"There's something interesting about Irondequoit?" science fiction writer Nancy Kress asked in response to my question. "Why didn't anybody tell me that when I lived there for six years?"
Kress recently moved to Seattle, but like many Irondequoit residents she wasn't fully aware of what is interesting about her former home town.
Even the town's official Web site notes that many longtime residents aren't fully informed about some key facts about the town (like, the biggest park in the town isn't in the town; it's actually in the city of Rochester. Like the fact that its western border, often assumed to be the Genesee River, is actually east of the river, since the city owns the land on both sides of the Genesee.)
But Irondequoit, a suburb on Rochester's northeast side, does offer: (1) The world's largest music store, (2) the country's oldest living miniature golf course, and (3) a ghost story that inspired a cult-classic horror movie.
There is also an amusement park, along with some nice restaurants and shopping, but if you visit the town with the funny name (it means "where the land meets the water"), you need to go to HOG and Whispering Pines, and look for the lady in white.
HOG is the nickname fans have given to the House of Guitars on Titus Avenue. As The Wall Street Journal said in a 2004 article, if you never heard of HOG, you are not a rock star. Ozzy Osbourne shops there. The owner, Armand Schaubroeck, once opened the store two hours after its normal closing time at the request of Metallica. Other customers include Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Jon Bon Jovi and The Ramones.
What they come for are the estimated 10,000 guitars, give or take a few thousand, and the drums and amplifiers and keyboards. Even with five buildings, all connected so that from the outside and inside they look like one with oddly placed additions, the place is so crowded you feel like you're in a giant garage that lacks enough space to walk through.
And following a store employee's directions on how to get from, say, the guitars, to the used CDs, is like being in hillbilly country and being told you can't get there from here. There are more dead ends and Do Not Enter signs than an average mind can tolerate.
The most crowded room is in the lower level, all the way in the back. (Most people enter the store from the back parking lot). It contains tens of thousands of CDs and vinyl records and T-shirts advertising rock concerts, some held decades ago.
>Miniature golf history
Speaking of things from decades ago, Irondequoit is also home to Whispering Pines, the oldest still active miniature golf course in the country, on Culver Road.
Built in 1930 and originally called Tall Maples, it is a conventional mini-golf course with the traditional windmill hole (you have to time your shot to miss the blades) and a free game if you make a hole in one on the 18th green. Its appeal is not that's it challenging, but that it is a piece of Americana, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Whispering Pines is on the northeast edge of Durand Eastman Park, which is actually owned by the city of Rochester.
Go about a mile east on Lake Shore Boulevard and you'll come to a stone wall set back on the south side of the road. It was once part of a 19th century hotel with a great view of Lake Ontario, just across the street.
According to a local legend, a woman in white appears every night looking for her young daughter who was abducted by a possible child molester. There is no specific case of a child abduction to support the legend, at least at that location, and such abductions, sadly, have occurred nearly everywhere.
But Rochester native Frank LaLoggia wrote a script based on the legend that became the 1988 film "Lady in White." LaLoggia also directed and produced the movie. It was filmed in the village of Lyons, about 30 miles east of Rochester.
"Lady in White" was not a box office blockbuster, but it has remained a favorite of some horror film fans, perhaps because it is unusual in the genre, with little graphic violence and no gore. Mostly it's a psychological study of a young boy who encounters the ghost of a dead girl looking for her mother.
But, if you're hungry there are still plenty of places to find good food in town. Like Irondequoit Hots, next door to the House of Guitars, where the house specialty is, what else, a HOG plate, a version of Rochester's famous garbage plate, with hot dogs or hamburgers stacked on top of a plate full of beans, macaroni salad, fries, or various combinations of those and other foods.
Or, next door to Whispering Pines (and jointly owned), is the Parkside Diner, a small, neat and clean version of a traditional American diner with all the food choices the genre implies.
North of Whispering Pines on Culver Road are about 10 other eateries, all near Sea Breeze Amusement Park, the fourth-oldest amusement park the country.
If you go:
To reach the House of Guitars, take the Thruway east to I-390. Take 390 north 5 miles to I-590. Take 590 north about 10 miles to the Titus Avenue exit (at a roundabout). Go west 2 1/3 miles to 645 Titus. There's plenty of parking to the rear of the House of Guitars. Irondequoit Hots is next to HOG.
To go to Whispering Pines miniature golf course, return to I-590. Go north to Durand Boulevard. Go one block west, turn right. The golf course will be on your immediate left. Parkside Diner is next door to Whispering Pines. Sea Breeze Amusement Park is a few hundred yards north of the course.
To go to the place where the "lady in white" ghost is reputed to hang out, return to Durand Boulevard, turn right (the road will now be called Lake Shore Boulevard), travel 9/1 0 of a mile. The stone wall is on the south side of the road.