Thoughts Of Home

I find myself increasingly thinking about home, which, in case you’ve been on the moon,is Buffalo, NY.
I won’t go into why I’m not there, because that’s been talked about until it’s blue in the face, but I’m here, and this is becoming more homey, but it’s not really home. Summer in Buffalo is so amazing, and well deserved when it arrives each year after the long hard winters. There is no shortage of things to do, from the the ongoing ethnic and regional festivals to the abundant live music events, to the breezy warm days with the air blowing off of the great lakes…. It’s just so nice. Old architecture and patio bars. City streets with unmatched window shopping and everything exudes an unmatched character. The smallest big city or the largest small town, depending on your perspective, mine being the latter, Buffalo is enigmatic.

But events ongoing have brought my thoughts back to the place I was born.
Tim Russert, well known for his 18 years hosting Meet The Press, died suddenly yesterday. The news hit me hard. I met him once, at a Bills game. My friend, Kirk, had season tickets right in front of owner. Ralph Wilson’s box and we saw them both in the concourse before the game, so I ntroduced myself to Tim, and expressed my appreciation for rooting for the city in the show.
He never let go of his roots, South Buffalo, an enigma itself, inside the larger enigma that Buffalo is, and talked about or referenced the city often. He was a son of Buffalo, that every citizen there knew lived somewhere inside Tim’s heart. He cheered with and for the city, constantly, and this loss is being felt by the hundreds of thousands of people that call the city home.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, the one time laughing stock of pro-football, The Buffalo Bills, became a dynastic league powerhouse, doing the unthinkable, going to 4 straight superbowls. Right in the middle of the defensive and special team corps, was linebacker Mitch Ferrotte, who’s cousin is a backup QB for the Vikings. With long blonde hair, a love of Harley Davidsons and loud music, and his signature “Alice Cooper” face paint on game day, Mitch was a large personality on that team. He was from a small town, Kittaning, PA, which is about 40 miles north of Pittsburgh. At the time, I worked for International Chimney, who owned a brick factory in that town. My first trip down, during The Bill’s offseason, I noticed a house across the street that was well adorned in Bills gear and when I asked, found out that it was Mitch Ferrotte’s house. That day, he was in the yard, and I went and talked to him. Nicest guy, especially for a pro football player in an era when Athletic Ego’s were starting to run amok. He was like talking to any neighbor, or random person you’d meet.
Mitch had a heart attack yesterday and died at the age of 43.
This weekend marks the 51st anniversary of the Allentown Art Festival, an event that sees the streets of the Allentown District of Buffalo shut down so hundreds of artists can show their talents.
I never miss this event, one of the largest and oldest of it’s type in the nation. The weather seems like it’s always beautiful, and the vendors, the food, the neighborhood…
It’s just a great time and Buffalo tradition that draws hundreds of thousands from all over the country.
I found something new today on Google Maps called “Street View.” I have no idea on how they do this, but you can actually see hi res images of most places from a street view perspective!! And you can rotate around, zoom in, and move in any direction. Anyhow, I lived in North Buffalo, and I wanted to post some great pics of my old ‘hood, so here for your viewing pleasure, My Home!

Here’s my old apartment, above the store. It was huge! From the corner of the building in the center of the page, going right, those three windows were the living room, as were the three togetherto the left of that corner! You can barely make out the CB antenna is still on the roof and the DishNetwork dish is still on the front window. I miss this place so much!

This is the view of the same building on Hertel Ave itself, which is a big strip that has a ton of restaurants, art gallerys, stores, etc. A great neighborhood to live in. The canopied store front is Cafe Allegro, where they put Starbucks to shame. A great tradition was Sunday Brunch, which was always gourmet, and usually featured a string quartet from the Buffalo Acadamy of The Performing Arts. Kids playing classical music and doing it well!!

North Park Theater is a majestic old theater, with the plush velvet curtains, stage, etc and features artistic and independant releases. Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo 66 had it’s world premier there.

Berthas, a diner that served Breakfast and Lunch was my favorite hangout. Sitting at the counter with a cup of coffee, one of Dave’s enormous omelets, the newspaper and hours of talking about any and everything.

This is Wellington Pub, a local bar/restaurant with many good memories. The food is the bomb. My favorites were their Beef on Weck, a Buffalo tradition, that unlike chicken wings, is still exclusive to the city or “The Hertel”; A chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomatoe, mayo and cheese on a huge Keiser roll. The best was the Friday night Fish Fry, a weekly tradition for me, or clams on the patio bar! Next door is Bob & John’s, with good pizza and huge subs.

La Pizza Club, though, is the spot for the best Pizza and Wings. Of course, within walking distance, you could get Pizza and Wings at 15 different places, but this was my favorite. Next door is one of the art galleries that I used to stop in at often.Soon after I moved to Hertel, a friend of mine stopped by and we went exploring my new neighborhood. This was my favorite neighborhood bar. We walked in and the place was pretty empty, but a few things stood out. The bar tender and other three patrons were all men, there was a line of about 20 micro-brew taps at the bar and The Dirty Dozen was playing on both TV’s! I knew I found a home. John, the owner is one of the nicest people in the world and this plain, not very fancy bar is a wonderful place to stop in and try one of many Brews, that John is an expert on, and talk to good friends.

This is the hose that Bridget and I lived in, just off Hertel, where our landlord stole everything we had. We rented the entire bottom half of this house, which is typical of the housing stock that you’ll find throught the city. I love these big Victorians and WILL one day own one. It brings back memories though, of how beautiful we had it inside that house and all the precious things, a life collection that we lost there. I swear that’s our patio furniture on the porch and I know my washer and dryer are probably still in the basement, along with my work out equipment

So that’s a pretty good view of my old neighborhood, that I truly long to see again and promise to live in again. The people are very cultured and unique there, and this area represxnts “The City of Good Neighbors” in it’s finest form!
From June 14, 2008

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