Back to Carolina. But still not home.

It was great fun seeing some old friends back in Buffalo this past week. Having Mighty Taco. Reminiscing. Or, in Lauren’s case, trying not to reminisce. She thinks I reminisce too much. I reminisce too much.

I saw that beautiful new waterfront. Canalside is stunning. Well-conceived and expertly executed.  I sincerely hope it expands and goes on and on.  Thank you to Bob for throwing that little to-do in my honor or for whatever reason. Thanks to Mike and Michelle for letting me stay at their house. Safe travels old friend. I am sorry I missed a few people. I kept running into old acquaintances so I figured the serendipity would continue to grace me unabated. Next time!

I drove down Aurora Avenue the day after I arrived. Does everyone do this? Visit their old street whenever they go back home?

The last time I was there, there were new sidewalks and curbs. Some tangible improvements were turning the Winchester district into what I imagined would be the chic new place to buy a cheap home for a young family. However, this time there was some decay. Spray-painted house-numbers on corresponding plastic trash cans. Boarded-up houses. One of these shitholes used to belong to Eddie and Elsie, our next door neighbors. They used to sit in their back yard and pound Screwdrivers all day and night to the hi-fi strains of the Ray Conniff Singers. And sometimes mom would strut on over, and, hours later, waddle on back. Eddie had this blinking thing he did. He’d drink so much that I think the blinking was his means of expressing disbelief that he was still upright.

Next to them were the Platts. Lolly and Bird (her son, beanstalk thin; he taught me to ride a bike) and her daughter Dee Dee.  Lolly played pinochle with mom and some of the other girls. I liked her. Her poodle was her true best friend, for all intents and purposes. Suzette. I don’t know when that dog died, but I’ll be shocked if second-hand smoke wasn’t the cause.

And in that same house, in the rear apartment, lived the Christmans. An older couple. In fact, Mrs. Christman was beginning to lose her memory entirely. Occasionally wandering from house to house in search of her own. One Halloween, one of the kids down the street got the idea to play a little trick on Mrs. Christman. She rang their doorbell, and when Mrs. Christman answered, this girl, my age, 10, pronounced, “You’re in my house”.

Mrs. Christman was fooled into believing, by a 10 year old girl, that her house was not her house.

“Where do I live?”

“Oh, come with me. I’ll show you.” and she walked Mrs. Christman half-way down the block and left her there, in the cold West Seneca night. Slippers and gown.

I’d like to tell you that we, the ones trailing behind all this, immediately walked her back to safety like many of us had done before in more benign circumstances. One of us did, I know, but I don’t think it was me.

Anyhow, this past Monday, I sat there for about a half-hour looking at that door.

I know who the girl was who did this thing, but I doubt she’d remember. She seems like she’s evolved into a fine, independent woman with her own goals, misfortunes and mistakes. I hope the memory of that night haunts her like it haunted me throughout my vacation, in the silences between reunions with the people I love and have loved for decades now.

The food in Buffalo is so much better. The GAS STATION pizza is better than the shit here. The houses alternate with the local businesses, as it should be. The strict zoning laws here in Hillsborough make it difficult to get neighbors together naturally. There’s nowhere to go if you don’t have a car, which makes it a class system; passive gentrification. I was lucky to have lived in and around Elmwood Avenue. Walking places, taking a bus to work, seeing my neighbors in and around town as soon as I set out.

But the schools suck there, and the taxes are insane. A useless mayor, and a terminally ingrained ennui that seems so reluctant to dissipate. I can’t go back there. If I had no family and a great job, I’d go back in a second. I miss Buffalo.

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