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Buffalo finds itself on a par with Miami

Being a glass-half-full guy, I want to thank Forbes magazine for noting what we folks in Buffalo have known for a long time.

We are a better place to live than Chicago, Cleveland, Memphis and a couple of sunny California burgs. We are -- bust out in hives, Dan Marino -- breathing down the hot neck of Miami.

Headline: "Chicago, suck our snowmelt."

I bring this up because some Buffalonians are missing the hidden story in a ranking of metro areas in the current Forbes. The magazine's survey of 150 places ranked Buffalo above or on a par with cities commonly thought of as better places to live, to vacation or to endure an airport layover.

I cannot remember any previous ranking where Buffalo stood shoulder to shoulder with Miami -- land of cigarette boats and "CSI," of surf and sultry beach babes. Pull the champagne out of the snowbank and pop the cork.

Granted, the broader reference in the magazine was less than flattering. If you must know, it was a list of "America's 10 Most Miserable Places," based on criteria including taxes, weather, sports teams, unemployment and commute time. We're No. 8 -- behind worst-rated Stockton, Calif.; Memphis, Tenn.; Chicago; Cleveland; Modesto, Calif.; Flint, Mich.; and Detroit; and ahead of Miami and St. Louis.

I have lived here for a quarter-century. I am beyond getting my chain jerked every time somebody who has never been here concludes that Buffalo is a hovel fit only for fugitives from justice and fans of "Living Lohan." I refuse to blow a gasket every time an out-of-towner likens our city to the civic equivalent of a dumpster. Overreaction merely confirms insecurity. You are only a sucker if you take the bait.

I know what Buffalo is -- a pretty good place to be, if you have a decent job. I know what Buffalo is not -- the grease pit of America.

I hate to be snarky about it, but it is not as if Forbes had all that good of a year. The financial publication, whose motto is "The Capitalist Tool," was no better than anyone else at predicting the market meltdown or firing warning flares about the impending subprime mortgage mess. Talk about miserable.

Before canceling your Forbes subscription, consider that the same publication a month ago rated Buffalo the nation's fourth-strongest housing market, and among America's most recessionproof burgs. The magazine has since had a mood swing. It happens.

Some Buffalonians no doubt have their indignity meters redlining over Forbes' shameless ploy to tick people off and get them talking. The piece already elicited the requisite "we're not so bad" rebuttal from the Convention & Visitors Bureau.

For anyone with bruised feelings, a thought: You are looking at this in entirely the wrong way. I see not a slam, but sustenance. I see the list and imagine this headline: "Buffalo ranked above Chicago, Cleveland, Memphis in Forbes rating."

Or: "Buffalo, Miami are neck and neck in place-to-live index."

What we have here is not a reason to hide under the bedcovers. It is fodder for a come-to-Buffalo tourism campaign.

Here we are, less miserable than Chicago -- with its Navy Pier, 2005 World Series champs and hometown claim to the president.

Here we sit, on par with the sun-baked home of South Beach, "CSI" and jai lai.

I look out the window at the shrinking snow piles, I catch the scent of 60 degrees in the air, and I think: This is a good day.

Thank you, Forbes.

e-mail: desmonde@buffnews.com

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