The new issue of Night Life is out on stands today with ‘Change Of Season’, a brand new Big Words I Know By Heart column about what it’s like to be a non-hockey/American Idol fan in Buffalo right now (in the event that there’s someone out there in Buffalo who hasn’t hopped on the bandwagon at this point). Go scoop it up if you dare because this one is guaranteed to piss people off for one reason or another. And since I only wrote it for Buffalo, I’m reprinting last week’s Bass Pro column (‘Fishing For Solutions’) below since I haven’t reprinted something for awhile.
I also found out over the weekend that another one of my poems (‘Someone Should Cry For Tracy Zullo’) was accepted at The Flask Review, an online web zine of some kind or another. Once it’s up, I’ll throw up a link.
It’s hard to believe, but we’re a week away from the half-way point on the Big Words print column. I’m aiming for 52 consecutive columns and after that, we’ll see. The column seems to be taking root with the community by tiny leaps and bounds and if it keeps gathering momentum, then I’ll keep committing to it. What does this mean for you? Go out and grab a copy! Tell your friends about it! Spread the word! There’s no better publicity than word of mouth, so get the word out.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. I’m going on vacation from the 17th to the 22nd, so if there’s an update next week, it won’t be on a Monday. I’m going to Rushford Lake where I won’t be near phones, computers, or any of the trappings of technology (on purpose), so I’ll update when I get a chance. Have a great week and buy my books!
Fishing For Solutions
Raise your hand if you’re stupid enough to think that Bass Pro is going to resurrect downtown Buffalo. Anyone? I didn’t think so. I don’t know whether to blame the local media or the political PR machine, but it seems like every year or two, there’s some great salvation that comes trotting into town only to dash our hopes against the rocks. Buffalo needs more than a quick fix or a multimillion dollar national chain. And honestly, how many people in the suburbs and surrounding towns are going to drive into the heart of the city or the harbor district to get goddamned fishing lures? Not many. Two years ago it was the idea of plunking a casino down in the middle of Buffalo. That hasn’t happened yet. Ten years ago, it was the Angelica film center from out of town. They lasted about a year and a half and the building got rescued by Dipson Theaters, a local outfit. Fifteen years ago, it was the Empire State Brewing Company. To the best of my knowledge, they packed it in and left town a long time ago. Are you seeing a pattern here? If they dropped a free vending machine that spit out gold bullion in the middle of downtown Buffalo, maybe we’d have an economic turnaround.
The big hot button business this time is Bass Pro, though, and I predict that it’ll be about as successful as the other financial endeavors. In the first act, a big faceless corporation gets lured into Buffalo by a sweet siren song of big profits, tax breaks and prime real estate. In the second act, the company realizes that they’ve made a horrible mistake. In the third act, they leave town in the middle of the night like gypsies and we’re left with another vacant building in the middle of a black hole. Rinse and repeat.
Two or three years from now, every paper in town will be claiming that fill in the blank will revive business revenue for Buffalo and reverse the economic depression we’ve been enjoying for the last thirty or forty years. Whatever it may be, that probably won’t work either. The city needs more than a cosmetic band aid to fix the financial ruin that’s hanging over all of us. Real, lasting jobs (preferably unionized). With auto plants going belly up left and right all over town, we could use some more factories. Give some of those companies out of town the old song and dance and hopefully they’ll a)believe us and b)stay for longer than two or three years. History is just going to keep repeating itself unless we change up our game and try something different.
All of our universities help, but they’re making our students just smart enough to realize that there are no real jobs in town so that they get the hell out of Buffalo and expatriate to another state with lower taxes and better opportunities. Solve that little Sudoku puzzle and we might have a shot at being a boom town again. Students aren’t going to get a six year degree so that they can deal blackjack at the new casino or sell rods and reels, for chrissakes. Sure, Bass Pro is going to create some new jobs, but what’s the quality level? There’s a lot of disparity in this town with class and income and minimum wage retail positions don’t help a whole hell of a lot. Create some real jobs. Find lasting companies. It’s that simple.
Talk to any old codger on a bar stool and they’ll cite just how many mistakes this town has made and when. I’ll be one of them in another thirty years. I’m relatively young and I’m not leaving, but I’m in the minority. A lot of my friends have moved out of town for better jobs, better pay and better opportunities. Most of them stayed and tried to hack it out, but they gave up after they realized that there are more people than there are jobs for the majority of the fields that we train and school for.
I’m neither pro nor anti-casino. I like gambling occasionally and sure it’s going to create more alcoholism and gambling addiction, but who cares? Better that the addicts dump money on this side of the border than in Canada, that’s what I say. It’s not as if downtown Buffalo is full of boy scouts after dark as it is. Addicts are addicts, and providing a venue for them to get their fix doesn’t turn non-addictive personalities into addictive personalities. A casino might help whether it’s in my back yard or not, and it just might bring some high rollers in from out of town. I’m part Indian, and we’ve been getting screwed since time immemorial by the white man, so give the full blooded Indians some deep tax breaks and some of the land that they got swindled out of. Fine by me.
The town has been going around and around and around with this argument since the back half of the last century, and odds are that we’ll continue to have this argument well into the next century. Buffalo used to be a thriving metropolis at the beginning of the 20th century and it’s been on a slow, steady decline ever since. Drum up some real, lasting solutions with long term, committed businesses and maybe the town won’t come off like a sinking ship with a bunch of degreed rats hopping overboard at the drop of a hat. Denial won’t solve it, base pay jobs won’t cure it, and one out of town fishing company certainly isn’t going to. Try a little harder, and then I might believe the pitch instead of the money that’s going into pockets that are a lot deeper than mine. Fill in the blank isn’t going to save Buffalo. Figure it out.
Reinforcing my rod (and reel)
Tom ‘ass pro’ Waters