The Long Way Home

I <3 Buffalo
November 8, 2012, 8:16 PM
Filed under: New York | Tags: , , , , ,

cold, windy sunday

Curious about our northern sister-city, we drove to Buffalo: sprawling, flat land running east-west like a city should (unlike Pittsburgh, land of winding hills and one-way mazes – I still love you). We stayed at the Lord Amherst Motor Hotel in a tiny room that smelled like smoke and Charlie perfume, and Jeff and I got into a little tiff because I forgot the toothpaste and deodorant. What happens when you haphazardly throw the first things you see into a suitcase and bolt out the door after a long work week? Inevitably you forget things and end up at a local Wal-Mart around 1 A.M. in unfamiliar territory, getting a taste of local culture while shopping for Crest. We never got to eat ‘real’ Buffalo-wings, but we did eat sponge candy which Buffalonians claim as theirs: a chocolate confection with an airy middle like Cadbury Crunchies, but fancier and beef on weck: salty roll flecked with caraway seeds, stuffed with tender, rare roast beef and horseradish. I still dream about that sandwich. Like most rust belt towns, it felt like time stopped in the 70s; it rained most of the weekend, the sky so intensely overcast it turned the world around us blue.

prudential guaranty building, 1894

central terminal

church and pearl streets

allentown neighborhood


All Roads Lead to Buffalo
April 14, 2009, 12:50 PM
Filed under: New York, United States | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 –which sucked because Jeff and I never made it to Rochester. Our plan was to tour the George Eastman house and spend the night in a seedy motel (the Towpath, which may charge us a whole night’s stay for cancelling without 24 hour notice, the bastards!), then spend Saturday in Jeff’s hometown of Allegany.  But in Dunkirk, about 54 miles outside of Buffalo, the toll booth lady instructed us to take the next exit. I-90 was closed for 105 miles because of a freak snow storm that hit the city area. Long rows of semi’s stretched on the side of the road like the trucks you’d see at border check points going into Hungary or Croatia, or anywhere in Eastern Europe. We exited and pulled into an Aldi’s parking lot, studying the map for an alternate route. Wind rattled the car windows, but the sun made it warm enough for us not to have our jackets. Sunny and clear, and only an hour from Buffalo. There had to be another way. There was nobody in Aldi’s who could help us, so we trekked across the highway to a gas station attendant who couldn’t help us either. What about Route 39? I said to the woman, highlighting the pink line to show her. It might go to Rochester, she said. But I don’t want to take you the wrong way.

Doesn’t anyone know where they’re going in America?

We decided to hit Allegany/Olean on the way back to Pittsburgh. Imagine part of Monroeville about two hours away from the nearest city. And the nearest cities were Buffalo and Rochester. Welcome to Allegany/Olean. It is rural. It is like most forgotten parts of America, bruised and swinging on its hinges from a dying industry. I kept asking myself, what do people do here now? When you don’t see the hustle and bustle of a city, it’s as if you’re trespassing into private property. You get a glimpse of people’s lives, walking along the main streets, or in the mall, which is now mostly a vast space of empty store fronts. We played skee ball to kill some time, which Jeff used to do when he was in junior high. We took pictures of the house where Jeff grew up. The red door is now a natural wood color, and the backyard is filled with a pool. Everything had changed. I could feel it, even though I had never been there before.

On our way out of town, we took pictures in front of the church where Jeff was an altar boy. I scored a great find at the St. Vincent de Paul, a Spanish souvenir doll from the 1960s, which we got for a buck. Driving back, there was lots of wind and pending snow, cheap cigarettes on the Salamanca reseravation, and a horse and buggy hitched to a sign post outside of a convenience store. We had a pink sunset, and later, a full bright moon that we were lucky enough to guide us home.


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