My friend Derek King is a newpat to Buffalo and we threw him into the Buffalo ring - hard. Well, we are happy to report that he is surviving and LOVING Buffalo. I am sure New Hampshire misses him… but we are very happy to have him on Team Buffalove.
I asked him to tell me what he thought about Buffalo and of course, he only had good things to say.
The first thing that stood out about Buffalo was that the people here are so welcoming. It’s not Midwestern “Nice” and it’s not any sort of fake generosity either; it’s a genuine, this is who I am, and if you aren’t a jerk, you’ll fit in nicely. Walk into a bar here in Buffalo, and you can strike up a conversation up with anyone who’s there. It’s incredible how much this place reminds me of being home. People here don’t have a lot of pretension and are willing to give you a chance to be yourself, even if it’s a little weird.
There’s so much beauty in this city. The trees along Bidwell and Chapin, that fill the Fruit Belt. Evenings down at Gallagher Pier, the sunset taking the edge off what is otherwise a towering behemoth of a grain elevator. Buildings that tell a lot about the past, and how great this city was, and how great it still can be. NH has a lot of natural beauty; rolling hills, tree covered mountains, brooks, streams, and lakes all within a stones throw. I essentially grew up in a Robert Frost poem. Here, there’s a different kind of beauty; it’s living and changing, and it’s timeless in so many ways that are similar to sleepy, small town Barnstead, but in such different ways. In the same way that there’s a vibrancy in NH (Most of the state is essentially a forest, with all the wildlife that comes with it), there’s vibrancy here; people sitting on porches, kids playing in the street, and vibrant neighborhoods. Elmwood’s shops and bars, while pretty awesome in their own right, don’t hold a candle to the local corner stores on Grant and in the West Side, and I’d take a beer at Casey’s or Swannie’s any day than at Blue Monk, which are a little more my speed.
The thing that is most impressive, though, are the passionate people I’ve met since I’ve been here. I loved growing up in New Hampshire, and Barnstead was a great place to have a childhood, but there is a prevailing sentiment that life there will never change, and that if things were to change, it would be for the worse. Coming here has been eye-opening; I didn’t realize people could care about a place so much. Not only was it invigorating, getting involved with BYP, and now with the West Side EDF, but it got me to think back to New Hampshire. Before, when I thought about going back, it was always in the context of “when I’m older, to give my (future, completely hypothetical) children the same experience as me.” Now, it’s that thought, but also, “What could I do to make New Hampshire better.”
That’s been the most amazing thing about Buffalo; it’s been a long time since I’ve felt this good about being in a place. Buffalonians have a pretty intense chip on their shoulder, and for good reason; I’ve read enough about the last hundred years here to understand the distrust of good news, of this collective holding of the breathe as projects like the Canalside, Larkin Square, and now Webster Block are unveiled, waiting to see when the other foot will drop.
For me, as someone who doesn’t have that weight on my shoulders, this place is refreshing and exhilarating. Every day has something new to experience. You just have to open up the Artvoice and put your finger down on a page, and before you know it you’re in some sort of back-room jazz show.
There is a quote that sums up how I feel about this place, and it’s only been a few months since I’ve been here, so maybe check back in after winter, but I feel like it’ll stay pretty strong. It’s in the description for the sculpture outside of the Albright-Knox (which totally perplexes me, but most art does to be honest… I mean, why the one row boat?!… hell, why any of the boats?!):
“Built to live anywhere; at home here.”
Sounds about right to me.