Long Story Short: With friends like these ...
illustration by JP Thimot
Another article about Buffalo made it into a national magazine—this time Vogue—but not everyone is applauding. Kirby Marzec, a millennial who moved from Buffalo to New York City, lists the reasons she left, leaving some local Facebook commenters fuming about her negative view of the city. Halfway through the article, she tries to flip it by saying she misses that which she now understands to be good and pure about her hometown. But that brief click-your-heels/“There’s no place like home” moment doesn’t quite wash the bad taste from our collective mouths.
I’m not going to repeat Marzec’s opening cliché; you can read it for yourself, but it sets the tone for the piece, characterizing Buffalo as a booze and sports town. Then there’s this line: “I lived there for eighteen adolescent years, and for every single one, I couldn’t wait to leave.” Is she saying that she experienced an overly long adolescence and waited until it ended to move, or that puberty kicked in for her at birth? People have generally interpreted it to mean she left town at age eighteen, leaving us to wonder how she emerged from her mother’s womb so dead-set against Buffalo.
She describes the city she fled as “friendly, wholesome, safe, dependable, charming even,” which sounds pretty good, but for Marzec, this “simply wasn’t enough.” “Where was the culture?” she asks. “Where was the art? Where was the music and the food and the diversity and the opportunity?” My response is, where were you, Kirby? Because the year you left was the year the new 18,000-square-foot Burchfield-Penney Art Center opened, spotlighting the regional art scene you were obviously oblivious to. It was also the year the Albright-Knox mounted its ambitious museum-wide Acton/Abstraction exhibition, and Jennifer Steinkamp’s audience-wowing time-based digital projections. The year before you left, eighteen galleries and museums joined in the second Beyond/In Western New York biennial, showcasing contemporary regional art.
You say Buffalo was “missing that edge,” but as you were packing your bags, CEPA was exhibiting “transgenic” and “bio” art, and Steve Kurtz had just been arrested and charged as a terrorist (for which he was later acquitted) for producing radical work with the Critical Art Ensemble. The year you left town, Hallwalls had an installation called, The Diamond Dogs, which featured a huge ramp made of broken beer bottles, and Alicia Ross’ Samplers depicted internet porn fashioned into needlepoint. Not edgy enough for you Kirby? Or did you miss this because in your teenage petulance, all you could think about was leaving?
I don’t have space here to talk about the many diverse music venues—from Kleinhans Music Hall to Mohawk Place, Soundlab, and Nietzsche's—where so many great musical acts performed. And theaters! They were here if you had looked. Before you checked out, you might have ventured downtown for Curtain Up! to see how many plays and performances were happening at any given time. Or you could have attended some of the theatre, music, film, culture jamming, street performance, and visual arts that make up Buffalo’s annual Infringement Festival.
The year Marzec left for the Big Apple, New York magazine published Where the Urban Dream Life Is Going Cheap: What could possibly make someone want to leave New York and move to Buffalo? In more than 4,000 words, it described how Buffalo might just be a better place to live than New York, for, among other reasons, the opportunities it offered.
We are thrilled that Marzec has come to realize that Buffalo beats New York for livability. And if she does find a “good enough reason” to come back and “give it another shot,” we won’t hold it against her that she left while she was still a child. If she’s making her living in New York as a writer, we imagine her return is imminent.
We’re number one
The Buffalo Bills haven’t played in a Super Bowl since their four straight losses from 1990 to 1993, which I’m tempted to refer to as OUR four straight losses, because Buffalonians take their football very personally. But last week our city snagged top honors among fifty-six NBC stations for Super Bowl viewership. Buffalo even had a higher percentage of households watching the game than the cities of the two competing teams!
Fifty-six-point-four percent of Western New York Households had the game on, nudging out the Super Bowl winning city, Philadelphia, at 56.2%. Boston was third at 55.9%. Most Buffalo viewers stayed tuned for Justin Timberlake’s extended halftime Pepsi commercial, which can best be explained as the result of an aversion to getting chicken wing grease on the remote control. The highlight of the JT prance-a-thon was when the singer sat down briefly and paid tribute to Prince while dressed in what looked like Wal-Mart hunting attire. He sang “I Would Die 4 U,” which, according to most critics, is exactly what he did for most of the performance. Timberlake may have snagged an Emmy award (with Andy Samberg) for “Dick in a Box,” but he couldn’t get a similar rise out of the viewing audience. An online poll found that only 20% of those responding thought he did a good job, and over 50% said it was the worst Super Bowl performance in history, forgetting that The Black Eyed Peas once performed “Boom, Boom, Pow” in that slot. At one point, as JT hopped around on top of a stack of mirrored platforms, he seemed unable to clap in time with the song. He did run around a lot though, so there’s that.
The best time to shop at a Buffalo Wegmans is during the Super Bowl.
Long Stories Shorter: Quick takes on items of note
The problem with tasers
Buffalo police are considering equipping officers with tasers, which are usually nonlethal. Tasers seem like a better alternative to guns, and, if given the choice of being shot with a gun or taser, please taze me. Because they are considered nonlethal, police may be less hesitant to use tasers, and there’s the problem. When it comes to physically restraining a suspect who is fiercely resisting arrest, the taser may be an all-too-easy solution for risk-averse police officers.
Why worry about tasers? Because they’re not harmless. They can cause cardiac arrhythmia in healthy individuals, and cardiac arrest and death in drug-users. The taser company itself recommends officers avoid tazing suspects in the chest area, citing the potential for “cardiac arrests, lawsuits." The U.S. Army determined that "Seizures and ventricular fibrillation can be induced by the electric current." Tasers cause acute pain, and the United Nations recognizes tazing as a form of torture. Amnesty International considers tasers to be inhumane. There have been 108 deaths associated with taser use by law enforcement nationally. So let’s be careful with these “nonlethal” devices.
Hats off and hajibs on to Olean High
Olean High School student, Zayba Chauhdry, started a drive to encourage female students to wear a headscarf on World Hijab Day (yeah, that’s real). Around thirty students and a few teachers joined in the show of solidarity with Muslim women. The experience gave them insight into what Muslim women go through. Some participants said that the action had added meaning, coming less than a week after President Trump’s executive order preventing citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia from entering the U.S. for ninety days. The school wisely took a hands-off approach to the event, neither sanctioning it nor discouraging it. Similar school-sanctioned events in some cities—Mason, Ohio and Medford, Massachusetts, to name two—were canceled after parent protests. Hats off to these students, who initiated an action to show their support for people who are too-often vilified out of ignorance.
Thief takes cars for test drive
Basil Ford in Niagara Falls might be the victim of a finicky thief. According to the Buffalo News, cars keep going missing from the dealer’s lot, and then returning in a day or two. On one occasion, a stolen car was left in a Target parking lot up the street, which is kind of like returning a book to a different library. This is according to a police report explaining why the most recent theft of a 2013 Ford Taurus wasn’t reported immediately. It seems that the folks at Basil have become accustomed to cars being taken and returned, as if the pilferer is trying out different models before making his or her final choice. So they wait a couple days to see if the latest stolen car returns. So far, over the past year, two have not come home, including the Ford Taurus.
Bocce Pizza returns
There are those who say there is no pizza like Bocce's, the pie of my childhood memories. The pizzeria opened in the post-war years, and soon became an iconic landmark at the corner of Clinton and Adams, and, a bit later, on Baily in Amherst. The Buffalo location closed in 2011. Now the owner of the Amherst location, Jim Pacciotti, is refurbishing the Buffalo site to reopen sometime this year (exactly when depends on how many “surprises” are encountered during renovations). Plans are for the restaurant to carry the full classic menu, which will bring tears of joy to the eyes of Bocce pizza lovers.
Artist and educator Bruce Adams is a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.
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