If everything goes as planned, this will be my first post as an online writer for Artvoice. Thankfully, it’s somewhat of a slow week, what with Thanksgiving and all. Many thanks to Geoff Kelly and Jamie Moses for this unique and special opportunity.
To those of you who may be unfamiliar with my work with WNYMedia.net, I mostly write about local and regional political matters under the pen name “Buffalopundit”. You can follow me on Twitter and become a fan on the bookface. You can email tips, etc. here.
By way of background, I’m an immigrant to Buffalo – I’m not a native, and I’m not repatriated. I’m also not a sports fan, so I have little use for Buffalo’s most popular pastimes – sports and nostalgia.
By way of introduction, here’s a post I wrote in 2005 explaining why someone would pick up and move from Boston to Buffalo out of, essentially, the clear blue sky. A few things are different; the 5 year-old is now 11 and has a 5 year-old little sister. I work at a new place, but the sentiments remain the same:
In 2001, BuffaloPundit was BrightonPundit. Brighton, Mass., that is. I lived in a 750 SF one-bedroom apartment with my wife and baby daughter in Brighton, on the Newton boundary line. I was lucky, though, because I had a deeded off-street parking spot. I was a sole practitioner with an office in downtown Boston, and my wife worked at a big real estate development company in Faneuil Hall. Our daughter went into day care when she was 3 months old. (I’m a big fan of day care & preschool, so I’m not saying that with any negative connotation, except that it was hella expensive).
Although the mortgage on my teeny apartment was correspondingly teeny, things like groceries, car insurance, car excise tax, commuting costs (including exorbitant rates to park downtown), and excruciatingly expensive day care costs were dragging us down. We probably ate out at Bertucci’s more often than we cooked. That adds up, too. But it was for time & convenience. Life’s a trade-off like that.
My wife’s family is originally from Lockport & Niagara Falls, and my wife spent part of her childhood growing up in Lockport and Orchard Park. But due to my father-in-law’s job, they tended to move around a lot. We met in college at BU.
We had visited WNY once a summer since about 1993 or so, and really liked it. We loved the weather, the people, the lack of traffic, the cheap housing, and the proximity to Canada in general & Toronto in particular. (Growing up downstate, you pretty much figure that there’s nothing north of Poughkeepsie, so I had never even been to Buffalo before. I had been to the Falls in 1976 on a family trip, though).
Around the start of 2001, we started talking pretty seriously about getting out of Boston. It was just getting to be too expensive, and we spent too much time apart, commuting and working. So we thought about where to go. Simply put, we wanted to add a digit to our square footage and there was no feasible way to do that in a town like Boston, where real estate prices were rising exponentially.
Westchester & tri-state was out of the equation because it had all the drawbacks of Boston with few of the amenities. Buffalo was in our minds, but didn’t seem quite realistic. In the Spring of 2001, we made some calls to some friends out here to keep their eyes open, and I sent a few resumes out, to no avail.
In June 2001 we attended a wedding in the Falls. We were in a Tops and my father-in-law picked up the Buffalo Law Journal, and I bought it. I scanned the ads in the back, and when we returned to Boston I considered applying for this one job that seemed appealing & right up my alley. But I was somewhat hesitant, since it was quite a big move and a logistical mess I didn’t want to ponder.
A few weeks later, I scanned monster.com, and found an ad there for that same job in Buffalo. So I said, what the hell, and forwarded a resume & nice cover letter. I got called for an interview, and we drove out for a long weekend, and I interviewed the afternoon of the Friday after July 4th. The weather was gloriously beautiful, and the office was right on the lake, which I thought was cool.
A week or so later, I got the job, and we made arrangements to sell our condo and move out here. I badgered my wife to ask her work to let her telecommute from Buffalo and, miraculously (thankfully), they agreed and she did that for about 2 1/2 years.
I moved here Labor Day weekend 2001, and my wife and daughter followed about 2 weeks later. We lived in some apartments by the airport while looking for a house. Luckily, in 3 years we literally doubled our money on our teeny Brighton condo, so we had a nice down payment ready for a dream house in Erie County that would have cost $700,000 or more in a similar Boston suburb.
My wife’s work dropped her in late 2003, and 2004 really sucked. She scrambled to find a job and had to work in a trailer for a refuse company for several months, which was far from glamorous, didn’t pay very well, and for which she was overqualified. She has been working for a wonderful family-owned manufacturer in Batavia since July 2004 in a position for which she is perfectly qualified.
Our daughter is now 5 years old, ready for kindergarten and she absolutely loves her family, her home, her friends, and she’s busy impressing us each day.
But what’s really amazing to me is that I feel more at home here than I ever did in Boston. I just wasn’t “of” Boston. It’s a great town, I loved the convenience and amenities of living there, and I miss our friends in Boston, but I never felt like I really belonged there. I feel like I belong here.
And having traveled a lot, and living in places that are perceived as trendy or hot, I can appreciate Buffalo for what it is. I don’t have a memory of its decline, so I can still be optimistic for its rebound. Look, WNY has pretty much hit bottom. If you don’t believe me, look at the control boards (plural). It can only get better from here.
And I’ve seen what it can be. Boston in the 1970s was sort of in the same boat Buffalo’s in today: at a crossroads – no longer thriving on industries past, and trying to figure out where its future lies.
Can Buffalo reach those same highs? I hope so, and I’m doing what little I can (between work, family & blogging) to help it do so. (There are a lot of people in town doing a lot more than I.)
I won’t be leaving WNY voluntarily.
It’s my fervent hope that my kid won’t, either.