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The offbeat side of the news

Degrees of separation

What is it about entrepreneurs and maps?

The Tulsa World newspaper in Tulsa, Okla., this week reported a hub for entrepreneurs will open there next year. Its name: 36degreesNorth.

If that sounds familiar, it should: Buffalo is home to 43North, the business plan competition aimed at luring startups (and their jobs) here.

The Tulsa story explained that 36 degrees North is the latitude line that runs through Tulsa and connects U.S. landmarks such as the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon as well as cities like Nashville and Raleigh-Durham.

That’s a good collection of landmarks. A check of the U.S. map shows the 43 degree line – which inspired the name of Buffalo’s competition – goes through or near Boston, Mass.; Lansing, Mich.; the South Dakota-Nebraska border and Boise, Idaho.

But 43North also has something else going for it: a $5 million prize package. That might even bring a few entrepreneurs from 36 degrees our way.

Classroom Bell

The classroom in Bacon Hall at SUNY Buffalo State was full of budding contractors attending the first installment of a program sponsored by the college’s Small Business Development Center.

Moderating the program on Wednesday afternoon was Clifford Bell, dry cleaning czar, former longtime Buffalo Common Council member and stand-up comic. These days, he’s also a senior adviser with the development center. On this particular day, Bell stood before the class, focused his eyes on a wall clock to the side of them and shook his head in mock annoyance.

“I’m going to introduce the next speaker who is late,” Bell said. “He was supposed to be here at 4:30.”

Turns out, the speaker – waiting to the side near the clock that now registered 5:30 p.m. – was none other than Mayor Byron W. Brown.

“I’m not going to talk long,” Brown promised. “I just wanted to talk about investment development.”

The tardy mayor proceeded to wax briefly on low permit rates and low tax rates. He then answered two questions before returning the floor to Bell, still was in faux scolding mode.

“Tonight he was late,” Bell said of the mayor. “I will remember that. I will write it down, and I will call it in sometime in the future.”

Once a politician always a politician.

Just the facts, sir

“Because that is the way the cookie crumbles,” said Buffalo Narcotics Detective Carmen D. Clark in response to a young man caught red-handed selling marijuana-laced cookies after he naively inquired why his enterprise had to lead to his arrest.

It sounds like a scripted line one might have heard at the end of old television cop shows, like “Dragnet.” Alas, fiction and reality sometimes merge, as appeared to be the case this week with the unraveling of the drive-thru cookie caper pot bust in North Buffalo.

Unemployed chef Sebastian P. Kujawa aroused the suspicion of his neighbors with his habit of periodically leaving his Brinton Street house with a fresh batch of cookies, headed to an apparently not-so-secluded spot to wait for customers to drive up and pick up orders. An unnerved neighbor prevailed upon Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda to arrange a stakeout, which nabbed a buyer who admitted he found the baker on Craigslist. In exchange for leniency, the hapless buyer was enlisted by detectives for a final sting, which eventually nabbed Kujawa, 23.

Under questioning, the stunned baker shared with detectives his closely guarded recipe for pot-laced cookies, each of which contained between three to five grams of marijuana and sold for $10 each. He later consented to a search of his home, where detectives recovered 25 grams of marijuana, scales, a grinder and packaging materials.

Perhaps a more sober-minded person might have seen that the whole enterprise was a half-baked scheme from the start.

Off Main Street is written by Harold McNeil, with contributions by Matt Glynn, Jane Kwiatkowski Radlich and Lou Michel. email: offmain@buffnews.com