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Welcome to buffalostories.com!

The history of Buffalo, one story at a time.

The Buffalo Stories Archives is the result of decades’ worth of the passionate collection of Buffalo’s day-to-day Pop Culture history by Steve Cichon.

The online portion of the archive is representative of the thousands of local books, magazines and newspapers, thousands of images and photos, and thousands of tapes and digital files of audio and video recordings contained in just over a thousand square feet of storage space.

Far from the Library of Congress or The Buffalo History Museum, at the heart of our archive is the cast away, in many cases literally garbage-picked collections and items that have often been rejected by everyone else.

It’s Buffalo’s story in a microcosm. What others have cast away; we whip up into something special.

About Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo’s past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News.

He’s a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon’s been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special.

The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives– hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.

While wearing his signature bow tie, Cichon puts his wide range of professional experience—from college professor, to PBS documentary producer, to radio news director, to candidate for countywide elected office—to work in producing meaningful interpretations of the two centuries worth of everything that makes Buffalo the one-of-a-kind place that we love.

When you browse the blog here at Buffalo Stories LLC, you’re bound to not only relive a memory– but also find some context for our pop culture past– and see exciting ways how it might fit into our region’s boundless future.

Why? Western New York’s embedded in his DNA. Steve’s Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.

Categories:

Buffalo’s Pop Culture Heritage
The essence of Buffalo Stories is defining and
celebrating the people, places, and things that make Buffalo… Buffalo. That’s Buffalo’s pop culture heritage-– and that’s what you’ll find here.

Buffalo’s Radio & TV 
Irv. Danny. Van. Carol. The men and women who’ve watched and listened to have become family enough that we only need their first names. Buffalo has a deep and rich broadcasting history.  Here are some of the names, faces, sounds and stories which have been filling Buffalo’s airwaves since 1922.

 Buffalo’s Neighborhoods
North and South Buffalo. The East and West Sides.  But how many neighborhoods can you name that don’t fit any of those descriptions? From the biggest geographical sections, to the dozens of micro-neighborhoods and hundreds of great intersections.

Parkside
There is a category for Buffalo Neighborhoods, but as the historian of Buffalo’s Parkside Neighborhood, and having written two books on the neighborhood’s history, giving the Fredrick Law Olmsted designed Parkside Neighborhood it’s own category makes sense.

Family & Genealogy
My family history is Buffalo history. All eight of my great-grandparents lived in Buffalo, including my Great-Grandma Scurr, who is among the children in this Doyle family photo taken in Glasgow, Scotland. Aside from Scotland, my great-grandparents came from Pennsylvania, Poland, and England. One branch of my family tree stretches back to Buffalo in the 1820s, and a seventh-great aunt was among the first babies baptized at St. Louis Roman Catholic church back in 1829, when the church was still a log cabin.

&c, &c, &C: reflections from Steve’s desk
While my primary focus for this site is sharing about things that make Buffalo wonderful and unique, sometimes I have other thoughts, too. I share those here, along with some of the titles from other categories which I’ve written about in a more personal manner.

Buffalo Stories Bookstore
Buy Steve’s five books and other special offers from Buffalo Stories LLC.

BN Chronicles
Steve’s daily looks back at Buffalo’s past from the archives of The Buffalo News and Buffalo Stories LLC. Weekly features include “Torn Down Tuesday” and “What it looked like Wednesday,” along with decade by decade looks at what Buffalo used to be– and how we got here from there.


Thank you, WNY!

Buffalo Spree’s Best of WNY: Best Blogger

It’s an honor to have my work recognized, especially when it helps call to attention a very important topic.

READ: A brief memoir in depression and anxiety

As appeared in Buffalo Spree, August 2018


By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

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Episode 13: Gramps and his Wall of Pop

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Pop tasted so much better in those 16oz glass bottles.

Coke Pepsi RC Cola… Cardboard eight packs filled with loose glass bottles lined the bottom shelf of the pop aisle at every supermarket in Buffalo and they were always on sale.

But even when they weren’t on sale, buying those 8 packs of glass bottles was the cheapest way to buy the name brand pop.

That’s why Gramps loved ’em and literally filled the hall with them.
Grandma Cichon lived a few doors from Seneca Street in a worn out, but grand old house.

When you walked in the front door and looked straight ahead, you looked through the front hall, then a more narrow hallway, and then right into the kitchen.

It was in that narrow hallway where there was always enough pop stacked up to quench the thirst of a small army. With 10 kids, that’s pretty much what Gramps had— and he’d buy all the pop he could when it was on sale whether he needed it or not.

When you look straight past the pop, if Grandma wasn’t at the stove cooking, you’d see her first thing when you’d swing open that heavy front door.

She was always sitting at the head of the worn out white Formica kitchen table— complete with a cup of instant coffee in a gold butterfly mug and Kool 100 burning in the over-full ashtray.

If you creaked open that big door and looked slightly to the right— and he wasn’t working one of the three jobs he still had when I was a kid— Gramps would be sitting in that well-used comfy chair just on the other side of the beautiful leaded glass doors which lead into the parlor.

Grandma generally would see us first, and start to say hello, before Gramps– who was much closer– would take his eyes off of Lawrence Welk or Bugs Bunny to intercept us for a minute.

“Ha’oh dere, son,” Gramps would say in a pretty thick standard Buffalo Polish accent.

I had no idea there was anything to notice about that. Isn’t that how everyone’s Grandpa talked?

“Can I get you a glass of pop or a sandwich?” Gramps would ask reflexively, and immediately piss off my ol’man.

“Jesus Christ, Dad, it’s ten o’clock in the mornin’,” Dad would say, walking toward Grandma in the kitchen.

As we kids run in to give him a hug, Gramps would ignore my ol’man completely and give an inventory in case we were hungry.

“Well help yourself. In the ice box we got two kinds of baloney… Polish loaf… olive loaf… pimento loaf… ham…”

The sound of his voice would trail off as we walked through the narrow hallway filled with pop on the way to the kitchen.

I wouldn’t think anything of this hallway until twenty years later, when the girlfriend-who-became- my-wife asked me about it after visiting Gramps.

In the same way I never thought anything about my grandpa’s Polish accent, I never thought anything about the supermarket end cap worthy pop display.

That’s barely an exaggeration.

The entire length of the ten-foot long walkway had pop cans and bottle pushed up against the wall, stacked two or three deep and two, three, or four high in some places.

It was mystical and mystifying. Gramps’ pop display was far more impressive than what you’d have seen at Quality Food Mart, half a block away at Seneca and Duerstein. Better selection, too.

There were 2-liter and 3-liter bottles; flat, mixed-flavored cases of grocery-store brand cans; some times a wooden case or two from Visniak, but more than anything else, 8-pack after 8-pack of glass bottles.

As I mentioned, Gramps had ten kids— but there weren’t ten kids living there at the time.

Huns, it’s for the kids, Gramps would say as Grandma would yell at him coming home from grocery shopping with more pop when there were already hundreds of servings of soda pop lined up waist high, the first thing you see when you walk into the house.

I’m sure there was something about taking advantage of a good sale… or getting one over on a cashier with an expired coupon… or (put a star next to this one) getting under my grandmother’s skin by buying things she’d say they didn’t need…

But Gramps wasn’t a drinker. Never a beer or a highball, but would relax with a coffee or a pop.

He also really wanted to share his pop, and make sure you knew it was OK to take it. He wasn’t just being polite in offering it. That wall was there to prove, “I got plenty! Go ahead and take one!”

You could expect to refuse a pop at least three or four times while visiting with Gramps, and then one more on the way out.

And of course, this stuff was pop. I don’t think I even heard the word soda until was 8 years old.

“Sure you don’t want a pop, son? Why don’t you take some home? I’ll get you a bag.”

Episode 12: John Rigas – More than one thing is usually true

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Almost 20 years after the corporate balloon he helped inflate burst— I still don’t know what to think about Adelphia Communications founder John Rigas, who died this week at the age of 96.

I worked for him for a couple of years just before he was sent to federal prison and the company was bankrupted.

It’s was a bizarre moment… sitting in my Adelphia middle manager’s office watching video of him being lead off in handcuffs on the NBC Nightly News, with the reporter making reference to “Adelphia’s management team” being arrested– somewhat chilling, since that could have described me at that point.

I had to lay off a handful of friends and co-workers because they were hired using the convoluted process that was a part of Adelphia’s shell game style of bookkeeping.

In the end, my job, and the jobs of all of my friends at the Empire Sports Network and WNSA Radio were lost. I was mostly unemployed for a year.

I personally lost thousands of dollars in talent fees and retirement earnings— many lost much, much more.

But as far as Mr. Rigas himself— the honorific still feels appropriate— in each of the many personal interactions I had with him, I always found him to be warm, kind, and humble.

After his arrest, though, little things began making sense.

The story I most often tell about Mr. Rigas is about the time I went to his office to interview him. He was gracious and welcoming to me. Also in the room were two executive managers whose salaries were both well into six figures.

As Mr. Rigas and I made small talk before the interview started, he excused himself and called a quarter-million dollars’ worth of Vice Presidents over by their first names and asked, “Can one of you get me a cup of coffee?”

The two men, with very important high-ranking jobs and tremendous responsibility within the company, nearly killed each other racing for the door to be able to get “the boss” his coffee first.

The whole ordeal felt sinister and abusive in the moment, and it was proven that this incident was reflective of the way the company was run all the time.

I learned a lot from Mr. Rigas and from working within the corporate structure he lorded over, and nearly all of it was “the way not to do things.”

There was what I can only imagine to have been genuine personal kindness to my face— but that doesn’t mesh with the ruthlessness with which he and his family played with and damaged the lives of their employees, including many of my friends and many reading this right now.

May perpetual light shine upon him.

May we also learn from the selfishness, greed, and power thirst that knocked him from his great heights.

Episode 11: Understanding Christ in 3 minutes or less

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Religion, Christianity, can be utterly complicated.

But to understand Jesus, one simply has to go find a good translation of the Bible where Christ’s words are written in red.

Just read the red words. Christ’s words are straightforward.

If that sounds like too much work, read even just the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7.)

If you take this straight forward speech in, ruminate upon it as new material and apply basic sixth grade level reading comprehension skills, you’ll come to understand Christ made it unbelievably simple.

Sixth grade reading level is all you need because he’s direct.

No interpretation is needed– unless you’re trying to squeeze in your own BS.

No gray areas or yeah-buts.

The themes are super easy and laid right out. Points from the Sermon on the Mount in order.

Know that if you’re blessed somehow– that blessing was given to the world through you.

Let your light shine.

All of this is equally important—you can’t pick or chose which to follow.

Before you come before God to pray—be sure your conscience is clear and you are reconciled with your brothers.

Be merciful in making peace—or you will find yourself in need of mercy.

The desire to sin is as bad as the sin itself—stay away from both.

Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

Love your enemies. (Bless them, in fact.)

Do good for the sake of doing good, not a pat on the back.

You can’t serve two masters. You can’t serve God and wealth. You can’t serve good and evil.

Consume simply. Don’t worry about tomorrow.

Don’t judge because you will be judged by the standards by which you judge.

Value the things that are valuable in your life.

Treat others the way you want to be treated.

It’s easy to go astray, but following the more difficult righteous path offers the life you seek.

Good people show goodness. Evil people show evil. Know the difference.

Build your life on these teachings and you will weather the storm of life.

Add in a couple more of Christ’s teachings–

Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Give away all your possessions and follow me.

People will know you are my followers when they see the way you love one another.

That’s just about all Christ gave us. That’s it.

Be defiantly good. Defiantly love people. Defiantly don’t be a jerk.

These ideas are all that the first Christians (the ones taught by Christ himself) knew– and it’s all I need.

Episode 10: Best car, worst car

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

It’s only by good luck that I survived driving my first car— an original Volkswagen Beetle. It was a beaten-up, road hazard death trap.

But man I loved it.

Sahara Beige was the color when it left the factory— but it was more primer and bondo by the time I bought it off a front lawn in Niagara Falls for something like 400 or 500 bucks.

It really wasn’t even street legal— back then, a couple of extra bucks could usually get you an inspection sticker whether your car was roadworthy or not.

I loved this car, it was far and away the coolest ride in my high school parking lot.

There was even a scene like from a movie when a cute girl said, “This is a really cool car,” and I felt like looking into the camera like Ferris Bueller and giving the double eyebrow raise.

I learned to drive stick in this car in the Seneca Mall parking lot with my ol’man. In that parking lot, outside the old Penney’s, is where I got pulled over for the first time.

The West Seneca cop saw me driving back and forth and thought I was trying to run over seagulls. Man, my dad was pissed.

Hahaha.

Of course, if we’re being honest, the memory of this broken down Beetle is great— but I’m also glad I don’t have to drive it everyday.

If I think about this car long enough, my stomach turns and my nostrils with the once familiar essence of gas fumes, degrading Naugahyde, and some since- discontinued floral Lysol trying to mask the other two.

There were no working gauges (including speedometer and gas), no working heat, and plenty of character.

I daydream about this first car I ever owned often— but I rarely think about my second car.

Man I hated it— but it was the most underrated vehicle I’ve ever owned.
The 1987 Dodge Colt (manufactured in Japan by Mitsubishi) was an ugly, generic-looking 80s Japanese hatchback hand-me-down from my parents.

My ol’man had been in two accidents with it and didn’t get it fixed— so it was ugly and busted up.

And it was also embarrassing to drive because the fan belt made a loud, high-pitch squeal the first 15 minutes or so it was driven.

That dented and crunched-up little crap box would actually scream LOOK AT ME, when that’s the last thing I’d have wanted anyone do.

Driving it was a continuation of the disappointing feeling I’d always had for the gold Colt from the very beginning, since it replaced our brown 1980 AMC Spirit as a family car.

The poor Colt never really had a chance. It was a sad final drive with my ol’man, smoke belching from the Spirit form the still solid, American-built tank as we dropped it off to trade in for the light, plastic-y, insect-like Colt.
Even the key was a disappointment.

I thought we’d get a cool Dodge/Chrysler key with the iconic 5-point star/pentagon logo on them— but instead this car had giant, odd shaped keys with MITSUBISHI stamped across the top.

So gross.

Ugly, disappointing, and some serious bad mojo, too.

Dad was rear-ended so hard in the Colt that the bucket seats were permanently bent— and he had to have surgery from the resulting whiplash.

The car would almost certainly be totaled today— and who knows, maybe it was then, but we drove it for years.

I also remember from the passenger seat the time when a kid on a bike cut out in front of my dad on Seneca Street.

The bike wound up mangled, and while the kid bounced off and permanently dented the hood— the teenager was fine.

My dad drove him and his crumpled bike home to Duerstein Street.

Once he dropped the kid off at home, my ol’man, a Parliament with too much ash dangling from his lip, told me if he ever saw me riding my bike like that I “wouldn’t have to worry about a car because he’d grab me and rip my goddamn head off.”

(It was his way of saying he cares 🙂 )

The Colt had been passed around the family for a couple of years— a couple of different uncles drove it— before the short time I used it to get to work and school.

I did my best to upgrade the car which, by this point looked like it had been abandoned in the streets of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War.

I went to Kmart— and bought and installed a radio with a cassette deck, making the music coming out of the single speaker in the middle of the dashboard a bit more tolerable.

I also went to a head shop and bought a bunch of stickers, most of which were for bands I had no interest in— but I had to put SOMETHING on this car to make it less ugly.

One of the stickers was a giant Jerry Garcia Desert Face decal— and while I wasn’t a deadhead, I at least knew who he was and I had Touch of Grey on a few of the mix cassettes that were the vehicle’s sound track… so there was that.

It wasn’t long before I passed this car along to some other desperate-for-transportation family member, and I bought myself a well-used 1986 Volkswagen Golf from a driveway on Kenmore Avenue near the Boulevard.

Anyway, something made me think of the ol’ Dodge Colt, which deserves a second look from someone for something other than that screaming fan belt.

Episode 9: Never forget– Our trauma is their normal

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Never forget.

Never forget what?

Is there anyone who was alive and aware of what was going on that day who can’t remember every painful second of the day?

Is there anyone who can sit through a TV news story with somber music and those too real stories and the archival video from that day and the days after– can anyone who remembers that day sit through that without choking back tears and choking back vomit and reliving the bottomless horror and not being sure whether we’d have a world to wake up to the next day?

I spent the whole day at the controls of a radio station… mostly running the live airfeed of CNN, and occasionally giving a local station break or offering important local information. As people went home to pick up their kids or take care of family or just be swept up in horrific tragedy, I sat mostly alone in a windowless radio control room… Keeping it together to do my job. Being completely immersed in it, but processing only what I needed to process to keep the station on the air.  

No photo description available.

When I got home after 10 or so hours of that—I collapsed on the couch as the whole day hit me all at once. Just like every other American that day, pieces of my soul were shattered and melted and forever changed.

For everyone, for this country—there was before and there was after.  

That’s where “never forget” hits me these days. None of us will ever forget that—but part of understanding and remembering and explaining the history lesson of it all, is to try to remember and describe and feel what the before times were like—and how the completely unimaginable murder of 3,000 people shattered every American and shattered the American way of life like throwing a beer bottle against a brick wall.

We say never forget because we want to make sure the next generation knows. But what America lost that day is so much more horrifying than even the stories we can tell about brave firefighters and police, of civilian heroes who punctuated one of the most selfless acts in out nation’s history with “Let’s roll,” more than the stories of those who made the choice to end suffering that day on their own terms and seared the image of their final moments leaping and crashing toward the earth.

Two decades later, those frightful stories are still with us—but also with us is the memory of those before times. To fully understand the misery of that day, we have to remember a time before our hearts hardened, our eyes steeled, and before we carved off portions of the idea what American freedom means—in order to preserve the rest of it.  

We say never forget—but there really aren’t words to help someone who doesn’t remember the before times understand. They’ve grown up with the tougher heart and more aware eyes. They will never understand the idea of American freedom and the American way of life as we knew it when our alarm clocks rang on the morning of September 11, 2001.  

Our trauma has become their way of life. It’s almost too much to bear. God bless those people whose lives were lost this day twenty years ago, God bless their families, God bless us and God Bless America—the way it was, the way it is, and the way it will be.

Episode 8: My Ol’man loved booze and his birthday

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Just after my birthday, at the end of August… my ol’man would start talking about his birthday coming up.

He was born December 10, 1951,coming a couple of months premature.

In 1951, a couple months premature was usually a death sentence.

The scene would have made that death sentence even more likely.

It was in a long gone, old tenement-looking building behind City Hall, Steven Patrick Cichon was delivered in a 4th floor apartment kitchen during a raging snow storm.

This was the fifth of eleven babies for Grandma Cichon. She put her newborn preemie in the oven to keep him warm until an ambulance could take him the few blocks up Niagara Street to Columbus Hospital.

Nurses quickly christened him right on the spot— not expecting the little oven-warmed human to make it, but the fight was the first of many low-percentage fights he’d win.

Starting with those first few moments, the path laid out for my ol’man was never smooth. He was angry and cranky a lot— but if you could work a conversation into something about his birthday— his favorite day of the year— it was almost always an instant transport back to happier and carefree times.

Once the Fair was over, and my birthday passed, and we were heading back to school, Dad would start reminding us that his birthday was coming up— and that he’d want a BIG PRESENT… those words said with his arms outstretched and his eyes opened wide.

By November, he’d be getting into specifics. Occasionally, he actually needed something, which was great. Otherwise, fraught with danger and anxiety, we’d have to come up with something on our own.

Despite what you might think about someone in your life, rest assured, that my mean, crazy, loving, tender, anti-bullshit, anti-things ol’man was indeed, the most difficult person ever for whom to buy a present.

That is… Until I turned 21.

The ol’man spent the last decade or so of his life barely ambulatory. He was a diabetic, and went through several unsuccessful surgeries to save his foot; the there were several surgeries to remove his leg right below the knee.

His body and his spirits were greatly weakened by all the surgeries, and laying in hospital beds, and never really getting the hang of the prosthetic leg that he only rarely even tried on.

He would have disagreed violently with the idea— but for the last ten years or so of his life, Dad was wheelchair-bound.

He wasn’t a heavy drinker, but c’mon— the guy owned a tavern at point. He liked the occasional, or slightly-more than occasional whiskey.

Never straight, though, that whiskey— he’d mix it with just about anything. Iced tea, Diet 7-up, Diet Ginger Ale. His tastes changed often, but I think Ginger Ale was his favorite.

Even though he’d eat three doughnuts with impunity, he always made sure he had diet pop because of his diabetes.

At his last birthday dinner at his favorite restaurant— a sports bar, really— he tried to order a whiskey and diet ginger ale, but alas, like any other bar/restaurant in America, they didn’t have diet ginger ale.

He ordered something else, and when the waitress went away, he whispered to us, talking out of the side of his mouth, “No diet ginger ale? In a fancy place like this?!?”

“In a fancy place like this” is one of the few PG-rated lines from my dad I repeat often and with growing appreciation.

At home, it was whiskey and diet ginger ale— so long as he had the whiskey.
Buying dad a bottle was great. He’d take a quick peek in the gift bag and then put it right back before quietly rolling right down to his office, and once again quietly opening that drawer to slip the booze in the drawer so my mom wouldn’t know. (Yeah, right.)

Anyway, he couldn’t drive anymore and couldn’t make it to the liquor store himself anymore to get himself a little booze.

He was reliant on other people to bring him a taste every once in a while.
And in what I now look at as my last great gift to my father, I was his hook up.”Give me a big bottle of the cheap stuff, instead of that little bottle (of the good stuff),” he’d start whispering to me when the leaves started to change.
From everyone else, I’d get grief for bringing him a little ‘Old Grandad,’ ‘Kesslers,’ ‘Philadelphia,’ or ‘Old Crow,’ because even a little too much would send his blood sugar out of whack. But it was his last joy in life, and I couldn’t deny him.

He be mildly disappointed when I’d get him the little bottle… but my hope was with that he’d only have one drink at a time to try to stretch it out a little more. That usually worked.

Father’s Day, birthday, Christmas. Dad knew what was coming from me, and part of the gift was giving him reason to devise some sort of ruse to make sure my mother “didn’t know” he’d just gotten some booze.

As he was executing said ruse, he’d quietly, but with the tone implying yelling, ask me why the hell I didn’t get him the big bottle.

Just like with most dads, my ol’man took more than his share of good-natured jibes from the family all year.

But none on his birthday. He loved that— it might have been his favorite part of the day.

He loved even more when someone would let one slip, and he was able to remind, “Not on my birthday!”

Though the polka classic reminds that in heaven there is no beer— on December 10, I know there’s cheap, crappy, blended whiskey in heaven.

And Dad’s drinking it by the gallon with plenty of diet ginger ale. They must have it in a fancy place like heaven.

Episode 7: When Anxious turns Panic

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

To describe the sensation can be elusive, but it often starts just a smidge beyond physical— kinda like the feeling someone is watching you.

Sometimes, that grows into general uneasiness. It’s dull pain in a hard-to-define area like pressing your thumb into an almost-healed bruise.

It’s the insatiable feeling of trying to breathe deeply on a hot, humid day, but not finding enough air to suck in.

It’s not dying of thirst, but it’s thirsty enough to quickly drink a whole glass of water and still be thirsty— but afraid to drink anymore because it’ll hurt your stomach.

Sometimes you can catch it and slow it down, but sometimes it takes you by surprise or there’s too much of something else going on, and it just keeps running in the background.

It’s a cramp you can’t quite stretch out enough and you know once you relax that extension your muscle’s cramping right back up again.

It starts getting harder to ignore with a strong pulsating heartbeat at the back of your throat and the feeling your brain might start swirling out of your ears.

It’s being very palpably scared and angry and sick— but at shadows rather than anything in particular.

It’s years of practice of trying to make your face look normal while your brain and your soul are screaming like they are being murdered.
Sometimes it’s a minute or two.

Sometimes it comes in waves for hours or days, and you feel like your in the surf being flung against the rocks over and over and over and over.

It’s horror and terror, and all you can do to fit it is to breathe, nervously move your hands, and pray the spinning stops.

Anxiety and panic feed into themselves and while you hope it ends soon, part of you is certain it never will.

Until it does. And the beat goes on.

Episode 6: My laugh is Grandma Cichon’s laugh

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Sometimes when I see something whimsical or beautiful or absurd some deep part of me which I don’t control laughs.

Technically some kind of chuckle with squinted eyes and a wide grin, the laugh is a release of joy.

It’s also weird.

Laughter, where it doesn’t belong is a red flag and catches me plenty of strange looks and people slowly taking a step or two away.

Believe me, I see the looks— I’m not that far gone. But I know in reality, they are the ones far gone.

More people would laugh in more situations like the ones I do, I think, but society has tortured us into constraining our emotions. Or to be to busy to feel them. Or to feel shame for feeling them.

Admittedly, I wasn’t always on the right side of this story.

As a little little boy, I remember wondering what the hell Grandma Cichon was laughing at.

It was usually dogs or kids or nature, and I didn’t get it. And sometimes, if something I did that was the cause of the laughter— and I wasn’t feeling funny— I might get quietly mad or upset.

But for her own sake, Grandma— the mother of 11– who had lived a life filled with more than her fair share of poverty and relentless hard work and tragedy— she had to take the joy where she could find it. And she did.
So when I laugh when I see a toddler cry or a puppy hurting herself trying to carry a stick three times her own size— it’s not that I find humor in it— it’s that I’m filled with joy.

Joyful that the confidence-filled puppy just took a step in learning about sticks and life.

Joyful that the three-year-old, whose life is as perfect as it’s ever going to be— cries for whatever silly reason makes the poor inconsolable little person cry.

There’s kindness and love in my eyes when I laugh— I promise— even if you can’t see it. I can only hope for your sake the world’s sake— that some day you might laugh, too.

That has to be the thought that Grandma Cichon had, too— when she sensed that little Stevie didn’t understand the laughter.

Sometimes, when I think about it, I wish I could hear Grandma’s breathy, dry little cackle again.

But then I realize I do hear it every time in my own laugh– which makes me laugh.

Episode 5: The never-ending smile of Grandma Coyle

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Grandma Coyle, the saint, died on All Saints Day.

I mean, she wasn’t some perfect saintly woman, but that makes what she gave so much more special.

She swore, drank beer, smoked Parliaments, and she’d crack ya if you needed it. But she also loved all of us fully, completely, and deeply every moment.

Just as important as the love, she constantly let us know how much she loved us.

Her love for all of us was unconditional and ever flowing… And that love just made her so happy.

I loved watching her on holidays– that love filled smile would fill her face every time one of her kids or grandkids or their spouses walked through the door.

The radiance of her heart made the world a better place for the time she was here, and it continues now.

Her heart lives on in all of us who she loved. The love that radiated from her smile every time any of us walked in the room left no question that there was a beautiful woman who loved you with every fiber of her being.

I’m blessed in that just the thought of that smile fills my heart with love enough to share in the way she taught me.

She’s been gone a long time, but the love she built in my heart lasts and grows as her example shows me how to love the people in my life without compromise.

Even if someone doesn’t deserve it. Or if someone needs a crack. Or if someone isn’t wearing an undershirt (the crime of which I was most often guilty in Grandma’s court)… no matter what, love never wavers.

PS… I’m wearing an undershirt.

Episode 4: Crazy Cichons

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

A few years ago, I was a docent at the Erie County Fair Heritage and History Center, and one of the more popular questions was about when the fair was in South Buffalo near Indian Church Road for a few years back in the 1800s.

That inevitably lead me to mention that my grandma lived a block south of Indian Church off Seneca on Fairview, which usually lead to some small talk about who lived where or the bikes in the Babe Boyce store windows and PM Berst Furniture– both of which were at Seneca and Indian Church.

If people don’t seem immediately certain where grandma’s street is, I’ll mention it’s where Heidie’s Tuxedo used to be on the corner.

That sparked something for one guy.

“Heidie’s, right. Yeah, who was that fuckin’ crazy family that lived on Fairview?”

I tried to think of the name of one family a couple of houses down that my ol’man wanted nothing to do with… but then the obvious answer struck me.

“The Cichons?” I asked.

“Holy shit! Yeah, that’s them! They were all fuckin’ crazy! What was your family down there?”

“That’s my family,” I said, expressionless.

The guy’s wife blanched. He started apologizing, mostly, I think, because he was worried he offended a “fuckin’ crazy Cichon.”  But I laughed, and said, “naw, it’s ok– we are crazy.”

He rattled off a list of uncles and a few cousins that he drank with and fought with and fought against.

Then I said, “Yeah, one or two of those guys might get mad when I tell ‘em you think they’re crazy.”

As the color drained from his face again, I said, “Just kidding,” with a smirk.

We chatted a while longer, but I think I tweaked him around enough to maybe watch his back for crazy Cichons for a while. 

Hahaha. He was right. We are a fuckin’ crazy family. Hahahaha.