Mogadishu West

29 Sep

Thanks to the New York Times, the people of the world have learned that Buffalo is a terrible and strange place, devoid of regular people or normal life.  It is squalor and despair.  It is a civic existential crisis.

Empty of shops, it is instead full of empty people leading rudderless, meaningless lives where the only positive trend is in the number of Paladino signs being sought by flannel-clad, snowbound, axe-murdering rubes.

A city where even ennui comes to die, Buffalo is best reported on from the confines of one’s hotel room – a second-rate Priceline mainstay in a third-rate hellhole.  The remainder is best seen from the back seat of a cab, or the parking lot of a Rite Aid.

I can only presume that Ms. Dominus’ cab ride shuttled her from BNIA to the Hyatt and back.  Should she ever have the misfortune of being assigned another story on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, I have sent her an invitation by email to show her that there’s more to Buffalo than Paladino, empty Main Street storefronts, and longer-form versions of Gertrude Stein quips.

33 Responses to “Mogadishu West”

  1. Hapklein September 29, 2010 at 7:03 am #

    When you don’t want to see anything good you just focus on the worse things you can find.
    This person has a real feel for portraying life from the aspect of the cockroach, It a real piece of Kafka especially in Paladino’s office.
    They should send this reporter to Bangladesh or Pakistan so the world can see how the tawdry can be a triumphant virtue.

  2. Jaquandor September 29, 2010 at 7:06 am #

    Is there something buggy with the way WNYM does links now? When I click one (I’m using Chrome, btw), I just get redirected back to the WNYM home page instead of to wherever the link goes (in this case, the NYT article).

  3. BobbyCat September 29, 2010 at 7:39 am #

    Alan,

    The Times story was an embarrassment but I don’t blame the reporter. Buffalo is what it is. The closed storefronts are a fact of life in any rust belt city..

    The reporter didn’t say any of the things you implied. She didn’t say “Buffalo is a
    terrible and strange place, devoid of regular people or normal life.” Those are your words, not hers.

    I don’t recall the words, “squalor and despair” being used. I tried to link back to the Times story to check, but your link didn’t work. But then, none of the links in the WNYMedia list of columnists work either. Maybe that’s an unintended metaphor. Nothing seems to works in a story about a city that doesn’t work.

    I didn’t understand the “ennui-Americans” thing. After looking at the definition of ennui: “Listlessness- despair-, boredom” I still don’t get it. And I don’t understand the Gertrude Stein reference, either. And what does “BNIA” mean?. And what’s the significance of “Mogadishu”? I’m not connecting with any of this. Maybe I’m not sophisticated enough.

    Your invitation to show the reporter the highlights of Buffalo misses the point. The story wasn’t about the civic life of Buffalo it was about Paladino’s home turf around the Ellicott Square Bldg. and it described it fairly accurately. Don’t blame the messenger every time some out of town reporter describes Buffalo as a wasteland. Many suburbanites are horrified at what Buffalo has become.

    Your story was 4 paragraphes of 185 words and I didn’t understand most of it. The Times story didn’t make me angry. I think it was kind to Carl Paladino. After all, It didn’t delve into his character.

  4. JSmith September 29, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    Actually at the end of the article it implies she took the train here. (Although I don’t know why she went to the Depew station. She could have taken it straight to Exchange Street and not needed a cab at all.)

    It is a one-sided story with a well-chosen photograph, but none of it was untrue (except I didn’t think that JP Fashions had closed!).

    I especially liked the little NYC dig at “a popular accessory in some parts of New York where people actually have lawns.”

    • Alan Bedenko September 29, 2010 at 8:07 am #

      It was a condescending “the sticks are horrible” anthropological insult. It’s true if all you saw of Buffalo was on Main St and from the back seat of a cab. But I’m pretty sure not all of the region sucks as hard as Main St, right?

      It was replete with downstate confirmation bias about upstate.

  5. Jesse September 29, 2010 at 8:28 am #

    Downstate-driven politics and attitudes (that the rest of the universe doesn’t even exist) is a primary cause of Buffalo’s decline.

    Downstate sucks ass. Secession is too good for them (and take the whole ‘we get more back from them than we put in’ crap and shove it).

  6. Ward September 29, 2010 at 8:33 am #

    BobbyCat– BNIA = Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Are you from WNY (Western New York)?

    Mogadishu = a lawless, devastated city in Africa. (Are you from the Earth?)

    (Taking a guess here) Alan may have been referring to the Stein quote: “There is no ‘There’ there.” Gertrude Stein was an American humorist who spent most of her time in Paris (a city in France, quite a bit to our East).

    Nice job on looking up “ennui”. It’s one of them furren words that we’ve adopted in English (our language), and which is occasionally mentioned in high school literature class (although probably not in WNY, supra).

    And a heck of a job with the word count. (I’m gonna have to trust you on that one.)

  7. Bbill September 29, 2010 at 8:54 am #

    Children who spend their time on the playground belittling others and refusing to contribute anything positive obviously suffer from low self-esteem; they feel if they call others names and act snotty all the time they’ll feel better about themselves, but they never do. “Ward” isn’t fit to wash your socks.

  8. Marc Odien September 29, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    One of our plugins was acting screwy this morning. Links should be working again

  9. BobbyCat September 29, 2010 at 9:03 am #

    Ward,
    My criticisms were genuine, not some kind of high school put-down. Your comments give away your age, maturity and your mindset. You seem quite proud of attending high school. I’m sure it was the high point of your life.
    ———————————————-

    Thankfully, the link to the Times piece was fixed, so I re-read the article. I don’t find any upstate/downstate bias. The reporter’s description of downtown seems accurate. That’s the way I see it, too. I think this is a case where the homies cringe when they read about their home town in a less than flattering light. It’s probably fine when you read about the desolation of a city like Detroit or Gary, Indiana or Utica but when the subject is your home city, you take offense, naturally. Buffalo is an ugly place that time (and prosperity) has passed-by. Mogadishu its not, but we’re a forlorn, rust belt city and a truckload of denial or resentments won’t change that reality.

    Canal Side is a place where we are trying to attract tourists. But it’s a sewer outlet – literally. The “Hamburg Drain” sewer discharges there. It saddens me, but I’m not here to spin it or deny it. The reality is often ugly.

    Walmart makes a line of sportswear called “Faded Glory”. That seems to fit the City.

  10. Bill Altreuter September 29, 2010 at 9:04 am #

    Someone at the Buffalo News (possibly Larry Felser) once observed that among the most frequent and regular out-of-town visitors are sportswriters, who form their impression of Buffalo based on the Kensington Expressway and the area around the Hyatt. This is very unfortunate. The 33 is as ugly a road as I’ve seen, an unattractive ditch flanked with billboards for lawyers and hospitals. The NFL and the NHL are contractually obliged to book their players in the best hotel in the city where they are playing. Sadly, that’s the Hyatt– three out of five stars according to the Mobil Guide. It’s not a dive by any means, but it is not a particularly fancy hotel. EB Green’s is a pretty good hotel restaurant. The problem is that the Hyatt is across the street from the absolute ugliest stretch of Main Street. The photo the story was illustrated with fairly depicts it. The other problem is that there isn’t much around the hotel– Buffalo’s charms are situated elsewhere, and are not really withing walking distance. There are a lot of cities I’ve been too that have this sort of problem. You figure, ‘I’m in the best hotel in town. This must be the height of luxury in these parts. I’m downtown, near the offices and courts that are the heart of the city. Wow, it looks like a bomb went off.” It’s not an unreasonable way to look at the place.

  11. Chris Smith September 29, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    Boy howdy, the deluded city boosters at BRO are gonna be pissed about this NYT story! I don’t care about what NYTimes reporters write about us when they have something nice to say, nor do I care when they have something bad to say. I live here, it’s a place. Some people like it, others don’t. The end.

  12. STEEL September 29, 2010 at 10:51 am #

    The story is not that off base. It is the only impression out of towners get when the local population abandons the central city and spreads out into the countryside.

  13. Mark September 29, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    BobbyCat, WNY could use fewer of you. Your unbalanced view of Buffalo is ridiculous and at odds with reality. “Buffalo is an ugly place that time (and prosperity) has passed-by.” Please. Why don’t you leave the area and go write for the New York Times?

    Jesse, your provincial bigotry sounds just as dumb as every other kind of bigotry. Downstate is the home of the greatest city on Earth, and we do, in fact, gain a great deal from being in a state with New York City and the surrounding area.

  14. Ward September 29, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    Wow BoobyCat. Good one. Especially accurate guess on my being 19 years old and making meretricious use of my 10th grade Eng Lit class. I’m sure I have a lot to look forward to once I graduate from college, then law school, pass the Bar and raise a family.

  15. BobbyCat September 29, 2010 at 12:09 pm #

    Boys, I’m sorry to disappoint you but I won’t engage personal insults because that’s kid stuff, and I’m a long way out of high school. I know that hurling insults is the last resort when you run out of intellectual ammo. Or perhaps I hurt your feeling by calling Buffalo ‘ugly’. If you think I’m saying that just to be mean naysayer, I’m not. If you have never heard the old saw about Buffalo being “the armpit”, etc.,etc, you might want to talk to people from around the country and get their opinion about Buffalo.

    Bill Alt. makes some good points about the ugliness of the 33 and downtown. And yes, Buffalo has its charming places, as does Detroit and every city. But hidden places do not define a city’s signature. Downtown does. And downtown is what you read about in the Times, which is, by the way, the best newspaper in the USA, (in case you haven’t heard ) and has been for a century or more. But then, you can attack the NY Times or me, or whomever, as you will. If attacking me makes you feel better about yourself, have at it. Although, not in person. That’s dangerous.

    The simple truth is, it would be difficult to over-estimate how little I care about what you think. But I am flattered that you apparently think that I am of high school age. I’m not. I’ve been around, kid.

    • Alan Bedenko September 29, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

      No one’s denying that the reporter’s impressions of what she saw were accurate. What I’m pissed off about – and I say this as someone who did not grow up here and came here entirely by choice – is the impression left that all of WNY is a horrid wasteland where Paladino signs represent the only economic or social progress. The NY Times isn’t written for those of us here who know the good – and bad – about WNY. It’s written for a national audience, and a distinct class of people who now have “squalor” and “empty” to go along with their impression of “wintry”. It’s an article written by a downstater who didn’t want to come here, didn’t want to be here, didn’t like it, and would prefer never to return. You can read it all between the lines.

      And yes, BobbyCat, the word “strange” was used as an adjective in the piece, and frankly that’s the word that prompted me to write my post in the first place.

  16. BobbyCat September 29, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    Wait just a durned minute. I wrote the following ” She didn’t say “Buffalo is a
    terrible and strange place, devoid of regular people or normal life.”

    I repeat, she didn’t say any of that.

    She did say RE: the closed restaurant: “Cobwebs on a metal gate surrounding the restaurant flickered whenever the day’s hot, strange wind blew.”

    There is no reference to anyone or anything other than the wind. Are you upset because the NYTimes called our wind… “strange”??

    How could she do that? She should be hauled out into the street and horse-whipped! Nobody calls Buffalo’s wind ‘strange” and gets away with it. Them uppity NewYak city folks.

    • Alan Bedenko September 29, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

      No shit, BobbyCat. I know she “didn’t say any of that”. That must be why I didn’t put quotation marks around anything in my post – because the words are mine.

      So, you can repeat the bleeding obvious all you want, but I never purported to be repeating anything she wrote. What I was doing, (since I have to fricking explain it now), was utilizing ironic hyperbole and exaggeration to express my interpretation of what was written in that piece.

      And yes, “strange” is a dumb adjective to use to modify the word “wind”. What was strange about it? In what way was it extraordinary? Like I said, the piece was lazy and clumsy and I didn’t like it. Furthermore, it made all of seem like borderline cretins for wanting to live in such a dump.

      You did. Bully for you.

  17. STEEL September 29, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

    I will give you the part with the strange wind. But her take on the city should be expected based on what WNYers have chosen to do with their city and the condition they have chosen to put it in.

  18. Harry Hood September 29, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

    This was received by the author:

    I really was not trying to do a hatchet job on Buffalo, but to make palpable to people in New York City–not all of whom travel with any regularity to places like Buffalo–some of the mood and scenes that might be driving Paladino’s popularity. I received many emails from proud Buffalo citizens, and look forward to visiting the city again. I also know the Times is running a story soon that will, I believe, have reason to give a more full portrait of the city’s charms.
    best,
    Susan

  19. mike September 29, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    To bad she was too late to see spray painted on the empty building at the end of the 33 saying “This is Buffalo’s future”, or the bill board saying will the “last person to leave Buffalo please shut off the lights”. But the best strange wind was on Hertel coming from the Bakery Salvage, boy do I miss those rats. They sure had a lot of meat on their bones.

  20. Longtime_Expat September 29, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

    She’s right, to a large extent. Western New York has a very different mindset than the NYC region, and downstaters don’t understand the economic problems of the rest of the state.

    I left Buffalo 40 years ago, when it was a thriving, vibrant city. My impressions on my semi-annual trips back here to visit family – I’m in Hamburg at the moment – is that the city and area have huge chips on their shoulders: they want the former glory, don’t know how to get it back, and blame everyone else for their problems. If only BassPro came through, if only IKEA opened a store, if only the steel mills came back…

    Those of us who know the area know where to find the hidden gems. The problem is, they’re hidden very well. Mr. Expat, who is not a NYS native, claims that the region goes out of its way to hide its attractions from visitors. The first impression the area makes is of a dead city surrounded by miles and miles of suburban sprawl that turns its back on what made it possible: I think I spend more time downtown in a given year than all of my relatives combined. There’s the world-class art and institutions, but the impression a casual visitor gets from picking up the News is that this is a very provincial place.

    BTW, I have yet to see a Cuomo sign in my wanderings in the South Towns.

  21. BobbyCat September 29, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    See, now that is EXACTLY what I was doing – using ironic hyperbole and exaggeration to highlight your ironic hyperbole and exaggeration. Jesus Christ, Bedenko, everyone in these blogs is so fragile, if you look at them wrong, they cry. And I have noticed that nobody is EVER wrong about anything. Apparently that’s a capital offense hereabouts. Somebody should start selling humility. They’d make a killing.

    • Alan Bedenko September 29, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

      BobbyCat, your version of ironic hyperbole came across as someone who couldn’t decipher the local airport’s initials. And someone who insisted on taking what I wrote as a verbatim quote of what the Times wrote. So, it’s nothing to do with humility or lack thereof.

  22. lulu September 29, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

    In an attempt to contribute and not just measure dicks, I am upset by this comment from Steel: “But her take on the city should be expected based on what WNYers have chosen to do with their city and the condition they have chosen to put it in.” I know you get tons of shit for caring and writing about WNY even though you don’t live here anymore, and I have no problem with that – I didn’t stop loving Buffalo when I lived elsewhere. But as a WNYer who came back and contributes to the betterment of my community and city every day, I find your statement offensive. While I think it too simple a statement to begin with, the WNYers who have left are more to blame than those of us who have stayed.

  23. BobbyCat September 29, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    My last comment, aside from the thing about humility, was pure nonsense, in response to your nonsense.

    Here’s what I think happened. You wrote a short blog that over-reacted to the Times piece, accusing the reporter of things she never said or intended. I came bumping along and pointed these thing out. But instead of saying “Yeah, I over-reacted. I wrote that before I had my coffee. Here’s what I should have said……..”, you tryed to defend an indefensible position by making up some transparent literary BS excuse similar to “the dog ate my homework”.
    Then you got sore at me for making fun of that.

    Mountain, molehill. I hope you don’t get upset every time somebody says Buffalo is a dump. Relax. Save your health.

  24. elias September 29, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    i thought this piece by the times along with the hunter gatherer jab from snl were right on the money…i am offended by neither, actually quite amused…i think it introduced the downstate market to the reality we have known for decades here…that of a dying city. i don’t mean to sound negative about it, it’s just the truth…i truly believe a majority of them have absolutely no idea of what we have endured (and it has nothing to do with weather btw) for the last 50 years (they think its only 10 years, but whatever)…let them keep writing about what they see, its the reality after all…its all part of the big picture of exposing what our state and local governments have done for the state as a whole…why should similar states like california texas and florida have more than one really great city in their state, with places like north carolina and arizona creeping up right behind us…something’s wrong with the way this state conducts its business…san francisco, austin, tampa, orlando, raleigh, tucson…we should be in line with these cities, but the truth is, we do have more in common with mogadishu than we do with these cities, that’s at least the perception…

  25. Hapklein September 29, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

    Strange how quickly these discussions leave literary analysis behind.

    When I said Kafka I was trying to point out the lurch to the grotesque most first-time commentators on Buffalo are sure to embrace.

    Instead the inmates play One-Up-Manship. I can’t imagine what these posting will descend to once Twitter Articulation conquers the discussion

  26. BobbyCat September 29, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    Perhaps you should ask Buffalo suburbanites what they think of Buffalo. They live outside the city line, true, but Buffalo is the city they most identify with, the place they are ‘from’. They are not disinterested. Suburbanites have a vested interest in the well being of the hub. What are their impressions of Buffalo-downtown, from their their last visit?

  27. Becky September 29, 2010 at 8:03 pm #

    “The first impression the area makes is of a dead city surrounded by miles and miles of suburban sprawl that turns its back on what made it possible” is right on. Suburbanites have a vested interest in the city, but have a funny way of showing that they really understand that concept.  Many probably don’t.

  28. Ben McD October 2, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

    “Suburbanites have a vested interest in the city”. That is an oft repeated sentiment, but I wonder how true it is. I can’t seem to think of too many institutions that could not be absorbed by the suburbs, or what suburbanites need to do for the city that they don’t do already. It’s virtually everyone outside of the city that pays for it to exist.

  29. joker October 3, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    I thought the story was a very well written account of a weekend spent in hell, um, I mean Buffalo. Those of you who keep comparing this nth rate garbage dump to cities like Boston, Philly or Chicago should try getting out of town once in awhile and taking the blinders off. You’ve got a minor league baseball team and a loser football team that won’t even be here in a couple of years. The Buffalo Philharmonic isn’t even comparable to the Cleveland Orchestra, the library sucks and the restaurants that attempt to go beyond pizza, wings and steak are atrocious. The alleged “music scene” is pathetic and, aside from the annual record snow storms, you have a politician, Carl Paladino, who reinforces every negative stereotype people have about the hellhole you call home. The suburbanites are even worse, civic booster types who, like vultures, pick and scavenge on the corpse of a dead metropolis. The poor woman who wrote the article was clearly traumatized, and with good reason.

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