Amid Buffalo’s resurgence, we often seek out the latest. Tired of our storied past, we grasp for the sparkle and pop of the localvore restaurant, the re-envisioned event locale, or that newly designed park. And we should enjoy our Wilkeson Pointe
or Black Sheep
. But then, sometimes, maybe even in mid-cheer, we are enticed by a familiar refrain and we return to our same ol’, same ol’ haunts - our beloved standards. And yes, we may even have our own storied frustrations with these places, regardless they have provided us with years of comfort, nourishment, joy, and fun—places, we just can’t quit.
Being a proud Buffalonian, and one who is forever optimistic, I certainly can’t quit the Buffalo Bills. People who don’t live in Western New York have a hard time understanding the special bond that exists between our community and our sports teams, and ultimately at the end of every recent season that bond is questioned with mediocre on-field performance, dysfunctional management, and the phrase “well, there’s always next year.” The Bills have the persistent ability to suck me in every year, renew my season tickets, dangle hopes of the playoffs in front of me, and put me on an emotional high during the summer training camp months in anticipation of the new season. Then it inevitability comes crashing down sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving.
With all that being said, what else could I imagine myself doing during Sundays in the fall? Absolutely nothing! My father passed this love affair down to me at a young age. I was lucky to begin my Bills fandom during the glory years of Super Bowl runs, Hall of Fame players, and the general sense that life does not get better than watching your beloved Buffalo Bills practically go out and destroy their opponent every week. Wow, has time flown. Now, I still get just as excited on game days to tailgate, be around friends, and hopefully bask in a win. I have children of my own now, and simply cannot wait to pass this passion onto them, as my dad passed on to me. Am I setting my kids up for a lifetime of disappointment? Nah. There is no doubt there will be some of that. I however like to think that I’m instilling a lifelong obsession that only a Buffalonian can understand because “where else would you rather be than right here, right now?
Weekly Things –
My first memory of Cazenovia Park is of splashing in the baby pool with my mother watching over me. Our family regularly had picnics there with my mother’s cousins and their kids. Hot dogs and kool-aid were the order of the day. As an older child, I graduated to the big pool, and later to the diving pool. We ice-skated on the Cazenovia Creek in the winter, doing figure eights and playing crack the whip, then going into the pavilion for hot chocolate.
The pools and skating on the creek are gone now, but I still go to the Park many days a month for my walks. Each season in the Park is special. In spring the trees gradually unfold into their green leafy splendor, while the ducks and geese show off their babies. In summer, I walk early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the heat of the day. I like to watch the ball games in the bowl and on the hidden diamond, and the children playing on the swings and slides. In fall, the trees dazzle with their colors as the temperature cools. In winter, the paths are plowed, the trees are bare, and the creek is frozen. All is white and quiet. Sometimes I spot a great blue heron fishing by the waterfall. Or I sit on a rock by the creek and watch the trees dance and the waterfowl going about their business. Or I visit with one of the dog-walkers. Or watch the kids play soccer. There is no end of things to do there and I am very grateful to the Park, a steady presence in my life, ever changing, but always welcoming.
A sign next to the cash register and atop the bakery case reads: “If you'e in a hurry, you're in the wrong place.” Are you kidding me? OF COURSE I'M IN A HURRY! I'm in a coffee shop. Coffee, the last fully sanctioned addiction left in this country and I am depleted. From the minute I awoke exhausted (mothers never get enough sleep), I rushed to get here. I hurried to the lyrics in my head “You got to move it, move it”—damn Disney movie song whipping me to get here even faster. I pulled my children out of the car and into their respective schools, “Oh Sweetie, did I forget to give you a kiss? Mommy’s in a hurry. She needs her coffee.” I smacked my hand to my lips and waved repeatedly as I stumbled back out the door - almost there.
My shirt is on backwards and inside out and now that I’m finally here, I’m arguing with a sign.
Invariably, one of the impossibly young, oblivious to my very immediate needs, maddeningly languid workers festooned with various types of chapeaus takes my order. I frequent the place three times a week and say my name each time and not one of them remembers; or maybe they do, I can't remember. I pour water from a tank and take a seat next to the door, by the window as the darkness and heat of the place begins to bring on the exhaustion I’m so desperate to allay. I drop the stuff I jammed into my purse and pockets before I left the house onto the table - phone, pens, composition notebook, etc. I forgot something. I always do, but then I don’t believe I did and dump the contents of my purse.
I hear my name. Abandon the stuff. Hurry to the ceramic mug on the counter.
And there, before me, stands an artfully constructed latte with a leaf and a balloon sculpted into the foam. I take a sip. Just right. Perfect, in fact.
The cook in overalls and an Irish longshoreman’s cap waves. “Hello friend” he says. I smile. I like being called friend. I meander back to my table.
The décor includes words embroidered or stamped on signs and prayer flags: Love, Community, Equality, Merry, Neighbor, Sweetness. I can focus on these signs and forget the we don’t hurry
declaration now that I’ve sipped the kool-aid—oops, I mean latte. Later, after I decide what to make for dinner, I’ll stroll down to Guercios
and then possibly on to Bobby’s Price Rite Market
, a bodega with a butcher in the back. Grant Street is a walking community. For now, I open my composition notebook, pick up my pen, take another sip of my latte, and write— relaxed, refreshed, and decidedly unhurried.
Delaware Park/Hoyt Lake by Marti Gorman
Hoyt Lake beckons. Ring Road reaches out to me. These lovely loops within Delaware Park are like arteries in the heart of Buffalo. My heart is pulled around and around and around. Past the Zoo, past the statue of the Hunter, past the bridges to nowhere. From the Casino to the elegant arc of the fountain, past the shadow of the statue of Womanhood to the grand view of the marble façade of the Albright-Knox, walking to the toll of Big Ben atop Rockwell Hall. Up and over the tricky bridge and past the tennis courts on a good day when I can do both of my favorite loops. And around again and again. I can’t quit Delaware Park.
When I need to think through something, solve a thorny problem, resolve a difficult issue, write a reluctant article, I don’t. I walk. Walking is how I get my best thinking done. By not thinking, but just by walking. Something magical happens when I stop thinking about something troubling and start walking. The answers, the words, the solutions just seem to come to me. Walking is my secret weapon.
And my favorite place to walk is in the heart of my city. In loops that pull me along in a Zen-state, requiring no thought. Marking the landmarks that I have treasured since childhood, sensing the spirit of my daughter beside me, walking on paths laid by Frederick Law Olmsted, walking in the heart of my heart, in the heart of Buffalo.
I refuse to quit Delaware Park. This is my home. I am home.