Monday, September 25, 2006

On Location in Buffalo (NY): Strolling Delaware Ave

Last night, I inquired at the front desk about traffic.

"About how bad will the traffic be if we’re heading downtown around eight."

This is a pretty typical question; I’ve asked it before.

"Well, it’s a fifteen minute drive, but that time of day…" The kid's face twisted into a knot. Damn, I wasn’t expecting traffic to be a problem. The first appointment of the day (Normal Girl’s, not mine) was 8:30am, and I did not much care for leaving the hotel before 8:00am. But from the look on his face, it seemed I was looking at an early departure. "…it might take twenty."

Wow, an extra five minutes to account for traffic. That’s pretty rough.

I’m sure there’s rush hour traffic in Buffalo, but apparently it doesn’t have too much of an effect when you’re going from our hotel to downtown. Once we saw downtown, this factoid was less surprising.

On a side note, we set our GPS to Australian English, which adds a unique twang to driving. I am thinking of trying Canadian French this afternoon.

Our first stop was a high school on Cleveland Avenue, two blocks off Delaware Avenue. We arrived at 8:20am, and as Normal Girl started her busy day of meetings with high school students and guidance counselors, I hooked my headphones onto my ears and pressed play.

Naturally, my digital camera jumped from its case. Have you ever wandered a residential neighborhood and treated it like a tourist destination? People look at you funny. They wonder what on earth you’re taking pictures of, even when the neighborhood is gorgeous. Gardeners, cable guys, and housewives cast suspicious sidelong glances, wondering your secret. If their narrowed eyes are any indication, dark conclusions spring immediately to their minds.

You’re casing the joint for an upcoming robbery with your gang, the Wet Bandits.

You work for some development company who plans to sweep in, buy all the properties, raze them, and built a Target.

You’re a weirdo, moments from losing your shit.

Or, you’re a writer-in-progress, collecting photos for the low-readership blog you run.

[FWIW, I’ve been meaning to print business cards with the URL for just this situation, to hold up when some pool guy comes after me with a net, reminding me I’m on private property.]

Strolling forth undeterred by their suspicion, I turned right onto Delaware. For about a mile and a half, I continued my merry photo-snapping ways. Grand mansions sat on both sides of the road, most re-purposed as commercial enterprises or government affiliates (e.g., children’s services). Whatever the buildings are today, I found myself gawking.

That’s right, gawking at random office buildings in Buffalo, New York.

If you want to make someone nervous, take a picture of something they probably deem unfit for photography, tug a notebook from your pocket, and start scribbling.

I passed two historical landmarks, so far as I know: the site of Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration, and "The Buffalo Club," of which three presidents were members. I took photos of the explanatory placards in case, you know, somebody challenges my claims.

This pleasant stroll down Delaware Ave filled me tremendous hope for the self-guided downtown tour that lay ahead…

More on that tomorrow... Right now I have to get my dancing shoes on...


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