I love my town. Not in some corny John Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen vein. More like in a corny Lee Ving way. I love its convenience. If I want an egg roll at 1 a.m., the Chinese Restaurant around the block might still be open. If not, I can come home with spanakopita instead. Beat's the hell out of the suburbs, where you've got eight Olive Gardens, a Subway and one of those fake rustic places that let you throw the peanut scraps on the floor.
(I hear that if you sh*t in the suburbs, you have to get in the SUV for an eight minute drive just to flush. And you do it in a homogenous environment.)
It's not just the convenience and cheap eats that I love - it's the grit, too. Last week, some poor soul stepped in front of a spray of gunfire a block and a half from my school building. That must've hurt. It happened in the wee hours of the morning, so I was the denied the unpleasant sight of a bullet riddled corpse on the sidewalk, and the even more unpleasant sight of smiling, pointing on-lookers. It's a minor cause for concern, but not so much that it would send me fleeing to the 'burbs or to K-Mart for a bullet-proof jacket.
Whoever shot him obviously had his reasons, so strapping English teachers are not likely to be high on the sh*t-list, unless it's one of the kids I failed (nervous shudder).
That's one of the neighborhood's charms... An illustrious body-count. Last year, a heavy-shakin' momma was found cut to pieces jammed in suitcases, trash bags and the EZ bake oven. No garlic or shallots were found near the crime scene. That's more of an Elma or Franklinville thang.
Other creatures succumb to such horrible fates. I had to sidestep a pancaked rat recently, as I was getting out of my car. Its flesh and coat were a pulpy mess, through which you could see its spinal cord. Other identifying features were crushed beyond recognition, so the Mrs. had a tough time identifying the body. What I'm trying to figure out is how many hoodlum rats it took to operate a large vehicle.
In all honesty, it's been a while since I've even seen a rat - breathing or otherwise. One of the most brilliant decisions our civic leaders wrought was the 'blue bin' distribution. Every household was given a large, wheeled trash receptacle with a hinged lid. This drastically cut down on the sidewalk trash. The local rodentia suddenly found themselves without their traditional cornucopia of half-eaten goods on which to feast. They decided to move further east, to the suburb of Cheektowaga (pronounced CHICK-ah-to-WAH-GAH, if you actually live there), much to the chagrin of its residents. They couldn't believe the city had the audacity to rid itself of its rodent population. Stories circulated about family pets being ganged up on by tough city rats looking for some Chef-Boy-Ardee cans.
You still see some trash, though, but it's usually blown about in the wind - along with convenience store grocery bags, which always manage to entangle themselves in the highest branches of our trees. Also dangling over our heads are the ubiquitous pairs of sneakers and shoes, hanging there like an old ski pass on the zipper of some pansy banker's North Face jacket. NIKEs seem to be the most popular shoes to toss up there, though I did see a pair of Timberlands recently. I'd be pretty impressed if I saw a pair of wing-tips, but I'm not holding my breath. Pennyloafers would be a flat out miracle, though they're still attempting that in Cheektowaga, I hear.
On occasion, if you know where to look, you'll find the classic wooden bumper, fashioned out of a 2 X 4 and bolted securely on the back of a POS Monte Carlo. Some of our more accident prone denizen prefer a beefier 4 X 6, which provides much more rear-ending protection than the factory installed styrofoam/plastic models. I'm not sure how this additional fortification would help them if they happened to get T-boned while rolling through one of the many "optional" STOP signs in the neighborhood.
While on the cost-saving topic of auto repair, nothing replaces a window better than duct tape and Glad Bags. What? You think we can actually afford the glass rider on our insurance policies?
Finally, the people. Not the aforementioned dead ones. A resourseful bunch, if I ever saw one. F*ck paying retail and F*CK paying exorbitant delivery charges. At least that's the vibe I got from the homes I saw riding his bike, carrying a faux brass head and footboard for a double bed. His lady's getting some class tonight. Or my man carrying a bootleg La-Z-boy over his head for several icy blocks. I'm not sure if it was a curb-side score or not, but if it was a purchase, it takes balls the size of coconuts to walk out of the store with it.
"Nah. F*ck all that. I'm carryin' this sh*t home myself."
Then there's the devil-may-care homegirls, bravely darting out into the street to cross to Mc Donald's with their toddler. I'm sure the little ones are only happy to hone their Frogger skills so they can do the same once they reach third grade. Along with automobile dodging skills, the little ones are treated to a myriad of profanities while mommy goes off on da 'muther f*ckin' cell phone. Several of these choice obscenities will come in handy for kiddy when the 'muther f*ckin' teacher gets all in her grill.
Yes, these are the sights and sounds of the neighborhood. It makes the drive home interesting, makes the sun shine all the brighter and it makes me put my wallet in my front pocket. Somehow I manage to escape the drive unscathed, and the sketch factor diminishes substantially, block by block until I get home. When I consider the alternate: cul-de-sacs and manicured lawns - I get a frightful chill down my spine. I'd much rather talk about the wino who stole my shovel and then asked me if I wanted my driveway done for five bucks.
Thank you Buffalo! Good NIGHT!