Current Essays


by RHB

Back in the dim and distant, and just before I started writing these damned essays, the city of Rochester, NY was suffering from a severe case of sesquicentenniitis, and to celebrate (if that's the right interpretation of what they were doing) their one hundred and fiftieth year, amongst all the other innumerable murmurings of civic pride, they had a competition for a Rochester song.
In those days I was performing mainly mediæval stuff with Colleen Liggett and with others too embarrassed to be mentioned here, so the lure of the Rochester Song was great---and by a strange co-incidence I had just been working on an old song about Winchester. The rest (with a bit of translation and some damning with faint praise and a potted history of the real---by my standards real---origin myth) is history.
Or not.
Our entry was for some reason not the winning one, however by mysterious, possibly torturous and almost forgotten paths it did lead to my essays appearing on Simon's Scintillating Sunshine Show on Wednesday mornings at 7:15. Btw the numbers in the titles show their position in the sequence of the essays, and the date is that of the original air date on WXXI.

During that first year I rewrote and expanded the history so that nine of those Wednesday mornings were subject to the horrors of Hrofæscæstrian History. And since they were spread out in time I absolutely had to repeat chunks, and this had absolutely nothing to do with the laziness of the long distance essayist.
Now read on.

I dare you...

002 Founding
From 6th March 1985
My fellow Rochestarians, good morning.
I just learned that we have been celebrating the centenary of the city or something like that. I do wish that someone had told me sooner, because I so hate to miss these things, and anyway I could have told them that it was all a bit of a waste of time because, as I thought everyone knew, Rochester was really founded simply ages and ages ago.

008 Second Founding
From 17th April 1985
My fellow Rochestarians, good morning.
Some time ago I talked to you about the founding of our jolly city and as this is the millennium of that happy event, I thought that I should get the ball rolling for some sort of celebration by telling you more.

020 Early Centuries
From 10th July 1985
During this, the millennial year of the oldest continuously inhabited site in the New World, we Rochestarians must feel particularly proud. As an expression of that pride we at the Sunshine studios are bringing you a series of occasional Genesee-side talks entitled “Rochester - The Early Centuries”.

022 Slightly Later
From 24th July 1985
My fellow Rochestarians, good morning.
In this our millennium we proudly present yet another in our series of Genesee-side chats.

(The story so far: Meg has quarreled with Ray whose child Donna is… Whoops! Sorry wrong piece of paper---that comes much later. Neatanniel has quarreled with Abbot Ginn of the Rocks over the siting of the settlement, but in a vote the monks side with Neatanniel and Rochester is founded at Swillburg. They have a celebratory feast of bread and water. And now today’s episode...)

028 Tallchap
From 4th September 1985
[Yet another in our series of Genesee-side chats, this one a tribute to Henry Wordsworth Tallchap.]

Yet again I must ask you to accompany me, back through the mists of time, through a millennium of winters, to the early days of our metropolis, to our Swillburgian roots. I hope that you remember, from the last of these commemorative chats, that we left sober old Abbot Ginn of the Rocks, covered in snow, preaching to the wild animals who live around Vick Park B, having briefly met a mysterious stranger. For the moment we will leave the Irish monks to their books and their bottles and follow this---what we will typify as an---Indian, a certain Mr. Watha, on his journey.

032 Column Bust Day
From 9th October 1985
After the meeting of Mr Watha and sober old Abbot Ginn of the Rocks the Indians and the Monks became quite friendly, and life in the infant colony settled down to its usual calm and quiet pace. Since this was rather boring, Neatanniel soon became bored and decided to liven things up a bit. The monks had brought some pigeons with them from Britain to cook into what the abbot jokingly liked to call “pie in the sky”: two of these poor birds were still lingering about, and Neatanniel, remembering their propensity for going home, decided to get things going by sending a message home.

034 Let-us-now-praise-famous-men-and -our-fathers-that-begat-us-etc.
Let-us-now-praise-famous-men-and-our-fathers-that-begat-us- The-Lord-apportioned-to-them-great-glory Day

From 23rd October 1985

Tomorrow is Let-us-now-praise-famous-men-and-our-fathers-that-begat-us-The-Lord-apportioned-to- them-great-glory Day and although it is the only commemorative day on our calendar that, for reasons of space, doesn’t actually appear on our calendar we should still celebrate it, especially here in its birth-place, so I thought that we would have a slide show on the programme this morning to do our bit.

036 Go-Lum-Bus
From 6th November 1985
A couple of weeks ago I talked to you about the ancient celebration of Rochester's founders on Column Bust Day and, in the way that coincidence has of playing little jokes on us, not long afterwards there was an interesting development at the Swillburg excavation site at Clinton and Goodman involving a minor character from Rochester's history with a similar sounding name Christopher Go-lum-bus.
Actually I should digress for a momnent because many people don't know of this attempt to delve into Rochester's early history, largely because City Hall didn’t want to excite the populus too much and so put about the absurd notion that the excavations were something to do with sewers. I know that the audience of this programme is mature, unflappable and used to shock so I am breaking the news and relying on your discretion.
There have of late been many theories advanced about the origins of Christopher Go-lum-bus and why he should have been so keen on going west. It has been suggested that he was Jewish or Spanish or even Italian. The Clinton Goodman dig has at last revealed his secret! And you mature unflappable people will be the first to hear the…[FADE IN MUSIC TO END]
040 Millennium
From 4th December 1985
The archaeological dig at Clinton and Goodman is proceeding nicely, thank you, now that its brilliant team of excavators has sunk their first trench all the way down to bed-rock, and so this seems to be a good time to produce a preliminary report.

094 Lincoln Anne Washington's Birthday
From 18th February 1987
Last year, you will no doubt remember, we celebrated the millenial anniversary of our jolly city in a series of historical pieces ranging in time from an account of its founding by a group of wandering Irish monks and their companion the Englishman Neatanniel, back in the tenth century, down to the strange story of Go-lum-bus the Rochester native who in the late 15th century was stranded while on a package tour of Europe and whose vain attempts to get back home re-awakened European interest in the Americas.