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Looking to Move from the Suburbs into Buffalo

By Elena Cala Buscarino

Buffalo, NY – My family and I are definitely what you would call pro Buffalo. We think the city is great and has so much to offer. There’s just one problem; we live in the suburbs. We moved out of the city almost as if by accident some thirteen years ago. Call it the fault of mid-80s real estate, but by the time we had found our perfect house after two years of searching in Buffalo, the house just happened to be in the suburbs. We’ve been checking the home finder for Buffalo real estate every Saturday ever since our move.

It upsets our neighbors and friends to think that we still haven’t settled in all the way. It’s not that we’re not comfortable where we are. Our home and neighborhood are wonderful, and we do like it very much here. But we love the city. We still get into Buffalo frequently. My husband’s business is in Buffalo; our favorite restaurants are also there. Our children ice skate at Buffalo State College and Rotary Rink, and we shop on Elmwood Avenue frequently. Remember privately owned businesses where the people were cheerful…and there to serve you? They still exist on Elmwood. Sure, conglomerates move in from time to time, but people who’ve been around a bit recognize the benefits of patronizing homegrown establishments -- businesses where the owners actually make an occupation of running the business.

Over the years, we have brought so many suburban friends to Buffalo. We’ve held birthday parties for our girls down there; skating parties, Buffalo Museum of Science parties. People always say the same thing, “We didn’t know this was here. It’s so nice down here. Of course, we’d never come here by ourselves.”

I always find this last comment to be very odd. I read the paper, and listen to the news. I challenge anyone to come up with a story of a family of four being attacked. I ruin the possibility of future play days between our children when I ask, “But where do you buy your crack?” To me, the formula is obvious; dangerous quests lead to danger, but true fun is found far away from Chuckie Cheese. Buffalo is a great place for families.

We had a wonderful friend, Hank, who died a couple of years ago. He was so much a part of downtown nightlife, that it was hard to return for a while after his death. He was sort of the ‘Where’s Waldo’ of the downtown social set. He was often the tallest, most handsome man in any crowd, and we knew where he was by the time of day. Five o’clock to seven, Jimmy Mac’s; seven to ten, Mother’s; after that, it was Chippewa. I once remarked to him that he was spending a lot of time in the bars. He fixed me with his crystal blue eyes and his pirate’s smile, “What’s your point?” he asked. Indeed,when the city was alive, he needed to be in the middle of it. Period.

Just before Christmas this year,when all of Buffalo was unseasonably green, and we were in need of Christmas spirit, and some good food, we piled in the car and headed south, to the downtown area. It was early, but already dark, and we thought we would save the Elmwood strip until last. The need to shop was strong, but our hunger proved stronger. On this night we headed to Virginia Place. We had adopted a tradition without even realizing it…whenever we stepped out of our vehicle, we would find the first object lying on the ground, and this would become our makeshift hockey puck in a game of street hockey. I have participated in this event in a gown and high heels in the past, much to the delight on motorists, who would provide color commentary from their cars, stopped at red lights; but tonight, we were casual. On this night, the puck was my find; a half full water bottle. It had wonderful movement on the bare pavement, propelled as it were by the water within it, and a good sidekick. The Allen Street shops were closed, but beautifully decorated. How ironic that the malls should be teaming with people while the Allen Street Dress Shop, a place to buy a truly unique gift, was closed.

The game continued. My seven-year-old, Isabella, was in the zone and playing for keeps. Olivia, the eleven-year-old superego of the family was performing a rather intense worrying session. My husband, Sam, was locked in an intense battle with Isabella, and I was, I suppose, the referee. The game suddenly ended when two of our players crashed into a beautiful Christmas display that involved large branches, wrapped in lights, and extending from the sidewalk to an awning above the doorway. The branch stood its ground, while Isabella lay on her back on the sidewalk, looking startled. The other three of us looked down at her with a mixture of guilt, shock, and in Olivia’s case, righteousness, because she knew something like this would happen.

I surveyed our group from a distance just then. I did not see us as fodder for a mugging. Our family, I realized, was the sort of element our suburban friends might lock their doors and roll up their windows upon seeing. I suppose that makes us true downtowners; now, if we could just find a house…

Elena Cala Buscarino teaches writing at the Country Day School.