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Tony Palermo

Whenever I leave Rochester, it's not long until I feel the need to get back here.

Where are you from?

I started out in Marion, New York, went to school there until 5th grade. Then my mother and father got a divorce, and I hit the kid lottery when my mom decided to move us to the sunny shores of Florida.

Why'd you move back to Rochester?

As a kid, even though I lived in Florida, my father still lived in New York. I'd visit often, so the Finger Lakes as a whole never fell into obscurity. A few years ago, I moved back to the area from a small stint in Pennsylvania. I couldnt wait to move back! Over the years, I've come and gone from Rochester so many times. As good as it sounded at the time, leaving this place in the dust inevitably lost its luster when I'd arrive elsewhere. I found myself reminiscing about moving back alot until one day I was like, "Okay, I'm going back and thats the end of it."

What is your favorite part of living in Rochester?

Simply put, my favorite part of ROC lives in its complexity. The weather, the varied architecture, how there is so much good happening, and at the same time so much bad. I like it here because most don't. Everyone has Carolina fever or Florida on the brain. And though those places are nice, whenever I leave Rochester, it's not long until I feel the need to get back here. 

Do you have any favorite/secret Rochester spots?

Hands down, my favorite place in Rochester is my house. I spent many years wondering where I'd eventually buy a house. Now that it's a reality, most of the time I'm home doing projects, building things, writing, or generally just enjoying it all.

What is your favorite time of day to hang out in the city?

Favorite time of day is golden hour. When the sun starts hitting from the west in that low angle, it sets the city on fire. No matter where you point your camera, the pictures look like a VSCO filter.

What is your favorite day of the week?

Favorite day of the week: Tuesday. Favorite weekend day: Saturday.

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Describe your dream Rochester day.

I actually lived one this past summer. I woke up early to a kind of golden sun we only get when its summer. I cut off a pair of pants into shorts, put on a thrift store t-shirt, filled my camel bak with water, grabbed the camera, strapped on shoes, and hit it. I parked in the free lot over by Pour and just walked for hours. I must have started around 9:30am, maybe 10am. But I didn't come back to the car until it was starting to get dark. I walked everywhere that day. I took over 400 photos, stopped at Hart's and bought a small tub of gelato, and walked around eating it while pausing every couple of minutes to photograph. I found my city that day, and it seemed as if everything I looked at was beautiful. I was alone. I find I'm best alone. A camera, a few bucks in the pocket, and a wide open schedule to wander. Perfect.

Do you have a favorite neighborhood?

Not really, but I am on Park Ave a lot. If pressed, I'd say the ABC neighborhood. If i could ever hope to live somewhere someday, I'd want to be there. But all the houses are kinda big, and I'm kind of a ranch home, single level guy, so this is why I'd probably opt out of buying in that area, even if i were ever able.

Favorite hungover eating spot?

Listen, I'm 35. I don't do hangovers. But on the off chance that I go at it a little too hard, you'll find me in my kitchen. Toast, coffee, done.

Favorite bar?

Marshall Street. This place is kind of a hole. Dark AF, which is classic Rochester. It's no frills, working man. I always feel at ease there. I'm not a fancy guy. I need a certain level of dirt around me to feel comfortable, and Marshall Street has the right mix. Dear future girlfriend, the keys to my heart: Invite me for BLTs and a pint at Marshall, and I'll be like Pepe le Pew, floating around in love with you. 

What’s your personal coping mechanism for cold/gray weather?

Writing and coffee and sitting in my room glancing out my window overlooking the backyard. I'm always strangely mystified by the changing scene out there. Sunny and green sometimes, crisp and yellow, white and blowing. It's always funny to me how varied these changes are. Yet the house I'm in never changes. Once last winter, my cat (TheHarv) and myself had this weird moment. I was in my chair, writing, and he was sitting on the window sill. I looked up to take a small glance. It was snowing like a mother. Then, Harv looked at me, as if saying, "Dude, looks fricking cold out there." All I could do was look back at him in complete agreement. He turned his head and continued starring, and I went back to writing. 

What’s your favorite Rochester memory?

The moment I used my favorite pen to sign the last document during the closing of my house, Rochester became part of my history. The town of my first house. No matter where I go, Rochester will be the first city in which I signed up for a mortgage. The first place I figured out how to install vinyl siding. The first place I figured out how to repair a bathroom tub faucet, build shelves, and install tons of electrical stuff. As the years go, the memories build, and I'm thankful to be here.

If Rochester were an animal, what would it be?

I'd say honey badger. It looks chill, smart, and resourceful, but will lay you out if need be. Animals in the wild know not to mess with honey badgers. And that's how I view this city. People open businesses. We wander around with a warm and toasty feeling, then bam. One day you wander past someone who doesnt mind taking it all away from you. And with as much safety as we think we have, there's also a very real threat of danger. 


Hello, I'm Tony. Most folks just call me Toe, which is short for BiGTOE, a nickname I acquired a long time ago. I've been back in Rochester for three years. I have a mortgage and a job. I'm pretty regular. I like to take photos, mainly of my beloved Rochester. I also write a lot on my blog. 
If you see me out, give a shout. Let's wander!
IG: @thebigtoeproductiondiary