Random Rochesterite: Brendan Bush
One resident, numerous anecdotes
Name: Brendan Bush
Occupation: Special ed paraprofessional at RPS
Where we found him: At a friend’s birthday party
Are you originally from Rochester?
I am not from Rochester originally. I grew up in Columbia, Maryland, which is between Baltimore and D.C. It was an interesting experience growing up there. It was a totally planned community designed to be a social utopia, with intermixed lower, middle and upper income housing in each village. Everybody had their own village center, and then the town center had malls and offices, and things like that. I lived there from just after fifth grade to age 20.
Where did you go at 20?
Off to college after two years of community college, to study photojournalism at Western Kentucky University. Go Hilltoppers!
Did you end up working in photojournalism?
Yes, in 1998 after graduating, I had a yearlong paid internship at the Newport Daily News in Rhode Island, which was fun. I got to cover the Newport Folk Festival, sail racing and squash tournaments—things I never would’ve experienced otherwise. But there was also some disillusionment.
There’s a big divide between the theoretical in the classroom and the actual practice. You come out of a college with this big photojournalist history—students there are nominated for Pulitzers!—and you go off to a newspaper and you think, “This isn’t how I dreamed it …” It doesn’t make it bad, it’s just not how you dreamed it.
What was your next step?
I worked at another newspaper for seven years, then met the mother of my children, my ex-wife, while she was in grad school. She was from Minnesota.
That’s how you ended up here?
We were living in Roanoke, Virginia, and the kids were getting older and the house was getting smaller. My ex-wife had always talked about moving back to Minnesota. She has family here, and we said we should either move before the kids start school or commit to Roanoke and move to a bigger house in a school district we liked there. We came to Minnesota for Christmas, my ex-wife got an interview at Mayo while we were there, and it all worked out.
What’s your take on Midwest vs. East Coast?
I think the idea that people are more passive here is true. They tolerate more than they should at times. I think you can only do that for so long until it leaks out in other places. I’m the guy who honks his horn in traffic when people don’t go. That’s not to say I desire that [East Coast] pace anymore. I have no desire to go back there.
You’re sticking around?
I’ve got two kids—Grayson is 11 in 6th grade and Emily is 9 in 3rd grade—and I’m not going to leave them. I was a stay-at-a-home dad for their whole youth and I kind of like them! It’s been fun to have grown up with them and experience what I did as a stay-at-home parent. I’m here for the long haul, until my kids go to college or maybe they’ll want to stay here even then. I’m here.
Five things you love?
My kids, camping, New York style pizza, craft beer, coffee, bagels… that’s more than five, isn’t it?
Favorite local brewery?
Oh man. I don’t get out that often. I’m a homebody. But I would have to say LTS.
You asked Alexa to turn the volume down on your music when we started talking. What was she playing?
It was whatever my soundtrack is. I think she picks it, and for some reason she’s been playing a lot of Queen lately.
My scariest moment in my entire life was when I lived on the East Coast. We were whitewater rafting in western Pennsylvania, and it was my second time on this river. The first time we had to portage one of the rapids because a drowning victim was still wedged under a rock. Their boat had flipped, and they were stuck under this rocky undercut and it can get a lot of pressure underneath there. A big dive team was trying to safely get the person out. That was the first time we were there. We came back a few years later and thought, “This time, we’ll be able to run this rapid.” And then we immediately flipped. At that same spot. I’m not the strongest swimmer, and you flash back to that drowning victim, to that dive team. That was scary.
The last one was a year ago, when the kids and I went to Salt Lake City and rented an RV, then drove around southern Utah to Moab, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park. It was exciting. I’d wanted to do it for a good number of years, but then COVID and divorce happened, and I’m like, I’m going to do this. We camp a lot, but we tent camp, so the RV was a different experience.
How was driving it?
It was good. You pick it up in Salt Lake City, drive two blocks and then right out on a highway that’s six lanes. It takes it up a notch!
Advice you’ve been given?
Before my son came into this world, I was talking to the president of Roanoke College and he said, “Nothing is going to reveal your shortcomings more than having a child will.” And it’s true. Your bad traits can be magnified in them, or be magnified when you’re pushed to parent. You see your kids doing things and you think, “Where did they learn that from?” And it’s you. So you have to de-program those shortcomings in them and in yourself, too.