Off Main Street / The offbeat side of the news - The Buffalo News
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Off Main Street / The offbeat side of the news

A wicked cool ride

A flying broomstick wasn’t the most practical mode of transportation for “Wicked” superfan Catherine Lee, of Hamburg, so she settled on the next-best thing: A green Volkswagen Beetle convertible nicknamed “the Wicked Witch” and outfitted with vanity plates referring to the musical’s green-skinned antagonist, Elphaba.

Now, Lee said, she gets odd looks from passers-by who think her license plate – “EL FABA” – has something to do with ’70s disco group Abba.

“Only once, as the crowd was leaving a performance, did a young teenage girl exclaim to her parents, ‘Look! It’s Elphaba!’ I gave her a hug for getting it,” Lee wrote in an email. “So yes, there are those that go to see ‘Wicked’ and those of us who live it.”

Look out for Lee’s wicked-cool car during the musical’s three-week run in Shea’s Performing Arts Center through Jan. 26.

The long goodbye

Downtown was eerie Tuesday, as the blizzard prompted the closure of courts, schools and other major employment centers.

Not City Hall, though. The bad weather didn’t stop the Common Council from having its first regular meeting of the year, or from taking 20 minutes to bid a fond farewell to University Council Member Bonnie E. Russell.

South Council Member Chris Scanlon read the last part of a lengthy proclamation honoring Russell, saying, “Now, therefore, be it finally resolved, I stress finally ...”

Later, when the farewell was over, and the meeting’s official business was completed, Russell thanked her constituents and was not shy in admonishing her male colleagues – she was the Council’s only female member – to keep quiet while she was talking.

“Excuse me, guys, I’m doing a very important speech here,” she said.

Russell left elected office to become a confidential secretary for Family Court Judge Mary G. Carney.

“So, the day has finally come,” Russell said. “I am going to a place where they know when to close the building.”

A minor emergency

In the midst of Tuesday’s blizzard, a Buffalo News reporter was dispatched to the Erie County Fire Training Academy off Broadway in Cheektowaga to monitor the county’s emergency operations.

The travel was treacherous, though otherwise uneventful until the reporter finally – and, perhaps, fortuitously – reached the training center driveway.

Having veered too far right, he went off the road and into a shallow ditch, where his car became stuck. Inside the training center, he asked if anybody could provide assistance to get the car out.

“What kind of emergency operation would this be if we couldn’t?” came the reply.

With the muscle of four emergency operations workers, the car was unstuck and back on the road in under a minute.

Dealing snow a blow

Speaking of Tuesday’s storm, 79-year-old Ronald Dean Cable, of Hamburg, has his own recipe for digging out, which he demonstrated Wednesday in the driveway of his Norwood Place home.

After the blizzard died down Wednesday, Cable brought out his trusty shovel and his favorite snow-removal tool, a leaf blower – plugged in and ready to go. It’s what he always uses, provided the snow on the ground is powdery enough.

“I’ve been doing this for 47 years,” said Cable. “I clean out the old-fashioned way. That’s all I know. Some people think I’m crazy.”

Cable said he never had any use for a snowblower.

“A snowblower packs it down,” he said. “I’m very fussy. I like to keep it perfect, and I like to make it easy for people walking.”

Until he got older, Cable used to do the sidewalks of his closest neighbors, too. When he tires or needs a rest break, he sits on a chair at the base of his driveway and surveys his progress.

Off Main Street is written by Harold McNeil, with contributions from Colin Dabkowski, Jill Terreri and Karen Robinson. email:

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