Buffalo: A Great Place to Be…From

A beacon that beckons to me

I used to have a (not uncommon) recurring dream of being back in high school. I typically would wake myself once I realized: “Wait, I’ve already DONE this!” Since moving to California six years ago, that exercise in frustration has been replaced by another frequent visitor to my REM state. In this new one, I am back in Buffalo, working at the law firm where I spent ten (TEN!) inert years in the mailroom (EIGHT of them with a bachelor’s degree). In this dream I am back there because my employer in California has laid me off temporarily (like weeks to months) until work picks up again. And I am separated from my wife and son. (Note: A family-less variation existed prior to my plunge into husband/fatherhood.) The overwhelming feeling is of complete and utter failure (and frustration). You see, I feel I gave the Queen City the slip, Shawshank Redemption style. While I have a deep well of great memories of Western New York, in a nutshell, I GOT OUT. (“Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.”-Brooks Hatlen) I am willing to bet that at least HALF of the people who say they wouldn’t live anywhere else, say so because they don’t have a choice financially. (Or they’re simply mentally comparing Buffalo to worse places like Rochester, Syracuse, Jamestown or Fredonia.) I was one such citizen. I remember the indignation I felt when Natalie Merchant referred to life in WNY as a living death, and viewing Vince Gallo’s less than flattering portrayal of Buffalonians in “Buffalo 66”. In retrospect, they were both right and I was just jealous. They got out. They pulled their own Andy Dufresne. And I was still stuck wandering among the ambulatory corpses. Here I could launch into a tirade on inept government, horrific 6 month winters, a top ten segregation rating, squandered waterfront development opportunities, and frequent “renaissances” that never materialize. But I won’t. I didn’t like being kicked when I was down and I won’t do any kicking here. (A related, recurring dream is that it’s snowing in Silicon Valley. I typically wake from this one with a heavy heart and body. Thank God, it’s only a dream: My tolerance for Buffalo winters ran out at least 20 years ago.)
But I digress. I now work for a pretty large multinational corporation. (Like my entire “escape”, an INCREDIBLE stroke of luck, actually-a company that won’t be seen in WNY in my lifetime.) With a headcount of well over 100k, it’s no surprise to run across fellow diaspora Buffalonians here. On a work visit to an East Coast office, I met woman originally from Cheektowaga. I told her I was from South Buffalo. Without skipping a beat, she responded, “It’s a great place to be from, isn’t it?” I smiled ear to ear. I knew immediately what she was implying with all its pride and irony. Hells, yes-a great place to build a foundation. (I read somewhere that Buffalo is fertile recruiting ground for the Secret Service, its reputation for a fierce work ethic, fierce loyalty, and a love of things simple being the draws. I know of one personally.) It’s a shame there’s not enough incentive to make so many of us stay. As my home for 37 years, I DO miss it at times.

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