It never fails. I look out the window of the airplane swooping down into Western New York and the tears automatically flow. I’m a native, but my career led me westward, ending up in Wyoming 30 years ago.
It’s been a fun ride.
Over the years people in Wyoming were shocked when they found out I was a native Western New Yorker (WNY). First of all, most native ‘Wyos’ are clueless WNY is even a thing, let alone a region blessed with such a rich history. According to them I fit the “Wyoming Way” too well and did not project myself as someone from NEW YORK. LOL.
As the decades passed, the line between my life growing up in WNY and Wyoming became blurred. People here are very much like people in WNY. Generally kind hearted but there are also some real outliers who find refuge in the solitude of open spaces for a variety of reasons. Yet my mind always returns to the same question.
What makes Buffalo, Buffalo?
The city itself has a rich history under-appreciated by those who have yet to experience it in person. There is so much that goes on there beyond jumping through tables. People wonder why Buffalo Bills fans speak to each other around the world as if we are one big family.
That’s because we are.
The one thing Josh Allen frequently says that grates on me as a native WNYer is when he prefaces his love for Buffalo even though there’s little to do there. It’s the one thing he says I find irritating.
What? I could spend a month in Buffalo and still not take in all there is to do there. I’m also pretty sure Josh has heard the same things said about Firebaugh, so he should know better. Your surroundings are what you make of them.
There is beauty and recreational opportunities no matter where you live. All you have to do is open your mind and find what brings you joy in the natural world.
We ‘wyos’ often think of the Rock Springs area of the state as being ugly and desolate. However, if you engage with the landscape by viewing it as the sun rises or sets, it looks like one of the most beautiful places on earth.
It’s all about perspective.
All I can share as a native WNYer (and old woman) is an appreciation for “the homeland” through the mind of someone who came from the legacy of immigrants from Eastern Europe during the early 1900s. Buffalo still retains the remnants of neighborhoods segregated by language and culture.
There is kindness beyond expectation in Buffalo and there is horrible racism that results in violent bloodshed. It’s no different than any city in many ways and yet remains unique for its lineage and Sanctuary City status.
Buffalo’s breath-taking beauty today is especially appreciated by people who lived in the heart of the city during the mid to late 1970s. Working at Roswell Park back in the day afforded me a unique view of life along Chippewa Avenue. There was so much sadness and despair in East Buffalo during that decade.
But here’s what many outsiders don’t appreciate if they’ve never been to Buffalo…
Despite all the bickering and issues with outside sources of funding for rehabilitation of the shoreline and East Buffalo, the city is doing a lot of refurbishing the right way. Tearing down areas of historical value to be replaced by strip malls is not the way to do it.
Truthfully, I didn’t think I’d ever live long enough to see restoration of the old Humboldt Parkway to the way it looked before some people thought it was a good idea to slice the city in two. I lived not far from Sister’s Hospital at that time. It was an atrocity then and I hope to live long enough to finally see them get it right and restore the Parkway the way Olmsted would have been proud.
All this rambling is for a reason.
Anyone reading this who has never been to Buffalo and actually engaged with the natural and cultural beauty of the city is missing the mark when they criticize the city as just another fading rust belt city.
Buffalo is far from failing. It’s a completely different city than the one I left in 1982, and yet it’s still the very same place I’ve loved all my life. I’m a proud native of WNY and when I see good things happening there, it makes me smile. And I pray the challenges of racism and seeds of hate are finally extinguished there and everywhere.
Editor’s babble: Thanks for reading my meandering thoughts about Buffalo and WNY. You can also find me babbling on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO. P.S. Thanks to @theman_themyth on Twitter for today’s inspiration!