Monday, June 06, 2005


I was told by someone, while visiting Boston, that millions of dollars changed hands every day, some of which inevitably slipped through the fingers of frivolous spenders and dealmakers. All you had to do was be there to catch it. No one had ever told me this in Buffalo.

In Buffalo we were concerned about keeping our sidewalks clean after the snowfall. We bragged about our supermarkets and architecture and how cheap things were. We got by - sometimes barely - and we had different expectations than the people in those other cities.

In 1994 we left, car packed to the visors with possessions and artifacts of a soon-to-be former life. We arrive in Boston, and the first thing I noticed was that they did not clear their sidewalks after the snowfall. This would have never happened in Buffalo.

We held our arms out and ran around catching some of the money that slips though the fingers of frivolous spenders and dealmakers. Five years later we were on our way to being millionaires. This would have never happened in Buffalo.

I was told by someone, while living in Buffalo, that California was a terrible place. Los Angeles, in particular, was a horizontal megalopolis spilling out over vast desert. Drivers shot at each other on the highways for failing to signal. Gangs roamed the streets and smog strangled the sunlight into a pale diffusion of dismal light. This was not a place to go. Ever.

Years later, I found myself walking towards the Pacific Ocean. I knelt on the sand and touched the earth with the gratefulness of a man who had nearly died at sea. The water was warm as it soaked the cuffs of my pants. I almost cried for having been deceived by half-truths.

My mother told me that she had cancer. I flew her to Seattle so that I could spend some time with her. I was shocked by the sight of her, an annual after the frost, withered, frail, pathetic. It was not the disease that did this to her. It was the winter, which kept her imprisoned in a basement apartment, her world a television set and what she might observe through high basement windows. Her perspective was that of a woman having to look up at the snow and ice and cars and boots that represented the place where elderly hips and collarbones are broken.

I offered her my home in Florida as a place to escape the cruel seasons. She replied that someone she knew told her it was flat there and the people were unfriendly. I told her about the lies I had heard too.

For the rest of our visit, she dwelled on the past. She spoke of my father as if they had never divorced. She spoke of Buffalo as if the streets were teaming with post-war solders and swank couples. Cocktails and Sinatra, big American cars with fins, and a contagious optimism existed where a sullen mall stands today. I marveled at her courage, cancer merely an inconvenience, while she lived in this perpetual reverie - but then I realized, like Buffalo, she was already dead.