Monday, July 28, 2008


I used to live in Buffalo.

Not that one up there.

Buffalo, New York.

Not that big a deal, really. It had its cool points. Wings. Beef on Kimmelweck (a Kaiser roll with rock salt and caraway seeds). It was really close to Canada.

But still, just a city.

The thing is, I lived there between the ages of 7 and 14, and damn, those are some important years. Whenever I hear Fleetwood Mac, Gypsy, or Kim Carnes, Betty Davis Eyes, I'm back there. Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd were on Saturday Night Live. New wave music was on the radio. My parents played in a midnight bowling league, and once in a great while, they let me go.

I didn't want to leave Buffalo. And to this day, I feel I missed an entire life because we moved away.

New neighborhood. New school. Isolation.

They changed me.

Deep down I believe I'm better off for having my comfort ripped away.

Stronger. Watchful. Far more capable.

If only I could stop wishing to go back.


Charles Gramlich said...

I spent a very pleasant period in the Buffalo airport once. That was enough to make me think of the city with fondness.

JR's Thumbprints said...

We all long for that special place where we felt most comfortable. Songs, people, animals ... may trigger our sentiments.

That Buffalo's ribs are showing. I wondering if he's getting enough to eat.

Bernita said...

Sometimes, after that sort of move, one feels cast out,that one has lost Eden.

Remiman said...

There'll always be unfinished busines.

Geraldine said...

What an interesting glance into your past Jason and also some of your thoughts on unrequited dreams. Buffalo....mmmm, you do seem more of a "Philly" guy but maybe that's just my opinion after reading your blog for several months. I guess every place has it's high points. When I lived in Toronto many years ago, Buffalo was a place to visit for the weekend to enjoy a totally different scene.

*~*{Sameera}*~* said...

No matter where we wander off to,home is where the growing years were spent..

Terri said...

I hated moving, too. I found it hard to make friends as it was and then we moved when I was 6. And then my dad died and we moved when I was 7. Talk about a disrupted life! Strangely, as an adult I enjoy the challenges and adventure of moving to a new place. I'm sure there's a whole psychology lesson in there somewhere, too.
btw Your first 3 lines made me laugh :-)

Sarah Hina said...

Strange that we should always wonder about that road not taken. Even if we're confident about our present course.

I don't think we ever forget that hunger to belong, the desperate, childhood wish for more tranquil seas.

But I think you're right, Jason. Your strength, and character, was born from those rough, churning waters you were dumped in. They may have been terribly confusing to navigate, but I imagine the people who care for you today are strangely grateful for them, anyway. Just as you are.

SzélsőFa said...

It is strange - all the psychological reads I've had on self-evaluation, stability, and control made me believe that comfort is inevitable to make someone strong and independent.
Yet life does not alway follows the rules...
Perhaps you should NOT feel uneasy about wanting to go back.

The Anti-Wife said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Anti-Wife said...

What are you missing that keeps drawing you back?

Anonymous said...

Charles, it does have its charm.

JR's Thumbprints, you know, you're right. The buffalo does look thin. And yes, songs can be huge triggers for me. Little time machines.

Bernita, what a great way to put it! Yes, something like Eden lost. As much as I know that's idealism and not realistic, it still has that nagging draw.

Remiman, wise words. I imagine the far more important thing is the business at hand.

Geraldine, I'm very much a Philly guy now. That life of cooler summers and long, wide open days was left back there. The dreams I hatched there still persist, though. Maybe that's why I still enjoy going for a visit.

Sameera, so true! They really do imprint on us.

Terri, I'm sorry that you went through that. Even though it's part of you now. Thanks for sharing your own experience. :)

Sarah, what a nice thing to say. :) I really do appreciate the turmoil in a strange way, and am happy to be what I am, for others and for myself.

Szelsofa, that's a very interesting point. I'm going to think about that. Maybe those feelings are an as much an essential part of me as anything else.

Anti-Wife, I was so much a part of a path that I never had reason to stop and appreciate it. My place was crystallizing around me. Friends, both in and out of school. The role my parents played. My classes in school. Then, after the move, it was stark how it was all gone--that path. Even the classes. I still remember sitting in the math class they put me in (8th grade) and they were doing simple addition with two whole digits 88+12. I was so taken aback that I couldn't speak for a while. I eventually was changed into another class, but this school just didn't offer nearly as much. I wonder who I would've been if I continued on that path.

bekbek said...

How beautiful, Jason. I can't help thinking that the longing you describe is as much a part of who you are now as are those other characteristics that came from moving.

I moved many, many times when I was young... but the houses and apartments were all in the same city, sometimes only with one parent or the other. I was on the buses and subways on my own from a very young age. No matter where I was living, I could always get to every other part of my world when I wanted to do so.

Instead, the things I find myself longing for are lost opportunities. Schools I didn't get into; libraries (of all things) I didn't spend enough time in. But it comes to the same... though I might wish things had been different, I can't quite think of these as "regrets," because I quite like where I'm at now. If things had been different... they'd be different now, too.


Scott said...

This couldn't hit any closer to the heart, Jason. I was moved from Akron, Ohio when I was in fifth grade, and I spent most of my life longing to go back. I just searched my blog for my take on my subsequent return to my childhood city, but apparently I never spelled it out in words. I will say this though, that you can never go back, not if you expect to find what you heart needs. It's gone. You would find that field you used to walk through paved over or the home to a McDonalds and a Starbucks. Even the food wouldn't taste as good.

But I can't help feeling too that I have enjoyed the advantages of having to leave what I loved behind. Still, I wonder if I would have been a better person, someone with less baggage and less to work out, if I had grown up with and kept my same friends. Maybe my friendships today wouldn't be so mercurial.

ChrisEldin said...

Those are important years, aren't they? But do you yearn also to be that age also? Innocent and one day leads to the next to the next. No worries about where food is coming from, girlfriends, all of that teenage angst.

My heart is being tugged with this one. I really need a feeling of rootedness, and my husband doesn't need this. At all. He'll go wherever the money is. And our splitting time between two different places each year---it is soo soo hard. I envy people who can stay in one place. Who have a few friends they can call over for a barbeque. Who know what their days will hold and can control them. I want the same sky. I want the grocery store clerks to know my name and to ask about my children. And dear God I want my children to have friendships (something I didn't have in my dysfunctional childhood). Geez, I could go on forever commiserating with you one this one.

But I do agree, you can't really go back. Some of you can, but you're a man now. You were a boy then. You can re-create the parts that you miss, some of them. But it's also a different time now.

I better stop. Hugs to you.

Chumplet said...

My brother lives in Buffalo. He's just a few miles down Gennessee from the airport, in Bowmansville.

He's a blues/rock musician, and he plays a lot of gigs in the local taverns. We went to visit a couple of New Years Eves ago, and the bar was small, cheery, crowded and jumping almost to the tin ceiling.

The first time I met his wife's family (on Thanksgiving) we descended the basement stairs and everyone yelled, "Howzit goin', eh?"

We felt right at home.

ChrisEldin said...

I've been thinking about your post all day. I almost feel like a "coming of age" happens again in the 30s and 40s. I don't like the term 'mid-life crisis.' It's deeper than that.

That's really all--I'm still thinking about it.

Anonymous said...

Bekbek, you described it beautifully. Better than I did. I suppose it's not so much that I literally want to go back. But it's a longing for what was lost. A potent "what if." Bittersweet, indeed.

Scott, I hear you, I really do. What strikes me is how things get set in motion. Things that define us. Things that start small, but grow and grow and grow. Some of the intense ways that I interact with people might not have developed if I didn't learn so starkly that relationships with people cannot be taken for granted.

Chris (responding to both your comments), I know what you're talking about, my friend. Part of why I post these kind of things is to give people a chance to resonate with them. Maybe you'll see something a little differently or learn, and maybe something you share will do the same for me. I'm going through a similar time. Maybe a second coming of age like you say. I hope too that your children can wrap themselves with a sense of stability. And I have the same wish for you.

Chumplet, thanks for sharing that moment! That really sounds like Buffalo. There's a good nature there that isn't in the places I've lived since.

Beth said...

I used to live by Buffalo, in Western NY. Where I lived it was called "Beef on a Wick." God, I loved those. And salt potatoes, those were the big fair items along with bloomin' onions!

My kids spent a large portion of their childhood there and just yesterday my now teen daughter said, "You should have never taken us from there."

And I want to bed feeling guilty and woke up feeling worse. After reading this, ugh. And blargh. Those two words just about do it. To be honest, I'll forget and then won't check back for a response, but felt I had to just get this out.

Anonymous said...

That's the dilemma Beth. You had to do what's best overall. You didn't do anything wrong. I'm sure some of my decisions will negatively affect my kids. It's a cycle. We endure, then we cause. It's a necessity of life. No parent can be expected to deliver perfection.

paisley said...

as you well know... i am the ultimate believer in each and every one of us being the culmination of all that we have been... sometimes,, it is as necessary to revisit the torn broken parts,, as it is to be in the comfortable with who you have become..... i really enjoyed this write....

Dusk Watchman said...

You're a goof ball. I now live in Rochester. Right next door to Buffalo. I long for Arizona so badly that even now, after two years, I still feel the pressure of tears behind my worn eyes.

What can one say? The grass is always greener on the other side.

JaneyV said...

I look back at my teenage years and I can see the pivotal moments that changed me as a person - the places where I embarked on self-destructive paths that led me into a lot of pain. I have often thought that had I had the confidence to be more true to myself, I would have had a far happier time of it. I would have done better in College, made many different choices. But then I look at where I am now and who I'm with and I realise that every painful step led me to this place and I wouldn't change it for the world.

I really love your thought-provoking posts!

Anonymous said...

Paisley, I need to be more accepting of the broken parts. Thank you for reminding me.

Dusk Watchman, if I lived in Arizona, I'd offer to trade.

Janey, I don't know that I would change this part of me either. I like the hard edge it gave me.