A blog about a life awakened and rejuvenated around Western New York.

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I cook dogs and burgers any day of the week. And with an “empty nest”, my wife and I can enjoy them when we want. They never make the day special. They just make us well fed. Shopping spree sales seduce shoppers to spend whenever the yen to do so hits. Still not making for a memorable day. A day off to cut the lawn and become broccoli (vegetate) is not the allure.

The end of May brings us to more pressing thoughts (or at least it ought to). Memorial Day is an abused celebration for most of the wrong reasons. Remembering the fallen heroes of our armed forces should be the sole reason; recollections and dedicating honor to those who are most deserving. A chance to decorate (a throwback to the original holiday, Decoration Day) lives offered up and spent in service of freedom and liberty.

A chance to renew my fervor for a project I began last Memorial Day. I named it, “Of Honor and Remembrance”.   The purpose of this site is to simply honor and remember the military men and women who have passed on. It started as I said, last May when I took my handful of flags to plant at my father’s grave and the neighboring “heroes” who lacked that honor (or someone to present it). I was overwhelmed by the number of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines (from many different conflicts – some decorated with Silver and Bronze Stars and many Purple Heart recipients) who had been neglected by time and age. Marker stones almost completely covered with mud and grass, nearly obliterated. I began the monumental task of cleaning and clearing the obstructions so these people would be remembered.

The “Honor” part is in accumulating the names and service designations, as well as their Death Dates to post on the “Of Honor and Remembrance” blog. Currently, I am working on the fact gathering at local Buffalo area cemeteries and trying to determine what form the tributes will take. But until these are completed, I will continue to honor and remember the fallen pillars of our Free Nation.

If there are service men and women whom you would like to add to the Honor Roll, send an e-mail to the address found at “Of Honor and Remembrance”. Send all the information as it appears on the marker or headstone and the cemetery (city and state) and I will be glad to include it. This is a monumental undertaking and I have been overwhelmed but the sheer number of names I have accumulated from a small corner of two local burial places. But it remains to be done… to in some small way, Honor and Remember in the hopes of reclaiming the Memorial of what should be a decorated day!

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Iris Gaines: You know, I believe we have two lives.
Roy Hobbs: How… what do you mean?
Iris Gaines: The life we learn with and the life we live with after that.

                             ~ Dialogue from “The Natural”

Movies if well made, stand the test of time. In this Baseball classic based on Bernard Malamud’s novel, “The Natural”, the hero Roy Hobbs steps out of a self-imposed obscurity to become the best ball player in the game. The lessons learned in a lifetime of learning gave Hobbs the basis for a new future after baseball.

The stadium and other venues around Western New York, became the backdrop for many of the scenes in the movie, The Natural.

With big names like Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Kim Bassinger and Darren McGavin setting up shop here, Buffalo took on an almost surreal sense. Seeing familiar sites portrayed as clearly as day on the big screen, gave Buffalonians (auto-correct wants to change this to Babylonians) another sense. It gave them a sense of pride.

War Memorial Stadium (the “Rockpile”) became Knight’s Field, home of the fictitious New York Knights. The original home of the Buffalo Bills of the AFL, and long-time home of the Buffalo Bison Baseball club, the “Rockpile” took on legendary status here (as did the Memorial Auditorium, “The Aud”, where the Buffalo Sabres – ‘NHL’ and the Los Angeles Clippers (as the Buffalo Braves ‘NBA’) had their beginnings.)

The “Hotel Ellicott” in the movie changed the function of the Ellicott Square Building. ESB is an office complex which at the time it was built hailed as the largest office building in the world. The site also claimed the first dedicated movie theater known to exist. It was named for Joseph Ellicott, the purveyor who planned the then Village of Buffalo.

My favorite building in the area, the Buffalo Central Terminal stood in for the Chicago Train Station, with interior scenes captured there.

The candy shop where Roy Hobbs and his girl Iris meet while the Knights are in Chicago, is in reality The Parkside Candy Shoppe keeping its name and function, although losing its location on Main Street in Buffalo.

Buffalo’s All-High Stadium doubled as Chicago’s Wrigley Field during the filming of “The Natural”.

The NYC Maternity Hospital that Roy Hobbs was taken to was “portrayed” by the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. The center currently is not open to the public. Crazy, right?

Other memorable scenes in the film include: South Dayton, New York as the Water stop / Carnival where Roy strikes out “The Whammer” on three pitches as the Hobbs Family farm found its location in Stafford, New York.


Other films had their origins in and around Buffalo, but not to the scope of “The Natural”. It shined a bright light on the city and people of Buffalo and the surrounding area.

For more in-depth descriptions of these locales,

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Dome and spires of Our Lady of Victory National Shrine & Basilica in Lackawanna

Dome and spires of Our Lady of Victory National Shrine & Basilica in Lackawanna, NY

Chosen randomly to be highlighted and explored, is the Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica (quite a mouthful) in Lackawanna New York. This impressive structure is awe inspiring, and the storied history of this church and the surrounding complex in this quiet, one-time bustling steel making city should be read.


Monsignor Nelson H. Baker 1841-1936

Among its many accomplishments, the Basilica is the final resting place for the man responsible for its existence, and his dedication and works of charity have put Monsignor Nelson Baker, most commonly known as “Father Baker”, on course to undergo the process for Canonization.  Pope Benedict XVI declared Father Baker Venerable on January 14, 2011. A museum touting his life draws many thousands of visitors annually.

An interesting fact: The Angels

“There are a thousand angels in the Basilica,” Father Baker once said. According to estimates, the actual number ranges anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500. The plan was to place an angel in every possible sight line.

For more information about this Western New York landmark click on the link:   Our Lady Of Victory National Shrine and Basilica

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Piąty Może (Fifth of May)

Living in Buffalo, I’m nestled on the edge of Lake Erie on the opposite shore from Canada. We’re just a Peace Bridge away. I remember a few years back, my youngest daughter sat with me watching Fourth of July fireworks when she asked, “Dad, do they have a Fourth of July in Canada?” I knew what she was asking, but I couldn’t resist having fun with her.

“No sweetie”, I began “the Canadians go right from the third to the fifth!”

She knew I was full of it. She’s right about a lot of things.

I’ve applied that same logic to the Fifth of May – Cinco De Mayo. And I keep falling back on my heritage. Is there a Fifth of May in Poland? Of course there is. It would probably be called Piąty Może  which translates to, you guessed it Fifth of May. (See class, isn’t it great when things work out so nicely?)

It’s just a regular day between the fourth and sixth. There is no “Running of the Golumbke”, no “Kielbasa Fiesta”. There may be singing and dancing (Poles love to sing and dance), and there may be joyous merriment, but that could be just a reaction to being alive in Poland on the fifth of May.

The Polish people find simple pleasures in a complex life. That’s how their cabbage rolls!

Happy Cinco de Mayo, Piąty Może, Fifth of May. Celebrate today!