While I have no new ‘Big Words’ print column in Night Life this week (and although this essay was on my YourHub.com site), I’m including my serious column from last week about Chippewa. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and if you want to see some of my holiday pics, click on over to the YourHub site. Here’s the address again:
There’s not much else to report. I’ve been posting pretty consistently, so if you feel like you missed something, just scroll down. Seeya next Monday,
Big Words I Know By Heart Week 6: Chippewa Blues
The Chippewa Club District in downtown Buffalo has turned into a war zone. Seven years ago, when I was much younger, I used to go every weekend without a care in the world. At the worst, you might see two guys two drunk to fight flailing on top of each other at three in the morning while you were dumping an Italian sausage sandwich all over your jacket or munching on a cold piece of LaNova pizza before making the trek home. Now Chippewa has the distinct privilege of entertaining any number of crimes and misdemeanors from muggings, shootings, drug dealing and known gang activity. I had a friend who opened a club less than a year ago and sold it at a loss because the environment wasn’t conducive to running a profitable business. The police do what they can for the weekend shooting gallery, but Chippewa is only a small piece of the rest of the mess they have to clean up with one man patrol cars, little to no pay raises and the club owners’ reluctance to call in a crime in progress for fear that their business will go down from bad publicity. Something tells me it’s going to get a whole lot better before it gets worse.
The drug trade in this town is like the 800 pound pink elephant in the room. No one wants to acknowledge it and yes, it’s in everyone’s back yard. It’s tough to discourage in the club world because the chain of command travels all the way up and down the pipe line. Its no surprise then that rival gangs from the East and West side of Buffalo flock to the club scene like a lightning rod. At some point it becomes a turf war, and that’s where the guns come in. Rich, pampered suburban kids buy club drugs or coke downtown and the grittier element of the city will follow. These same spoiled frat boys and hop heads end up mixing it up in the clubs or on the streets over stupid, petty things. Someone looks at their girl the wrong way. Somebody bumps into somebody else. The entire chain of events is preposterous.
There’s also a small cult of kids who get their kicks beating the shit out of club goers on the way to or the way home from the bars and taverns on the weekends. They’re drunk, they’re tired, and they’re an easy target. I left my wallet behind at a bar on Main St. that’s no longer there seven years ago and some scam artist contacted my house. These days it wouldn’t have ended as easily as it did. There are a lot of short and long cons going up and down the West and East side. There is a whole new breed of animal in the city, and its preying on the weak and the gullible and the rich. If a plan isn’t formulated and if something isn’t done to spearhead this madness, the body count just might get a lot worse.
Any Buffalo Police officer will tell you that the drugs come from the West Side and the money comes from the East Side. That’s the way it’s always been in this town. So when is it going to stop? There isn’t much of a neighborhood community in the Entertainment District because the area is fortunate enough to be booming with a multitude of great bars, theaters and shops. At the rate things are going, there will be nothing left downtown but deserted storefronts and gang warfare. The West Side will continue to spread out like a cancer and devour one of our best resources. Old Buffalo thinks that it’s a racial thing, and that certain minorities destroy everything they touch. I beg to differ. Every color in the pot is pitching in to this time bomb from the bottom to the top.
Ignoring the problem will make it worse. Lowering the hours of operation will only take money away from the businesses. And publicizing the problem will discourage people like me from going downtown for anything. It’s bad enough that the parking situation is a revolution in the short con. You can’t park and get into a club without dropping ten or fifteen bucks and most people have to pay for a babysitter. How willing are we to drive a half an hour or forty five minutes from all of our boroughs in order to throw ourselves into harm’s way? I’m just about done clubbing downtown. Unless there’s a review or an anniversary party, I won’t bother. I’m in a relationship, I no longer need to impress anyone, and Buffalo and the surrounding suburbs are not suffering for great bars and restaurants. This is a real shame, though, as I there are a multitude of great techno clubs, rock and roll bars, Irish pubs and corner bars. I miss it, but I’m a big fan of keeping my money and my life.
I’ve always been fascinated by how Elmwood Avenue businesses and activities run like a Swiss Clock compared to Chippewa and Delaware. If they’ve got problems on Elmwood, you certainly don’t hear about them. Amherst near Bailey and Hertel is turning into a sizable cavity, but what are they doing on Elmwood that isn’t being applied anywhere else in the city? That just might be the key to solving this problem. Or maybe a small state of martial law should be applied. Police officers on horseback from ten at night until four in the morning from Friday through Sunday backed by city funds. Buffalo PD works their ass off and they’re grossly underpaid. Throw some money their way for a change. What the hell do I know, though? I’m just a guy who’s got nothing to do with the drug trade who travels with a designated driver when he drinks and refuses to go drinking on Chippewa St. There are a lot more like me, and our numbers are growing with every alarmist news story, stabbing and fatality on or near Chippewa during normal business hours. Change up the play, Buffalo, or we’re not going to have a club district left.
Tom ‘re-sheltered’ Waters