Actually, Buffalo is right where upstate New York begins, almost a border between western and upstate. It looks like the midwest. Blizzards occur rather often but they have the mad phat snow-plowing skillz and can clear the roads in about ten minutes. The road system is well-thought out, too; you can get anywhere in the city in 20 minutes or so.

It's a fact!:

Buffalo was the site of the Pan-American Exposition where President William McKinley was assassinated, on September 14, 1901.

Steel mills once lined the now-gross Lake Erie, but began to close in the 1970s. Grain elevators were invented in Buffalo in the 1840s, but most have been abandoned.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed several homes there as well the first air-conditioned office building. City Hall is art deco.

New York's combined state and local taxes are the second highest in the nation after Hawaii.

Most people (especially outsiders) hate this city. It is depressing, dark, and behind with the times (go watch Buffalo '66). I guess it was big in the time when the steel industry was around, but now there is nothing much holding the city together.

Most of the population of Buffalo live outside, in the suburbs such as Amherst, Cheektowaga, Tonawanda, Clarence, Orchard Park, Niagara Falls and so on. Slowly people are leaving this city - you hardly meet people who are not from Buffalo unless they are students.

The only good thing about Buffalo is that the people who have grown up here love the place and vow never to leave, which at times, amazes me. Buffalonians tend to think that Buffalo is one of the best cities around, and won't even admit that Toronto is a better city (only 1-2 hours away). In fact, most Buffalonians I have met here, haven't even been to Toronto which is quite pathetic.

There really isn't much here. Most graduating students (a well known college is UB which thrives in Engineering) leave Buffalo immediately.

There is not much of a tech industry in Buffalo, which is suprising, considering Rochester, NY (home of Kodak, Xerox) is an hour away.

What also amazes me is how dead Niagara Falls is compared to the Canadian side of the Falls. I always tell visitors who come to the Falls, to spend 3 minutes on the US side and the rest of their vacation time on the Canadian side.

Buffalo, NY is dark and depressing. But it's also kind of glamorous in a sort of post-industrial wasteland way. Walking down Main Street is almost like being in a ghost town, every other storefront is empty and deteriorating, with cobwebs and broken furniture and decadent goth debris in aesthetically pleasing sepia tones. Buffalo is a good city for goths. I don't know if it's still around, but up until a couple years ago at least there was this club called the Continental, and it was the only good place to go dancing. Small and seedy and predominantly goth-metal-industrial, but since there was really nowhere else in town to go (usually) you'd get some interesting non-goth sorts as well. And the dj's would play old new-wave upstairs and trashy bands would play downstairs. People would really dress up to go there. There was this one girl I used to see there, she had this big beautiful afro and she'd always be wearing long flowing ragged dresses, that seemed to have waving tentacles and appendages attached to them. She'd dance and fling herself around and eventually the dress would come off - and there'd be another one underneath it! Equally as long and flowy and appendage-laden. This would happen a couple times throughout the night. And it always surprised me. I couldn't understand how she could make them fit, she didn't look all bundled up when she had them all on at once. The Continental usually stayed open until 4 in the morning, almost five sometimes, and then the dancing would stop and the kids would go over to this Greek diner on Elmwood Ave. and have breakfast.

Elmwood Ave. is about as close as Buffalo gets to hip. There's usually a couple good vintage clothing stores, though most of them tend to go out of business after a short while. Home of the Hits is the best record store in the city, but they have mostly cd's and not very much vinyl at all. But there's a guy who works there named Eric, and I went in once and asked for LiLiPUT (this was before the reissue came out) and the Razorcuts, and he told me that I'd never find that stuff in Buffalo (it's hard to find almost anywhere) but that he had a bunch of 7"'s by both of those bands and that he'd tape them for me. I thought that was great. The first time I was there was probably when I was about 16 or 17, like in 1990 or 1991, and he was working there then, and he was still working there the last time I went back, which was in 1999.

Buffalo has beautiful architecture. Besides the Frank Lloyd Wright houses and the Guarantee Building, the whole city just has a lot of cool buildings. And rent is cheap. No good bands ever come play there, and when I lived there I was depressed and lonely, it's hard (but not impossible) to find much in the way of interesting and intelligent youth culture. But I imagine that it would be a great place to be a young artist if you had a few good friends there to work with, for company and inspiration. Besides being an affordable place to live, there's so much empty, abandoned space that could be put to good use. And the bars stay open longer.

Legend has it that the word Buffalo is derived from mangled french. "beau fleuve" ("beautiful river") was used to descibe the Niagara River (yes, the river with Niagara Falls in it.

Native Americans had difficulty pronouncing "beau fleuve", and the mangled pronunciation stuck, and hecnce, the city got its name.

Well I've lived in this city for 20 years now, and I done pretty much everything fun that there is to do in Buffalo. I thought that I might share with you all what there actually is to do in this town.

over time I do plan to make this a comprehensive list.. as for now i shall just list what i can think of
These items are in no particular order other than the order in which i thought of them.

The Anchor Bar

Well, Buffalo is known for chicken wings. What better place to go that the place that invented them. Frank and Teresa's Anchor Bar is located on Main St.

Niagara Falls

Everyone goes and visits the Falls on their first visit to Buffalo. Its a tradition, and with good reason. What I've noticed is that everyone is particularly impressed with the Canadian side of the Falls. There are two different worlds at Niagara Falls.
Canadian Side The Canadian side is great. There are casinos, clubs, restaurants galore, and people lots of crazy people. Its a blast, definitely a fun place to go anytime. You don't beat the Canadian side of the Falls when it comes to having a good time.
American Side While at the Falls itself everyone loves to just stare at the water and think. I do it all of the time. On the American side is a lovely park surrounding the Niagara River. I find it most enjoyable to sit on a bench and watch the water flow. There are far less people, wich is just way more relaxing. Goat island is an experience unto itself. Its a park in the middle of the falls.

Tonawanda Riverside

Along the Niagara River is a beautiful park located in Tonawanda. There is a nice bike path and some nice beach side like restaurants. It a great place to go on a date and just talk or to take your bike and ride. During the summer there are jazz or other music shows put on almost every night. Even if you don't like the music it's just fun to stop and hang with the old people.

Albright-Knox Art Museum

A world class museum in Buffalo? Believe it or not there is. The Museum has a wonderful gallery of historic and modern artwork. There is also some sweet local pieces usually on display. About every couple month or so the the museum brings in a display not native to the museum. I went to see the Monet exhibit when It came. It was fantastic.

Main Street

It was a cool idea to put a long strip of pedestrian walkway in the middle of downtown. People could go walk into the little shops, an then take the free subway to wherever they wanted to go. Well its an empty bastard of a downtown now. My favorite game to play there is "how many 'for sale' signs can you count". But none the less it's still a sweet looking street with nothing to do but sit on a curb and hang out. I love it there.

Now going 'way back to when I lived in Buffalo, New York. A strange, almost rustic city was Buffalo in those days, still a mill town, still an important Lake port. Outside the city the Steel Mills stained the surrounding houses a dull orange and the grain silos stood in their serried ranks along the shore. To swim in the lake was to emerge smelling of the dead fish that littered the shore and ear infections from the pollution were commonplace, but who knew? I worked in one rolling mill straight out of University, only for a few months as a recent Union deal had resulted in a settlement obliging the management to take on extra workers who were not needed as compensation for a move to modernize production. The bunch of us newly hired bods wandered around sweeping clinkers and getting coffee for the regular workers, and I was told in all seriousness not to sweep so fast because I was 'killing the job'. Pfui. Rabid enthusiasts for 'workers rights' should take a look at the flip side in a time when the corrupt National Unions wielded more power than the most bloated Capitalist ever dreamed of.

 

But I digress. My memories of the Mills seems condensed into one night, standing in the middle of a cavernous cave of a building, the lights overhead twinkling like lonely stars  in the waves of heat from the blast furnaces, hearing the siren that announced the passage of a gigantic crane that spanned the walls from side to side, riding on its twin tracks under the roof. The little cage that held the operator sat on top, and from underneath his aerie a cable hung down ending in an electromagnet, an iron disk eight feet across holding in casual embrace a dozen or so steel bars each one of which was the size of a railroad rail. Every few minutes a fountain of sparks shot into the air as a worker with a twelve foot long oxygen pipe thrust the end into a crucible of molten steel to burn off the slag.

 

I lasted a month or so- my pride couldn't take being essentially useless. I worked in a jewelry manufacturing place for a time, learning to make the models from which the rings were cast, It was interesting work, and later my then wife and I opened our own hole-in-the-wall hand crafted jewelry shop. After a couple of years we upped stakes and moved to Connecticut, and out of the present story.

 

I returned alone, later, to find Buffalo had changed in many ways. The opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway that connected the Great Lakes to the Ocean spelled the end of the steel industry in Buffalo; foreign imports quickly outsold the local outlets, and grain exporters found it cheaper to ship direct without the need for storage and rail transport, so the huge concrete grain silos fell into disuse. The air was indisputably cleaner and the lake gradually recovered, but the people began to leave. The great manufacturing complexes that gave the Great Lakes Cities the name of the 'Rust Belt' became a series of ghost towns.

 

After a spell in a goods warehouse loading freight my jewelry background got me into a sales job in a posh jewelry store, the one and only time in my life I ever wore a suit to work. I was moving up in the world, at least people seemed to think so. I even moved out of my slum apartment and got a place in a newly renovated hotel on the lake front, way up on the twelfth floor. It was only a little one room efficiency but the view out over the lake was amazing and I loved living there. Late at night you could see the sunset over Canada across the lake and the slow strings of lights that were the Lake Freighters heading for the Seaway.

 

In a moment of euphoria over my improved status I went to a local Boat Show intending to buy a sailboat to take out on weekends. It didn't take long to disabuse me of the notion; I might be dressing better but no way did I have the cash needed to own a sailboat of my own. Somewhat cast down I was wandering disconsolately around the sleek Day Sailors and Yachts as the show was ending, when my eyes were caught by a small unobtrusive craft stuck in the back of a display. It was spindle shaped, bright blue and seemed to be made out of some kind of rubbery plastic. There was a small oval cockpit into which was thrust a bright orange paddle with a blade on each end. Intrigued I asked the salesman who was boxing up his promotional material what it was. He seemed tired but game and flashed the kind of smile you learn as a salesman, all teeth and oozing sincerity from every bicuspid. 'That? It's a new kind of kayak, it's made out of an indestructible plastic called Lexan.'

 

'It looks like a kid's toy,' I objected, 'Could you really take it out on the Lake?'

 

'You Bet!' he enthused, scenting the possibility of one more sale and one less thing to pack up. 'Why, they take these things White Watering in Colorado, look!' He showed me a brightly colored brochure but I wasn't really paying attention. Something about this homely unassuming little boat had captured my imagination.

 

'Uh, how much?' I said without much hope. I was standing next to the polished mahogany gunwale of a cabin cruiser that looked as though it would take a second mortgage on my immortal soul to even make a down payment.

 

'Tell you what,' he said in that I'm-losing-my-shirt-here-but-you-seem-like-a-nice-enough-guy sort of tone that they make you practice at sales seminars, ' They usually retail at one fifty, but since this is a show model I could let you have it for, oh, ninety five? And I'll throw in the paddle and the splash apron for Free, how about that?'

 

( I had a friend once who worked in Advertising. He told me that every day before beginning work he and his co-workers would stand by the coffee machine and chant, 'New and Free, Free and New ! Good for me and good for you!' You think I'm kidding? Take a look at any product promotion. )

 

Never mind the pop psychology, I was sold. I paid him the money and humped my new purchase home, ignoring the startled looks from pedestrians and drivers alike.

 

They say you never forget the first time you try anything. I remember like it was yesterday the first time I laid the lightweight plastic boat on the lakeshore , climbed into the cockpit facing shoreward and pushed off backwards into the water.

 

The water was calm, and the little boat floated like a duck, the water line rising to about the level of my waist, so that I was literally sitting below the surface. I used one paddle like a canoe paddle, and slowly began to turn the boat to open water. Inspiration struck and I alternately pushed one side and pulled on the other, and the Kayak spun like a top. Then I put some muscle into it and the bluntly pointed prow shot through the water like a torpedo. It was the most incredible sensation: I was the boat. I could feel the waves slapping my bottom and the slow heave of the deep water beneath. Lake Erie is not as deep as some of the Great Lakes, but the freighters that ply its waters are as large as all but the most massive of the ocean going vessels.

 

That first day I followed the shore about twenty feet out, down to the old factory docking facilities. A lot of salvaging had obviously been going on, there were dangling cables and bits of machinery both in and out of the water. I nudged the Kayak through a maze of rusted iron girders and looking over the side I could see the humped shapes of giant pulleys lying on the bottom amid tangles of chain. Light streamed through shattered windows illuminating the depths with an eerie greenish glow, while overhead the oil smeared gulls swooped and screamed triumphantly. I left and paddled further out, encountering some kind of jetty midway that connected with the mainland. There was a corrugated concrete launching ramp, and I pushed my way up backwards still in the boat, like a beached walrus. I was resting my forearms on the paddle admiring the view when I heard a voice behind me say, 'Hey, you can't just tie up here! You gotta pay docking fee! That's five dollars!

There was an instant of the sort of shock you get when you find yourself accused of trespassing, followed by a laugh as reality took hold. One push and I was floating free, and in seconds the voice of officialdom was fading behind me.

 

There were many such excursions in the weeks that followed, while back on dry land events were also moving forward. I met a woman and we seemed to chime together in an unusual way and before too long we were talking about marriage. We were both veterans of failed unions, both different and misunderstood, and that seemed a basis to build a relationship on. I had yet to learn that simply being different ain't ever enough. After a proper church wedding that still makes me wince remembering – there was no family of any description, just a lot of friends of one or the other of us – the marriage itself lasted about six months before my missus moved out, and that was that. I'd already quit my sales job and gone back to coveralls and safety boots at the warehouse. I'd lost my apartment in the converted Hotel, which was a pity, but I got a place in a run-down apartment building on the fringe of the Red Light district on Chippewa street. Back in those days, when nearby Toronto was too straight-laced for fun, Canadians came over the Peace Bridge to Buffalo to tie one on and see the strip clubs. I rented a studio in an office building overlooking the street- it was small with a huge window that took up all one end, and there I painted away, with the Kayak suspended from a sprinkler pipe overhead.

 

Buffalo Harbor was where the small boats were moored- small meaning anything from a one man sailboat to a private Yacht . Protecting the anchorage was a huge concrete dike, called the Breakwall, that shut out the winds from the North that used to come down from the frozen wastes of Canada in the wintertime, smashing the ice floes and piling up mountains of shattered ice on the shore. Even in summer the storms could be bad enough to wreck the big ships. Up till now I had confined my explorations to where I could see the shore, but one day I decided to take the Kayak out to the Breakwall, a thin dark line on the horizon just visible from land.

 

It was bright sunlight with a sharp breeze that made the air seem colder than it was. As I paddled straight out the water became choppier and I had a moment to wonder exactly how I would cope with a sudden storm; it didn't seem to matter. I was gripped by a strange excitement, a feeling that there was something significant about this particular journey.

 

After awhile I could see the grey mass of the Breakwall more clearly. It was shaped like a trapazoid in cross-section, about twenty feet high with a flat top , and sheer sides with no shelf to land the boat on. I was not exactly tired because the wind had been behind me, but I knew from experience that the trip back would be harder with the wind against me. Far in the distance, though, I could see the waves breaking on something light colored at the base of the wall, so I turned the boat and headed in that direction. I could feel underneath me the slow heave that told me I was in very deep water and I began to feel slightly uneasy. There wasn't another boat in sight and in the Kayak I knew I would be nearly invisible anyway.

 

I approached where the waves were breaking and gazed in awe to where the wall, a fifteen foot thickness at least of reinforced concrete, had been smashed in through from the other side creating a triangular gap through which one could see a vast expanse of open water all the way to the invisible coast of Canada. I learned later that a storm had driven one of the lake freighters, massing at around seventy thousand tonnes, head on into it.  The rubble and aggregate had piled up creating a miniature beach that sloped steeply down to the water, where numerous sea birds and gulls had taken advantage of the isolation and the protection afforded by the towering walls to build their nests.

 

A bit of hesitation, then I turned the Kayak and crawfished backward up the shingle until the boat was securely lodged and I could climb out. The birds, all of them so white in the sunlight that they seemed to glow, rose in a body and circled around me crying sharply. I found myself in the middle of a spiral of birds rotating around me higher than the Breakwall, and I threw my head back and saw at the apex a perfect circle of intense blue sky...

 

That's all there is to tell. Some weeks later I quit my job, loaded up the car and left for California.

 

If you ask me what the meaning of this story is, I'd have to say that there is one, but I don't know how to explain it. You had to be there .

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