The heartache of man’s imperfection in God’s church

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The readings on Pentecost are my favorite readings. The message is wonderful and easily received, and I’ve always felt like it’s the one day in the Liturgical year where being a professional announcer was useful—being able to verbally make long lists into a story the people could better understand with my interpretation.

It’s with great sadness that it’ll likely be a long time before I’m able to use those skills which God gave me to help tell his story on Pentecost or any other day.

During my campaign for Erie County Clerk last year, I was relieved of all my ministries at my parish– sacristan, Eucharistic Minister, Lector, and altar server.

A two-word *political* stance printed in the newspaper apparently didn’t pass the *political* litmus test of The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, and without discussion and after an average of 18 hours of weekly volunteer work at my parish, I was stripped of my ministries via email.

On complicated matters of the heart– where questions of what is life and what is womanhood clash, I would expect more delicacy, understanding, and willingness to see good people trying to provide an environment where goodness and truth can thrive through better understanding and love.

That didn’t happen.

I am no longer able to use my God given ability to share His word or volunteer to unlock the doors for daily Mass. The way that happened has brought what has proven to be the greatest sadness of my life.

Some of the lowest points of my life have come sitting in Mass over the seven months, which is a painful contrast to the exuberance I have always felt in church.

Today’s readings– those favorite readings of mine– have brought me some comfort.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

The hardest working man in politics is also the nicest

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

These are the only kinds of photos you get with Erich Weyant— accidental ones, while he’s busy at work.

While Steve shakes hands at a parade, Erich Weyant looks on with camera in hand,

But especially on his birthday, I think that it’s important the world get a good look at one of the most decent, good natured, kind human beings I’ve ever met.

My friends, my family, and anyone who supported my bid for County Clerk should also know that the only reason we came as close as we did was this guy right here.

He’s truly the only person who completely understood my reasoning and vision in running for elected office, while also sharing a commitment to that vision with the same amount of drive, drive, and determination that I had.

For that, I’ll never be able to repay him. (Except by embarrassing him in posts like this on his birthday.)

“The Drury goal” and the elevator dent

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

One of the most memorable moments in Sabres History,  11 years ago today. Game 5, Sabres and Rangers. Jay Moran had already announced, “last minute in regulation time” over the PA. The Sabres were down by a goal.

Then this happened:

“The Drury Goal” made for one of the my most memorable moments in covering sports.

I was in HSBC Arena covering the game, but I didn’t get to see the goal live.

Reporters have to be down in the dressing room/interview room area when the game ends, so we start leaving the pressbox and getting on the elevators with a few minutes left in regulation.

Especially for a playoff game, there are maybe 30 people crammed onto a cargo elevator with a little TV in the corner with the game on. I happened to be jammed next to two of the Rangers players who were scratched from the lineup.

As the elevator very slowly groaned down the five or six levels, I was close enough to hear them talk about their plans for visiting with friends and family during the next round of the playoffs. The win was about to put the Rangers up 3-2 in the series, with the teams heading to New York City for Game 6.

But that quickly changed.

When Drury scored that goal, the elevator shook with the rest of the building. There’s no cheering in the pressbox, but there was an audible bleat of excitement as Jeanneret’s amazing mindless call blared out of the tinny speaker on the tiny TV in the corner of the elevator.

The only noise that wasn’t excitement came from the foot of that New York Rangers player, whose body pressed up against mine when he made the motion to backwards kick the wall of the elevator with his heel– leaving a dent that was there at least through the following season.

That little dent made me smile every time I saw it. The Rangers didn’t make it to the next round of the playoffs. One of my favorite moments in 20 years of covering sports.

Sabres #23 Chris Drury goal with #19 Tim Connolly, during the third period of their game at the HSBC arena in Buffalo, Friday May 4, 2007. (Buffalo News photo/ Mark MULVILLE)

Thank you for sharing your hearts and souls

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

A year ago today I officially announced my candidacy for Erie County Clerk.
If I learned anything over what was –in nearly every way imaginable– the most difficult year of my life, I learned that politics comes alive not in parties or policies or lawn signs, but only when the hearts and souls of the people are touched.
I’m proud to say that we had more heart and soul and love in our nine months on the campaign trail than many of the political lifers have in 40 years of campaigning.
104,000 of our friends and neighbors filled in the bubble next to my name because you made my hopes and dreams your hopes and dreams.
I’m forever indebted to the family and friends old and new who showed so much support and love last year– thanks, now and forever, from the bottom of my heart.

Lovin’ on Letterman back in high school

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Cleaning up in the attic, one box had some high school files in it, including a screen print of a David Letterman drawing I did in 10th grade.

screen print of my 10th grade David Letterman drawing.

I was such a big fan to the point where I wore sneakers with my double-breasted sport coats just like Dave… and, at just barely 16 years old, I used my first radio paycheck (judging by the date on this invoice) to mail order a box of 50 cigars– so I could drive around in my ’74 VW, wearing a bow tie, heading to my job at a radio station with a big ol’stogie going, paying tribute to Letterman and having about the greatest existence any 16 year old could ask for.

I think my plan was to make some kind of “public art installation” (aka graffiti) with my silk screen Dave… but as I recall, the ink didn’t stick to the surface I tried to plaster. What a pisspot. (I don’t think I could define pisspot, but I know one when I see one. And the older I get, the more of them I see!)

33 years later, no longer a cart machine owner

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Milestone: For the first time since 1986, I cannot say the I own a working cart machine.

“Polishing the cart machine” was not a euphemism in my house.

A friend asked me to digitize some carts for him, which I was happy to do– until I tried all four of the cart machines I have in my attic, and they’ve all run out of gas.

On a beautiful summer day when I was 9 years old, my friend gave me the big rack mountable Spotmaster cart machine I’m so diligently cleaning in this photo (while wearing my dad’s dog tags in my bedroom, c. 1989.)

I balanced it on the seat of my bike for the few blocks back to my house, and I’ve had a “real radio station” at home ever since.

Owning a cart machine when I was 9 probably made me feel more like a true radio guy than I do showing up to write and read the news every morning…

Carts have been a part of my life for a long time– playing music and commercials, and taking hours to create audio production pieces that now take about 15 minutes of a computer.

I’ll miss not having a working cart machine, but I’ll hang on to the worn out ones I have– you never know when you’ll need a good boat anchor or three.

Uncle Patrick Norton, grain scooper, lived above The Swannie House

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I’m getting ready for St Patrick’s Day…

In 1900, my third great uncle, Patrick Norton, was a grain scooper (or as the 1900 census has it, Longshoreman, grain) who lived above the Swannie House, 170 Ohio Street, First Ward, Buffalo, USA.

This 1920s photo of the Swannie is from The Buffalo History Museum via The Public. 

His father, Miles Norton, came to the First Ward from Ireland to work in in the grain elevators and along the docks. He died in 1883 at the age of 45.

The Norton family lived a few blocks away in a tenement building at 64 Chicago Street.

Patrick’s sister, my great-great grandmother, Bridget Norton, married a seaman from Prescott, Ontario named Thomas Slattery. Slattery eventually became captain of the Juniata, one of William “Fingy” Conner’s Great Lakes passenger steam ships of the Great Lakes Transit line.

Slattery lived at 26 Indian Church Road, one house from Seneca Street behind Babe Boyce (now Hong Kong Kitchen.)

Remembering the silly and fun with Mom-in-law, three years later

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

My mother-in-law died very suddenly and unexpectedly three years ago today. I’ve never lost anyone suddenly like that, and it makes the pain so much more intense and agonizing. The worst part is the deep shock that everyone feels dampens the celebration of life that usually takes place during a wake and a funeral, because we’re all still lost and trying to rectify what happened.

Pam used to say about people all the time, “She’s had a hard life.” She used to see that in people, because that’s the experience she had. Life just wasn’t easy for her. But when she experienced joy, it was about as full-blown, crazed, smiling, happy, joyful, laugh-til-it-hurts kind of joy.

That’s what I’m trying for today. It’s still hard to not bring some measure of sadness to thinking about her– just because of the way she left us… But she deserves to be remembered with the same kind of unbridled joy she had when she played one of her practical jokes or figured out ways to sneak in dances with Elvis.

Monica’s mom paid one of North America’s premier Elvis tribute artists to crash our wedding. I thought of it this morning and it made me laugh out loud. Seventeen years later, and it makes me smile every time. “It’s not so much I’m losing a daughter, but gaining a dance with Elvis :)”

Honestly, I think she’s the only one who ever understood her practical jokes– but she’d laugh so hard she couldn’t breathe, and whether we were laughing with her, or at her, or both, we’d all be having one of those great family moments that live on forever with just three words… like “two eye patches.”

When she was silly and fun, there was no one more fun or more silly. Of course there’s some sadness today, but I’m making sure it’s more smiles than tears.

Presidents’ Day and Presidents Books with love

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This is the first book I ever wanted.

We didn’t have a lot of money, but mom let me get it from the bookstore at the Main Place Mall when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old.

That must have been a heck of a trip on the Seneca bus downtown with me, my little brother, and little sister– 5,3, and 2– mom by herself.

I’m sure there was a reason we were downtown, but I don’t remember. I do remember that Main Street was all torn up— we watched the jackhammers out the window of McDonald’s, where we had lunch.

We walked a few blocks down Main as they were doing construction to make way for the MetroRail, crossed back over Main and went into Main Place, and there, in front of the Walden Books, right by the stairs, was this Presidents book.

I can still see the display table and feel that deep want– which I don’t recall much from childhood. I was obsessed with the Presidents, but the book we had at home only went up to Nixon.

This one went to the current President, Reagan, and had a huge page of facts about every President— facts I still have more or less memorized.

So thanks, Mom.

Whatever sacrifice we made as a family to buy that book helped fan my love of history and my love of books and my love of finding great things downtown. It’s served me well… and I’ve tried to put it to use to serve others, too.

Happy Presidents Day.

It’s not the 2nd Amendment– it’s the 9th Amendment

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Ninth Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

The brilliant James Madison wrote right into the Bill of Rights that all the rights protected under the Constitution are protected equally… and by extension, that it’s up to us to figure out how to work it out if the people start to believe that certain rights are blocking the pursuit of other rights.

None of our constitutional rights stand alone— they are all together in a big Jenga tower whose strength lies in maintaining the tower.

Pulling out one block and throwing it away weakens the tower. Pulling one out and pretending that one single block is the foundation of the whole tower is just as silly.

I’m talking about guns. Trying to anyway. We’ll see what happens.

NRA safety programs– I’ve taken a few– always start with the responsibility of someone owning or even just handling a gun.

Responsibility, and respecting the power you hold in your hand when you are holding a gun. We have to respect guns. We have to be responsible with them.

I think part of respect and responsibility is to admit what guns are, in clear language, without judgement.

Guns are for killing. Guns exist to kill. Period. If you say your gun is for protection, you are saying your gun is there so you can kill people trying to harm you. If you are a hunter, your gun is to kill animals.

Even if you just enjoy target practice, chances are you are shooting at human shaped targets or animal facsimile targets. You are practicing to kill.

Every single gun owner reading this hopes never to kill, but part of the respect and responsibility of owning a gun is knowing that when there’s a bullet in the chamber, it becomes a possibility.

It’s cut and dried, and it’s like nothing else. There are no analogies for guns. It’s not like a car or a knife or sugar or fat or whatever else might kill people, too.

It’s such a special case that’s it’s enshrined in the constitution– guns are so special that a firearm is the only actual, tangible thing James Madison thought needed to be protected in the Bill of Rights.

In the 2nd amendment, he wrote Americans have the right to have a gun in case they might have to kill someone trying to take their freedom or security.

The problem is, the number of people who have guns but don’t have the proper respect for guns or are responsible in using them is clearly growing. It’s growing to the point where I fear for young people going to school. I fear for old people walking at the mall. I won’t go to the movies– mostly because movies are terrible these days, but also– mass shootings.

My version of “securing the blessings of liberty” doesn’t involve my having to pack heat to go to buy a gallon of milk. Maybe yours does, but that’s not a second amendment issue– it’s a ninth amendment issue.

This is a uniquely American problem and needs a uniquely American approach to solving it. The American way says, “no right trumps any other,” but it also says, “I respect your position and I hope you can respect mine.”

We need to find common ground to find a solution here. Aren’t you sick of watching people die while you scream F@#$ YOU at people over the fence?

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