We Need High-Speed Broadband, Now!

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“I would long since for the time that no votes buy our cares;
For people that once possessed command, high civil office, legions and all else,
now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.”

– From Satire X, Juvenal, ca. 100 AD

When the Roman satirical poet Juvenal wrote these lines centuries ago, he meant it as an expose of government corruption. It also represented a warning to a populace too eager to sacrifice freedom for immediate delights.

Unfortunately, rather than a cautionary alert, Juvenal’s “bread and circuses” has become a blueprint from which every dictator since has built his empire.

You can now add Andrew Cuomo to the long sorry list of power-mad rulers seeking to Continue Reading “We Need High-Speed Broadband, Now!”

Fandemonium: Passing the Generational Torch

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I can’t understate how many times people asked me the following question in the past week: “Chris, did you get tickets to the playoff game?”

For those of you who didn’t go to St. Catherine’s Church when people still went to church, the Carosa family has a certain reputation. Each Sunday – football season or not – one or more of us (usually more of us) stood in line for communion resplendent in official and unofficial Bills attire.

Those were our Sunday clothes. It became such a tradition that, on those rare occasions (usually in the summer) when our garments didn’t sport a Bills logo, people would notice.

This “worship” of the Buffalo Bills began long ago. My father, however, was too young to remember the original Buffalo Bills.

Incidentally, did you know the first version of the Buffalo Bills appeared in the All-America Continue Reading “Fandemonium: Passing the Generational Torch”

A Look Back (Part II): A Pre-Civil War (1855) View Of A Village On The Rebound

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Last week we took the time machine all the way back to 1841, just three years after the Village of Honeoye Falls was officially incorporated. This week we skip ahead a little more than a decade. In that span, the City of Rochester, viewed as a collaborator in 1841, apparently had proven itself a formidable competitor.

Things didn’t look good for Honeoye Falls… until 1853.

That’s when what ultimately became known as “The Peanut Line” (the Canandaigua & Niagara Falls R.R.) came through. There’s little evidence of that game changing event today, save for a single monument in the shape of the limestone abutment smack dab in Continue Reading “A Look Back (Part II): A Pre-Civil War (1855) View Of A Village On The Rebound”

A Look Back (Part I): An Early (1841) View Of A New Village

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Here’s an annoying problem I discovered while researching for the book Hamburger Dreams: there’s a lot of people and places that come up when you search the words “hamburger” or “hamburg” that have nothing to do with the delicious sandwich that spawned a trillion-dollar industry.

This required me to be both creative and patient as I sifted through hundreds of century old newspaper articles. It eventually worked, but it took a lot of time. In the end, it proved worthy.

The same thing is happening now as I complete my research on the Masonic Temple/Wilcox Hotel/Wilcox House/Falls Hotel (yes, that one building has gone by several names during its nearly 200-year existence). It turns out Continue Reading “A Look Back (Part I): An Early (1841) View Of A New Village”

Ode to a Once Mighty Oak

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And in that brief moment, its reign ended.

We don’t know how old it really was, but the centuries had exacted their toll. Despite the efforts of the valiant few, the rot that builds with age had eaten its way through the internal fabric that once supported its mighty infrastructure.

When that final gust rushed through, the great citadel had fallen. It had stood for so long that those closest to it, stunned by the fatal reality before their own eyes, could only muster an anemic disbelief.

All that incredulity could not suspend the finality that was. It was gone. Not really. But really.

*          *          *

The Seneca tribe was a fierce warrior tribe. They had to be. They guarded the “west gate” of the Iroquois Confederacy. From that position, they both protected one flank of their Continue Reading “Ode to a Once Mighty Oak”

Two Wrongs Still Don’t Make A Right

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I weep for my city. I weep for my country. I weep for our ancestors who worked so hard to overcome the obvious frailty that is all humanity.

I cry for those swept aside by events. My heart bleeds for the bystanders who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. I grow sullen, knowing the damage done cannot be quickly repaired.

It’s a sad commentary on the state of our citizenry that a noble cause has devolved into a self-inflicted chaos. Surely, no one believes it’s fair to punish innocents. Yet, clearly, we enable those who feel justified in doing precisely that.

None of this should have ever been allowed to happen.Continue Reading “Two Wrongs Still Don’t Make A Right”

Yes, Your Community Matters, Too

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If this were a Saturday matinee cartoon, we’ve come to the point where Popeye, upset at his inability to escape from the suffocating arms of the evil bully Bluto (a.k.a., “Brutus” in later versions), exclaims to the cheers of his admiring and sympathetic audience, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!”

Yes, we’ve reached our “Popeye Point,” as Karl Albrecht called it in his 2011 article in Psychology Today. Albrecht describes this as the moment when we reach that “primal, visceral, life-changing decision.” Here’s his explanation of the metaphor:

“Popeye (the sailor man) [is] a good-natured, easy-going guy who tries to get through life as peacefully and cheerfully as possible. In the animated cartoon episodes, his emotional fortitude is always being tested by mean, nasty, abusive people around him, some of whom like to whale on him physically. At a certain point in each episode, he Continue Reading “Yes, Your Community Matters, Too”

Nobody Knew: When “The Miracle” Touched Greater Western New York

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Everyone knows what happened. Forty years ago this past weekend, when Al Michaels asked the world “Do you believe in Miracles?” a new generation discovered the power of belief. It may surprise you, then, what many people didn’t know…

Yale_Hockey_1980_US_Olympics_300In the months leading up to the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, Team USA hockey coach Herb Brooks scheduled a rigorous sixty-one game exhibition program for his ragtag group. One of those games was played right here in Greater Western New York. The event was held at Buffalo’s Nichols Arena against the Yale hockey team.

Just a couple months earlier, Yale hockey coach Tim Taylor used that game to lure me away from my intention to join the crew team. “Chris, we’ll fly you to Buffalo so you can visit your family,” he said. I took the bait and agreed to serve as manager of the team, (hockey being my second favorite sport and all).

Little did I know that decision fated me to meet history head on.

After all, it was just hockey – at the time an unassuming game played by generally Continue Reading “Nobody Knew: When “The Miracle” Touched Greater Western New York”

First They Came for Our Plastics Bags…

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First they came for our plastic bags, and I did not speak out – because I am but a small voice and could do nothing.

I offer this allusion because Martin Niemöller’s poem remains as profound today as it was when the Lutheran pastor penned his post-war confession in 1946. It’s language of persecution, oppression, and injustice, along with the attendant feelings of shame, regret, and the aura of culpability, ring true today in the Empire State as they once did in the totalitarian morass that immediately succeeded the Weimar Republic.

More on that in a moment. First, a bit of (more) recent history.

By the time Mr. Maguire whispered the word “plastics” into Benjamin Braddock’s attentive, albeit naïve, ear in the 1967 hit movie The Graduate, it had already been two years since Continue Reading “First They Came for Our Plastics Bags…”

Bills Fans May Be Hurt, But We Are Not Slain

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This is not the Commentary I had planned to write. Nonetheless, I write it with reluctance because a community cries out for it. Not our entire community, so if this doesn’t apply to you, feel free to skip it.

Of course, to ignore this piece betrays a certain detached coldness many of your neighbors would find less than appreciative. Read it to understand them. Read it to empathize. Read it to sympathize.

Those within the portion of our community to which this column addresses – especially those new to the cause – will read this to recognize the true meaning of resiliency.

By the time you receive this, Saturday’s heart-breaking loss will be nearly a week old. A lot of stuff has happened between now and then. A lot of stuff that separates you from that pain. A lot of stuff way more important than a game.

Nonetheless, it’s important to capture the emotion of that moment when an overtime field goal ended a Cinderella season. That feeling must be bottled. Not bottled-up, but Continue Reading “Bills Fans May Be Hurt, But We Are Not Slain”