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As some of you may have heard, I was on vacation the week of Aug. 16. And yes, I can hear my friend Bob Rathbun say, "You're always on vacation."

The week was spent in Marshfield, a nice place that is on the ocean near Cape Cod in Massachusetts but doesn't have Cape Cod prices. As I tell visitors, "Once you go over the Bourne Bridge, you get the Cape Cod prices."

Anyway, one night, a friend asked, "Do you really like it in Buffalo?" And the answer has stuck in my mind ever since.

Well, I love Western New York, and the main reason is the same reason why most people who moved here from New York City, like Mark Goldman of the Calumet Arts Cafe, love it.

But instead they will talk about how friendly the people are, and that is indeed a plus. And here I want to thank all the strangers who display so much warmth that is commented on by outsiders like my sisters. And anyone who believes that it's because I look like my picture hasn't seen me lately.

No, the key word is proximity.

The person who sold me on coming to Western New York once said: "Everything is so close. You drive for 35 minutes maximum, and you reach your goal. Most places are closer. And it will be better living for your children."

That was important to a New York City resident who had grown fond of his family. And that brings to mind the man who worked in Manhattan and lived in Westport, Conn., 60 miles from the Big Apple and a good place to live.

When asked about the lifestyle, he said: "It's like being in the military so far as young kids are concerned. They are asleep when you get up and they're asleep by the time you get home.

"Comes the weekend and your wife wants to sample that exciting city nearby. Then you start thinking of the 7:29 or whatever train you get five days a week. And you cut for the sidelines. You refuse to go.

"I suppose it's all right if you own a city place and a country place, where, as Jimmy Cannon said, 'The train tells you when to go home.' But I don't know of anyone with that sort of cash."

I didn't, either. Indeed, as mentioned here before, the only people who had that kind of money were big-bucks entertainers. So you can see New York City was not the ideal situation for a man who until recently had trouble getting home to Amherst.

One day about five years ago, a writer on the USA Today staff did a piece in which he poked Buffalo. Quite a few natives asked me, supposedly Buffalo's No. 1 booster by then, to answer him.

I read and reread his words and concluded that he had offended only the thinnest-skinned of our thin-skinned natives. Then he did a follow-up article in which he answered his local critics. He said something to the effect that he was afraid that Buffalo's thin skins would bring to the area a bunch of opportunists who would ruin the area's way of life. In that piece the writer said everything but farewell to "The City of No Illusions." And he never touched upon the weather, which, by the way, is similar to that of New York City.

That weather would have been most welcome in the Carolinas, Texas and Florida last winter. It is always welcome in Los Angeles.

I have said it before and I'll say it again. If I had my druthers about where to live, I'd choose Western New York.

OK, only if it's for nine months a year.

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