6/30/2011 – Buffalo, NY – Corner of Elmwood and Cleveland (i.e. Spot Coffee)

January 3, 2019

I seem to have abandoned my old style of date-listing, with the day number and month reversed in order and the month spelled out: “30 June 2011.” I think that is the British way, and it was argued in something I read that it creates an item of text that is visually easier on the brain than the standard, all-numeric date description. The mind has too much trouble switching the number designating the month into its calendar name, and is then forced to switch back to numerical thinking when it comes to the day. All that is probably automatic by the time an American child reaches 5th grade, though, so who really cares?

I did, apparently.

It is around 3pm on perhaps the most gorgeous day of the year so far. Clear blue skies, low humidity and cool in the shade, with a welcome breeze coming off the lake to keep both sun and shade comfortable.

Not So Young men with tattoos and unshaven faces lounge over iced coffee on the patio at Innermark [sic] Coffee. The young would-be professionals of Buffalo that we can’t keep from leaving the area, idle at 3 p.m, on a Thursday.

I’m interrupted from staring at a couple that won’t talk to one another by a text message from [redacted] about the show tonight at Elmwood Lounge. She wants to know what time to get there and what the order of performers will be, rightly attempting to avoid too much time spent watching the old AA-cases play the Lotto. Or to avoid drinking too much herself, perhaps. It’s hard to know how much performance-anxiety comes on before a gig for a girl who’s played something like 12 of these events. I can’t guess; I’ve never played one myself, but I’ve heard older salts than [redacted] claim the butterflies never really go away.

God, look at me — spelled her fucking name wrong again with an “e” I know doesn’t exist. Just another notch in the now-ragged Don’t Know What The Hell I’m Doing belt.I swear it’s turned a master’s black with experience; I seem to get worse at this booking thing as time goes on. The first Caustic Sets shows were highly-attended, praised events. Now I’m lucky if I can pay the sound guy without taking a hit. Somebody stopped caring along the way: me or the audiences or both.

But so goes regular entertainment in this weird town, where attendance surges at a band’s first, sloppy performances and deflates markedly as they begin to actually learn how to play their instruments. After a band has either released a full record or toured extensively the attitude in the local scene can turn to open hostility, the sad, immature abandonment issues of an insular community that feels they are under attack from all sides: the easy ignorance of the region’s general population, the constant threat of this or that talented regional star pulling stumps and heading for Brooklyn or Portland or some other post-countercultural Mecca. And the threat from within: that one day you may wake up with hunger cramps, mountains of unpaid bills, and a broken foot you can’t treat, and just say Fuck It.

…And it is certainly a struggle we are losing. Every year art and fresh ideas lose another handful to Opportunity, either elsewhere or within. There is more potential in this city for great works than anyone can guess, even me, and I’ve been raving about Buffalo to anyone who will listen for almost 5 years now. But we haven’t seen it work, yet. We haven’t seen the click, where some representative of all that is beautiful and terrible about our city breaks out and takes a few of us with them.

So we talk ourselves down from the ledge and stew or atrophy or have our Fuck It moment. I’ve always advocated a complete rejection of the idea that we need to focus on outward success for redemption, that the best things happening are happening here, and let all else hang or go to Heaven as it will. Not a hostility to the outside world so much as a careful gardening and shoring up of the foundations at home. Reject the lame chicken wing bullshit and find a way to stamp your own mark on the town. For it is ours, after all, and there will be others after us. I, for one, would feel like kind of a prick if we left the seat up and no beer in the fridge. Right?

Well, whatever to all that. I’ve made this goddamn argument so many times to so many people. it isn’t even worth fully explaining it anymore. Just enjoy the weather, you carp. Nobody wants to be scolded, let alone by someone that owes them money. Let’s end this on some kind of a not worth a damn. The caffeine is wearing off and there’s work to do, anyways. And there goes my stomach, the 100-year lunch rush.

What I wouldn’t give for a nice pile of eggs and meat and tomatoes and spinach in a perfect rye bagel toasted at 500 degrees on a slow-moving conveyor, so the outside crisps up and the guts of the dough cook to perfection. Some pepperjack cheese, onions, 800 cups of coffee, and a Sunday’s worth of cheap, cold champagne to look forward to. I’d give more than it’s all worth, that’s for certain.

Not that any of this seems likely to jump out of the bushes at me in the next week, month, or more, given some strange decision-making on my part with regards to employment that I’ve engaged in recently. But a man has to dream, I suppose. It’s become somewhat risky to strive for excellence or even comfort lately, but there’s nothing for it, so I’ll keep an eye out for breakfast and get back to work, staving off, as best I can, the urge to flee from myself.

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