Friday, March 12, 2010

Falling in love with the Queen of the Rust Belt.

I've been living in Buffalo since 2001- almost ten years now, and I've just started to think of myself as a Buffalonian. I've discovered the retro-coolness, the kitsch, the heart, the fierce loyal determination that is the Buffalo vibe.

It's not the kind of city people travel to, not really- it's not NYC, it's not Toronto- but it is homey. It's about neighborhoods and history, and it's about a grassroots movement that sinks their teeth in crouches and growls when bureaucracy threatens.

We've got urban farms on the West Side, garden centers and parks and local artists pitching in to make pretty. People care. I know that there are movements like this in other big cities, but listen, those towns ain't Buffalo.

Buffalo, in my imagination, was the rusty giant of the industrial age, milling, toiling, blue-collar thick fingered Polack workers hunched over beers in dingy bars before going home, it was wide abandoned avenues of empty lots and old buildings painted inappropriate colors. (drive down W. Ferry, you'll see colors no house should EVER be.) It was big and grungy and disheartened. It was swamped with snow, and somewhere under there must be interesting people-overwintering the depression like heart grass under thick insulates of snow drifts.

I came for college, from a small town by the Delaware River. My family called me crazy. My teachers all asked the same damn question. "Do you like snow?" I didn't know how to answer without getting too deep into my theories of Buffalo, so I nodded and said yes. I explained that a city that dealt with it so much sure knew how to keep the roads clean and life moves on.

(I have to say after visiting elsewhere in winter- Buffalo truly is exceptional. Life sure does go on. If you can actually make it somewhere alive, however risky it may be, come on down. It's amazing. Eskimos with dog sleds would be more cautious.)

I would love to go back and tell everyone what I've found here- citizens that give a damn, love their city, fully believe in upholding the name, "The city of Good Neighbors." There are few areas in this city that you can say people have stopped caring- and I really mean that. They may be poor, they may be overworked and overwrought, but they still give a damn about their neighborhood and their city.

I've found a group of people who believe in a vision for Buffalo's future that involves urban farms and sustainable living. A revitalization of the city's empty lots and abandoned homes. And these people are willing to go round for round with city hall,too.

I have such admiration for Buffalonians, old school and new. I love it here.

And with fresh eyes, I take a look at Buffalo in February. Brigitte's theory of Spring coming soon.

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