Archive for the 'Buffalo' Category

Hey, Look At This Guy!

Wooden Olmsted

Gigantic wooden sculptures have been popping up all over Buffalo, and today I stopped to read the little plaques. This statue of Frederick Law Olmsted was carved out of a tree killed in our October storm. Isn’t that nice? Consider the cockles of my heart officially warmed.

Olmsted Plaque 1

Olmsted Plaque 2

Part 2: The Obsession With Chris Drury Leads to Thoughts on Buffalo

“We think, and many people think, that the town needs to win a major sports championship, to correct the inferiority complex in the psyche in the community.”

-Byron Brown, Mayor of Buffalo, NY

Welcome to Buffalo, New York.

So, the very worst has occurred.  The Buffalo Sabres have lost our super star co-captains to free agency.  Both Daniel Briere, and my beloved Chris Drury have moved on to new teams.  Personally, I took the news surprisingly hard.  I’m not going to lie, there were tears at Kate Manor when the news broke that Chris Drury had signed with the Rangers.  Actual tears.  For a sports star.  The loss of a man I have never met, but who I have crowned as my zen-hockey hero, reduced me to tears.  As I sat on my couch, absurdly crying, I realized that I wasn’t crying for Chris Drury.  I was crying for Buffalo, and for the frustration I feel living here, and the for my honest hope that Buffalo can thrive as a community.

It seems that Chris Drury chose a near identical deal to the one he turned down in Buffalo, to play for the Rangers in NYC.  There are a million reasons he might have made this decision.  I couldn’t begin to speculate on all of the factors involved with his choice, but the one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that Buffalonians took his choice personally.  I took his choice personally.  When I realized that Chris Drury was leaving Buffalo, my very first impulse was to blame the town.  My hackles went up.  How dare he leave us?  Why does no one understand the charm of Buffalo?  What is wrong with Buffalo?

In conversations online with fellow Buffalo hockey fans, I have come to more fully understand how deeply this community feels it needs to win a championship.  Don’t forget, in the early nineties the Buffalo Bills lost FOUR Super Bowls IN A ROW.  Four times.  In a row.  That is a tough pill for any community to swallow, but even tougher for poor, scrappy Buffalo.  This is a town aching to be recognized, begging for validation and, and starving for victory.

This town is insane about sports.  Nuts.  I got completely wrapped up in it this spring.  The Buffalo Sabres charmed the hell out of me and I finally start loving Buffalo.  The city came alive. I saw the very best of what this city can be: hopeful, bold, joyful, and brave.  But, in the aftermath of the underwhelming playoff performance, and now the free agent debacle, I’m seeing the worst of Buffalo: furious, desperate, insecure, and whiny.  Now, this is all stuff that I might not have noticed even last year, but this year, I am all over the sports news. I have invested myself in what the city clearly holds most dear, Buffalo sports, and I have to say, it’s freaking me out.

Sadly, I don’t think that it will be the collective fan enthusiasm that we as a community will remember from this year of hockey.  I think that all we will think about when we consider the 06-07 hockey season is the heartbreak of watching our captains willingly leave as soon as they had the chance.  I have never, ever, ever, ever heard anyone talk about how enthusiastic the town was about the Bills in the early nineties.  It’s all about “wide right“.  I have NEVER heard anyone talk about the ’99 Sabres, without wailing “No Goal“.  No, this town absolutely clings to lost championships.  I don’t point fingers of blame.  I’m a Buffalonian now, and as such, I carry the burden of our perpetually losing ways, right along side the born and bred.  (And if you want proof, may I remind you that actual tears of sorrow were shed at my house yesterday.)

I think that Buffalo needs to surrender the OH MY GOD WE’LL DIE WITHOUT A CHAMPIONSHIP thing.  It’s not working for us.  At all.  The best thing about this town is it’s grass roots, tenacity.  No sports championship is ever going to save us.  We have to save ourselves, from the bottom up.  It’s the only way.  Winning the Stanley Cup or the Super Bowl is pretty hard to do, and worse, it is something no amount of fan appreciation will ever accomplish.  We can’t will our teams to victory with the sheer force of our fandom.  We can’t.  I’m not saying that a championship wouldn’t be awesome for this community (hell, it would be the greatest parade the world has ever known), but I think we are doing ourselves a true disservice by insisting that we need a championship.

Many Buffaloinians wear the MUST WIN badge with pride, including apparently, our mayor.  Many Buffalonians would argue that our hunger for glory is our greatest strength, and I can agree with that to a point, but really, at the end of the day, I believe this “hunger for glory” is just a gigantic chip on Buffalo’s shoulder.  For some reason, we think that the Stanley Cup will take our baggage away.  It won’t.

Now, I would never, ever want to take even a little away from the passion with which we all cheered this spring, but please, let’s not confuse passion and desperation.  It’s a fine line, but it’s incredibly important.  Passion is hope and vitality.  Desperation is just pure shame.  The love of Sabres hockey has swung from passion to desperation pretty damn quickly over the last month.  I don’t think this town deserves to treat itself this way. I really don’t.  We can do better than this Buffalo.  We owe it to ourselves to do better.

And one last thing, I think that Chris Drury was very uneasy with his role as “Savior of Buffalo”.  He seems like a pretty shy guy, who, at the end of the day would just like to be another anonymous dude.  As much as it hurts to say it, I don’t think he was comfortable with us.  Danny loved us for worshiping him, but Chris was wary.  Let’s not feel badly about this.  He just wasn’t the guy for us.  Not only was he not our guy, but worse, it turns out HE WAS A RANGER ALL ALONG! Yesterday’s sorrow has devolved into today’s acceptance.  I will desperately miss my sexy, passionate warrior, but sadly, Chris Drury has left me no choice; he is now dead to me.

R.I.P, my beloved.

It seems the learning curve on being a Buffalo sports fan is very sharp indeed.

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Part One: The Obsession With Chris Drury Leads to Thoughts on Music

Ducks

I was looking at pictures from Anaheim’s Stanley Cup celebration this morning and I had a moment of ugly bitterness. If Buffalo were to have that parade, were they to march the cup down Delaware Avenue, every man, woman, and child in Buffalo would be there to see it happen. Everything in town would halt, and we would burn the city to the ground in joyous celebration.

Stupid, Ducks.

Ducks Parade

Our parade would have been much, much more primal.

Gravy

There are many beautiful graves in Forest Lawn, but because the cemetery is so large, I forget where all of my favorites are located. Here is one grave that I always seem to find even though I can never remember where to look.

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Forest Lawn Cemetery

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One of the best places in Buffalo is the Forest Lawn Cemetery. It’s old, it’s beautiful, and it is one of the quietest places in the city. If you’ve never wandered around an old cemetery, you should give it a try. It’s not creepy, I swear. One time I even went on a date to the cemetery. I probably should have married that guy because not only did he share my affinity for the cemetery, but at one point we were standing in the huge indoor mausoleum laughing pretty hard at some of the crazy objects people had left as permanent displays. I like to get my inappropriate self out of the way as soon as possible when wooing men.

Forest Lawn was one of the hardest hit areas during the October snow storm, as it is home to many of Buffalo’s biggest, most majestic trees. In the days following the storm I could barely look at the cemetery as I drove past. The damage was extensive and I found the broken trees extremely heart breaking. (And yes, I recognize the irony of wandering around a cemetery and mourning the trees. That’s just how I roll.)

Well, thank God for spring. The trees, while still visibly injured are at least covered in leaves. Today, for the first time since the storm, I had the stomach for a bike ride through Forest Lawn. I’m not going to lie, a lot of the cemetery does not feel as magical without the canopy of leaves, but there are still many big trees, and it is nice to see signs of life on those poor amputees.

FL 5.jpgHere is a good example of how many of our trees are looking this spring. These trees lost almost all of their branches at the trunk, but it looks as though they will survive in spite of being reduced to mere torsos. Many times during the winter I attempted to photograph the damaged
trees, and ever time I wound up feeling extremely depressed. As sad as these guys look now, I can’t explain how psychically soothed I feel to see them covered in greenery. I am certain that looking at battered and broken trees for six months has severely worn me down. I always love spring, but this year I feel a palpable sense of relief.

I’m not sure what you call these house-like buildings. I like to call them hobbit holes.

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I took many more beautiful pictures (if I do say so myself), but typepad is being an asshole today, and I don’t have the patience to spend my entire evening uploading pictures. Maybe tomorrow.

I do want to take the time to say one more thing: When I die, for the love of sweet baby Jesus, don’t bury me in the ground under a rock that says “wife”.

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When I die, you should burn me up and toss me over Minnehaha Falls. After that I don’t really care what you do, but I recommend that you enjoy a blue sno-cone in my honor. If you want, you can have a barbecue and play capture the flag, but please clean up your after yourselves, the park is for everyone to enjoy.

Part One: The Obsession with Chris Drury Leads to Thoughts on Music

*I’m super sorry guys, but you are going to have to listen to me drone on about Buffalo, hockey, and sports as it relates to music for a little while longer.

Yesterday, while scouring the internet for my favorite Chris Drury photo, I stumbled upon this very interesting, very long Sports Illustrated article. I now know pretty much everything about Chris Drury. Here is a short summary of what I’ve learned:

1. He has been a champion literally his whole life.

2. He’s incredibly intense (hot) about his work ethic (meh).

3. He manages to be totally committed to his sport while simultaneously maintaining a zen-like understanding of the unimportance of hockey and sports stardom. (The article suggests that this characteristic is the key to Chris Drury- incidentally, it is also the key to my heart.)

4. The article doesn’t come directly out and say it, but based on his above mentioned work ethic, and his apparent lack of humor about lolly-gagging and frivolity, I can now assume that Mr. Drury would find my four day long Eating-Microwave-Popcorn-While-Watching-Arrested-Development-And-
Crocheting-A-Thon decidedly unattractive, which is fine because he is….

5. ….married with two kids.

Here is the part of the article that really caught my attention:

The seconds are dwindling: 8.9 seconds … 8.6…. When Drury sees Briere jabbing at the puck behind the net, he glides, almost lackadaisically, across the Pittsburgh crease: 8.5 … 8.4 … 8.3…. Briere knows without seeing that Drury will be there. “He’s always in the right spot,” he says. “It’s amazing. You can always count on Chris when the game’s on the line.” Drury, meanwhile, is barely thinking: no hope, no fear, no worry about whether he’ll score or not.

“In some ways it’s already been decided,” Drury says. “Mentally and physically, if you’re prepared and you make your move, you make what you think is a good shot. If it doesn’t go in, it wasn’t meant to be. There’s not much sense in fearing that.”

I believe my biggest musical issue is that I play with a lot of fear. I’m scared that I’m not good enough, I’m scared that my hard work won’t pay off, I’m scared that I will sound like everybody else, I’m scared that I’ll sound like the messy spaz that I am. I don’t think I am at all unusual in this, in fact, I believe I might be a little ahead of the curve because I can acknowledge this fear and write about it openly on the internet.

I am fascinated and inspired by people, like Drury, who somehow intuitively understand that there is nothing to fear. It’s an amazing paradox. In risking failure, he actually risks nothing, and he has incredible success. I have been stuck time and time again in this trap: as I work harder, the burden of failure increases in my mind. The harder I work, the greater my investment, the bigger the failure looms. For Chris Drury, it seems that the harder he works, the lighter the emotional load becomes. The greater his investment, the less he fears failure. Which begs the question, what is Chris Drury really invested in? Winning? Championships? Reading the article, Drury seems to be pursuing a goal outside of the actual game. He is driven to work hard and his goal is just that: to do the very best that he can every minute of every day. The fact that doing his very best has made him a smoking hot sports star seems almost beside the point for Chris Drury.

Every once in awhile I tap into a little glimmer of musical peace, and these are the times when I have the most memorable and successful performances. I can honestly say that my biggest dream in life is to play and live without fear, and yet, I can’t seem to find a way to actually pursue this dream. In working hard, I always end up pursuing some other dream, a less important dream- a job, a guy, musical approval. I don’t think that fearlessness is something you can pursue. Fearlessness is something that only exists in the moment. It can’t be pursued because it doesn’t exist in the future, it only exists right this very second, and this second, and this second, and this second, and this second…….

I would be curious to hang out with Chris Drury today, the day after the season ended, to observe disappointment in such a seemingly steady person. I hope he is able to relax and enjoy his family. I hope that along with his awe inspiring commitment to playing hockey, he can also hang out and have fun. If not, Mr. Drury, you are welcome to come over to my apartment. Relaxing and having fun are activities at which I naturally excel. I’ll toss some popcorn in the microwave, and we can sit together on the couch, listening to music and crocheting our fears away.

Buffalonian

I am in the midst of an absolute communion with the city of Buffalo.

Over the last few weeks, there has been a mounting excitement/anxiety that has effected every man, woman, and child in Buffalo. Everyone is talking about the Sabres. E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E. We are obsessed, and we are desperate.

And now, once again, thanks to a faltering sports team, poor little Buffalo is struggling with a collective depression that you can literally feel in the air. Remember, this is a town which suffered four Super Bowl losses in a row in the early 90’s. The Sabres are down two games to none, and an old familiar sadness has settled over the city.

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I need to be more grateful for my life in Buffalo. Regardless of whatever else Buffalo is, it is my home, and I am happy here. I have wonderful friends and a great job. There is nothing more beautiful than a Buffalo springtime. The buildings here are gorgeous, even though many of them need a little TLC. This is a friendly town. My very first day in Buffalo was September 11th 2001, and even on that terrible day, I felt the warmth of this city. We are scrappy, we are home-spun, and we are trying our very hardest to pretend the winters aren’t totally hideous.

I believe I ended up in Buffalo for a reason. It’s probably nothing lofty or glamorous, but I am convinced that Buffalo has something to teach me, something very important and valuable. Over the last few days I have been identifying with this city in a way that I haven’t done in six years. I can feel Buffalo struggling to cast aside its long history of losing, and my heart swells. The Stanley Cup might not be the object of my heart’s desire, but I recognize the feeling. This town is yearning, and so am I. This town is defensive and prideful and tough, and so am I. Just like Buffalo, my biggest problem is my own tattered self image.

So, here I am, bumbling along in a city that seems like a perfect reflection of how I feel. Imperfect, feisty, and reasonably priced (hee). Springtime is finally here. The leaves on the trees are sprouting, covering the branches broken in our October snow storm. The Stanley Cup won’t solve Buffalo’s problems, just like winning another audition won’t solve mine, but still, every spring in Buffalo feels like a miracle of hope.

Maybe this will be our year.