Tuesday, June 2, 2020

GOING HOME Jack Blanchard's Column June 1, 2020

Thousands of intelligent good-looking readers


In the mid-1970s we took a trip back to our home town, Buffalo, New York.
Somebody had been rearranging the scenery.
First, I missed the arching elm trees that were wiped out by Dutch Elm Disease.
Those DAMN Dutch!
Buffalo without the majestic elms was like seeing your grandmother in her underwear.
There were little new trees being held up by sticks and wire.
I hoped I would live long enough to see them full grown.

We were driving our motor home and stayed at a KOA on Grand Island,
a big chunk of land in the Niagara River that was rural in my childhood,
but was now looking suburban.
The temperature was in the low 40's,
and the wind across the island was fierce.

Accompanied by my old buddy Bob Egan and his girlfriend Mary Lou,
we made the rounds of the nightspots and dayspots.

I noticed that people had an obsession with "improving" pianos.
Most of the grand old upright pianos had been cut down
in an attempt to make them into spinets. It didn't work.
The shape always came out sort of hunchbacked.
They stuck to it, though,
painting them with pink or white enamel, and putting mirrors over the keys.
I could never play a piano with mirrors over the keys.
I can't stop watching the hands in the mirror.
It's like trying to talk with an echo on the telephone line.

Each night we started out at a Grand Island tavern
built into the downstairs floor of an old house.
The large screened porch covering the front of the building had storm windows up.
It was late autumn, and no place for sissies.
The Roast Beef sandwiches on Weck, a Buffalo specialty, were perfect.
That's about all I ate while in town.

The tavern had an old upright piano,
that was a bit out of tune and was missing some ivories.
It looked as though it needed some Ragtime,
so we played some every night.

We also went to Dinty Moore's Restaurant at Elmwood and Kenmore Avenues,
where they had a piano bar and a dance floor.
Misty danced with Bob, who looked funny in my huge brimmed cowboy hat.
That's the first time we've been bar hopping in a 38 foot motorhome.

In the daylight, we took in Delaware Park, the zoo,
the houses where we used to live, some old landmarks
All things wood must be covered with Formica,
and a big picture window must be gouged out of every house front.
Crinkly shingles of various colors were tacked on to houses I used to like.
The solid wood counter on the upstairs porch was now wrought iron railing.
Satellite TV dishes pop out of the wall like giant toadstools,
and our wonderful sunporch was replaced by the mandatory picture window.

Before we said goodby,
we had a couple of get-togethers in a North Tonawanda tavern,
played music, and had fun.
Most of those friends and relatives are gone now,
but we still see them in our memories of that visit,
and in the fading snapshots that were taken.

I learned something...
It's not so much the the way it looks, or the economic situation,
or even the great food
It's the feeling... the aura, that makes Buffalo unique.
The soul, the energy, and the personality are still there.

LATER: In 2010 We visited Buffalo again and found it better than ever.
Many of our old haunts had ignored time and were the same, but with new people.
There were new improvements and the city looked great.
Buffalo has its unique energy and personality.
We'd love to visit again sometime,
but we don't live there anymore.

Jack Blanchard