They accidentally left the instruction page off today’s report:
From the following 400 pages, pick your four favorite paragraphs and pretend the rest doesn’t exist. Engage in childish name calling against anyone whose favorite paragraphs are different from yours. If anything in this report makes you rethink any previously held position for even a moment, take an aspirin and turn on your favorite cable news network. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
In those days, the only coffee at WBEN was from a vending machine in the basement.
Those 25¢ 5oz cups of instant coffee with powdered creamer kept me alive.
My wife and I are part owners of a coffee shop now— with some of the most delicious, finest roasted coffee in Western New York… but I still keep a jar of instant coffee and powdered creamer on hand because every once in a while, I get nostalgic about that terrible brackish fluid which kept my motor running so many years ago.
I saved one of those cups with the intention, I think, of getting Ed Little’s autograph on the cup. The coffee really was bad, but it was the best coffee I ever had when Ed would grab two shiny new quarters and ask if I had time to head down to the basement.
In his mid-70s, Ed was far and away the oldest guy working at the station and gave weekend news the bigger-than-life sound of a much earlier era with bold writing and bombastic announcing. I was the youngest by a big margin, a wide-eyed 15 year-old twerp with boundless enthusiasm for all things radio and for old guys who liked to tell stories.
“You can buy when we have steak,” Ed would say, never allowing me to pay for our coffee ritual, even when he bought me lousy coffee at one of a dozen or so different little lunch counters with booth service, all the kind of place that served meatloaf and gravy. But no matter what the special was, the coffee was always there to wash it down.
Toward the end of Ed’s life, I called him up for a coffee but he was too sick to go out. His voice sparkled when I offered to bring over a couple of cups of Tim Horton’s. He was visibly sick, but pulled on a turtleneck and a pair of perfectly pressed slacks for my visit to his kitchen table and the coffee I was finally able to buy.
My earliest memories of drinking coffee come from the necessity of warmth. I was about 7 when my parents would load us kids into the backseat of our chocolate brown AMC to drive my ol’man to work early in the morning before we went to school. It was the only way that mom would have the car to go to work herself after we’d get home and get on the bus.
The heat didn’t work in the car, but holding and sipping plastic tumblers of coffee kept us warm. The coffee was always on at our house growing up. I always enjoyed bringing Mom a cup just the way she liked it. Dad never seemingly finished a cup and was constantly walking over to the microwave—later wheeling over to the microwave—to blast that cold cup for 45 seconds or so.
“A minute’s way too long, Steveo,” dad would say yanking the mug out of the microwave, taking a long sip with quick a self-satisfied mmm.
When you walked into Grandma Coyle’s kitchen, right there in the middle of the table, almost like a centerpiece, was the Mr. Coffee– right next to the black rotary dial wall phone and a pack of Parliament 100s.
Grandma Cichon had been a waitress at Colonial Kitchen, which ingrained the sanctity of coffee when hosting people at her giant white Formica kitchen table. The kettle on the stove was always lukewarm and ready to make a Taster’s Choice instant coffee in a Corelle Gold Butterfly mug. You got milk and sugar without asking. If she was out of milk, Grandma would put a buck in my hand and send me to Fay’s, because that was Seneca Street’s cheapest half-gallon of milk.
After Grandma Cichon died, I’d walk in the front door and say hi to Gramps, as I walked into the kitchen to put on the kettle for us both.
Any cup of coffee I made for Gramps was judged “perfect, son” with the first sip, and he meant it from the bottom of his heart every time—not just because the coffee was good, but because we were drinking it together.
I personally pour all of this into each cup of coffee I make at JAM. Our rich blend is delicious, and I know you will love it—but that’s fleeting. What lasts forever is our coffee story, and JAM was built with that in mind.
This is what we mean when we say Coffee and Community. You’ve become a part of my coffee story. I hope you’ll make JAM part of your coffee story, too.
We moved around a lot growing up– I had been in seven different schools by the time sixth grade rolled around.
Even with the many bumps in the road, at the time it all seemed normal enough.
There was even the opportunity for some special moments which wouldn’t have otherwise happened.
Orchard Park Middle School was my third middle school in two years. We were building a new house, and it wasn’t done yet for the beginning of the school year, so my ol’man would pick me up from school.
We’d then have to wait for my brother and sister to get out of classes at Eggert Elementary.
To help kill the time, we’d pull into the Kwik Fill next to the pizza place on North Buffalo Rd.
Dad would send me in with a buck, and I’d grab a can of Diet Squirt which we’d share as we’d wait.
Years earlier, the ol’man would bring Squirt home for us from his gin mill. Well, the Visniak version of Squirt, anyway.
He’d fill up an old, used two-liter pop bottle with the pop gun behind the bar. Sometimes, he’d throw a couple of the small bags of chips hanging behind the bar into a Marine Midland cash bag to take home for us kids.
The Squirt was good, but better because of the company. I was happy to get to spend some time with Dad, even if it was just sitting with him in our ol’85 Dodge Caravan in a grammar school parking lot, just shooting the breeze about who knows what over a pop.
One of the really cool things about my job at Timon is how family things get tied up unexpectedly.
Met a guy who is roughly the same age my dad would be… from roughly the same neighborhood.
Just chatting with him, he added a letter to two different words the same way my ol’man used to.
Cousint and concreak.
Musta been the way they said in the Valley.
I have to figure out a way to talk to this guy some more to see if I can pull out any other speech oddities he has in common with the ol’man. (like without being a creeper about it. hahaha)
In a career that’s spanned 34 years, Eileen Buckley is Buffalo’s all-time most award-winning radio reporter.
Given the level of excellence she brings to her work everyday and the fact that she’s done such high-caliber work across four different decades, Buckley leaves WBFO today having been honored more than anyone else ever when you add up time at WBFO, WGR, and WBEN.
Her reporting speaks for itself, but she’s also one of the great people I’ve met in broadcasting… a good friend to have out in the field, both personally and professionally.
I just hope I still recognize her in Dash’s on Hertel– that she’s not wearing big sunglasses and a floppy hat to keep her new TV fans at bay.Congrats Eileen on starting your television career at Eyewitness News!!
It seemed like the ancient toaster we had growing up took less a minute to take bread from soft and white to charred and black.
Probably because of that, I came to like my peanut butter toast well-done, and I became quite expert at knowing the exact moment to pop the lever on that harvest gold decorated four-slice machine.
Toasters don’t run nearly as hot anymore. The perfect toast of 40 years ago could be almost black on the surface, but still soft in the middle.
With all their “safety” and “energy efficiency,” the toasters of today leave us dark toast aficionados with the choice of a proper char, but completely dried out bread from five minutes between the barely glowing heat coils… Or toast that’s still about seven shades too light on the surface, but at least the center of the bread is not yet brittle.
I went for number one today, and half-enjoyed a half-perfect piece of well-done peanut butter toast.
With shipping, the toaster in the photo– very close to the machine of my childhood– is just over $50 on eBay.
Could it be worth it to enjoy toast the way it should be again… or will it just be an utter disappointment because grandma’s not making us Cup-O-Soup to eat with our toast, while watching the Flintstones on Channel 2 at lunchtime?
You can’t go home again– but it is nice, every once in a while, to smoke up the house a little bit, trying to let your senses take you back a little closer than you’ve been in a while to a well-toasted slice of the way it used to be.
The worst kind of Buffalo winter weather was working its way through the clouds at the same time Continental Flight 3407 was, ten years ago today.
Then in a moment, fifty people who were just living out a day in their lives, instantly no longer were.
There was the fact that it happened right here, the horror of the numbers of lives lost all in a single instant, and the terror of the flames, and the reminder of the fears that so many of us hold in our own hearts.
As a community, we are remembering these fifty and holding up those who loved them in prayer and admiration.
Over the last decade, our community has seen marvelous strength woven from the brokenness of this tragedy.
Robin Tolsma and Karen Wielinski have both written books since their husbands lost their lives that night. Their willingness to publicly grieve has helped so many of us in dealing with our shared grief, but also serves as a role model in how to grieve.
Led by the work of Robin, Karen, and many great journalists, as a community Buffalo remembers and has help in better understanding that singular moment and its aftermath in a broader context.
While generally I consider it my honor to help provide context to the happenings of Western New York’s past and present– I’m also glad that I am not spending the week engrossed in helping craft this narrative. I’m satisfied to sit this one out. It’s still too real and even physically painful.
My eyes are wet and stinging, and panic’s familiar tingle and edginess fills my body as I force myself back to that day and the days and weeks that followed.
In many ways, the post traumatic stress I live with from covering this story and dozens of other stories you might or might not remember, is primarily attributable to my terrible basic reporting skills.
Intuitively, my style as a journalist moved away from facts and figures– and toward trying to make a listener or reader feel some part of what was happening.
I wouldn’t have put it this way during the decade that I was a daily general assignment reporter, but I’d rather have spent my minute in a radio news report helping listeners feel the emotion of the mom yelling at the school board and the measured fidgety discomfort of the board member who voted against a budget than to spend that minute explaining the vagaries and dollar amounts attached to budget lines that were slated for elimination.
Very early in my career, some part of me realized that to report on emotion, I had to understand it. To understand it, I had to feel it.
Allowing myself to feel the angst of a mom whose children might be robbed of art education in middle school makes for a much more enticing story than a comparison of numbers.
In that process to feel the emotion of an event, I become greedy, absorbing every detail– not even necessarily to report on– but to give me the proper context to report from.
I don’t even have to choose the words when the environment can choose them for me; they just flow. So– I lap up detail. And digest it into news stories. And the best stories are well-received, and I get hungrier for the details which don’t make necessarily make it into a the produced product—but ultimately help shade the story and give me a sense of depth and perception that allow listeners and readers to connect more fully with what I am reporting.
This is the subconscious process which accompanied me to Clarence Center a decade ago.
You couldn’t talk about the tragedy unfolding at the scene without understanding the searing odor which left me feeling slightly nauseous and with a chemical sear in my nose and throat with each breath.
There was so much to take in, but story I saw which needed telling was the raw humanity of the usually super-human.
Over and over again, the strong ones– in a private moment– showing signs of crumbling.
Without thinking too deeply about it, the weeping undertaker comes to mind. The minister who just before facing the congregation, looked like he was about to vomit. The police officer who talked a tough game but had only darkness and sadness in his eyes. The rattled fireman who shared a story—and then immediately had the look of someone who felt like he said too much. We agreed that there was no need to share that misery with the rest of the world, and the story has never left my lips.
That firefighter’s story will stay with me, in graphic horror, until the moment I die. Trust me when I tell you that your life is better without knowing what that man went through. I know my life would be, but it was my job to make sure that people in Buffalo and around the world knew the horror without necessarily knowing the details.
In the 20 years I was working in newsrooms every day, I never heard anyone mention PTSD. I never once heard anyone mention needing a break because what we were dealing with was too much to handle.
I am a journalist who suffers greatly from post-traumatic stress, and I write this not just for me—but for the thousands of others who don’t realize they are suffering or who realize it but feel foolish asking for help or “making themselves the story.”
I didn’t realize it at the time. Not even when I had my first panic attack in the newsroom and didn’t know what it was—and as my brain felt like it was unraveling, I thought I was going to die on the spot.
It didn’t occur to me when I could barely function, alone in the newsroom on Christmas Eve 2012 when a Rochester-area man set his house on fire, and then killed two firefighters who came to put out the fire.
In the past year, driving in the car, listening to the news and hearing firefighters speak from the scene of the devastating wildfires in California—I pulled the car over, afraid I was going to vomit.
The talk of this anniversary stirred these feelings, and I share them with the hope that it might help someone. The pain and trauma caused by the death of fifty amazing individuals lives on in my heart, bleeding over into areas of my soul where I never intended it to live.
And that’s what PTSD is, I guess, and once again, that’s why I write and share this– but the reason I carry this suffering is for the sake of the story, and this story is one that I will never lose sight of.
I’ve spent time over the last couple of days recalling many of the memories of those who perished that day. I feel like I know a few of those who died—and that their memories live on is a testament to their loved ones.
I’m struck by the strength and courage of many family members who have fought to make sure that similar instances don’t lead to anymore deaths.
I also remain moved by the undertakers, ministers, police officers, firefighters, reporters and so many more– who leave parts of themselves behind for the well-being and healing of others every day.
None of us really knows how we might respond in the face of great tragedy, no matter our role in it.
Most of us, I think, find out something new about ourselves, and wind up spending the rest of our lives trying to understand how to make that new knowledge work as a piece of who we are.
God bless those 50 and those still trying to put the pieces back together.
About ten years ago on a cruise, we had this guy in the next cabin who seemed to spend just about the entire vacation on his balcony smoking and pontificating non-stop gibberish.
The only break in his yammering came to take a puff or to allow his wife to say, “mmmmmmHMMM,” which is all I ever heard her say.
Something would make a subject come into his mind, and just as quickly, his mind would manufacture facts and stories about that subject as if he’d been studying the situation at Harvard for decades (when clearly he, um, hadn’t.)
Monica and I still laugh about one of the most ridiculous minute’s worth of utter nonsense since humans began speaking 100,000 years ago.
“It’s amazing the stuff that people drop over the sides of these cruise ships,” he said, taking a drag, his wife distractedly vocalizing her agreement.
“At the bottom of the ocean– it’s just covered with cameras and stuff that people dropped over the railing.
“Whales and sharks can’t help but eat them.
“If you had one of these whales, and you cut open his belly, you’d see hundreds of cameras in there.”
“All from people dropping them off of cruise ships.”
Now this today in The freaking New York Times. Maybe the guy was right.