Long Story Short: Thanks, 2020!

The Jonathan Casey memorial garden

Slow and slower

For as long as I can remember, the U.S. Postal Service was one government agency that reliably functioned with clockwork precision. You could post a first-class letter one day, and if it wasn’t leaving the region, it arrived the next. We took this for granted.


Recently, there have been complaints of mail delays here and across the nation. Federal lawmakers and U.S. postal officials are concerned that policy changes implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy—a recent Trump appointee—are the cause. Locally, that includes the removal of several mail sorting machines from Buffalo's Postal Distribution Center on William Street and a ban on overtime.  


How much does this matter now that email has replaced much of what the post office once did? When entire towns like East Aurora are not getting mail on certain days, that’s a concern. Essential medications are arriving late, as are social security checks and a variety of other things people count on.  


Last Wednesday, New York Congressman Brian Higgins visited the William Street facility and discovered troubling conditions there. Thousands of delayed packages remain in the building, including "fresh fruit sitting for weeks and three-day Priority mail delayed for a month or longer."


My mail story

For quite a few years, I’ve gotten an annual birthday card from Mayor Brown. I have no idea why. This year’s edition has a picture of City Hall on it, with "Happy Birthday" emblazoned across the front. Inside it says, "Thinking of you on your Birthday and wishing you a happy year ahead." It’s signed Byron, with his machine-printed signature right on the card. Just knowing the Mayor is thinking of me on my birthday brings me joy. It’s mailed with a first-class Forever stamp, so it should make the twenty-three-block trip from City Hall to my house in a single day.    


The Mayor’s card is usually the only one I get and, in past years, it arrived on time or before my birthday. Last week, it came Wednesday, September 9. I checked the post mark—September 2. It took a full week for what used to take one day. Not good.


Not the only reason

What makes this extra amusing is that my birthday is August 19. So, it took two weeks just to get the card in the mail. It’s been a rough year at City Hall, so I’m chalking the delay up to COVID-19, multiple protests, deficits, and school opening glitches.


I’m sure Mayor Brown would like to forget about 2020 altogether. I know I would. Hopefully, we’ll all have a happy year ahead and next year’s card will come on time.



They’re baaack

Regular readers will recall previous LSS articles regarding cameras at city school zones. Just as people were getting used to the unnaturally slow speed limits, the unnecessarily long hours they were active, and the errors they made, COVID-19 shut down schools. By now, drivers might have forgotten about the sometimes-long stretches of sluggish traffic (on Delaware Avenue for example), and mail-delivery speeding tickets. To complicate things, public schools in Buffalo are still closed, with classes provided for students online. So, you might be wondering whether or not the school speed limits are in force.


Some private schools are not teaching remotely, so to protect those students, the city is turning on select cameras. Starting today, cameras near Canisius High School, Nichols School, and Notre Dame Academy are going live. The speed limit is 15, and that can be enforced by police on site. But if the cameras catch motorists going more than eleven miles over the speed limit, they will be issued a summons by mail. 


As in the past, flashing yellow lights alert drivers to the presence of cameras ahead. Those beacons will be turned on one hour before the school day starts and turned off one hour after it ends. If they aren’t flashing, the camera isn’t on. And the city has added more "end of speed limit" signs to let you know when you can resume normal city speed.  



Cereal mania

Is this satire? That’s what I wondered as I caught a story on WGRZ News about a cereal café that opened on Hertel Saturday. The Cereal Spot is a restaurant that serves…cereal, the kind you buy in grocery stores. They have over seventy different kinds and six different types of milk! And ice cream, because ice cream goes with anything. The place is decorated in midcentury kitchen kitsch. The tables look like cereal boxes, and there’s a huge wall mural of product marketing characters. Rows of cereal boxes and plush character toys complete the look.


A global phenomenon

Apparently, cereal cafés are a thing, and Buffalo is coming late to the party. To give you some idea, Yelp has a link to the Top 10 Best Cereal Cafes in Boston, MA. That’s just one city! This is the first here in town, so for now it’s the best. The owners highlight the nostalgia of eating cereal, which, for me, is a memory stretching all the way back to yesterday morning. They have all your favorite cereals from when you were a kid, which I suppose means you can have Lucky Charms with chocolate milk, topped with Rocky Road ice cream if you want. Breakfast of champs. 


The idea, say the owners, is that you feel like you’re at your kitchen table as a kid eating cereal, which again, I can actually do at my kitchen table. In cereal cafés, patrons act as "cereal chefs," creating their own "crazy concoctions" by combining different cereals. For example, you could mix Froot Loops, Fruity Pebbles, and Trix, which are all basically the same thing. "You can create something you have usually never done before," says one of the owners on the news segment. Truer words have usually never been spoken. 


The takeaway

Okay, there must be something to this, or it wouldn’t be such a success in other cities. And who am I to judge? If you told me ten years ago that there would be a hugely successful toast café that serves toasted bread, I would have thought that was satire too.  



Afflicted thespians

The theater and film arts have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19, since live and recorded performances are generally not yet possible, and there’s no telling how soon they will restart. The Batman—which was filming outside of London—resumed production for only a few days before its star Robert Pattinson tested positive for COVID-19, and they had to shut the production down again. Even in the best of times, there are always plenty of actors looking for work.


It’s about acting

Soon, there will be a novel opportunity for local actors to ply their trade. Daemen College is going to employ players as mock patients, working in constructed "sets" that mimic doctor offices. The actors will provide real-world scenarios that medical students might encounter as physician assistants. Daemen’s Center for Interprofessional Learning and Simulation has eight examination rooms, and a counseling room for telehealth and telecounseling. The rooms also have cameras that will record the student’s—and no doubt the actor’s—performance.


This will give students a more inclusive experience to improve patient-centered wellness, says the school. By spring, the center will be used to train nursing, physical therapy, applied behavior analysis, athletic training, social work, education, and paralegal students. Actors can polish their thespian skills, as students practice such things as communication, empathy, and illnesses diagnoses.


Imagine the following dialogue between the trainer and method actor:

Trainer: You’ll have a groin strain.

Actor: What’s my motivation?

Trainer: A groin strain.

Actor: But what am I feeling?

Trainer: Pain. Specifically, in your inner thigh.

Actor: I’ll need to train; maybe put tacks in my shoe to create a convincing limp.

Trainer: A fake limp is fine.

Actor: I’ll use a sense memory of the time I fell of the stage during Cats.

Trainer: Cats is all the pain memory you’ll need.

Actor: Is there a script?

Trainer: "Ow."

Actor: Ow?

Trainer: You say ow when they stretch your adductor muscles.

Actor: How about I go, "Holy motherf****r, that hurts like a son-of-a-bitch," and then I smack the therapist across the face? 

Trainer: That’s not necessary. Just ow.

Actor: Okay, underplay it. Anything else?

Trainer: They will likely check for a hernia.

Actor: I want final approval over nude scenes.


Opening soon, at a center near you


The 2,400-square-foot center is located in the school's Research and Information Commons and is expected to serve 450 students per year. It will also be available to practicing clinicians for professional development, and a multidisciplinary Community Advisory Board comprised of local professionals is in the works. No word whether that includes acting coaches.



A reinvented PLAY/GROUND emerges from a COVID-19 setback

Three years ago, a family-friendly immersive display of experimental art took place in an unused school building in Medina New York. PLAY/GROUND was an instant hit, and the following year a new edition of the event drew even more visitors to the same location.


There were plans for a third installment, when COVID-19 hit. So, the organizing force behind the event—Resource:Art—joined with the Buffalo Institute for Contemporary Art to reinvent the expression of the region’s creative vitality. PLAY/GROUND 2020 takes place outdoors at various sites around the region, with adequate social distancing for viewers.


A new vision

The organizers say it’s "a celebration of the resilience of artists, creativity, community, and our shared future. "We knew that we could not continue moving forward with our original format and considered the suggestion that we postpone our event until such time as there was a vaccine, and people could gather in mass," explains PLAY/GROUND founder Emily Tucker, "but, at the end of the day, we all felt a responsibility to reimagine our event for the current climate."


They got art

PLAY/GROUND "opened" this past Saturday. Twenty-two works were selected by a curatorial team from over sixty proposals. Visitors might want to plan on making two or more trips, including one for nighttime works. From what I’ve seen so far, and what I know about many of the participating contemporary artists, it’s well worth the drive to the various site-specific locations. 


Bianca McGraw’s Reclaim & Redistribute is a large-scale work made of Legos, intended to create childlike wonder. When it’s dismantled, the plastic toys will be distributed to children in disenfranchised communities. Colleen Toledano creates a miniature Burchfield-Penney Art Center, with a mini exhibit of art by her peers.


The always entertaining art team Virocode offers a video projection for night viewing that comments on the interaction and conversation between nature and machines/technology. Becky Brown’s Spent is a sculpture commenting on "legacies of disinvestment laid bare by Covid-19, now causing economic hardship rivaling the Great Depression..."


Memorial to an artist

A Sacred Life is an urban crop circle, inspired by the harmonic proportions of sacred geometry in which the circle is the principal element and representation of cosmic life. The installation is a collective, ritualistic, and meditative experience, using perennial plants that require minimal upkeep. It’s intended as a permanent installation for the neighborhood, city, friends, and family of the late artist Jonathan Casey to enjoy in perpetuity.


Don’t miss it

The installations spread throughout Buffalo and the region are a remarkable accomplishment, considering the event was reimagined and organized over a relatively short time. Locations include the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Explore and More Children’s Museum, the Hotel Henry, Larkinville Square, OSC Manufacturing, UB Anderson Gallery, and more. Most projects are free and open to the public. The event runs until September 20. On weekends, PLAY/GROUND representatives will be on hand to greet visitors, with cool event swag available.



Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.


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