Train in Vain


I’ve been following the kerfluffle about a proposed new train station for Buffalo for sometime. I don’t have a real strong opinion about it as improvements are almost always good things and well, I finally have a good car. The current station is such a shack that it needs the Property Brothers to come to its aid or be replaced. There is a large amount of rail around the region that has been abandoned and forgotten about that you almost wonder if the fixings were possible to make the Metro rail more than the semi-straight line if we were fine with it going above ground more, but I digress. To call the current station a Fixer Upper would charitable.

It doesn’t exactly scream “Welcome to Buffalo.” It is such a hole that folks tend to wait in their cars and that was even before part of the ceiling gave way. The debate is interesting because there are positives and negatives to all sides in this. It leaves this semi-interested citizen hoping that reason wins the day. After watching Niagara Falls build a station and apparently then talk to Amtrak, I hope my city thinks thoroughly about where to drop much monies. I wasn’t really cognizant of the Exchange Street station until my daughter used Amtrak to get back and forth to school for a couple of years. When it was open, not many folks went in.

I don’t have any real strong opinions or preferences in that it doesn’t feel like we are looking to build the next Union Station or anything but you hope the folks who are signing off do what is actually best for the region, not just what is in vogue, popular or nostalgic or all of the above.

The popular talk centers on the old Central Terminal. I sort of liked that idea as it does reuse a building made for that very purpose and trains actually do still go by it. It might be a bit misnamed now as it isn’t central. My admittedly bleeding heart liberal inner-preservationist self would like to see it come to life and maybe give an economic engine to an area of the city that hasn’t one in years. But my pragmatic self thinks that it would need by in from our local transportation authority as a transportation center to make a go of it and I don’t think they are feeling it.

Other folks want to shove it into Canalside as that is an area enjoying on-going success. While I can appreciate that notion, I’m of a mindset that not everything needs to be shoved into the canalside area. It’s a recreation area, access to water, and generally working pretty well. The planned stage, merry-go-round, all good things. There is a museum going up soon as that is fine, leaving another plot of land to develop and somehow having the trains schlep on through there doesn’t work for me, not that it is up to me. You hope the area stays to true to experiences, letting Canalside be the spot for the good times (sort of makes it sounds like a casino). After all it wasn’t long ago that a youtube video taught folks how to find the place.

Again, not like Buffalo has a Grand Central Station coming, but you hope the committee is thinking ahead not just for right now. Let there be connections to taxi, buses, ride sharing with some place to park to pick up folks or drop off and things that get people to all parts of the city. Maybe a new facility should be put right where it currently stands, where all the taxi, buses, cars can get at them.

Wherever the landing place, it going to take some effort to get most local folks to not catch the train….in Depew.

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Ice Road Trucker


So, I got a new gig. It’s a great job surrounded with folks who are concerned with doing great work. This was one of my goals, to be in a good spot. So, it is a really good place to ply my trade. The uniqueness behind it is the location, roughly 45 minutes from my apartment. That’s a pretty normal number, but I think we are a little spoiled with proximity in this area.

I had a similar route time north in my last position, but this is a better. It does take a little getting used to as roughly half of the jaunt is on a highway, the second half is up and down via country roads & valleys that wind up and down through some impressive hills at some high rates of speed and varying weather conditions.

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My first day on the job, it started to snow while I was moving up and down through the mountains and learning the nature of the roads. The downward descent reminded me about the old Elmer Fudd cartoons where Elmer’s car threatens to pass him in adverse conditions. I made it to the office on time after making the ups and downs of the six valleys you pass through. The snow I mentioned turned into the lake effect variety and a vendor appeared at our office to note that the road I took into work was closed.

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“Oh, really?” How am I going to get home I wondered? To google I went, and found an alternative route to get back to Buffalo. It was another jaunt through unfamiliar roads, that wove their way north to Attica, and eventually up to a road that takes one straight to Buffalo. I navigated through the side road through gradually heavier snow, following the lights and ruts in the snow of a car that had the decency to be taking the same route, north and to the west. I found the street that one can basically take into the city, but that was right at the moment was when you were driving straight into the blowing lake effect snow storm.

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I took the same route the next night home only to be greeted by blizzard and white conditions that made me consider my mortality. Made it home safely after about 90 minutes of white knuckle, borderline translucent driving, having navigated myself home and completing an intense upper arm workout at the same time. I took my alternative route during a storm last week and found myself behind tandem snow plows. That’s pretty sweet until the plows turn around you are left to keep going as if they were saying “We got you this far, now finish it, Stupid.”

The same thing happened coming home on 20A where a salt truck decided he was slowing us down. I didn’t mind, it was okay.  I like to think they were confident that we have this, but it was more likely that both were of the “Let’s get rid of these goofs” variety.

I drove the reverse in the next morning and was impressed at the view and some of the inclines that I didn’t manage to wind into a ditch, gulley, set of a horror movie, etc, thinking I’m pretty good behind the wheel. In the intervening weeks, one has to watch about getting too cocky, finding a happy speed, programming what trucks you want or don’t want to get behind. But it’s pretty. An former coworker apologized about the drive. We’re spoiled in Western New York by the twenty minute rule. Many in other cities routinely invest an hour or more getting to work. We got it easy, ignore the 20 minutes and behold what you might see in 35-40. I work in “Northern Exposure” but the route to and fro has some impressive sights

The work is great, but the commute view has me thinking go pro video would be something to see

Dear Boss, (book 3)


While I wait for Amazon to deliver me the one treat I’m allowing myself this tough year (“The Ties that Bind”), I was happily greeted with the news that the celebratory tour is coming my way toward the end of February, the 25th to be exact.

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Thank you for that.

The original release of the River and that tour fully brought me into the fold. I was 16 at the time and my musical notions were maturing somewhat. It’s a great record and I loved the whole thing, without the aid of the internet, newsgroups, trolls bitching about band players, leaked videos or anything. You got an E Street show over double vinyl.

I actually still have the recording I made when 97 Rock in Buffalo played the whole thing over the air, only to get myself to National Record Mart to pick up the copy that I would tape, eventually wear out, tape again as best buds would do (my buddy had a boom box but no turntable).

When the original Buffalo date was announced, you and the gang were set to play the old Buffalo Aud. My pal and I sorted what monies we had. Between the two of us, we had the princely sum of $24.50. That was enough to cover the cost of two tickets in the building. We’d figure out how to get there later (I had it bad). Inconveniently, on the day and time the tickets were going on sale, our history teacher scheduled a test.  He was sympathetic to our plight, but not so much that he rescheduled. My mom came to our rescue and took our modest fortune and cued up for two Bruce tickets while we were being good students.  Two front row lower bowl seats….yep, coolest mom ever.

We got that needed ride to my first arena sized E Street Experience and it was one of “those” shows, one of those forever burnt in your memory without the aid of youtube, you are in the moment without overpriced concessions, every detail bullying its way into your cerebral cortex shows.

35 years later and I can still picture the house lights on, the sax solo to “Jungleland” making my sternum hum and you on top of Danny’s organ set up punching the sky. The cadillac walk in “Cadillac Ranch” was fresh and new and “Out in the Street” was definitely the place to be.

So, it’s definitely worthy of some celebrating to be sure. Ironic that that set and tour announcements come 35 years to the day of the big occasion. That really isn’t much of a true milestone, but I’ll take what I can get. I’m looking forward to the original album songs, the outtakes, whatever the hell else you feel might fit. I am a little confused about the naysayers. Since the announcement of the shows, people have whined about the tour name (?), the dates all being put on sale at the same time, it’s a short run, people will show up when the time comes. I’ll drink the kool-aid again and enjoy the show. In the meantime, the blue rays will tide me over.

It all comes around when I can use the boost to be sure. You’ve had that unintended timing all along.

Looking forward to taking another ride.

Rolling on the river


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There are power boats.

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And power boats…

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And boats for the powerful. “Yes, we can go rapidly, but we are against it, something might spill, thank you.”

Summer is beating a hasty retreat, but a last walk of summer canalside is still a treat.

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Got to get outside, soup weather is coming, but in the meantime, got to make a friend with a boat owner.

Biker Gang


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“Sometimes it is good to a part of something bigger than you, it’s good for the soul.” That popped into my brain as i dove into the growing Slow Roll movement for a cruise through Buffalo‘s Elmwood Village and West Side. The Slow Roll has been a weekly growing event all summer long, but it was my first chance to partake. When you just like a nice cruise, but lycra purchases are bad notions this is ideal.

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This proved to be the biggest turn out for the slow roll yet, with nearly 1400 riders wheeling through the streets.

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If you are a serious rider, you should probably stay home. I think the top speed according to my map my ride app was about 8 miles per hour. You are getting some exercise, but the Tour De France doesn’t need to hold a space. It is an awesome spirit jaunt. You connect with some folks whose sole agenda is to take a good night for ride and go for one. It’s a trip to see the amount of people on steps and porches watching the spectacle (and it is that) go rolling past.

imageI’m not going to lie. I enjoyed having a police escort. Between the generosity of the Buffalo Police and the thorough organizing done by the Slow Roll volunteers (the “Squad”), it’s tough not to ride with increasingly silly grin as you wind through the streets and the only real thing to watch out is other riders. Everybody does a good job of giving each other space to minimalize chances of spills. A few have happened, but the general cluster of folks I was a part of did a good job of looking out for one another and unlike so many other public forums these days, realized that there were other folks in those spaces.

imageSo, it was all good for me. In the intervening couple of days, there was the seemingly inevitable bitching on facebook about the size of the group versus some smaller streets. One writer mused “I couldn’t get out of my street if I needed to.” It read to me like she was panicking over a problem that didn’t exist. There was an urgency earlier in the ride and Slow Roll Organizers moved swiftly to accomodate whatever the issue that might have been. I was a little further in the back so I didn’t see the details.

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I will be off to the next run on Monday evening. I think this time, I’ll drive to the take off spot and get the bike out of the car. As the trouble with biking to a biking event, you still have to ride home.image

Wanderin’


I think we can venture out once more without the snow brushes in close reach. Without having to brace oneself over the throwback winter, it is easy to for a walk outside.You can again pay too much for a hot dog without climbing over snow piles.

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The Ice Boom is gone and so is the ice.image

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I have never been a fan of the Transformers but this condo tower in the picture above looks like it is where they should park.

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The final image is my vantage point for two meetings I had late last week. Better than any conference room, and no air conditioner needed. I definitely had the better for both meetings.

Who’s up for ice cream

I Miss El Nino


I’m tired, Lily Von Stupp tired of driving in the snow. The return to old school Western New York winter isn’t sitting well. We didn’t get any January thaw to speak of, and temperatures have been single digits for so long that if we get a heatwave of 15, I walk out thinking, this isn’t so bad. What the hell?

The publishers of the coffee table book, Wall of Snow, might be able to make some money if there was so much of the crap still around. When the temperatures were in the negatives to start last week, many road ways just froze. My commute on a regular run of the mill day is 20 minutes. That’s pretty good, almost pleasant. You can relax from the busy day or get your self geared up for the day ahead with some tunes, what have you. Not these days, when snow, freezing rain, and wind have regularly turned the trips into 75 minute white knuckled, gird your loins, hunched over the steering wheel, burn a hole through the windshield with your concentrated gaze, feats of road terror.

Now, I don’t have road rage, I have road expectations. The road has set its standards pretty low. But the pleasant drive has turned into that joke Robin Williams used to make about marathon runners at the end of the race “I’m,…I’m alive.” During the latest cold freeze, random roughly 30 foot sections of the Interstate 190 along Lake Erie decided to freeze, so caked in ice the Buffalo Sabres could have tanked on them. So frozen that doing anything other than aiming the car. Don’t stop, don’t accelerate, just aim. Anything else and you were headed to the ditch. Even safe passage caused the back of my sportage to shake like a dancer at Club Marcella’s after too many espressos. After seven or eight randomly spaced out instances of this, you arrive at the promised land, the toll booth of the South Grand Island bridge, the scene of another large accident.

Traffic of course stops. I look and you see a ice trail up the bridge that would make a great luge run going down, or so it would appear. I see an exit to sneak down River Road, but who the hell knows what does on down there. I summon the courage and go through the toll. A group of about 40 cars and trucks seems to take the trip in unison like the Donnor party. We all reach the peak of the bridge and start to descend down, all hoping it is just a wet surface leading to the flat ground of Grand Island.

It made me think of the people who whine about not getting a storm, missing snow, or griping about schools being open, or schools being closed, reporters who can’t describe snow as anything other than winter wonderland, or snow days you didn’t get in 1983 and how all of the aforementioned need a slap up side the head.

That’s the thing. The sky and the surface have matched each other for so long, it’s harder to differentiate. Somehow, we all land on Grand Island, and sonofabitch, it’s a different ecosystem there. Sun is out and roads are passable. If you haven’t stopped for PTSD treatment for the first part of journey, it’s like hitting Brigadoon. You could drive (and breath) like a human. I heard my radio once more. I was conscious of the jamoke who didn’t knock the snow off his car, silently receiving curses from me. You could see the guy who cleaned his car by running the wipers once.

Until we left Shangra-la to cross the next bridge, where the frost giants awaited…

I miss El Nino.

 

Snow Blind


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This is getting on my nerves.

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I think anybody who takes to social media of any kind next winter to lament that they didn’t see any storm, where’s my snow or anything or why wasn’t my kids school closed needs to be thrown screaming from a helicopter…into a snowbank

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This thought occurred to me as I drove behind another car on one of our busier roadways around here. Unlike much of the area, bare pavement made up the bulk of the driving and apparently that jamoke decided that high speed and wind was how he was going to clean off his car. It’s a pretty deplorable practice, especially when it means your car is on the receiving end of a steady stream of snowballs.

Somewhere in the middle of El Nino, Western New York lost a bit of its snow mojo. I noticed that since we’ve gotten those two light winters, we’ve been getting our butts kicked. And to top it off, who stole our midwinter thaw. There used to be, usually around january or so, some kind of breather, temps would get up, we would get sunlight you could feel. It gave you a second wind to get to spring. My car has been a stud, but you can hear the ache of operating in such constant cold. I used to grouse about paying for a garage space, but that is fee I’m happy to pony up, helps the car last longer and reduces my carpal tunnel odds from not having to clean off the car for the fun drive to work.

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This just flat out sucks. Instead, no breather, in fact, it’s gotten a little tougher with International Falls-style wind chill that makes you not care a whit if it is Celsius or Fahrenheit, a minus anything pretty much is flat out cold. I mean, it’s great, we don’t mudslides, or much in terms of other earthbound traumas, so I guess this is Mother Nature‘s Way of keeping us honest. I’m not so sure I like it. I mean, we are at the point where the sunshine has been random, infrequent and meaningless. The color of the sky, snow and the street have all been cut from the same grey portion of the pantone chart. To add insult to frozen injury, the storms have frequently been coming at rush hour, which then needs to be called something else. It shouldn’t be so noteworthy from my 20 minute commute to actually take 20 minutes. That shouldn’t come as a pleasant surprise.

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A Hazy Shade of Winter


I don’t know who is in charge of naming things, but the 7 feet of snow that is screwing with Western New York needs a better name than “Knife” for supposedly cutting through the area. Given this fine line that lake effect weather wore, I would have thought “Bi-Polar Vortex” would have surfaced at some point. A good friend of mine offered up “Flakenstein” which I’ve added on to resulting in Flakenstein’s Monster.

It seems appropriate. There are thousands of images floating up that remind you of the fierceness of the weather.

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Driving south from Niagara County, you could see this incredibly solid shroud hanging over the southern half of the city and the surrounding suburbs, like a black hole from cheesy sci fi flicks. If you needed a reminder of the severity, red cross commercials during sunday football broadcasts highlighted the work of the red cross in such places, like Buffalo. I’m looking through my facebook feed and saw the story of the woman who was writing a good bye note because she was trapped in her car for that long.

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Fortunately, her story had a happy ending. With there being a body count, I guess you can say it’s a lucky thing that it wasn’t higher all things being equal. I don’t know of another city where 400 plus would rally to…shovel.

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Literally the story of two regions. During the “surprise storm” of October 2006, my dad lamented that the worst part of being out of town during a Western New York weather event is that you didn’t get your own story, but you got to hear everybody else’s. The entire north half of Western New York is like that, but we were home.

Like any Western New Yorker of any time frame, I’ve seen ten foot high snow piles before, but they usually take a little longer that a day to build.

It’s not the most reverent thing in the world, but I think humor helps in dealing with the unfathomable or when a public official lectures citizens before checking facts. Althought I was proud when the county executive told the NFL off.  They might not have needed it in this case, but it was good to know priorities.

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Because you never know when the next one might hit.

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But the tone of the people during this, the people who live here make you forget that this can be a place where the wind can hurt your face and just be glad that this is home.

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Drive, he said


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There was an article published recently that talked of how lousy western New York drivers take to the roads.

That came into my mind over a recent errand into Canada for work. It’s a different world for border crossings in recent years obviously enough and the worst thing to do is get unnecessarily worked up as that solves little. In returning from the errand via the rainbow bridge, a predictably long line filled the bridge and the near by side streets. It was a nice day and little to do but roll down the windows and be patient. Most folk took that in spirit, people let each other in, except one grouch in a Lexus, who cut people off, changed lanes like it was important that he and he alone make it to America with his purchases. For his trouble, he got an extended chat with the good folks in customs,

This popped back into my mind this morning negotiating the highways that envelope Toronto. This is not for the squeamish. A lot of things happen, all at 75 to 90 miles an hour. There’s a reason the Canadians go slower on Buffalo roadways as the pressure is off. My gps couldn’t draw the directions quick enough to keep up with the vicissitudes of the 401 to 400 to 427 highway exchange,

That said, driving isn’t the mad max movie that is Wny highways. While walking from my hotel just now, I did see the aftermath of an accident where the participants said a rare thing to each other

“Soory”