I'm a communications professional, writer, cynic, mother, wife and royal pain. The order depends on the day. I returned to my hometown in November 2004 after a couple of decades of heat and hurricanes. I can polish pristine copy, but not here. This is my morning exercise -- 20-minute takes without a net or spellcheck. It's easier than sit ups for me. No guarantee what it will be for you. Clicking on the subscribe link will send you an email notice when each new entry is posted.
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2003-12-03 9:49 AM
A Down Town
Several years ago in "A Chorus Line" Buffalo native Michael Bennett wrote that suicide in Buffalo is redundant.
He was wrong.
It's an ongoing process.
I'm not sure there is another city so hellbent on self-destruction.
Every visit I make every newscast is basically the same... lost jobs, closing schools, closing firehouses, wage and benefit cuts... and then the first commercial break. People who have never been here blame it on the weather. Those who love this place know it is so much more.
At the turn of the century, with the same lousy weather, this was a world center for culture and technology, the American railroad hub, and the home of two recent presidents. A wave of skilled European craftsmen arrived to build the Pan American Exposition and stayed. Thousands of immigrants arrived to work the railyards and harvest electricity from Niagara Falls.
My grandparents arrived as children, or were born shortly after their own parents arrived. Leo Mohn was one of the middle children of 15. Although his older brothers and sisters were born in Germany, they spoke English at home. They all stayed in Buffalo and raised their families.
After serving in World War I, Leo married my grandmother, the former Agnes Skibinski. He worked as the handyman at a meatpacking plant without benefits or a retirement plan, raising five children. He never owned a car (although he did have his fishing boats custom made), but put enough money aside to help each of his children with their first home and build simple summer cottages for them on a creek near Lake Erie.
I grew up in the tail end of that Buffalo, a town where family came first and hard work was the price to pay for family security. My parents' generation would not have dreamed of leaving. For the few left here in my generation, it's a daily struggle to stay. The largest circulation periodical in the area is now the AARP magazine.
Taxes are absurd. Government is , at best, inept, more often criminal. Jobs are a vanishing resource.
Native Buffalonians are hard-headed, hard-workers who believe you can work through anything. They are warm, generous people who seem to know the odds, but put it on the line every day.
Both of my daughters came back to Western New York to attend my alma mater. It was no surprise when they hated the weather, but the extent to which they responded to the people startled me.
They are young and unversed in the realities of property taxes and real jobs, but very much want to come back here to live. A better parent would probably push them back to the security of the sunbelt, but just in case things could possibly turn around...
Did I mention that native Buffalonians are hard-headed.
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