Wednesday, January 13, 2010


As I was driving across the country last week, I spent a little time (admittedly not much) composing in my head a short list of the things that I would miss about living in Buffalo, the seven years I spent there. It's a work in progress and not presented in any kind of order--emphatic or otherwise:

1. My friends. I've lived in a fair number of places, more than most of the people I know, though far fewer than some. In Ohio and Virginia, and a few others, I never really met the kind of people that I really felt represented my ~kind~ of people, for lack of a better way of putting it. Though I made one very dear friend in Ohio--who has since almost entirely vanished into marriage and miscellaneous adult life--most of the time I spent there proved very lucrative for a particular video store. The culture was really all about hanging on porches, playing poker, and drinking beer. Also dogs. I liked the people in the department, and in many many many ways, the academic culture there kicked the ass of the Buffalo academic culture. But I never really made connections in the way that an introvert like myself finds satisfying and meaningful. In Buffalo, I did. I made a few really good friends. Hopefully, lifetime friends.

2. The city. Being from Montana, I never have really lost my sense of wonder at living in places other than Montana. Buffalo was truly excellent for that. It had a distinctly northeastern cultural difference from my birthplace, and the cityscape always made me feel like I had really come a long way, if that makes sense. The downtown felt very distinctly ~urban~ even if most of the storefronts were empty. The city missed it's moment, essentially. It sprung up, had it's hayday, overextended, and then was over. Over. People in Buffalo liked to joke that they didn't really feel the recession because the city had already been in one for decades. Of course, this wasn't exactly true. Though this was certainly the case for the housing market, as it turns out, the same was not as true for employment and cost of living. Renting prices were going steadily up, as was food. Though I begin to linger on the bad stuff, I still always loved downtown Buffalo. I loved its kind of post-apocalyptic feel. It's as close as I ever want to be to living in a real eastern city. All the grit and towering skyline, none of the claustrophobia, expense, and shitty parking. I love it. It's the urban version of a Willa Cather novel, whose descriptions of space and sky make me want to climb into a warm tub and touch myself.

3. The coop. It seems stupid to miss one's old job like I do, but I really had a sense of community there. As banal as that sounds. I learned so much while I was working there. I changed so much. My life changed so much. Primarily, I never thought of myself as a person invested in food and food politics to the extent that I now am. With all its ups and downs, my time spent working at the coop went a long way toward instilling that in me.

4. The summers. Not only are they particularly beautiful in Buffalo, but this beauty is intensified tremendously by their contrast to the long, grey, persistent winters. I will never forget my first early Spring in Buffalo (which is almost the same as the summer). I had spent months in my tiny one bedroom, which had a great location but sucked in terms of space. I vowed afterward to always try to have a separate space for eating and living, though this is no longer the case! Also, we almost never used the dining room when we had one. I went out one afternoon to walk to the health food store on the corner for a cookie. Walking back, the sun came out for what felt like the first time in an eternity. It felt so good to be in it's light that I walked around sort of dazed for a while, like a mole, blinking at the sun. The intense pleasure of that epiphany of sunlight, though, can't be overestimated.