How Buffalo Get a Warhol? Reflections on a Postmodern City… By Craig Reynolds

Warning: I did not write this. The author passed away last year but I wanted to share a piece of Buffalo history that is worth reading, worth thinking about and something you’ll never find in print. It is the beautiful, haunting and gritty description of the “old” Buffalo that many of us fell in love with (or hated). Read it… it’s worth every second.

How Buffalo Get a Warhol? Reflections on a Postmodern City

By Craig Reynolds ,  from Basta! v1n1 (spring 1997)

THE ARGUMENT: Buffalo provides a challenge, not a legacy; it taunts the uninspired until they flee to a city where legacy’s flow will carry them along, like New York, San Francisco or Seattle. Buffalo requires a substantial commitment, like that of a drowning man to his condition. In Buffalo, we wrestle with God, Job’s God, and the fact of being is enough.

I begin to understand this after asking my 2 friends visiting from Seattle how they like the Albright Knox Art Gallery, the first stop in my weekend tour of Buffalo’s monuments to greatness. Pointing at Andy Warhol’s 100 Cans, they ask, “how Buffalo get a Warhol?” making me realize: 1) my friends aren’t exactly Peggy Guggenheims, but that’s perfectly a–okay; and 2) even after enjoying firsthand some of the greatest paintings anywhere, the misconception that Buffalo couldn’t possibly be significant remains even still.

It is a Saturday morning late in the football season and the museum is relatively empty, so one guest poses the inevitable question, “where is everybody?”––but rather than waste energy answering it, we who are not somewhere else do what we always do when queries like that arise: lean forward as far as we can without stubbing our noses on cold marble or bronze or drooling all over the paintings we risque absurdity to love, muttering under our breaths: “my God . . .”


A few hours later, after a quick architectural tour beginning on the gallery’s rear steps and ending downtown, we wind up at the waterfront, where we enjoy the cacophony of winds whistling through the car’s window casings. Naturally, being downtown, there’s no–one around . . .

Except a pack of wild dogs . . .

Wrestling savagely beside an over–turned garbage can on the corner of Erie and Lakefront Boulevards.

I go absolutely nuts to myself realizing I live in a city where wild dogs roam the streets, where the only activity is the impossible action of postmodern comic strips and outlandish science–fiction fantasies. I explode with delight realizing just how primal things have become, how ugly, how real.

Society has no claim on Buffalo anymore. We’re alone and that’s happy. We’re all gonna die and that’s happy. The empty storefronts that line Main Street dot sentences that ceased being written in earnest decades ago (anybody who writes them still invites the cancer that threatens to devour America). Buffalo is a grand Dadaist joke played on the American dream. What to do now is anybody’s guess––

My friends and I drive off wildly into the tangled maze of industrial nothing and bliss. “Not much happening here!” I shout and take a robust pride in its being true.

1.3 million people live in the greater–Buffalo area and all I see is not much happening here. I see empty factories overlooking empty lakes and rivers. I see empty streets leading nowhere but to other empty streets, empty parking lots in the shadows of empty churches.

Buffalo is the most spiritually evolved city in America. Like Christ, we have sacrificed everything for a better line on the suffering we always sensed was the only truth. In Buffalo, it’s man against God. Leaving your house mid–January is a Grecian odyssey all in itself––.


Soon enough, my friends begin to enjoy the sense of release our inevitable expiration arouses––

We drive on, past half–full warehouses and factories pumping loose, disjointed rhythms into the vast, inhuman night.

We drive on, through the staggering corpses of unused grain elevators, pure surrealist monuments to nothing.

We drive on, past windowless bars where solitary patrons try to trap oblivion in the bottoms of their beer glasses, but never succeed (oblivion).

We drive on, alongside vestigial railroad lines but tonsils were always my favorite body part so who am I to complain?

We drive on, past the leftover remains of Bethlehem Steel’s old headquarters, a creepy mansion on the hills only it’s all alone on the banks of Lake Erie and the dirt is deep like on the buildings in Paris.

We drive on, past the dilapidated cruise ship imported extra–special from Cleveland to collect spiders and rats on the polluted shores of eastern Lake Erie, also creepy.

We drive on––

We drive on––

Until we reach Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica and the trumpets begin to sound. And the angels on its rooftops sing: “everything you ever thought was true is wrong!”

Five minutes later we are standing dumbstruck in the center of the cathedral’s magnificent atrium, where the walls and ceiling exude the strange inner light the images painted on them ache to depict. Everybody in our group is amazed, silently gaping with eyes large like the black hole that is Buffalo.

“What is a beautiful, amazing place like this doing in Lackawanna?” my one friend asks.

Our Lady of Victory is a typical Buffalo achievement in so far as there’s absolutely no reason why it should exist . . . but it does . . . just like Buffalo does . . . and the reason why is that Father Baker had a vision and committed himself wholeheartedly to its fulfillment. Buffalo is ripe with enigmas and why here?s––and the answer always comes back “because” (Buffalo precedes all rational explanations). There is a fine line between something and nothing and Buffalo manages to walk it straight despite the large quantities of alcohol it consumed in hopes of blurring that line just a little wider. Unlike other cities, where it’s easy to sink into the flow of everything’s fine, in Buffalo, you must be a prophet or drown in utter mediocrity. Buffalo demands existential authenticity, and the rock we push up the hill (only to have it roll back down over us time and time again) is our only salvation. Like Rimbaud in the gutters and back–alleys of Paris, in Buffalo, you have no choice but to remake life; there’s no bullshit left to buy, no palace gates to hide behind (I endure Siddhartha Gautama’s 4 passing sights whenever I walk out my front door). Buffalo is the most advanced city in America; we progressed beyond progress. Our truth is grounded on an intense understanding of everything that is false (or an intense understanding that everything is false). We don’t need to realize the ultimate insignificance of the world; our world realizes it for us. Not only does Buffalo’s faded, tattered industrial landscape prefigure a dawning, postmodern art and architecture, it augers a new way of being. I mark in every face I pass marks of weakness, marks of woe––the sane, saintly sufferings of Christ. In Buffalo, we have exhausted all the tired cliches of American culture, but who needs them anyway? I’d rather run with wild dogs through silent streets than jump from old mall to new mall hopelessly fleeing my own inevitable collapse.

It doesn’t vex me that the world has abandoned Buffalo to the cold, hard night of passing time, impermanence and irrelevance; it just means I have an art gallery of incalculable merit all to myself, a downtown whose jewels were left for me to reap, a lake like a vision and the wind that blows across it proves that I’m alive, a discarded history so rich I feel privileged to watch it unfold. In Buffalo, we have turned something inside out, revealing the paradoxical everything of nothing. Our insignificance is of such great consequence it weighs on me like death; next stop: illumination.

AND NOW, FOR THE FORCED FINALE THAT’S TRUE NEVERTHELESS: in the growls of wild dogs I hear the song of the new American frontier, where being and not–being fade into the fact of we’re here anyway so what are you gonna do about it?––where significance and insignificance meet on weekends for an illicit drink (before returning to their established corners in time for tenure–track office–hours on Monday). We are the still point at which all contradictions meet and become one. I don’t care if you don’t care. The past, present and future is Buffalo’s essence. Someday you’ll join me in eternity.

Perry, New York… A Dreamy “Brooklyn – esque” Town! 

On our way to Ithaca today, we stopped in Perry!

Chris calls Perry the “Brooklyn of Wyoming County” because it has a contiguous dense urban fabric and a fantastic group of do gooders / movers and shakers doing some cool stuff.

We arrived unannounced but Ann (owner of Burlingham Books!) gave us a tour of the neighborhood and we ran into Ryan Fitzsimmons, a local architect who I spoke with at a preservation conference a few years back in Rochester!

(note: every time we travel randomly this scenario seems to happen where we run into awesome people… It’s actually very strange but I’m not complaining!)

Running into Ann & Ryan was awesome. We got to see the inside of the new brewery (coming 2016!) called Silver Lake Brewing, did a small hike to see Perry’s secret waterfall and we were given a tour of an old Victorian house that Ryan is renovating! Ryan, Ann and the other civic leaders in Perry, NY are working hard to bring people downtown, excite the community  and build civic pride… and it is paying off, truly!

Here are a few photos Chris & I took. If you get a chance to check out Perry, it’s right outside of Letchworth and well worth a visit!



American Rehab Buffalo airs on HGTV – 11/23/15 at 8am! 

Hgtv will be airing the first two episodes of American Rehab Buffalo at 8am on 11/23/15! These two episodes are fantastic – it’s the kitchen, dining and living room. Watch to see us blend preservation and modern techniques to create a really special space that you’ll love!

Many thanks to everyone who helped make this happen including Room Buffalo, Wrafterbuilt, McSmith, Ace hardware / Bejamin Moore and more! It truly takes a village.

Oh, if you don’t have cable, you can get all 6 episodes on Amazon!


– B

Ps. Here are some photos of before, during and after!

Inspiration from Montreal… Day 1. 

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Drew and I are wandering Montreal for the next few days… I wanted to post some photos for you all in an effort to show you what’s inspiring me at the moment. It’s a combination of the simple Parisian style, great fonts, pops of color and fun “placemaking” things I’ve seen in just the last half day. 

I’ll post some more soon! 



Happy Monday! 

Make it an exceptionally awesome day. 

Set goals. Take risks. Shake shit up. 


2015: My Year of Insanity (And Oddly Enough, My Saturn Return!)


If you know me, you know that I have lived a life of extreme poverty and all the shit that comes along with that. Foster homes, abuse, hunger… been there, done that. However, there is no doubt that 2015 has been the hardest year yet.

Let’s sum up the year. Right around January 1st, my marriage came to an abrupt end. I watched six seasons of Gilmore girls in one month and cried so hard I was in a constant state of dehydration.  My commitment to run for common council vanished instantly. My engagement in community issues slowed to a crawl. It forced me to nearly shut down and completely restructure Buffalove Development. In February, my father was diagnosed with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer, forcing us to put my very sick mother in a nursing home in May as we watched him rapidly decline. This year, I lost a great friend, my grandfather and just this past week – my father.

I’ll spare you the details but know that I am ok….tired and drained… but ok.  When the divorce news hit me, it hit me hard. I immediately retracted – I pulled in what was most important and gave up everything else. I fell to my knees – hard – but refused to give in. I used every ounce of my energy fighting to maintain a life and business built for two while trying to redefine myself and my message – post divorce – and add balancing the daily family struggles that come from having two very sick parents. There were times where I felt like my energy would never return, my excitement for life would be permanently shadowed and that my resilience was not strong enough to withstand everything being thrown at me. Everyday was a new challenge. Everyday was a roller coaster. I kept telling myself this was just “stormy weather”… (thanks Nate!)

I get my determination to move forward from my father and my inner “always positive” attitude from my mother. Regardless of the pain from so much loss, I know that somewhere there is a silver lining in all this – somehow, for some reason, this was meant to happen. I am a firm believer in the universe guiding you. I always have been. Follow the golden rule and ride the wave. Be who you are and do what your heart (and brain!) tells you to do. Where you invest your love, you invest your life… right?

So here is my inner positive. It seems as though the stormy weather has subsided. The divorce is finally done, taxes are done (which was a huge conundrum in itself), my father and grandfather are finally at peace and my business is once again moving forward… all of which seemed to come together in the last few months. Buffalove is all mine. My mom is stable and comfortable… She is well taken care of. I have a great new job at City Dining Cards that I love. I was just appointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals by the Mayor, was a keynote speaker for the Restore Omaha conference and in a few weeks – American Rehab Buffalo will debut. My sister and I are closer than ever, too. I now have Drew Brown in my life – a self made man from the east side who climbs the tallest mountains, makes his own pocket squares and loves me incredibly. I’ve never met someone so perfect – humble, confident, passionate and sweet.

So…. I wouldn’t be who I am without sharing wisdom, lessons and positive thoughts. I thrive on advice from others, why not give some? I know everyone goes through things – we all have stories and stressors in our daily lives – and support is critical to a successful outcome. Here are a few positive take aways.

Gain wisdom but don’t be afraid to take risks. Look, we live and we learn, right? But had I known what I know now about divorce – would I look back three years ago and say no instead of yes? NOPE. No Way. I would totally do it all over again! Don’t say no in the future because you’re jaded. It won’t be fair to you or the opportunity in front of you.

Divorce is absolutely the worst. A divorce is like a death. If you’d like a few important pieces of advice… Don’t drive and cry – you’ll nearly kill yourself. Surround yourself by amazing friends. Get a good lawyer. Don’t be afraid to kiss someone else. Do not blame yourself. DO NOT FEEL GUILT OR SHAME. (Which I still deal with!!!) and most importantly, do whatever makes you happy providing it isn’t super heavy drugs or alcohol. My sister gave me that advice and I swear by it. Shop, cry, watch gilmore girls, eat, drink… whatever. Do it. I did all of the above and I bought myself a very beautiful leather bag and a pink kayak.

Don’t be afraid of new love. When I met Drew, it took me some serious time to really let him into my heart. I knew he was worth it from day one but I just needed time. When I finally told myself to let go of the weird invisible barriers that only I could see or feel, I fell in love. I would not have made it through this year without him, there’s no doubt about that.

Take the extra time needed for loved ones. I spent more time with my father this year than I did in 10 years. Kathy Mecca told me that I would never regret the time I spent during the last moments. She encouraged me to embrace them as much as I could. She was totally right – today I find myself looking back on those last moments – taking my dad grocery shopping, bringing cheesecake to him in the hospital, getting Baconators from Wendy’s… at the time, it seemed like a burden but it wasn’t. On the last day of his life, I brought him a sweetness_7 coffee, the public and block club (for reading!) and fresh picked tomatoes from my garden. I didn’t have to do it but I wanted to and I am glad I did.

Random important life lessons: Make up a will, assign yourself a health care proxy and buy life insurance.

LASTLY, GIVING THANKS: To everyone who has been a part of my life this year – thank you. I cannot say that enough!! The words of wisdom and encouragement kept me going through the toughest times. To friends who were at the wedding: If you were at the wedding and I haven’t said much to you about anything this year – know that grief is a strange thing. Don’t take it personally, please. To my favorite people: Lynne, Aunt Joni, Chris, Drew, David, Nate, P, B, Derik & Jess, Sue, Van, Erica, and everyone else who picked up the phone to hear me sobbing on the other end, dropped everything to have a beer with me and did random check ins… thank you.

It is September. I have a lot of catching up to do but I can’t help but think that fall and winter should be pretty awesome.

With Love,


P.S. 2015 represents my 28 & 29th year on this planet which oddly enough is my Saturn Return. Coincidence? I think not.

A little Bernice Wisdom & Some Buffalove. 

There’s a lot going on right now in my life (two deathly sick parents, major life changes, a new job, etc….) and I don’t have time to write it all up – but I will in due time when the dust seems to settle a bit more.

In the mean time, I’ll just leave this #buffalove photo and some “Bernice” wisdom I tell myself everyday these days to get me through…

When in doubt, always follow your heart and trust in yourself and the universe. Life is short so take full advantage of every moment and don’t EVER hold back on love.  Most importantly, even the most concrete plans can (and likely will) change but that is OK, too because something bigger is in the works that you may not even know about yet. Lastly, above all the stress and noise that wears you down, realize that the best way to get through it all is to spend your life with people who make you laugh, support you no matter what and make you feel happy on the inside… And keep those people close!!!




Huffington Post “lifestyles” video debut! 

Hi everyone!!! 

Today Huffington Post posted this 4 minute video about me and what I do in Buffalo, Ny. Preservation is sexy and very important in our resurgence as a city. Preservation helps support local jobs, keep rentals affordable and adds an unbelievable amount of value and pride to our community.

I’m glad to be a small part of a giant effort here to make the Queen City even stronger! Go Buffalo!