Why are the Roads so Bad?

July 30, 2008

This post is in response to South Buffalo Blogger, who wrote this post bemoaning the slow collapse of South Buffalo’s infrastructure.  I couldn’t leave the type of comment that I wanted to leave there, so I’m doing it here.

SBB writes:

Having lived in Buffalo all of my life, there’s love for this city…. compassion, understanding and sorrow in feeling like there’s so much to do in so little time. Of all though, there’s frustration from the (election grandstanding) lies, frustration from the waiting & wondering when our time will come for new changes, for new focus…. for that feeling of splendor I had as I sat on a bench down at the Commercial Slip.

South Buffalo’s time for new changes and new focus, I’m afraid, has to wait for the revitalization of a much larger segment of Buffalo than what the Commercial Slip might bring to Downtown.  It has to wait for a revitalization of this house:

and this area:

and this business:

Aside from a very small mansion district, the city has nowhere to turn to generate the revenue needed to do what you want done for South Buffalo – that is, without completely shutting out other neighborhoods.  Neither does the state (and, as we shall soon hear from Governor Paterson, not for a long time).

South Buffalo, like the rest of the city, will have to pull itself up on its own.  There may be those in office softly cooing “keep the faith, help is coming” but in reality, what help there may be can only dot the landscape with little fixes.  Wholesale changes are not in the picture.  SB’s street lamps will continue to rust and its streets will continue to crumble, as they are in the rest of the city.

That’s pretty gloomy.  The upside is that streets and streetlamps are merely facades.  What makes a true neighborhood are the people in it.  What we need to do is convince the politicians to concentrate what funds they do have on things that bring people together into a community.  This may sound hokey, but I think your focus on bumpy roads and duct-taped light poles misses the point about what made makes SB great.  If anything, pictures of people at Community Center functions, at church bazaars and at school athletic contests, and the use of public funds to encourage more participation in community collective activities (how about an open market every Saturday?  Or book parties at the library? An Irish Festival every season?) might be a better rallying cry.

Maybe, if cars are forced to go 15 mph down cruddy Seneca Street, they’ll have that much more time to observe how SB reinvents itself with festivities and events that put other Buffalo neighborhoods to shame!


Death of a Cat

July 15, 2008

Mandy, our 20-something year-old cat, died in my wife’s arms this evening.

We knew she was going; she hadn’t eaten in a week, and was barely able to lift her head today.  Yet for some reason my wife (the chaplain and nurse) decided to pick her up and hold her, and 15 minutes later the cat was gone.

Eerie, but touching.  My wife was also present at her father’s and mother’s deaths, 11 years apart, at the hospital.  We knew that they appreciated her presence.  As for the cat, I think Mandy was holding out for my wife to hold her one last time.

I hope my wife is there when it’s my turn.

Cutting Someone Loose

June 23, 2008

You\'re FiredI hate firing people.

As necessary as it sometimes is for the sake of both the employer and employee to part ways it is never easy nor fun.  I abhor that part of my job.

My former employee and I will both go home tonight lost in thought.

Buffalo is a Closet

May 14, 2008

A generation ago I met a couple of students from the University of Buffalo, became friends with them, went to their wedding and even lived in the same apartment complex for a year or two. They were civil engineers, I developed software. Our careers took us down very different paths and although I would hear about them from time to time the years passed and we never again made contact.

A few weeks ago my company hired their son, also a graduate of UB. That led to a business connection that now links me back to the couple, to the Department of Transportation and to possible business opportunities with a civil engineering company, coincidental connections that I would not have expected to occur in any large metropolitan area.

But this is Buffalo, and re-connections like this happen frequently because this community is not just close-knit, it’s a closet.

There is a lesson in here about trying hard not to burn bridges. You cannot predict whether or not your paths will later cross in important ways.  Around Buffalo, it is likely that they will.


May 1, 2008

21 years oldAround here most parents’ children see their 21st birthday. My oldest saw his today.

I think this is a more meaningful milestone for me than it is for him; my work day has certainly been affected by it. The next time we get together – which may be a while, as he goes straight from end-of-semester finals to his summer job in Hartford – I think I’ll ask him to buy the drinks.

Congratulations to my 21-year-old and all those other 21-year-olds out there. Be wise, be careful, and go for that brass ring.


April 27, 2008

Chores, circa 1940A friend of mine and I were chatting about how mundane life becomes as we get older, as we take on more responsibility and with that responsibility come tasks that eat into what used to be discretionary time. Funny how it mostly creeps up on you: Not the job, but the occasional dinner meeting or “social” gathering that you feel obligated to attend, and that chews up an evening. The house with its never-ending demands for maintenance; the children (bless them!) with their never-ending demands for attention. The dishes, the laundry, the bathrooms, the vacuuming, the lawn, and this past couple of weekends, the pool, and firewood.

I do not remember how I filled my day prior to having children. I do know that the number of evenings my wife and I go out, now that the kids are in college, has only marginally increased mainly because we’re too tired to go out. I also know that my week-long summer vacation is likely to be spent away from home, so that projects needing my attention will be delayed yet again.

I know only a very few individuals who do not live like this. They tend to pick up every couple of years and move on, either to a new job, a new city, a new home/apartment, or all of these. None are married. I wonder if they are at peace with a nomadic lifestyle, or if they are in search of and never finding satisfaction in life.

I, for one, will not give up my current lifestyle. It will evolve on its own, and eventually provide me with the time to do the things I want to do. As tired as I become by day’s end I am also satisfied that I have tried my best to reach a goal or two.

Dead in its Tracks

April 17, 2008

The current undisputed sensationalistic story du mois is chocked full of juicy things: mothers, children, underage sex, religion, polygamy and now, courtroom drama and lots of lawyers falling over themselves for attention.

The 80-year-old Tom Green County courtroom and a satellite courtroom set up in a City Hall auditorium two blocks away were jammed with dozens of mothers from the retreat, dressed in their iconic pastel prairie dresses and braided upswept hair.

The mothers were sworn in as witnesses, standing and mumbling their ‘I do’s’ in timid voices. As they sat silently, the flock of lawyers was constantly buzzing with murmurs and popping up to make motions or object as Walther tried to maintain order.

But when prosecutors tried to enter into evidence the medical records of three girls — two 17-year-olds and an 18-year-old — the lawyers jumped to their feet and crammed the aisles trying to see the papers. That’s when Walther called the recess.

Oh, the imagery. This will not end well.