My hotel room wasn't ready when I arrived Saturday. I had two options. I could leave a few things with the bellhop and get ready to ride to Niagara Falls with a few other conference attendees I met in the airport shuttle. Or, I could walk around downtown Buffalo by myself and try to find a delicious sandwich. I spent the afternoon of my 30th birthday doing the latter. If you know me, you're probably not all that surprised.
One of the first things I saw on my walk was this dilapidated stadium.
And I thought, "JESUS CHRIST, Buffalo." I knew these old Great Lakes cities have had a tough time in the past few decades, but was it this bad? (I found out that night, watching the 11:00 news alone in my hotel room on my 30th birthday after watching "The Hangover" in a nearly empty theater alone on my 30th birthday, that the old hockey auditorium was torn down that very morning. So downtown Buffalo wasn't in such dire straits. Kinda.)
On other times on the walk, I was just plain confused. Buffalo Bills kicker Steve Christie on the side of a building? Endorsing Artvoice? Is this meant to attract the average football fan to Artvoice, or to suggest a a favorite player for Artvoice readers?
Downtown Buffalo has got some amazing buildings. City Hall is off the chain Art Deco, and if you go in the lobby to look at the murals some mustachioed dude on his way to the john will ask you where you're from, and give you a brief history of Buffalo.
The nearby government buildings are adorned with detailed art. Bison are a favorite subject, including sizeable bison dong.
There are many architecturally significant buildings. This is not one of them, but I didn't have a walking tour map yet. Still, pretty good stuff.
I had almost circled back to the hotel when I reached Lafayette Square. I love war monuments and statues, so I enjoyed examining this installation, until I walked around to the other side and nearly stepped on a sleeping homeless man.
And that's downtown Buffalo for you. For every stellar example of their historical past...
...there's a block or ten of empty sadness surrounding it.
The next morning, I had a few hours to kill before my meeting started. With downtown checked off my to-do list, and Niagara too far away, I took the train up to Delaware Park, where President McKinley got shot. Because President McKinley got shot there. To get to the park, I had to walk through Forest Lawn cemetery, where locals bury their elk.
Mock my itinerary all you like, but if I had not walked around a cemetery on my morning off, I'd have never seen the tomb of A.J. Myer, or learned that he existed, and that he founded the National Weather Bureau, and some sort of flag language that isn't semaphore.
That was basically it. That's Buffalo, guys.
A few more photos at my Flickr page.