Ruby Ramblings

Buffalo in the Rough
June 14, 2011, 3:43 pm
Filed under: Music

Upcoming Shows

Today, 6/14, Kennebunk Night Market, 5:30 to 7:30 “The Plaza” Route 1 near the Kennebunk Inn, ME

Friday 6/17, Bath 3rd Friday Art Walk, 55 Front St. 5-7pm, ME

Sat. 6/18, Harvard Make Music in the Square, 3pm, JKF Walkway, Cambridge, MA

6/22, Featured Performer, Dogfish Cafe, Free St. Portland,  8pm, ME

I think part of the reason I had a hard time acclimating to Buffalo was that I was still gushing over how much I loved Pittsburgh.  Ah, Pittsburgh, a town that has reinvented itself with great little forested neighborhoods that rides the line between southern friendliness and northern liberal mentalities.  Roving north there are two things that stuck out distinctly as differences in perspective.  The farther north you get the less people except to pay for music.  In south, peddling CDs, politely but pointedly passing tip jars, and putting a couple bucks in the bass player’s hat as it comes around are all normal ettiquitte for a night of homegrown music.  In Buffalo, the beautiful and eclectic Caz Cafe looked at me sideways when I asked if they had an in house tip jar, or if I should use my own.  Mentioning CDs felt like a taboo.

The second difference is that rather than wearing religion as a battle shield used to defend extreme opinions, judge people, and generally wreck havoc on social equanimity, I ended up in conversations with deeply Christian people in Buffalo whose religion was an outward expression of their compassion for other people and belief in Jesus.  I generally cringe when religion is mentioned in the south, but found my defensive shell melting as the folks in Buffalo showed they were mearly expressing their opinions or perspective, not trying to seperate themselves and prove their space as the chosen (therefore correct) ones.

My first impression of Buffalo as I drove around is that it is a rough city.  Worn down, chilly, cold shouldered.  I was texting with my friend in Nashville who is originally from Buffalo.  Her response was that it is a better place to live than to visit.  As the weekend went on, and I started to chat to more people, I saw that the charm of Buffalo is not in an elaborate downtown, but in its people. Once the ice was broken, I was made to feel like family by several different groups of people.  I had braved the cold exterior, and was allowed to stay and sit by the fire.

The lady I was staying with was the highlight of the visit.  I almost skipped out on a gig to just stay and talk with her.  We drank coffee, she taught me a new knitting stitch, and we chatted for hours.  She lives thirty minutes outside buffalo in the town she grew up in.  She admitted she’d never been to Buffalo before she graduated high school.  Seeing what was down the street was not a desire back then.  Despite admitting she’s hardly ever left the state of NY, she is a truly open thinker and wonderful to spend time with.  My friend had forgetten to mention that I was coming, which I could see on her face when she opened the door, but when I told her who I was, she immediately turned into a light, invited me to stay, and cooked up some mean hamburgers.  We talked about world politics, travel, and relationships.

South Buffalo

From Buffalo it’s onward to Portland, Maine. My hometown.  My mixed feelings.  It’s a great city full of restaurants, music venues, and art.  But it’s also the kind of place where people don’t smile at each at other on the street without prior introduction, where the frost heaves keep the streets in a constant state of car wrenching disrepair, where people don’t go out to see music, but half-listen to music while they get hammered and try to pick up people out of their league.  It’s cold, rainy, and dreary – and I’m not just talking about the weather.   It’s good to be home for a bit, but I’m already doubting my fantasies of staying for the year. The same kind of battle wounds, lonely weeks, and ups and downs are ok for traveling and new places, but having to face them in my hometown seems too daunting.  But I’ll give it some more time before deciding.  As usual there are many options on the table.

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