, a February 9 meeting in Henrietta produced just two comments (both in favor), while one the following night at the Rochester Public Library resulted in only five (all opposed).
"I'd say we had 15 people at the [Rochester] meeting, which was less than we wanted," says Frisch. The other attendees were there to comment on matters other than Renaissance Square.
That doesn't mean that no one is commenting on the project, though. Through email, snail mail and phone, the volume of comments is increasing, says Frisch.
"We're starting to build up," he says. "It didn't pick up as quickly as we would have liked."
If you're still holding onto your thoughts about Renaissance Square, time is running out to share them with GTC. The deadline for comments to that organization is Tuesday, February 22. Send them to GTC; 50 West Main Street, Suite 8112; Rochester, NY14614, or to email@example.com.
This is just one part of the Renaissance Square development, however. The project is being overseen by a new body called the Renaissance Square Corporation, headed by Mark Aesch, who is also CEO of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority. Presumably there'll be an opportunity to comment on the project to the Corporation as well, as the plan develops.
--- Krestia DeGeorge