I moved to Western New York from Houston a few years ago. Houston is so big, that getting from one side of the city to the other was often a 30-minute drive. But there are interesting things going on all over that great city, so many of us were prepared to saddle up and make the trip.
It was common to hear someone from the southwest side of the city talk about news (or just gossip) from the northeast side. We were Houstonians. We were diverse and part of the Houston community and therefore privy to our city's happenings. A 30-minute drive was not about to keep us from interacting with each other.
Moving to Buffalo was quite a nice change. One of the things I love the most about this city is that I can pretty much get anywhere inside of 15 minutes. My daughter and I recently moved to Cheektowaga. On the weekends, she can still visit her friends in Buffalo after a 12-minute drive.
But here is the strange part: We know about what's happening in Buffalo and Cheektowaga, but Cheektowagans and Buffalonians don't seem to know what's happening with each other. I have asked questions and talked about events with friends in both places. For the most part, neither of them knew what I was talking about. The places are so close to each other, I thought that there would be a stronger bond between them other than the Galleria Mall.
I have friends and grandparents who live in Depew. I have often met them in Como Park, pizza places or local bars. I've even attended receptions at rental halls in Depew. Yet when I asked my family and friends if they were going to CurtainUp! in downtown Buffalo, they said that they would, but they just didn't feel like driving so far. I cocked my head in confusion and then drove about 15 minutes to Buffalo's Erie Basin Marina to soak up some sun.
A little while ago, there was a column in The News that blatantly degraded Rochester for almost the same problems Buffalo has. It was supposed to be read as a healing balm for Buffalonians. There was nothing sweet or sentimental about either city in the column. Basically the gist of it was, "Hey Buffalo, smile! At least we're not Rochester." Now I ask you: Is this the sort of thing that brings places together?
I don't get it. Buffalo and its surrounding cities and suburbs make for a relatively small area, but the area lacks a small-place charm. Don't get me wrong. Houston was not a soft, cuddly, Mayberryesque place either, but we knew about each other. We visited each other.
It just seems that in an area this small, there would be a lot more travel between areas that would beget a friendlier feel. This does not seem to be the case. And it is this lack of cohesion and familiarity that breeds a kind of underlying contempt between city dwellers and surrounding suburbanites.
Let's be honest with ourselves about the state of our area. Are there problems in Buffalo? Yes. Are there problems in the surrounding suburbs? Yes. Are the urban dwellers and the suburban dwellers working together to make a difference for both places so that friendly cohesion can happen? Well . . .
Like I said, one of the things I like about living here is how you can get anywhere inside of 15 minutes. It just seems like we are all so close to each other and still, somehow, so far apart that we can't seem to reach out to our neighbors.
PATRICE ROSS is a parent, teacher, lecturer, playwright and author. She lives in Buffalo.