Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Buffalo Love

Last week I drove up to Buffalo, which is always an adventure.

As you can see from the picture, Buffalo is pretty much due north of C'ville, but much of the way is through wilderness that lacks the highway essentials: Starbucks and toilets.  The all-interstate route is a full 120 miles further than the direct route.  See how much of the route goes through Pennsylvania?  Most of it is mountains and steep grades of the sort that require all trucks to come to a complete stop before descending. I've ranted about Pennsylvania before.  It is always a great relief to get to New York.

The point of the visit was to collect Ian from college, but then he got a groundskeeping job on campus which comes with the perk of a FREE room in the dorms for the summer but I decided to go up anyway.  He has also been working as a desk clerk at an old-fashioned downtown hotel, where I got a fabulous room on the 8th floor, with a view of distant Niagara Falls (on a clear day.)  I couldn't quite see the falls, but I could see the Grand Island Bridge, which is pretty close.

It's good that my son is not coming home.  I celebrate his independence!  And yet, I also feel blank about the fact that he will be gone for the whole summer.  He may never live at home again.  He and his friends have rented a flat off campus for next year.  He's only 18 years old and he will be graduating from college next year.  He's talking to me about taking the GRE, of taking a year off between college and grad school, to work and just enjoy life.  It's good, it is, but it was just yesterday that I was dressing him in little John-John suits that showed his chubby thighs.  Now he is tall--over six feet--and skinny and handsome.

Returning to Charlottesville from Buffalo makes me depressed.  It is so hard to return to the fetid, muggy, dank, hot  Charlottesville where there's hardly ever a breath of real wind and where bugs infest dark corners and you don't even want to sit on the couch in your own house because it feels damp and smells like dog.  This, after fresh, clean, cool, breezy Buffalo that has block after block after block of stunning old houses and gardens and museums and restaurants and art and parks and abundant Catholic churches, and people who are friendly and actually know how to drive and to cross a street.

I would move back in a second, but Jon refuses to do so.  It's not so great when you hate where your husband wants to live and he hates where you want to live.  Who is supposed to make the sacrifice?

I'm a terrible photographer, but I'll post these anyway.

Our old house in Buffalo.  We had the second floor flat, which was huge.

Arlington Park in the Allentown neighborhood--one of my favorite streets in Bflo.

More Arlington Park.

A deli I saw in Black Rock.  The other side of the sign says: POP, BEER, FROZEN FOOD.

It's not the most upscale part of town, but it has a certain charm and a fantastic coffee shop, where I stopped for breakfast on my last day. (This photo is from their facebook page.)

 Ian is convinced that Black Rock is due for a revival and is thinking about living there after graduation.  At least the rent will be cheap and there's a certain air of it being a  cutting edge place on the verge of discovery. It has an awesome gritty urban vibe, trains continually rumbling through, abandoned factories, heavy iron drawbridges over the Black Rock Canal.

Where was I?  Ian moving out, Buffalo, Black Rock.  I'm sorry for hating on Charlottesville, there are some things I like about it but it's a very difficult city: so smug in its belief that it is the perfect place to live.  You're a college town!  Get over yourself!  Maybe I am more conscious of the smugness because in general the people of Buffalo--where I lived for most of my life-- have a different attitude--a little defensive sometimes, but pleased when anyone choses to notice what's great about their city. Definitely not smug.


  1. Thank you for this awesome view of Buffalo. I grew up in the Southern Tier and last lived in Utica. I never saw this side of Buffalo. I always seemed to end up in the bizarre side of town where people stand on their porch and sing to a bath towel (true story!) I understand your feelings about Charlottesville and share many of them as well.

  2. I've lived in college towns. The entire town revolves around the college/university. Come summer, there is nothing to do. Shops often close earlier. Streets are desolate. And forget about any late night events.

    Charlottesville has the amenities of being a university town without being a college town. Here, things really get going once the students leave. The town sort of wakes up and comes alive for the summer.

    I'd certainly rather live further north, some place where mosquitoes only come out at dusk/dawn and where the blueberries grow in everyone's landscaping. The manbeast fears snow and small towns, so Charlottesville is our compromise.

  3. I've never been to Buffalo, except to drive through on our way to Niagra, so I'll take your word about all there is to like about it.

    We're making the drive through Pennsylvania this summer -- straight up I-81 from here to the Canada border (and then beyond). It's a long drive that we've made many times, although this time, before we leave, we're making a point to find points of interest and good places to eat along the way.

    I need to speak up for C'ville. Pete and I went to school here, then moved away. When we lived in the DC area, we loathed it and spent years trying to find the best place for us to live. We actually searched the entire country for the right place. We looked everywhere, including Tucscon, of all places. Ultimately, we ended up back here and love it. It's not perfect and it's not for everyone, but it's just right for us.

    Even though I am aware of the University -- what with my having gone there and my husband being employed there -- I don't feel that life here revolves around it. There's plenty going on that's not orange-and-blue related. Certainly, this town would not exist without UVA, but it's not the be-all and end-all of our existence.

    Yes, C'ville takes on a different vibe in the summer when the students are gone, but it's a nice, mellow vibe. Things are more relaxed. It's nice.

    As for the heat and humidity, the perfect antidote is having central AC. I grew up in a house without it, so I know how much summer can suck. Now, we go about our business in the summer - work in the yard, go for bike rides, go to the pool, etc. -- and when we're done, we go inside and enjoy our artificially-cooled house. :-)

  4. Oh, I'm sad and happy for you about your son. What an adventure for HIM!
    Yeah, no matter where you live, the grass looks greener somewhere else I think.

  5. Oh, it looks lovely.

    I hope you have excuses for many more visits. Too bad you always have to drive through PA to get there.

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