Sparking joy and anxiety on “Bulk Trash Day”

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It’s big garbage week in my neighborhood, so I’m cleaning out the basement a little.

The new trend, I guess, is to ask yourself if something sparks joy.

The problem is, I’ve owned this really great piece of foam rubber for more than 20 years because seeing it sparks joy and makes me happy that someday I’ll put it to good use.

The truth is, it’s a piece of garbage and I’ve known that truth from the moment I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out more than two decades ago.

Garbage brings me great joy, but so will a clean(er) basement.

I hope this wonderful cushion brings some garbage picker all the joy it has brought me since the 90s.

Hearing Buffalo’s accent feels like home

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

After more than a week away from everything Buffalo…

Nothing says welcome home like sitting in an airport waiting for the second leg of a flight to BUF, and listening to the loud flip phone conversation of a 60-something woman with a third-generation Buffalo/Polish accent– ya know– naaht too baayd— but just enough to know that if she doesn’t live in Chicktawaga now, she probably did at some point in her life.

I can’t really believe how the sound makes my heart full. Other places are great to visit, but I just can’t imagine coming home to anywhere else…

Uncle Phil: RIP Earl Rothfus

He was always “Uncle Phil” to us growing up, and of my 30 or so uncles and great-uncles, he always stood out. There was no one else like him in my huge family.
Uncle Phil and Aunt Elaine
A large strong man, he was imposing physically– but carried himself in such a way that whether or not you were intimidated was pretty much up to you.
As a master in the art of conversation, he was brilliant but humble, and listened as well as he opined.
He knew hard work– as a young man, he’d spent time working in grain elevators and he brought that work ethic and appreciation of physical labor to his white collar job at IBM.
Going to visit Aunt Elaine and Uncle Phil was something special. It seemed like it was the only time we’d leave South Buffalo. We drove past car dealers with shiny fringy streamers all over the lot, and past the drive-in, too, on the long ride out to the country which was really only to Union & Michael Rd at the West Seneca/Orchard Park border.
Those 20 minute rides, face excitedly planted against the window, were the only time as a kid I got to see big mailboxes on posts at the ends of driveways, usually with either a green Courier-Express or blue Evening News box attached to the poll. The only mailboxes I was used to were attached to the house and newspapers were thrown in the screen door.
In the same way I marveled at the slight differences in mailboxes and big lawns and ranch-style houses, I appreciated the difference in Uncle Phil.
He seemed like a movie star or a college professor or something apart, but also very much one of us at the same time. He was fully all of that. I’ll miss his smile and big handshake that was always a firm indication that things were well with the world.

Mueller Report reading instructions

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

They accidentally left the instruction page off today’s report:

Robert Mueller

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.

More than coffee, done right it’s a cup of togetherness

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I’ve been thinking a lot about coffee lately, and the sum of coffee is more than the beans.
Someone was dissing good ol’powdered coffee creamer the other day. Not me. I started working in radio at 15 years old, and through high school and college put in a lot of 16 hour days.

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.

Buffalo’s last city-owned Polish-language sign

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I take a photo of this great bilingual sign every time I walk by it in the Broadway Market parking ramp for fear that it will disappear.

Is it the last still-used city-owned sign in Polish? It’s the only one I know of… and it’s a treasure.

Nothing like sharing a pop with my ol’man

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

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.

United Air Lines says VISIT BUFFALO in poster form, c.1960

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

For years, on and off, I’ve been looking for a Buffalo travel poster, any Buffalo travel poster.

Honestly, I kind of assumed that there never was one. I mean why waste precious wall space with (my beloved) Buffalo when there have always been far more exotic, colorful, and warm places which might be more gerenally appealing to the traveling public.

Then I came across this beauty from the late 50s or early 60s.

United made Buffalo look fun!!

Working at Timon Feels Like Home: Part 764

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

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)

Eileen Buckley, Buffalo’s all-time award-winning radio journalist

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

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!!

Eileen was a mentor when I started, and now, somehow, she’s younger than me. It’s strange how that works.