The following article was written by Buffalo expat Rob Baiocco, who moved away a long time ago. Although it’s been over 25 years since he lived here, many of his greatest life lessons were emblazoned upon him at a young age. Baiocco left Buffalo 25+ years ago to pursue a career in advertising in New York City, according to one of his relatives who came across the article and sent it along, stating that “Baiocco’s allegiance to his hometown still runs deep.” The article is now being posted with Baiocco’s blessing.
In this world of never-ending change, sometimes it’s nice to hold onto those things that never change. The ones you carry with you each day, that were true, are true and always will be true. For me, the majority of these were forged long ago in the steel town where I grew up.
Every town has a different flavor, a unique vibe, a set of standards it imparts on its citizens. Certain things that, if you’re from there, you recognize immediately, and they instantly bond you to others from that town. All it takes is a shared glance, a knowing nod. Yep, got it. These things are there in our core being, they define us, no matter how close we stay or how far we stray. Here are mine. The ones I learned and loved in my hometown of Buffalo, NY.
1.People are generally good
Whenever I inevitably start to think most human beings are selfish, backstabbing and inconsiderate, Buffalonians make me believe in the good of people. It’s ironic that a town known for being so cold and icy can produce people so warm and sincere. People who will say “hello” in a store as you pass them down an aisle. Who’ll help you push your car out of a snow bank, even if they’ve never met you before. People who seem generally happy and comfortable with where they are in life. Those not looking to advance themselves at any cost, not constantly competing to prove they are better than you, not showoffs or show ups, not peering over your shoulder for someone more powerful, more interesting, more connected.
Buffalo is the town of my strong, silent father doing what a man does day in day out, of my generous mother, champion of the underdog, my brother showing me the ropes, watching my back, Brian and Dave, my best friends, true and forever. The town where I met my wife who threw her sparkle onto my life. It is the City of Good Neighbors, where people are rock salt of the earth, genuine people, whose example I have tried to follow. While I never had the chance to meet him, Tim Russert always seemed like a great poster child for the type of person who comes from Buffalo: smart, likeable, successful, down to earth, a family man who loved his father, an overall good guy.
2. You can make it through a lot more than you think you can
I was 13 during the infamous blizzard of ‘77 in Buffalo. It snowed over 100 inches. Winds reached 70 miles per hour. Snow drifts piled 40 feet high. If you can make it through that, you can make it through pretty much anything. Buffalonians are tough, not fighter tough, living tough. They take the hard stuff as daily and normal, and just power right through it. Since moving to New York City, I constantly hear newscasters hype approaching storms as “Mighty Noreasters” and “Storms of the Century.” If most of these happened in Buffalo, you know what we would call them? Tuesday. Scrape your windshield with frozen fingers, push your car out of a snow bank and go to work.
Wheels spinning in the ice and snow is a uniquely Buffalo sound. You’re going nowhere, but if you keep pushing, get a little help from a friend, and rock it back and forth, suddenly you break free. The car goes. If that isn’t a life lesson, what is?
3. Comebacks don’t come easy, but they come if you never give up
The last of the steel packed up and moved out of Buffalo in the early 80s, and the city was lost. When your identity has been completely stripped liked that, it takes a long time to rediscover who you are, to evolve, to reinvent. For many years, I would return to Buffalo to visit family, and people would all say, “things are happening here!” Granted, having moved to New York City, I now had an outsider’s point of view, but they weren’t. It has been a struggle, one the city has embraced with its classic Buffalo toughness. Long in the making, they have come through the fire, and now a resurrection has occurred, a sweet redemption. Buffalo really is “on the move,” and in a way that proves you can hold onto your soul, and still go forward. All because the people of Buffalo wouldn’t have it any other way. They persevered with a sheer force of will and a signature steel resolve. And let’s not forget, Buffalo achieved the greatest comeback in NFL history in the 1993 Wild Card game. I am happy and proud to say, I was there.
4. Simple things are always the best
I live in the middle of Manhattan. Through my career and some good fortune, I have been lucky enough to roam the world to places like England, Spain, Italy, the Namibian desert, Buenos Aires, Capetown, the outback, and the French Riviera. I would not trade these experiences for the world, but those are fleeting little blazes of travelogue glory, stamps on an expired passport. My most vivid and cherished memories were burned in my brain in Buffalo. I grew up riding my Huffy to the junior high to play Homerun Derby with my friends, swimming in my above-ground pool until our skin shriveled, working construction every summer with my father and Uncle Jack, feeling as manly as a 16-year-old could, driving with the windows open down Elmwood Avenue, sitting on the front porch with a beer on a rainy 4th of July. These are the kind of memories that stick. Yes, they are less flashy, and will garner less likes on “In-Your-Facebook.” However, they have more substance, and will put more likes on your actual face because they last…in all their vivid detail, all their genuine emotion, all their sweet and naïve simplicity.
5. You are much more than others peg you to be
Whenever someone hears I’m from Buffalo, they immediately go to one of three topics: snow, chicken wings, or four lost Super Bowls. That’s it, for most people Buffalo stands for these, nothing more. Yes, it snows. Yes, we invented and love chicken wings. Yes, and unfortunately, we lost four Super Bowls. But I promise you, the city is so much more than these.
Perhaps it is just easier for haters to take the cheap shots, and apply the stereotypes than to take the time to actually learn and understand the realities. I’m guessing your hometown has a few stereotypes that come to mind quickly. I would also guess, you’re sick of hearing them. No one likes to be dismissed as a handful of superficial generalities because they know they have so much more depth and layers to them. In the end, it’s not all that important how others define you. What really matters is how you define you. Because I grew up in Buffalo I realize this.
I know none of these five points are extreme or edgy or viral. That’s kind of the point. Those aren’t the things that last. As you get older, you get clarity. The morning fog of youth burns away, and you realize life is less about what changes, and more about what never changes. Thank you Buffalo, NY for teaching me that.