Wind, Work, and Writing

As I sit here, I can hear the wind howling outside. My phone tells me it is 7 degrees Fahrenheit, and -15 is the “feels like” temperature. I spent the morning mostly outdoors, safely bundled but wishing I had put on a third layer because it was certainly colder than I expected. It wasn’t, however, as hard as I expected to work in the cold, and at one point I did think to myself that if it were a nice summer day it would be an enjoyable morning of work. Really though, it was an enjoyable morning of work. I can’t really explain to you why I like working at Avis, because you would probably find it to be a slightly dull job. But, I suppose it is more exciting then sitting at a desk and working on a computer or answering the phone, or sitting on a factory line, or maybe for me, sitting is just the equivalent of dullness. Anyway, I am almost always on the move at Avis, even more so than I am at the school job. So it was easy for me to keep warm despite the frigid temperatures coming off Lake Erie.

After I got home, I sat down to write but nothing really came up. I was going to do a poem about the cold and the weather, but no new words seemed to needed to be said about the subject. Then I realized I updated the blog on Wednesday, which means it’s due to be updated today, if I want to keep up with my twice a week postings. And since I am doing a terrible job of sticking to Tuesday and Thursday as planned, I am insisting upon myself to at least keep the numbers up. So I tried to write this blog, but nothing really came up again, and so that led me to organizing the files that are saved to my phone.

I edited three poems, and put them together as the beginning of a submission packet. I haven’t sent out a packet in over a year; in fact I haven’t sent out much of anything in over a year. That’s not to say that work has not been produced (you can find everything new on Patreon on Wednesdays…hint.) However, I have not find tuned anything and presented it for reading in quite some time. So today, I started to work on that.

I need a publication. Even if it’s just a tiny poem in an obscure journal, it would be a delight- simply because I haven’t had anything out in a while and I could use a little boost of serotonin. See, I am still very stressed out about a certain mini-chap that should have gone to press over a year ago. I still do not know what is happening with it, and have been completely unable to contact anybody. I am about to take it elsewhere, because I think I could find another home for it- I just really loved what this press had planned. It’s just a disappointment, and frankly I am not in the mood for anymore of those.

So here we are, on a day where I don’t really have anything to write about, but I feel like I have to write, anyway. I guess I just take a minute to write about writing? I have some big writing goals this year, and a month has already disappeared in a blink. So, I guess I need to get myself organized again. Wish me luck, and happy Friday.

Liquidation

Last weekend, I found out that the New Phoenix Theater in Buffalo was having a liquidation sale. I was unable to go, but my father went in search of Christmas gifts and some sort of situation for his record player. I have written about this theater before, because that is where I was working when I met both my best friend Sahar, as well as my husband, Mark. He didn’t work at the theater like Sahar did, but he did hang out at the coffee shop around the block, and we met after rehearsal one night. So were I not hanging around that theater every night when I was 20, I might not have met the man I ended up marrying. I know I would not have Sahar, because we came from totally different worlds. I am forever grateful for these two people, and perhaps it is silly, but I am grateful for the building that brought them to me.

I found out a while ago that the owner of the theater, Richard, was putting it on the market. I was instantly sad, and truly desperate for a million dollar lotto win so I could take it off his hands. Alas, that is not reality, though I did hear that local theater folk tried to purchase it to retain it as a theater. Unfortunately, that deal fell through. And so, it will be turned into living space.  Sigh.

Now, it’s a pretty cool building as buildings go. I don’t know it’s complete history, but I do know that it was a sort of convent/soup kitchen situation prior to Richard purchasing it. It’s at least 100 years old, and a beautiful representation of old Buffalo architecture. It has a very scary basement, complete with spider webs and leaky pipes and possible ghosts. The first floor was the stage and seating, as well as a small reception area where photos of local stars lined the walls. On the second floor was the rehearsal hall, and a bar area where receptions were held after shows. Passing that were the dressing rooms, and a staircase up to the third floor, which was a full apartment. Richard lived when I first met him.

Richard always owned the theater, but when I was young it also housed a second company called the Buffalo Ensemble Theater. It was BET who posted a flyer on the bulletin board at my school for a youth theater group. It was called the Explorers, and was run by the Boy Scouts of America. It was coed prior to Boy Scouts becoming coed, and was career focused. So. BET put together a group showing careers in theater. I jumped at this, and ended up being the club Treasurer on day three. 5 years later, I stopped doing shows there when the theater started to dissolve.

But God did I love that building.

So, years later: I was fresh off my first stage managing gig and ran into Richard, so I was thrilled when he asked me to come work a show at New Phoenix. The show he hired me for never came to fruition, but I did end up doing another there soon after. I always hoped I would return to work there again someday, but it turns out that is not in the cards.

Richard retired to Florida, and likely the building will become apartments or something. But when we were young, that place was so magical! I know so many people who discovered their talents there and went on to pursue them, and really…we were just kids. We were just having fun, and look what happened!  Life skills!

Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to Christmas morning to discover what trinket Dad collected for me from the liquidation sale. And I guess I can muster some excitement to see what they do with the building in the future…hopefully it isn’t terrible. It doesn’t matter though, because I will always be grateful for that place, and everything it brought into my life.

Friends, family, and confidence.

Poetry in October

Everything, of course, is garbage.  Meaning, everything I write; meaning, complete hamster-cage liner.  I mean, yeah, I know that’s not true; just let me have this meltdown for a moment, ok?

So, October is coming up pretty quick, huh?  Many things are going on in October for me, like moving to a new apartment, my husband’s 40th birthday (E has a b-day, too,) my first weekend running the shop on my own, at least one trip out to Erie to see mom, and Halloween/my sister’s birthday, wherein she turns 26 and I finally live in a neighborhood that hands out candy.  Also…poetry night, featuring yours truly.  Clearly, we are going to talk about that, since I started this post by telling you all of my writing is garbage.  Hot, stinky trash. 

Nope, that’s just me psyching myself out.  I know what I want to do: a couple of pieces from, A Lovely Wreckage…gotta sell those books.  A piece from the yet to be picked up (Un)Requited.  Maybe VII from Me and Jesus etc.  Some outliers…the ones I really like that I haven’t read yet.  And maybe The Squirrel, and Halloween…y’know, because…Halloween. 

See, I know what I’ll read, and I know I’ll read well.  I don’t have the panic I had a few years back.  Still, old habits die real hard, and I find myself judging my work through my most critical eye-which I despise, of course.  I thought that my imposter syndrome was dead and gone, at least at the level of writing I have achieved.  This is new, however…being a featured reader.  I get like 15-17 minutes or something crazy when I’m used to doing 3-6 minutes at a time.  I’m going to have to figure out timing on my performance as well.

Anyway, that’s what I’m going to go work on during this rainy Monday afternoon.  If you’re here in the area on October 28th around 6pm, do drop in and hear me read.  On one hand, I want to pack the place.  On the other hand, I’d like no one to show up at all, besides the regulars I am already comfortable sharing with.  But it would be nice, I think, to see some familiar friends in the crowd.  So come on down to Dog Ears, and I’ll read you a poem about a squirrel.

Happy Monday.

Poems in the Past

The other day, I received a memory notification on Facebook that 2 years prior, I had been published in The Buffalo News.  This was a momentous day which I wrote about in my blog back then, and am writing about now, as well. 

See, long story made very short, I wanted to be published in The Buffalo News poetry column since I was about 15, and I did not accomplish it until well after I began my publishing career in 2018.  On Fire was a special little poem I wrote for a poetry contest that I won, and I liked it enough to throw it into my submission packet, and then one day I got up the guts to actually send it to The News, with literally no expectation whatsoever.  In fact, I forgot I even sent it, until the day it appeared in the Sunday paper.

I felt so accomplished.  I know to some it may seem like hardly anything, but for me it was a dream 20 years in the making. I had already published several pieces, and my book had been out for a few months, but that was the day I truly felt like an actual author

Well, folks, the paper dropped the column.  Shocking, isn’t it?  This left me with a hollow feeling, as if now the newspaper is completely devoid of hope.

The column has been run by Robert D. Pohl, a man I have never met but know of via socials and friends of friends.  Despite not knowing him, I would run up and hug him if I could, because in my opinion he gave me the gift of a dream come true, and I am sad to see his legacy leave the newspaper. 

Another thing Robert did was keep the literature calendar, which I believe I heard he will still try to continue to do, which Is a blessing to all us writers.  The literature calendar told us who was reading where and when, and also who was hosting open mics and other events.  Buffalo has a pretty broad writing community, and I am hopeful that we will still be able to figure out how to get together. 

Anyhoo, I am very sad to see this feature go, but I am very grateful to have been published when I was.  What we need here in Buffalo is an arts magazine again.  We used to have one, but it folded, and now we have nothing to promote and discuss our incredibly vibrant arts scene.  I wish someone would step up and create such awesomeness…I can tell you, you would not be short of content.  We have enough writers in this city to bring it to life-shame I don’t know a single entrepreneur, though.

Enjoyment and Enlightenment

Once upon a time, I had a librarian.  Her name was Mrs. Priester, and she worked at my elementary school.  Kevin was quite fond of her, because she encouraged reading in him and even took it upon herself to find books that she thought he would enjoy.  She didn’t need to do this for me, because the day I met her I told her, in the bragging way of a 5-year-old, that I already knew how to read, thank you very much.  In fact, I even had a library card already.  (I thought I was hot shit.)  What Mrs. Priester did teach me, however, was the difference between fiction and non-fiction.  I don’t know why the concept confused me so much as a small child, but I kept mixing up the terms, until one day she made it very simple: fiction was Fake.  Non-fiction was Not Fake.  It stuck, I understood, and she further explained that the books I wanted to read were not just called “chapter books,” but novels, and that novels were fiction: made-up stories for one’s enjoyment and enlightenment. 

I tell you this so that we are all very clear on what a novel is, and what fiction is.  I want there to be no misunderstanding, because this is the key piece of the thing that is infuriating me right now.

Let me paint for you a word-picture.  I, a writer, who lives in the Western New York region, and writes fiction, awoke Friday morning to learn of a tragedy that befell a fellow author.  Salman Rushdie was attacked with a knife onstage at the Chautauqua Institute while doing an interview.  I quite literally choked on my iced coffee, and my reasons are twofold.  First of all, Chautauqua?! I live in Buffalo and we just had a grand scale community tragedy about 3 months ago, and now we got crazies rushing stages and stabbing authors just an hour away? Not to mention, I can’t tell you how many times I have fantasized of being some famous writer who is invited to speak at Chautauqua-that’s like life-goal stuff.  And now, that place is marred, too…just like the damn grocery store.

Secondly, and more importantly: violence against a wordsmith.  I know of Rushdie, though his book, The Satanic Verses, sits unread on my shelf because I simply haven’t picked it up yet. But I know a little backstory, like the fact that Iran’s Ayatollah issued a fatwa in the 80s against him, which is basically an edict saying an Iranian should kill Rushdie. The man has been living with death threats for years, all because his book supposedly goes against Islam.  I think it’s because, from what I have read online, one character abandons the religion.  But again, I haven’t read it yet.  The point is that it doesn’t matter, because The Satanic Verses is a novel, and therefore, fiction, and fiction equals fake.  It’s not real; it’s just a story-a made-up situation in a guy’s head that he put down on paper and then an entire country took it the wrong way and decided he needed to die. 

How easily that could be any one of us.

I mean, I just finished the first draft of a book that features an exploration of the concept of religion as a shackle that keeps one from living their authentic life.  I do not expect death threats for the thoughts I come up with in my own head, but I’m sure its gonna piss of an evangelical or two.  But as mad as they get, do I deserve to be stabbed in the face for my imagination?  Absolutely not. 

So, when I head about Salman Rushdie, I was crushed.  I tried to explain to Mark why it was bothering me so much, but I couldn’t find the words.  Maybe it’s just that I am so sad that someone was hurt…just for playing pretend. Because that’s all we’re doing, really, when we write fiction: make-believe, in verse.  And I just do not believe anyone should be harmed over such innocent enjoyment.

Baby’s First Bills Game

A lifelong Buffalonian such as I should be outright ashamed of herself.  Buffalo, New York, is a drinking town with a sports problem, as they like to say, yet I am a proud resident who does not drink and hates sports.  I have NEVER attended a major sporting event, despite us having 2 big ‘ol teams. Alas, I have, since youth, and likely through both grooming and peer pressure, found myself rooting for the Buffalo Bills football association.

It began with our Super Bowl runs back in the early 90s when I still thought Buffalo was the only cool place in the world-of course we were going to the Super Bowl.  “We’re gonna win, too!” I said, for four years.  As you probably know…we did not win.

Then, we sucked for a few decades, and I was all “phew, I hate sports anyway.”  Like, yay!  I don’t have to pretend to care anymore!  But, then I met Mark, and discovered that when you love someone, it’s nice to share in their hobbies on occasion.  And so, after being dragged to one too many Avant Garde theater outings, Mark sat me down to watch some football.

It took years for me to understand and thus appreciate the game, but if you are a real football fan, trust me when I tell you, you do not want me at your viewing party.  My absolute favorite thing to do is compare a football game to a theatrical performance and if you don’t want to hear me use the word “spectacle” repeatedly, then do not invite me over.

Anyhoo, all this said, I never went to a game.  I never went to The Ralph (Highmark Stadium) for anything growing up, not even a concert.  Neither has Mark. 

And neither had Kevin, so when he suggested we all get preseason tickets, I was very excited.  We invited Bernie, another newbie, and on Saturday afternoon the four of us set off to see our very first Bills game.  Dad dropped us off, and the sun was shining on a beautiful summer day.  I snapped the below picture of the boys as we walked towards the stadium.  I was happy and smiling.  Then, my feet felt hot.

A topic for another day, but I wish there had been testing for kids when I was younger regarding neurodivergence, because from what I understand I have very many “quirks” others seem to not have.  For instance, in this case, I was wearing hot shoes.  I mean, they were just my regular work shoes, good for walking, and I wasn’t in pain or anything.  I just felt like my feet were suffocating, and when I expressed this to Bernie (who shares my DNA and fully understands,) I had a feeling it was a bad omen.

But then…everything was fine.  We breezed through security and tickets, found our seats quickly enough, and sat down to survey the scene.  My first observation is that it is…small.  I see, now, why we have never hosted a Super Bowl.  Our stadium is wee.  Also, expensive, I learned, purchasing one 16-dollar beer and then wondering where they get off asking me to leave a tip.  My seat?  Uncomfortable, as wee as the stadium itself, and on fire as well since the sun was directly overhead of us.  I turn to Bern and say I can’t believe how well everything worked out and she says sure, until we all get sun poisoning.

Naturally, she was right.

I much enjoyed the spectacle of the players taking the field, and the first quarter was fine, though I didn’t really understand what was happening without announcers running their mouths the whole time.  By the second quarter, however, I was dying.  The sun was roasting me alive.  My feet were too hot.  I left the inside of the stadium for the cool shade of the hall, and eventually the rest of the crew came out.  Bern, Mark and I decided to go, and Kev was going to stay and meet up with his sister.  I had decided while I sat in that hallway during the second quarter that Bills Stadium was not for me.  Too much walking, too much sun, tiny seats, expensive, loud, so many people…and all over something I only moderately care about.  I would so much rather watch a game at home with my chicken wing dip.  I will wear my Bills shirt there and cheer at the screen in comfort.

Anyway…we schlepped back to where Dad was meeting us, and when we got in the car he asked what we did with Kevin, so I told him we sold Kev for water-then we went home.

It was exhausting.  Fun for a bit, but overall…not my jam. 

Next, I should go to my first Sabres game.

Adventures in Adulting

Due to circumstances of the physical, mental, and social variety, there are many things that I, a fully formed adult, have not yet done on my own.  Given certain limitations over the past 20 years, I am a little late to some of the parties.  For instance, my credit score.  I don’t have one.  Well, I do, but I am what is called “credit unscorable,” meaning I have very little activity, credit-wise.  But, I do have a little debt.  My husband is “credit invisible,” meaning he has absolutely no credit history, and no debt attributed to his score.  That is at least something we can build on, I knew none of this until I started looking for an apartment, another grown-ass human thing I never really did before.

Now, this is not my first apartment, but in the past it was different.  It was desperate.  First, there was an emotionally unstable anciet landlady who barely spoke English and tried to evict us for “no GD reason,” as per the cops that showed up Easter Sunday to make sure we were out.  So, we moved quickly to a dump that was available and rented out by an LLC who kicked us out 2 years later to renovate (I’ve yet to see that happen, PS.)  So, again, desperate, we move to a place owned by a landlord who makes unstable landlady look like my lovable grandmother and literally causes both my husband and I to catch a PTSD diagnosis from our respective psychiatrists.  Desperation again, and I find this place:  a nice apartment just the right size at the right price with a good landlord who makes me feel at ease. 

Now, six years later, and time for change.  The rent elsewhere has skyrocketed, and they know they are losing money on us.  We know we have outgrown where we are.  And so, I make the decision, for the first time, to move on.  What I want is for them to fix this place up and get more money for it.  That might sound weird, but this has been my home for six years, and I want only good things for it and the people who provided it to me.  When the billion bucks was on the table for all of us last week, Mark and I were talking about what we would do with a bunch of money…not even a billion, but enough.  I’d leave some for my landlords, so they could update.  Like a thank you, because it might be their house, but for a while, it was my home.  And their kindness over the years helped heal some of the scars left on me from my previous landlord.  I am appreciative. 

But I am broke, so instead I’m just going to try to clean the hell out of the carpet, which has seen 6 years of my kids growing up and God knows how long of the family of toddlers that lived here before us.  I am PRAYING there are decent hardwoods underneath this thing for them.

But I digress…

So in looking for an apartment, sans desperation for once, I am encountering moments of adulthood I was not previously familiar with.  Like, credit scores, and their total ineffectuality when it comes to renting property.  Why, landlords of Buffalo, does my credit score apply? Just ask for a rental receipt.  I don’t know how you budget, but rent always gets priority in my house.  I will take a shutoff notification from the electric company and I will take a deferral on my student loan and I will take some bread from the food pantry, but you can be absolutely certain I paid my rent.  But no one keeps track of that.

Then I go to a showing and learn of a software called Avail that lets landlords use rent payments to apply to your credit score.  I don’t know why EVERYONE isn’t using this, but if they were…I wouldn’t be looking to rent an apartment right now.  I’d be taking out a loan with my good credit to put a down payment on a house that’s mortgage is HALF MY CURRENT RENT.

It’s a flippin’ scam, kids.  Adulthood is a scam.

Y’know, I’ve yet to buy a car that I didn’t find on Craigslist, also.  I can’t wait for that day, I’m sure my head will explode in a similar fashion.

Anyhoo…I continue with my apartment hunt.  I plan to be out the last week of September, so if anyone in the Buffalo area knows of anything available then…hit me up.  Unless they want a credit score, in which case they can GTFO.

Solicitous Histrionics

Open a dictionary. Pick a word. Now close it.

Open it again.  Pick another word.  Close it.

Now, write a poem using those two words.

This is a fun little game taught to me by my favorite local poet, Justin Karcher.  Back in January, I discovered he would be doing a workshop at the Just Buffalo Literary Center, and my mother was kind enough to purchase me a ticket.  It was in May, so it was a long wait.  There were only 9 or 10 of us, but it was great…to me at least, who had never been to a writing workshop of any kind. 

One of the first questions he posed was what poetry meant to us.  It’s a simple concept, I suppose, but if you don’t have a grasp of what your craft means to you, then what are you even doing? I responded to this question with a poem of my own, naturally:

Poetry
By Brigid Hannon

Poetry is my voice, 
louder in word than in action.
My pen on paper. 
or my mouth and teeth and tongue,
no different from each other.
Each meter should lift darkness into light. 
Each verse should move a heart to break, 
each stanza another gasp from muted lips-
poetry is power and 
opinion and 
might-
the never ceasing beat 
of our living hearts.

Now, a lot of Justin’s stuff has to do with our shared home of Buffalo, NY, which may be why I love it so much.  I have long held a hope to write a collection of just Buffalo poems, so when he said we would be writing poems about “home” in some fashion, I was delighted.  I started free writing some thoughts down, and eventually I took those bones and pieced them together into a skeleton of a poem, which I took home with me to work on further.  I knew it wasn’t the sort I could pound out in an hour-long class.  I did, however, write this little guy as well, which I have no intention of doing anything with, so I might as well share it with you here:
Safe Shoes
Also by Brigid Hannon

No flip-flops today;
no sandals.
Sneakers?  But no...
laces come untied.
Little ones, so scared,
and yet prepared,
and I cannot choose a shoe.

An adult counterpart,
I've no active training.
"Where's the exit," I ask myself,
looking to the black sturdy Sketchers
I picked out,
with rubber soles and no laces-
shoes that keep me safe,
like I keep little souls who find me,
willing to sacrifice for such.

She tells me she likes her school;
she feels safe:
"We hardly ever have a lockdown." 
Hardly.
Look to the ground to keep from crying, 
seeing only sturdy safe shoes-
shoes that make me RUN.

Anyway, the workshop was lovely.  I went home and worked on my main poem for a bit, and when it was done, I emailed it to Justin to show him.  A few days later, he got back to me and asked if he could publish it in the June edition of Ghost City Press, which is the mag where I published my first poem, so, I mean…yeah, dude.  Of course.
So, in honor of that, I made a TikTok for it, which I will share at the end of this post.  It is a poem about my city, but also about my grandparents.  We were supposed to write about what home means to us, and my city is my home, where I would not live were it not for my grandparents, who gave me this wonderful home without even realizing it.  
Finally, I tried to write a poem using the dictionary game, and I tell you, friend-I have failed.  I have been drowning in the words “solicitous histrionics” for weeks now, because those are the two words that noodled their way out of the book and into my brain.  Eventually, I will write that poem-it will probably be a weird one.
So, that’s all for today, I think.  Happy Monday!

Salt in the Wound

How is it that I am back here after only 2 weeks to write about another massacre?  Oh, that’s right…I live in America.

Whenever I go to the grocery store now, and probably for the rest of my life, I will think of the ten people who lost their lives on Jefferson Ave.  I know many of my fellow Buffalonians can echo that sentiment.  And now, whenever I go to work, I will think of the dozens dead or injured in Uvalde.  And I know my fellow educators feel the same way.

Listen…no teacher is out there receiving combat pay, so stop acting like they are the first line of defense.  I saw a meme yesterday that said not to even suggest arming teachers, because apparently y’all can’t even trust them to choose books.

When I graduated high school, I was told there would be a teaching shortage right about now, and there is.  There were many incentives in place at the time for those who wanted to pursue education, such as reduced tuitions and 5-year Master’s programs. Naturally, I jumped at this, as I had wanted to work with children and teaching seemed to be the obvious answer.

Ooooh boy am I glad I dropped out of college now!

As if teaching through a pandemic wouldn’t have been hard enough, you finally get back into the school setting and now you have to worry about “active shooters.”  No, thank you.  Yet…I look at these kids I teach and the crazy thing about it is that they know what to do in the event of a gunman, better than I do.  I’ve had no training; they’ve been doing it since pre-k.  So while I am the one expected to lay my life on the line for a child, they are the ones more likely to save me.  I have a better chance following a third-grader’s directions than they would have following mine and ouch…I think I just found a blind spot in our program.

Last Saturday, I took a CPR and First Aid course.  It’s required for work, but it’s also something I like to have.  It’s a skill I have thankfully never had to use, but I am prepared in case it happens, and I guess that’s how we are spinning shooter drills to the kids.  Except it seems more and more of them assume they are preparing for “when” it happens, not “if.”

Listen, I hate guns, and if you’ve read a lot of my stuff, you probably already know that.  However, I am pro-choice on pretty much all topics…so if you like guns or own one, whatever…that’s your right.  HOWEVER, I do think we should have common sense gun laws.  I mean, why do you need a AR15?  Explain it to me like I’m a child, and don’t use the words “target practice.”  Oh, and as soon as you mention killing humans, even if in defense, you are proving my point.  I don’t care about your shotgun, your handgun, your hunting rifle; I care about your semi-automatic assault rifle.  ASSAULT is right there in the name!

Anyway…I wrote a poem, video below, about the events in Uvalde.  Too much to process, and far too soon.

Buffalo Strong

I had a plan, you see.  I was going to write today about the Bans Off Our Bodies rally I attended on Saturday morning.  Then, for Thursday, I was going to post about how I caught my biggest fish yet, and how nature has replaced church for me. 

But then, after fishing, I stopped at the Tops on Harlem real quick to get some milk, and then I headed home and curled up with my phone…y’know, to check my socials and messages and such.  I saw a Facebook post from a friend about the local hospital, and suddenly the world crashed down and the fish, and even the rally, seemed insignificant.

On Saturday afternoon, 13 people we shot and 10 people died at the Tops on Jefferson, fifteen minutes from my house, because a self-proclaimed 18-year-old white supremacist decided that was the place in the state of New York where he could murder the most black people.

That is a lot to unpack, and I don’t know how much I will get to in just one post.

I had just walked out of a Tops.  I texted Jaime…she had just walked out of a Wegmans.  How many of us went grocery shopping on Saturday afternoon? It may seem silly, but knowing that I was doing the same thing as my neighbors on the east side of town when they were gunned down…it just turned my stomach.

As details came out, we learned the shooter had posted a manifesto online, as well as livestreamed the attack on Twitch.  We discovered that he had selected the Tops on Jefferson because that zip code has the highest black population in the state.  Our elected officials made it very clear that he was an “outsider.”

Cute.

Listen, I love my city, deeply.  But we have a racism problem…deeply.  We are on the list of the most segregated cities in the nation, and even a tourist can tell, folks.  Have you EVER taken a visiting friend to the east side for any reason, white Buffalonian reading this?  Ok, actually, I have done this…I took a friend there because they wanted to get some weed.  That’s the reputation the east side has in white Buffalo.  Drugs, crime…and black people. 

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t white folks on the east side, because there are certainly black people in my mostly white south side neighborhood as well, There’s just less.  Everyone who lives here knows: the whites live in North and South Buffalo, the blacks live on the east side, and the Hispanics are to the west.  All of this sounds super racist, and it is.  It’s also a fact. 

My neighborhood is strongly Irish, and therefore mostly white.  We live within ten minutes of 6 grocery stores…3 of them are Tops.  The Masten neighborhood is mostly black, and they have one.  Wegmans won’t set foot over there.  There’s an Aldi’s not too far away, but you would definitely need a car to get there, and Masten is a lower income neighborhood, so that’s not an option for everyone.  People in that area live with food insecurity everyday…I don’t.  I might feel like it lately, while money is very tight and I can’t get the things I want, but I do have enough food in my cupboard to survive.  I’m not worried about where my next meal is coming from.

And I’m not worried about being shot at my grocery store, either.  Probably should be, but I’m not, at least not by a Nazi.  I am never worried about being attacked by a hate group, because I am a white woman, and no one wants a dead white girl on their hands.  Generally, I don’t worry about gun violence at all…because I am privileged.  The people in that grocery store are more worried about it than I am, because someone gets hurt on that side of town from gun violence nearly every day.  My point here is that I worry about neither guns nor white supremacy, because I live in a “safe” (read: white) neighborhood.  I put “safe” in quotes, because it isn’t, exactly.  We have crime, too.  We have our low-income section, and we have folks who just don’t give a crap sometimes, also.  Overall, though, my neighborhood is definitely considered “better” than theirs, here in Western New York.

Anyway, like I was saying, mayor Byron Brown was adamant that the terrorist came from outside the community.  Here’s the thing…I know more than one person who was betting on which suburb this asshole came out of, because we all automatically assumed he was a WNYer.  EVERYBODY knows we have a racism problem in the area.  We had a crapton of arrests in Erie County related to Jan. 6th.  I remember seeing tour buses carrying folks down to DC.  Yes, my city is mostly democratic, but the outlying areas are abundant with MAGA republicans.  And while Buffalo itself tends to vote blue, we do have a fairly dodgy police force to contend with, along with the basic segregated setup of the city.  I mean, my first thought when I heard about this shooting was: we need to check on our black friends.  Might sound racist because I was thinking about their skin color, but the truth of it is that they all use that grocery store, because they all live on the east side.

Me, I went to that Tops once at 8am to use the bathroom on the way home from a doctor’s appointment.  I have never had any reason to be there, other than that.  I only ever go to that particular neighborhood if I am visiting the Science Museum there.  I have often wanted to…they have a big park with an amazing splash pad that my kids would have loved in their youth.  Alas…we never went. 

Racism is a huge problem in my city and if you don’t believe that then you either don’t live here or you’re a racist.  It’s as plain as day to anyone with a conscience that we need to change the way we do things around here.  Because that murderer wasn’t from here…but he could have been.  He oh-so-easily could have been.

Buffalo is known as the City of Good Neighbors, and it is.  One time my car got stuck in a snowbank on the east side, and four very large black men approached.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly nervous (of course, their gender trumped their skin color in my mind, but still.)  These gentlemen pushed me out of the snowbank and got me on my way.  I was exceedingly grateful.  Yeah, maybe it’s true that nobody wants a dead white girl on their hands, but I’d also like to believe that nobody in this city wants anyone to be in trouble if they can help.  Do you have any idea how many snowbanks a stranger has pushed me out of, or how many times a neighbor mowed my lawn just to be nice, or helped shovel the sidewalk?  Tons and tons and tons.  All we do is help each other, which is why I have no doubt that we as a community will make it through this crisis.

So sadly, I can’t tell you about how great the rally was, or how big the fish was.  Maybe I will save those for later this week, but they have become afterthoughts in my mind.  And I’m nowhere close to being done talking about what happened in my city, because I am a firm believer that if you want change you have to stay and fight for it.  All I know right now is that my heart hurts for this place I love so dearly.  I only hope we can all find a way to heal.