Shuffle off to Buffalo
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 19:11
“So long and good riddance, Western N.Y.”
I grew up in Chautauqua County in Jamestown, N.Y., a good 70 miles south of the City of Good Neighbors. My summers and sleepless nights were spent here on the streets, though, huddled next to hipsters on Allen Street and dancing through the Entertainment District.
Looking back, those days were wonderful, but naturally as a teenager, I thought they were the worst days of my life. I spent every thought dreaming of how to get out, and ever since my earliest days of middle school, it had always been about NYC. I had stars in my eyes for the bright lights of Manhattan, and the cacophony of construction and conversation sounded like a symphony to me. I craved it.
I made my great escape in Sept. 2010 when I moved to Manhattan to go to NYU. I waved goodbye to Western N.Y. for good, only to return for home-cooked meals and Christmas presents. At last, I was a real New Yorker (whatever that even means), boasting of my fancy Fifth Avenue dorm room and setting my location on Facebook at every coffee shop and bookstore I inhabited.
For my pride, I try not to admit I was homesick, but damn, I was. I missed piling into Pearl Street from the piercing cold with my dad to order beef on weck and watch the Sabres bitterly. I missed the cheesy skipping on Main Street during the summertime and playing in bands across the Southern Tier. I never fell out of love for NYC, and I never will. But I fell in love with Buffalo – at first just the concept and then as a real, concrete thing.
I had to explain to everyone I met at school where I was from the same way: “Oh, Jamestown, N.Y. … it’s in Western New York, about an hour south of Buffalo.” The more trips I made home and the more people I met, the description was shortened to “Buffalo, N.Y. … yes, lots of snow.”
But those descriptions got thicker and thicker as I described parks and festivals and the food, and I found myself falling in love from afar. Visits became more frequent, and my dorm room wall soon had a picture of Shea’s that I ripped out of one of those Amtrak magazines. My breaks were spent with friends still living in the Queen City, crashing couches and exploring everything I thought I was apathetic toward.
That brings us to my story today.
After a particularly rough fall semester during my sophomore year – one that involved my dad getting ill and me running out of money – I left NYC and transferred to UB. A time that should’ve brought a lot of disappointment (note: it brought some disappointment) triggered a wave of excitement. My final weeks of packing up my East Village apartment surprisingly had me counting down the days and humming John Fogerty’s “Rock and Roll Girls.”
“If I had my way, I’d shuffle off to Buffalo/Sit by the lake and watch the world go by.”
My mind always shifts back to a moment 2008 when I was traveling in Europe and ran into a couple from Queens. I was so desperate to be considered a stereotypical New Yorker from the “good” half of the state that I tried to make believe that I was from the boroughs. Four years later, I proudly interject with “Buffalo” when someone introduces me as being from New York.
I’m proud to call myself a Buffalonian now, and a rather pushy one at that. The people who come to visit me spend long hours being dragged around the waterfront and down Elmwood to see all the places I spend my time. I spent so long trying to get out only to come back to the area in love and full of optimism. You can’t expect to love Buffalo if you don’t live Buffalo. You have to experience it and see all the little things.
That one saying that you can’t forget where you come from is true. No matter how far away I am from Western New York and from Buffalo, it will always be a part of me, calling me back for a visit.
As somebody overwhelmed by wanderlust, aching to paddle the bays in Vietnam and explore the cathedrals in Kiev, I can’t promise I’ll stay forever. But I don’t like hearing people make snide remarks about how sad it is when people never leave or continually come back. Some people just want to sit by the lake and watch the world go by, and I can’t imagine a better place than Buffalo to do so.