Friday, April 22, 2011

Three Wishes

Disclaimer: These are actually not white pants
before Memorial Day.  They're light blue.
Last week, in the middle of one of the coldest, snowiest springs in recent history, the sun cracked Buffalo’s icy dome and warmed us past the point of 60 degrees.  Elmwood Avenue teemed with people itching to kick off their boots and come out of hibernation. Hippie kids gathered for some pre-season devil sticking on Bidwell Parkway.  A few bold women exposed their pasty shoulders in tank tops as they sipped iced lattes outside of Caffe Aroma.  When Charlie and I went out to run errands, the warmth and the positive energy went right to my head and I had to check an urge to rip into a mother/baby rendition of “Seize the Day” from Newsies.

It was weather that merited a celebration, so with fresh air in our lungs and the sun on our backs, Charlie and I headed for the park for his first encounter with the baby swings.  They were a smash hit.  And when the magic of swinging one foot in either direction had worn off, there were kids to watch—big kids who ran, fell, slid down slides, and did all kinds of other things that are fascinating to a seven-month-old.  All in all, the perfect pint-sized adventure for a spring afternoon. 

When we finally pointed the stroller homeward, I mused, “Nothing could spoil this day, my beautiful infant son!  Unless, of course, we almost get run over by three thoughtless drivers who fail to heed age-old traffic laws that grant pedestrians the right of way.” Charlie and I looked at each other and grinned, and the twinkle in his eye said, “Come on, Mom, what are the chances?”

Alas, dear reader, I’ll let you surmise what came to pass.  If you surmised that we were nearly hit by three thoughtless drivers, you are spot-on correct.  One was a middle-aged lady who gave us a frantic two-handed wave and mouthed, “I’m so sorry!” about six times, so she gets a pass.  The other two, though, were stupid jerks.  First, a middle-aged man laid on his horn as he sped through a stop sign.  Then a teenage boy glared at me as he careened around a corner and discovered us in the middle of the crosswalk. 

For several blocks, I fumed.  I mumbled audibly about bad drivers and the punishments they deserve.  Then I took a few deep breaths and sought solace in a daydream that I have had for a decade.  In this daydream, I stumble upon a shabby-looking lamp.  “Hm,” I say, and I rub the lamp, releasing a modestly clad version of Barbara Eden, who agrees to grant me three wishes.  “World peace,” I demand, and she makes it happen.  “Lots of money,” and my bank account bulges.  “And the power to telepathically insert my voice into the minds of bad drivers.”  She requests more information.  I oblige.

“I would like the power,” I tell the genie, “when I see a bad driver do something dangerous or just really annoying, to have my voice pop into the driver’s brain, such that he does not know who is speaking, but he knows that it is not himself.”

The genie looks pensive.  “What kinds of things would you say?” she asks.

“Oh, you know,” I reply, “stuff like, ‘Blinkers, my friend, are not merely a courtesy of the road.’  Or, ‘You WILL quit tailgating immediately!’ Or ‘I’m sure you’ve been informed that it’s illegal to stop in the middle of the crosswalk.’  That kind of thing.”

“And these drivers – they just, like, hear this voice, in their head, out of the blue?” probes the genie.

“Yep,” I say.  “Like a friendly but instructional experience of schizophrenia, only eerier.  It’s intended to frighten without causing an accident.  If the drivers happen to glance in my direction, maybe I’ll wink and give them the old crazy eyes, but otherwise it’s totally anonymous.  Oh, and I don’t get to keep talking to them after they’re out of range – this is a one-and-out set up.”

The genie gets me to promise not to use my Driver’s Ed Telepathy in a situation where it could result in a car accident, and has me sign some papers that release her from liability.  And then – ta da!  I am transformed into an anti-bad driving avenger!  I am a force for good in a chaotic world!  I am the mysterious voice that sends dozens of road hogs into years of expensive therapy!  Plus, the world is peaceful and I’m filthy rich.

Around this point in the daydream, Charlie and I arrived at home.  I went to unbuckle him and discovered that he had fallen sound asleep, cheeks rosy from the fresh air, mouth slightly open.   I managed to extract him without waking him, and he snuggled his solid little noggin under my chin.  Peace?  Check.  Fabulous wealth?  In a manner of speaking.  What's that thing they say about two out of three?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Greatest City on Earth

Right around the time my husband Tim and I decided to make the move back home to Buffalo from Philadelphia, someone sent us this promotional video produced by the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau.  It highlights several points of Buffalo pride—unspoiled architecture including houses by Frank Lloyd Wright, the extensive Olmsted park system, proximity to the majestic Falls, a strong sense of community, low cost of living—and it features some really gorgeous images of the area.  People who know stuff about Buffalo say insightful things about the city, its history and its potential.

We tried to be inspired and excited that someone was getting the word out about the diamond-in-the-rough that was calling us home, but we just couldn’t.  We got stuck on the title.  Buffalo, NY: This Place Matters.  It’s like making a video about your parents for their anniversary, showcasing their love and devotion to each other over decades of happy togetherness, and then calling it Mom and Dad: They Stayed Married.  New York City wouldn’t call its video This Place Matters, because … duh.  New York City knows that it matters, and it would probably challenge you to a knife-fight behind the bar if it heard you say otherwise. 

How would we rework the title?  Well, we thought about that.  We came up with Buffalo, NY: Where a Three-Bedroom House On A 1/2-Acre Lot Costs Less than a Studio in Brooklyn.  Or perhaps Buffalo, NY: Seriously, the People Are Sooooo Nice.  Or maybe Buffalo, NY: The Snow’s Only Part of It.  Or how about just Buffalo, NY: Experience it for Yourself?  Because some Philadelphians shuddered when we told them we were moving to Buffalo, but most of them have never been here.  They’ve seen the city on the news when there’s a heavy snowfall, and that’s about it.   But there’s so much more!  And that’s the real point of the video—that the experience of Buffalo is inviting, comfortable and warm, even when the weather’s not. 

My cousin Laura and her family moved here just a couple months before Tim, Charlie and I did (Take that, recent census reports about people leaving Western New York! We count for 7 on the plus side.), and we’re always comparing notes about cool stuff we’re rediscovering.   We’re Zoo members and Laura’s training as a docent at the Darwin Martin House.  As the weather warms up, we’re eagerly anticipating the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers’ Market, which will be on the parkway directly across from our front door.  Tim and I went to Trimania a couple weeks ago and got to meet a whole bunch of people who do really neat things (French Press stationers, portrait photographer KC Kratt, some bellydancers). We’re starting to look around at houses and I drool over some of the stuff in the Elmwood Village area.  Interiors with original stained glass and beautiful woodwork are everywhere, and I’m convinced that if we buy around here, I’ll get to have a party befitting of my 100-plus-year-old house.

So come visit us, friends from other places, because Buffalo more than matters.  Come experience this marvelous dreamland of a city!  (Is that overstating my case?)  We’ll take you to all kinds of great places and show you how great life in a small city can be.  And come to think of it, at least our promo video doesn't look like this.  (Warning: They swear in this video, so you might not want to watch it if you took my last post to heart.)