Buffalo


KB Ski Resort

Looking up the slopes at the Central chairlift at Kissing Bridge in Colden, NY.

This past week, we finally got a snowfall here in the Southtowns worth talking about. As is usually the case, it was a tight little snow band, so the areas affected were pretty much limited to Eden, Boston, and Colden, but that was just fine by me. We came home from a delicious Thai dinner with Heather and Erik on Wednesday night to find over a foot of supremely sweet and airy powder in our yard. We missed the opportunity for some sweet pow pow at Kissing Bridge (KB) because we didn’t get home until 8, but we made sure we hit the slopes the following day and were not disappointed. With one snowfall KB went from having only 30 percent of their slopes open to 100 percent. They were capitalizing on the cold weather and blowing snow like mad while we were skiing too.

As everyone around here knows, KB is a small resort. But it makes up for its lack of vertical with its proximity to the city. Taking the back roads and parking at the top of the resort, Stan and I can get there from home in 20 minutes. I can’t tell you how oh-so-convenient that is! We dress at the house, and bring nothing but our equipment and wallets. I know what you are thinking, it’s such a small resort. So it is, but don’t knock it because we are lucky it’s still operational. This past week, I read an article in The New York Times by Bill Pennington about a website called the New England Lost Ski Areas Project (www.nelsap.org) run by Jeremy Davis that catalogs the now defunct mom and pop ski resorts that once dotted the mountains across New England. Apparently, there was practically one on every corner in the state of Vermont. Many of these local resorts were pushed out of operation in the seventies thanks to the oil embargo and the increase in the popularity of the sport. Large resorts grew larger and the neighborhood resorts simply could not compete with man-made snow, high-speed quads, groomed slopes and increased operational costs. Davis was surprised by the number of inoperational resorts, but also the special place they held in the memories of the families who used to patronize them. I couldn’t agree with their sentiment more; KB is a small place, but it’s alive and kicking and for that I’m grateful.

Bell Single

A single chair ski lift in Belleayre, NY.

Stan and I have been skiing since we were young, so a few years back we both took up snowboarding to make the sport new again. I’m laughing as I write this because Stan and I are old enough that we literally witnessed the birth of snowboarding when we were in high school, and back then snowboard was truly the Rebel Yell of the ski industry and boarding was banned from all kinds of resorts. For those of you who know the sport, my board is a Salomon Prelude. Yep, that’s right, it’s that old. The Prelude was the prototype for Salomon’s first board; it was never even mass-produced. And it is one sweet ride. And even though I’ve upgraded my boots and bindings over the years, I have never felt compelled to replace that board. It is perfect in its simplicity.

But when Stan and I hit the slopes the other night, I wasn’t on my board. I chose instead to test the mettle of my legs by spending the night on my tele skis, or telemark skis. And as much as I love my board, I have to say that I love my tele skis even more because even though I’ve been involved in snow sports since practically the first day I walked (apparently my Dad had me on cross-country skis when I was three), tele skiing is a formidable challenge. It’s also the perfect sport for small resort skiing for someone who will only contemplate catching air when the landing is cushioned by two feet of powder!

For those of you who still can’t quite picture what I mean by tele ski, hang in there. I’m hatching a post on the history of the sport as a write. So until next week, happy trails!

Thanks to http://www.kbski.com for the photo of the Central lift chair and http://www.nelsap.org for the photo of an inoperational single chair in Belleayre, NY.

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(Or, Why I Don’t Hate Christmas)

  1. Think of others first. This is utterly Machiavellian, but you will feel better as you reflect fondly upon your generous Christmas spirit. If nothing else, you can at least try to convince yourself that your charitable nature is making the world a better place. Those of you who know me personally know that I’m not actually this awful, but desperate times–holiday with family–call for desperate measures.
  2. Feel free to splurge on wine. You’ll probably need it. (If you are underage, move on to number 3.) My personal favorite is the Western NY wine superstore, Premier Wine and Spirits. I can easily lose track of two hours reading the delightful little blurbs taken from Wine Spectator and those written by the store’s employees. I like to see how well I can do with a $10 per bottle limit. You’d be surprised just how many bottles rated 90+ fall into that category!
  3. Play with your nieces and nephews. They will rekindle your Christmas spirit like nothing else. My husband’s side of the family combined forces this year to buy Nintendo Wii and Guitar Hero III for our nephews and niece. I can already hear them arguing over whose turn it is to play!
  4. Have several good books on hand. This Christmas, I would like to get through Toni Morrison’s Beloved and finish Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth and Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie. Because it’s now way too insane to brave shopping locally, I’d recommend checking out Barnes & Noble or Amazon.
  5. Use your time wisely. I promised myself no grading over break, but since I’m going to be on the road for six hours between Buffalo and Ithaca, there’s no reason I can’t devote that time to getting such unpleasantries out the way.
  6. Play in the snow. I’m a little bummed that the Nor’easter hit north of Buffalo, but I have no fear that Eden will live up to its snowy reputation once again this year. I’m going to get my cross-country ski equipment sorted and ready to go so I can pop out the back door at a moment’s notice. I’m going to ask Stan (are you reading this, hon?) to set up a little workshop in the basement, so I can wax my skis in five minutes or less.
  7. Bake cookies. The cross-country skiing will offset the calories. My personal favorites are pinwheels and pizelles, both recipes from my grandmother. But if you are looking for something new, Epicurious has a recipe database so enormous you could spend days just navigating it.
  8. Rent a BBC mystery series from Blockbuster or Netflix. When it’s too blustery to ski and you’ve maxed out on reading for a day, there is nothing better than lolling about on the couch watching a television series you’d never have the time for otherwise.
  9. And last but not least, don’t spend too much time cleaning because holiday decorations cover dust. Your humble abode will only going to get messed up by all the activity anyway. Save your energy for conversation and cooking.

As you well know, I’m a New York Times junkie. Admittedly their coverage of upstate issues is a little weak, but I’ve always considered them a national news source and never held this against them.

I religiously read the Times‘ book review, front page stories, opinion pages, education section, and Judith Warner’s blog, “Domestic Disturbances.” Other sections are hit and miss depending on topic. So it was in this vein that I was pleased to see the formation of yet another new blog, “Slapshot.” I’m not much of a hockey fan myself, but I was excited to share my find with pretty much everyone else I know, because they are some of the most passionate fans in the league. (I live in Buffalo. It’s cold here. Hockey keeps you going through those long gray days.) But lo and behold, the Buffalo Sabres failed to even make the tagline of this New York-based blog that even includes the Devils! Are we so invisible? Do anyone remember our season last year? We nearly went home with the Cup!

I’m not one who unrealistically believes that winning a national championship will change the face of Buffalo forever, especially since outside of Western New York, this team rarely gets the credit it deserves. I’m sorry to say that my latest discovery only reinforces my belief that bringing home the Stanley Cup will not work miracles. So, if you are local, forgive my rant–I know I’m preaching to the choir, but if you happen to be someone who doesn’t live within a one hundred mile radius of the City of Buffalo, then please take note, we do exist!

So it finally happened. Ron Hawkins live again. And, oh yes, every single one of my absurdly unobtainable expectations was met. The show rocked.

Hawkins Acoustic

The first half of the show featured Hawkins performing a range of songs from previous albums including the Low and Rusty Nails tunes in a solo acoustic format. He was later joined by Rusty Nails dummer Mark Hansen and bassist Dylan Parker* and together they performed much of the material released on Hawkins’ new album Chemical Sounds including the song “Anonymous,” which Hawkins introduced as a song about leaving behind a fingerprint on the world as a trace of your presence. Maybe that’s a good analogy for life, because what else is it that we try to do with every friend we make, every person we love, everything we say, write, create? The fact that so few of us will actually be remembed only adds to the poignancy of our acts.

Hawkins5

I like the material on Chemical Sounds. As with most of his more recent albums, it includes a combination of rock songs and ballads which somehow manages to let him be thoughful (even sentimental–I uncharacteristically love the song to his daughter because it comes straight from the heart) and fun at the same time. One of the reasons I think that I gravitate toward Hawkins so much is that I self-centeredly think that we are at the same place in life. It’s a good place to be–past the heady rebel yell days of youth, newly aware of our own limitations and limited time here. But maybe that makes it a scary place to be too because we are–well, I am–at a crossroads.

As Hawkins explained in an interview with Niagara Gazette reporter Kevin Purdy prior to the show, the name of the album is a tribute to the Toronto recording studio where the album was made which has since been demolished to make room for new condominiums. The album itself was a solo effort since other band members could not take the time off work necessary to complete the studio work. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s an acoustic release, because Hawkins laid down all the tracks necessary to achieve the rock band sound he’s best known for. (I’m sparing you all the starry-eyed genius compliments running through my head, but those of you who know me will recognize the tone of an adolescent schoolgirl crush anyways.)

Amp
Hawkins’ Amp

Thanks, Stan, for the awesome photos.

*And, thank you queen_of_google for pointing out my misidentification of bassist Dylan Parker!

Chemical Sounds (album cover)

Poor Ron Hawkins, no mere mortal has ever had to achieve such absurdly over the top expectations. Even though he’s never let me down before, it may not be possible for any human being to live up to my uber hyped-up anticipation of his upcoming concert. It’s just that it has been so long since I’ve seen him live; it’s just that he’s on my list; it’s just that, well, he’s Ron Hawkins.

You may recollect from a previous post that I was first introducted to RH about thirteen years ago when I first started dating my husband. Back then music made me nervous. What was good? What did I like? Now I see listening to new music a little more like tasting the local brew at an English pub. Diversity is good. Homegrown is good. Not perfect is good. (I’m a believer in flaws; believing in them seems to be a better philosophy than despising yourself for being less than perfect.) So by those standards, Ron Hawkins is a god, although, by those standards we are all pretty much gods. Hmmm. Not sure what to make of that.

Still not convinced? Completely lost? Welcome to the inner workings of my mind. It’s a rather confusing place to live. And for those of you who know me personally, this ought to explain the near-constant befuddled look on my face. I’m going in circles here. I’ll try to focus. Ron Hawkins. Song lyrics. I’ve included some of my favorites below. Hopefully these will clarify what I’ve been unable to say.

The Secret of My Excess (album cover)

from “Butterfly” off of The Secret of My Excess

I’ll give you a secret
that I know you’ll never keep
you give me the killing floor
and I’ll promise not to leap
’cause deep inside our skulls
there is a nest of small cocoons
you’ll wake one night in a cockroach sweat
underneath an insect moon
shakin’ like a butterfly
shakin’ like a butterfly
shakin’ like a butterfly… stuck through
shakin’ like a butterfly
shakin’ like a butterfly
shakin’ like a butterfly… it’s true… so true

Even though it’s downright creepy, I like the image of a butterfly stuck through because I think it explains our fagility and vulnerability as humans. At times each of us acts as though we live in isolation from the rest of the world (in a cocoon), but inevitably our actions have broader implications, whether it be the wife who cheats on her husband or the woman who gets and abortion (as Hawkins explores in the first two verses of the song). And while Hawkins develops this image, he simultaneously suggests that there are two cocoons on the verge of rupture, the second one within each of us that leads to the a tumultuous change of self. Maybe it is more precise to say that the rending of the cocoons in our brains leads to the eruption of events outside our beings. Finally, his choice to represent this figuratively as a butterfly impaled with a pin is interesting because it seems to suggest that the metamorphosis is beautiful but risky too. And all of that from one song. Including his most recent album, he has written 95 of those. Do you begin to understand my obsession now?

In case you are curious, here’s the concert information. Saturday, November 3, The Tralf, doors open at 7 PM, show at 8 PM. Tickets on sale at the door and through Ticketmaster.

Hawkins’ most recent album is called Chemical Sounds and is only available from Victimless Capitalism, though I assume he will also have copies for sale at the show.

Sources: The album covers and song lyrics can all be found on Hawkins’ website.

You’ve never heard of punk bluegrass before? Well, me either until I heard the Avett Brothers play Saturday night at the Town Ballroom. They are primarily a bluegrass band, but their songs reflect a punk influence. And I’m laughing as I write this because I never would have expected to come across such a group, but there they were up on stage in downtown Buffalo. You don’t believe me? Well, check out their performance on Conan O’Brien below and tell me what you think!

Here’s the lowdown on the show. The band consists of four members, all of whom contribute vocals. The Avett brothers play banjo and acoustic guitar primarily, though both play drums and electric guitar also. The other two band members play cello and sting bass, and the bassist also plays bass guitar. You could have told me as much and without seeing them I would have already been impressed because 1. I love the diversity, and 2. how many bands can boast a cellist? That’s seriously cool. The band has no drummer per se, instead the Avett’s play bass drum and cymbals with their feet while they are playing lead banjo/guitar! They also happen to be the two lead singers. Watching them do all this at once boggled my mind.

The title of the post refers to something that Scotty Avett said during one of their many pauses midstream as either he or his brother momentarily stopped to tune their instruments, which pretty much reflects the spirit of the show and maybe the band in general. They played with such ferocity that one or the other of them broke a string more or less every song, which meant frequent swapping out of instruments. But this did nothing to slow them down because they had backups on hand and were adept at improvising midstream while wiggling out of one guitar strap into another. It truly was a sight to behold.

Finally, thank you WordPress and Mike Loranty because Stan tells it, it’s thanks to this blog and my one regular reader (other than Stan, who doesn’t have a choice) that we first heard mention of this band. That’s enough reason for me to keep writing because I had an awesome time at the show and it completely made up for the disaster of a night at the Matt Good concert the previous night.

Matt Good

Friday night was supposed to be the kick-off of a great weekend, unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be the great start I imagined it would be. We had tickets to see Matthew Good, one of my husband’s favorite musicians. What’s so great about Matt Good? I honestly don’t know. I generally respect my husband’s musical tastes, so I’ve been trying to get into Matt Good ever since Stan first introduced him to me, but without much luck. Everything he plays is in a minor key and Stan claims that his lyrics are interesting, but I can’t get past his whiny voice enough to actually hear them.

So, this Friday we went to see Matt Good live at Club Infinity. And I’m a sucker for live music, so I figured this would push me over onto the Matt Good fan club side of things. Only, things didn’t turn out that way. First, I was exhausted. I had a really long week for a bunch of reasons that are too boring to go into, but suffice it to say that I hate PowerGrade. Second, there was no AC at Club Infinity. I don’t know if it was broken or off or what, but it was about a hundred degrees in there. Third, the audience sucked. One of the reasons I love live music so much is the positive vibe you always get from the audience. Only this time it wasn’t there this time. Who knows, maybe it was the lack of air, but this crowd was drunk and surly, like a frat party gone bad. Finally, the show was acoustic. Now this might have been nice if there had been some place to sit, but no, every last chair and table in the club had vanished to the land of we don’t want any lawsuits, so we were standing around in the makeshift sauna trying to groove on all these songs written with the chronically depressed in mind. Like I said, not so good. We left early. (In poor Mr. Good’s defense, virtually none of this was his fault.)

Sources: the picture of Matt Good comes from the WordPress blog, Vast Open Space.

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