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

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The Ethnology Building in the evening
Pan-American Exposition, 1901


When you hear the term “City of Light” people presume someone is referring to Paris, France. They would be correct in that assumption, The Age of Enlightenment had Paris as its center of ideas and education. Its intellectual preeminence earned Paris its title as the City of Light. The lighting of its city streets in the last quarter of the 19th century reinforced Paris’s claim on the moniker.

In the early 20th century, the city of Buffalo, New York began calling itself the City of Light. Plentiful hydroelectric power from nearby Niagara Falls helped support that claim, but also because it was the first city in America to have electric street lights. During the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, this was made clearly evident, as the illumination of the buildings and avenues made night time enjoyment of the “world fair” of sorts, a reality. The area where the exposition was held shows very few reminders of this landmark happening during Buffalo’s early days. Interest in the event waned quickly when United States President William McKinley was assassinated while receiving guests at the expo. Anarchist Leon Czolgosz was responsible for killing McKinley and vaulting Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency.

The Pan-American Exposition of 1901 played an important part in the development of Buffalo as a city, as it shined a spotlight literally on the “City of Light”

Find more information about the Pan-American Exposition of 1901 at these sites:

Pan-American Exposition – Wikipedia
“Doing the Pan” – The Pan-American Exposition
1901 Pan-American Exposition Buffalo, New York Photos

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American Falls - Niagara Falls

American Falls – Niagara Falls

Her call is loud and thundering, a torrent of water across the precipice here and over the “Horseshoe” (the Canadian side of Niagara Falls). Feeding Lake Ontario with the flow Lake Erie sends her, an unending cycle of life.

Nik_Wallenda_Niagara_Falls_2012Legendary and fabled, from barrel to a high-wire cable (Nik Wallenda‘s trek across the cavernous gorge) she has seen her share of daredevils and whack-jobs looking for the fame of a name in defiance. Triumphs unfortunately, are very few.

But the view (especially at night when the lights perform in unison to offer more beauty, if that was possible) is awe inspiring. If you are desiring adventure at the hands of Mother Nature, there is plenty to see and feel (you catch a good spray on a decent day) at the hands of Niagara Falls. One of the true wonders of the world, and the honeymooning isn’t bad either!

Visit this link NIAGARA FALLS , to find out more.

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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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The un-official start of Summer looms, but we’re doomed still wrestling with winter’s sleeper hold. Well, maybe it’s not that bad, but it is cold. Mother’s Day required the thermostat to be adjusted and I must  have had three throws on to keep toasty warm.

We got a bit spoiled last week; a tease really. Highs in the mid-seventies. And no, I haven’t forgotten that I live in Buffalo, New York (If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute, it’s sure to change) but this strange bit of meteorological bullshit  just seems to make the seasons choke the life out of one another; last one standing wins.

There are no grins. No muted sighs of relief. Even our laments of grief hold their blackened tongues. The unsung heroes of this conflict is me and every sick bastard like me who remains rooted  here where the Buffalo Wings roam. There’s no place like home as long as the Blue Cheese dip is in good supply.

We love to complain. We live to complain. Next to our sports, complaining is our favorite past time. And our football and hockey teams have become invisible for the most part, and if your heart is still in it, I hope for your sake they both win it someday. In the summer we catch some dog days here. And we complain it’s too hot. The winter is too cold; or has too much snow; or not enough snow; or… We tend to fore go happy ever after for anything that would be crappy here and now, or anywhere else.

But don’t get me wrong. This is a great place. Some major landmarks and spots of interest (to be highlighted here). Some great history with equally famous names attached: Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Millard Fillmore, Grover Cleveland,  Frank Lloyd Wright, Frederick Law Olmstead and more. And equally infamous “Lacakawanna Six” (Terrorist cell), O.J. Simpson, Leon Czolgosz (William McKinley’s Assassin).

But it is we, the “lesser lights” that make the Western New York area a great place. The people of this area are top of the list when touting our resources. Caring, compassionate, helpful, (although sometimes thin skinned when an outsider (or dubious insider) puts our weather down) but we are resilient and always bounce back stronger. I won’t go on much longer…

…but we DO complain too much.

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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