Every time for miles around I would be the only one walking—it was unheard of: people got their bikes fixed and people fixed their bikes and built their bikes from scratch as if they were cars. Abandoned, abandoned, one two, four abandoned houses in a row, until one house, a man momentarily looking up without a shirt, planting in his garden. I walk past the Scajaquada Creek from Tops because I’m poor and not tops, home. My roommate tells me that he’s going outside to get some weed. He comes back with weed, and tells me that all he had to do was stand at the corner until someone asked. Hey, want some weed? Where are we? Clarence, he said he was from. One of the infinitesimal, you learned, tiny tiny towns surrounding this small town that is a big city to him. Where firemen park their firetrucks on the curb to pick up from Jimmy John’s, and policemen tell you to hop in the back to take you there when you ask for directions. They give grand tours downtown and proudly proclaim that President McKinley was shot here, right by the library where they don’t accept book donations, I tried, and where the security guards wear regular clothes when it’s only open Monday Wednesday and Thursday because it’s so poor but it’s not. The streets are desolate and you see so many people spread out that it’s been dubbed ‘the small big city’: you can almost feel in the air the misallocation of funds.
I work at an after-school funded by Buff State. I wonder what I will do since none of the children speak English or have telephones in the home. Entire families stuck like everyone else at the border, waiting for admission to Canada making do where they are. A young boy about 7 dressed in a too-big 3-piece gray suit and pink clogs to commemorate Diwali walks in smiling. I speak to him and he walks out of the room still smiling and I wonder what I will plan today.
The train runs like a trolley up and down up and down Main Street all day and downtown is blighted. Closed down once grand theaters, double amputees Street signs are almost cartoonishly large on squat poles, and we can never get anywhere on time because HE’S COMIN!—Someone’s always comin—WAIT, the bus screams, she’s comin! At the bus depot, I’d always alight resigned to it, watching a guy come out then walk away and scream, I FUCKING HATE BUFFALO! I agree, I never wanna come back when it’s time, but it settles on you soon’s you arrive like you’re resigned to it. Once the bus gains speed away from Boston and crosses the threshold of Albany, Syracuse, Western New York like the twilight zone, suddenly bizarro world. Where the people are sincere, simple and kind when you can find em: truly, the city of good neighbors.
Welcome to Buffalo.