Solitary Man: You don’t always win, even when you don’t take the risk of losing

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

For sure, in life, the cards don’t always dance at the end. So is solitaire really so hard and frustrating that we need to play with the “winning deal” option?

I was terribly, actually mad when I realized that the setting on the solitaire game on my iPad was changed (probably during a software update) to “winning deal” instead of “random deal.”

solitaire

Solitaire can be a boring and mind numbing game, but I like to play as if there is something real at stake. Nothing specific, but something important. Even if my score is down to zero, I keep going until there’s absolutely no way for me to solve the puzzle. Move cards from the top piles back down to the stacks to be able to move over that 4 with three cards underneath it. Go through the pile of flip cards an extra time.

Of course, even with all the effort, about half the time, I lose.

But losing is a part of the game. Its not that I don’t always want a win any less, its just that sometimes, a win isn’t in the cards. You do everything you can, and you lose a lot. As often as you win.

For me, a hard fought loss is always an inspiration to hit shuffle immediately and keep on playing until those cards dance across the screen. When you’ve lost two or three or seven games in a row, and you really should be going to bed, or getting back to work… Man, those dancing cards are great.

It’s a completely different mentality when your dealt a hand you know you can win. It’s boring. The thrill of “I’m going to try everything, because I don’t know what’s under that 4” is replaced with, “c’mon, idiot. Why can’t I get this.”

In the end, the temptation is to hit that help button to see where you went wrong, and to see the cards dance, even if you didn’t really earn it all yourself.

But you know what? If I’ve just done the best I can, worked on the game til I felt like I couldn’t work on it anymore, and decided I had to stop because there was no where else to go, I don’t think I want to know where I screwed up.I certainly dont want the big card locomotion party for all my hard work.

I know all the rules of solitaire inside and out. Been playing it for years. Even with actual real cards back in the old days, sometimes with cards missing… Talk about NEVER WINNING!

And whether you’re being dealt a winning hand or a random hand, sometimes you miss putting the red 5 on the black 6. You perfectly damn well know that’s the right play, and you missed it. Sometimes you can go back and fix it, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you get lucky, and despite a mistake you can make the cards cha-cha across the screen. Sometimes a mistake costs you, and all you can do is start over and try again.

I accept that sometimes I’m going to lose, and I often enjoy a hard fought loss. I don’t know that I’d enjoy solitaire so much with the burden and expectation of winning on my shoulders every time.

Don’t hit the “always win” button. Life’s experiences are greater when you take a chance on losing.

Wow. Three Years Already: Thinking About Dad Today

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It’s definitely a different feeling, but I’m not sure I can quantify how.
Dad died Palm Sunday, 2010. Three years ago today.

Today’s a different day, though. I’m writing this in an attempt to figure out how or why it’s different. It just is.

Time just brings up different feelings, is all. I haven’t accidentally thought, “I’ve gotta go tell Dad” something for a while. Thinking about that makes me sad. Even the deepest recesses of my brain and being know I won’t be conversing with the ol’man til the other side.

Of course, I can never forget my dad. But every once in a while, I’ll think of a phrase or an action that I hadn’t thought of in years– something that was in the ol’man’s repertoire.

This, too, leaves a painful hurt. I think of these usually silly, often violent sounding things, and I can’t stop myself from repeating them… because I just don’t want to forget anything about my dad. It’s not even something I do on purpose. It’s deeply embedded.

A few of the ones I’ve forgotten and remembered lately:

“Get over here and let me put a dent in your face,” was a typical way dad might tell you he didn’t like what you were saying or doing. It could have been one of the variants like “break your head,” “bust your face,” or “I’ll punch your lights out if you don’t stop fighting with your brother!”

If he was in a particularly playful mood, sometimes he’d just ball up his big meaty fist, point it at you with an onomatopoeic crashing sound,”DUHSHJZ!” As I write this, and try to figure out how to spell “duhshjz!” that I don’t think I’ve ever head that anywhere else. It sounds kind of “Polishy.”Is that sound familiar to anyone?

Anyway, as far as the ol’man was concerned, there was really no threat or even thought of actual roundhouse punches to be thrown. It was just the way he talked. And, being programmed that way, it’s how I talk. I forgot the “dent” line, but often what starts in my mind as, “Boy, I really dislike that you are doing that,” comes out of my mouth as, “You deserve a punch in the face.” I really have no desire to inflict violence on anyone, but it does seem like a perfectly reasonable way to explain myself if my guard is down. Sometimes I want to punch myself in the face.

“You look like nobody owns you,” was usually immediately followed by grabbing of a shoulder, jerking one of us into the bathroom, and soaking our head in Vitalis Hair Tonic before we went somewhere important, like to church. I don’t remember what made this one pop into my head, but it seems to be stuck there for the time being.

Dad really was something else. If I was writing a cartoon or a sitcom, Dad could be a character just as is. No changes. But he was more than that. He was a beautifully complex sonavabitch. At least I hope “beautifully.” Because it looks like in more ways daily, I’m heading in the same direction.

I’m still not sure why it feels different now, but about now dad would be calling me a lemon, and threatening to dent my head.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Gnarled Roots of a Family Tree: But its Great To Be in Contact with Extended Family

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

What a week in family history.

After last week’s blog post, my dad’s first cousin, Karen, wrote to reinforce the story I’d read in an earlier email:

As my mom, Olga, and her twin sister, Mary, related the family story to me about their dad’s arrival in the United States, the history unfolds thusly….John Cichon came from Poland on a ship that landed in Portland, Maine, and he entered the country through the Custom House (which still stands there today on Commercial Street. Wikipedia has a nice picture of it). Aunt Mary told me he was befriended on the ship by a Jewish man, who offered him garlic to ease the nausea of the voyage! In Maine, they were unable to find work, so they decided to go to Canada. From Toronto, John eventually made his way to Buffalo where there was a large Polish immigrant population. That’s the story as the Cichon twins told it.

The ship immigration manifests make it pretty clear that Jan was heading to the Niagara Region of Canada, and he pretty quickly made it down to Buffalo. By the 1915 New York State Census was taken, he was living a block away from what would become the family homestead on Fulton Street. He was single on the boat, married to Mary in the 1915 census.

korona
Further genealogical research has turned up the fact that Mike Korona and Jan Cichon were likely first cousins. Korona is Cichon’s mother’s maiden name.

Also interesting, on the boat, Jan Cichon traveled with Maciej Korona, from the village of Zawierzbe, only a few miles from his home in Milczany. In 1915, John Cichon had a boarder named Martin Korona at 43 Van Rensselaer St. The census document shows both men had been in the country for two years. While not certain, it looks like these two stuck together from Poland to Germany, where the boat left from, and then on to Maine. Then from Maine through Ontario, and into Buffalo. Martin Korona (sometimes Mike) lived with his wife Sally on Oneida Street on Buffalo’s East Side into the 1940s.

Armed with all this new information, I asked a friend for some ideas for a next move. He sent me to a wonderful East Side genealogist, who sent me a big long list of places to research around town and maybe pump some more information out of resources that I’d been using all along.

One idea was the to go back and double check marriage license lists at the downtown library. Now I had searched several times for a Jan Cichon/ Mary Pochec wedding. I had even paid the city clerk’s office to run a check for me, and called several churches where the wedding might have happened. I wasn’t confident, but went through the library materials again with a fine-tooth comb.

In casting a wider net, I hauled in the fish I’d been chasing for a long, long time. John and Mary Cichon were married August 19, 1914 by Fr. Peter Pitass. A quick web search shows that Fr. Pitass, the nephew of the founder of St. Stanislaus Church, was at that time, the pastor of Holy Apostles Ss Peter and Paul Church, on the corner of Clinton and Smith.

CichonMarriageLic1914

What made this marriage certificate so hard to find? First, the groom was listed as Jan Cikon, a misspelling, no doubt. He’s listed as 21, from Russia (Poland was split between Germans and Russia then), a laborer, and living on Fulton Street. Sounds perfect. The bride’s first name is listed as Maryjana. My great Aunt Mary said that her first name was Marianna in the old country. Great. From Russia, 21 years old. Dead on. Everything on the certificate, even the nearby church, is perfect, except one whopper.

The problem comes with her last name. Pochec is Mary’s maiden name according to all family knowledge. It’s listed that way in her Buffalo News death notice. John Cichon’s bride that day, however, was listed as Mary Ganaboska.

CichonObits

I’ve always felt there was something fishy about my great-grandmother’s background. She completely disappears before 1914, under the name Pochec or Ganaboska (or any close spelling variants of those two.) No ship manifests, no immigration lists, no address for the time she lived here before meeting her future husband. (UPDATE: More has been found on Babcia Cichon… More to come.)

The marriage license says she did shop work, and lived at 1013 Broadway before getting married. The Broadway Market is 999 Broadway. She lived literally next door to the market.

That is, of course, if any of this is true. I’ll have to do some more research to see what I can find as far as how Mary lists her name on other legal and church documents, like her older children’s birth and baptism certificates, and maybe the death certificate of son Czeczlaw, who died at only a few months old.

I have a few theories about why all the secrets, but I’d like to research them each a bit more.

The other great part of doing this research early Saturday morning, was going to the downtown library, and running into my great uncle Pat. He’s my Grandpa Coyle’s brother. Talking to him was eerie, because not only does he look like my grandpa and have many of the same facial characteristics, the cadence of his speech and the way he talks is very similar.grandmacoyleElkSt

Uncle Pat was doing family research there, too, and we exchanged e-mail addresses to share some of the information we have with one another. I’m very excited to have sent him copies of scans I made a long time ago, of some of my grandfather’s snapshots. Here’s a photo of Uncle Pat and my great Grandmother standing on Elk Street in the late 40s or early 50s. I’m sure he’ll enjoy this photo (right) he hasn’t likely seen in 60 years… of him with his mother, who died 35 years ago.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Watching My Family Tree Grow: Finding More Ways To Reach into My Family’s Past

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It’s been just about two full months since I’ve had DNA test results from Ancestry.com, and I may have had my first useful hit.I’ve had 4 or 5 different “matches” that Ancestry.com says are 96% certain to be 4th or 5th cousins. But either there’s no good lead in the family tree they have posted, or their family tree is private, and they haven’t responded to messages. That’s a bit crazy to me. Unless you’re adopted and don’t know your roots, why else would you take this test other than to grow your family tree…

So the “certain” cousins are already taking family-like liberties and doing things like ignoring emails. Sounds like my family for sure. More like 97% that we’re related.

The one neat lead isn’t much, but it’s enough to help prove something I’ve suspected.

The analytics say its a low percentage possibility that I’m distantly related (5th to 8th cousins they say) to one guy. This person’s great grandmother has my mom’s maiden name. Margaret Coyle was baptized in Ireland 18 months before my great great great grandfather was born in Ireland. Could they be “Irish twins?”
I know John Coyle was born in Ireland in June, 1846, and came to Pennsylvania as a teen. He was a farmer, unable to read or write. This comes from census information, but its all I know. I’ve never been able to find any immigration information. There was a John Coyle baptized in July 1846 in Ireland, but to fully assume that he was my John Coyle might be a stretch. A good chance, but by no means a certainty with such a common name.

Well, that John Coyle who was baptized a month after my John Coyle was born, and the Margaret Coyle I’m probably related to didn’t have matching information on the baptismal records. Not the same father, not the same county.

But some searching found the two counties, Meath and Cavan, are right next to one another. The two churches are about 10 miles apart. Sounds like a pretty solid case that these two Coyles were cousins when you mix in the DNA results.

This is exciting because it opens up the Irish Coyle line in a part of Ireland that appears to have pretty well preserved records. I’m looking forward to doing that digging.

CICHON

One of my great obsessions in life, at least one I can talk about in polite company, is finding out any information at all about the Cichon branch of the family tree.

As I’ve written before, the backwards progression comes to a grinding halt with my great grandparents in Buffalo’s Valley neighborhood the late 1910s.

Census data and family tradition would indicate DziaDzia and Babcia Cichon each came to Buffalo from Poland in 1913. Family tradition says they came here separately, met at a party on Fulton Street, and were married in Buffalo. No record of any of that anywhere… Not the city, not any likely churches.

There are records for at least a dozen Jan Cichons who came to the New World 1912-14. However, not a single record for a Marianna Pochec or any Pochecs in that time frame.

There is the hope of good information coming from my great-grandparents’ death certificates. Death certificates are sealed for 50 years unless you can prove direct lineage to the deceased.

That would mean I’d have to have my birth certificate (no problem), my dad’s birth certificate (I don’t think he ever had one, though I bet his death certificate would do) and my Grandpa Cichon’s birth certificate (he’s in a nursing home and almost certainly has no idea where that might be.)

My great-grandfather died in 1967, so I have 4 years to wait. I remain undaunted in trying to milk the information I have, and building on it bit by bit.

I recently re-read an email from a Cichon cousin that mentioned that my great aunt Mary said my great-grandpa came to Buffalo through Canada. My grandpa has also said that he came through Maine.

Well I’ve found a Jan Cichon, who came from Poland in 1913, who fits both of those circumstances. The boat landed in Maine, and this guy’s final destination was a brother-in-law’s house Ontario. It’s a great lead, but by no means a sure thing.

Muddying up even worse, the ship manifest is hard to read. I have no idea what this guy’s mother’s (potentially my great-great grandmother’s) name is… And there is no town in the Russia/Ukraine/Poland area that shows up in searches with a name anything close to what’s written there.

The search continues.

ACTUAL ITEMS

I mentioned my great aunt Mary. She served as a nurse in the Navy in World War II. Her twin sister, Olga, was an Army nurse overseas. Doing a Cichon search, I came up with Aunt Olga’s wedding announcement in a Maine newspaper. The photo shows a beautiful Lt. Cichon in her Army WAC uniform. Clicking the photo takes you to the full wedding announcement from 1946.

In a separate search for Scurr, my dad’s mom’s maiden name, I found a newspaper account of the sad story of Grandma Cichon’s brother, Terry Scurr. You can read that below.

He was just out of the Army, and was at Letchworth with a bunch of friends. He died trying to help a friend who’d slid down a cliff.

Once I was talking to Seneca Street fixture “Tony the Barber” Scaccia, and mentioned that Tony’s cut the hair of five generations of my family, from my cousins’ kids back to my great-Grandpa Scurr. Tony told me the story of Terry’s wake, in the Scurr’s upstairs Seneca Street apartment.

History and family history are amazing. When you learn a little bit, it starts to grow exponentially.

Don’t Defriend Lightly: Think Twice Unless You Plan on Never Talking to That Person Again

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

“I’m cleaning out my friends list. If you’re reading this, congratulations, you made the cut!”I’ve cringed every one of the hundreds of times I’ve seen this or similar messages on Facebook.

Why?

Walter Cronkite once bawled out Stuttering John for using the word “friggin'” when asking him a question in one of those set-up interviews he used to do for the Howard Stern Show.

“Frigging, now what does that mean,” bellowed Uncle Walter condescendingly.

“It-it-it-it-AAAAUUGHit gives, ya know, augh, emphasis,” said John.

“But what does it mean?,” drilled Cronkite. “A word should have meaning, shouldn’t it?”

That’s the long way of saying “Defriending” someone means something. You’ve said something there, whether you like it or not. You know that. You’ve been defriended, or “unfriended” as Facebook puts it. If you weren’t hurt, you were at least indignant. “Well, I never liked that sonava– anyway,” you might say. Even if that’s true, you don’t want someone putting up that “Add as Friend” hand in your face without provocation, or at least not knowing why.

In olden times, maybe people dropped off your Christmas card list when you’d lost contact or interest. I’d say that’s akin to hiding someone’s feed on Facebook.

Defriending someone, however, is like ripping their address out of the little book you keep in drawer by your phone, and, when they send you a Christmas card, you scrawl an Elvis style “Return to Sender” across the the pretty red envelope.

unfriendWe wouldn’t have ever thought to do that in olden times, but we’re generally less considerate these days.

People make all sorts of excuses for why they defriend people they know, but they are just that– excuses. Just like most things in life, if you need an excuse… Deep down, you know it’s not wholly right.

To me, finding I’ve been defriended almost always comes with some bit of sadness. I don’t do a lot of “stalking” on Facebook, so I usually find out when I try to send someone a note. Usually a congratulatory note, or a “hey, thought of you–” note, or maybe I found an old photo or piece of audio I know they’d like.

So it’s not just “you defriended me,” but “here I am looking to rekindle an old friendship, which you found worthless.”

I had worked on a few assignments with one young lady a few years ago. Didn’t really know her well, but we hung out with each other and helped each other quite a bit on a project. We got along well, and were Facebook friends. I recently saw some of her work in the national spotlight, and was going to write her a note, but— yep.

In this case, I was more perplexed because she doesn’t get it. Nor do the braggart defrienders. To me, that sort of relationship is what social media is about. Contact with people I will likely never go to lunch with, never see, never call.

Life is about relationships. So much happens when you are willing to explore those relationships, or at least not cut them off. Today’s superficial Facebook friend could be tomorrow’s next job referral. Or he could be the guy who says, “oh yeah, I knew him.. Jerk defriended me on Facebook.”

Selfishly, if not for the greater good, is it really worth pissing someone off or hurting their feelings for no reason other than you’re clearing deadwood? Your Facebook account isn’t a forest. Deadwood doesn’t increase the risk of fire.

Have I thought about this too much? Probably. Have I defriended people? You can count the number on one hand, in 6 years. A few were people who came to my page to agitate. Only one I knew personally.

I always say, “if I offend… Defriend.” But in this self-centered, consequences be damned culture we live in, I hope you think about it for a moment before you do. And I hope you don’t try to be all friendly with me in the grocery store, and act like you didn’t open my photo and click defriend.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

I Really Love Winter: Until I freaking SNAP!

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Originally appeared on WBEN.com, February 18, 2013

I’m a Buffalo guy, born and raised. All of my great grandparents called Buffalo home. My Buffaloness runs deep, which is probably in part why I was having a familiar conversation just last week…”Man, this winter’s been pretty easy!”

Not easy like last winter when we didn’t really have winter, but an easy real winter. With plenty of real snow and real cold. And there I was on Valentines Day, like, “Meh! No problem!”

But the temperatures last week were in the high 20s and mid 30s, and there was still snow on the ground. Conditions that are truly winter, but– the best case scenario winter. You can’t get much warmer or get much less snow and still feel wintry.

And though it was certainly subconscious in my case, I’m certain now that there was some element of, “Well, the worst has to be over now!”
furry hat

Of course, it wasn’t. My pleasant winter of 2012-13 came to an end at 8:36am on Sunday. I saw a little snow on the car out the window, but I wasn’t concerned. Weeks of non-stop snow can be annoying, but generally, snow doesn’t bother me. Certainly hasn’t this year. The end of the cheery face about this winter came as I cracked open the opened the front door and was sucker punched with a windy 16 degrees.

I didn’t expect this rage against winter to happen, but it happens every winter. You’d think after 35 Buffalo winters, I’d be standing square, ready for that haymaker right from Ol’man Winter. It’s true every time. I can stand in for 7 or 8 rounds, but winter just waits for that moment my guard slips. KO. Glass jaw shattered.

Every year, I’m like the President of the Chamber of Commerce until that day arrives. I’m our winter’s biggest backer from the first snow of November through sometime into the New Year.

I’d rather have warm, but, “Hey, this is Buffalo.” I snow blow my whole block. I wear warm-but-silly hats. I poke fun at ex-pats and out-of-towners on Facebook gripping for when 2 inches of snow shuts down their non-WNY communities.

But this time, since I got through January and half of February, maybe I was being a little cocky. I’m not sure. But all I know is right now, I can’t write the words I have for winter on a family friendly website.

And yes, I know, I know. Spring is technically one month from today. “Just around the corner.” Well, what’s here right now is my desire to leave winter behind. I want spring Veruca Salt style. NOW!

I’m done. Get me outta here. I can’t take it. I’m a cold, broken man. At least until April or so.

I’ll probably take it in Buffalo stride when that inevitable Bisons home game gets snowed out. By May, you’ll probably hear me reflect on Buffalo’s great four full seasons of weather. Come November, you’ll probably even see a smile on my face as I yank the pull start on the snow blower for the first time.

Until then, however, shut up. I’m done with “our beautiful winters.” And please be kind, because if your break hasn’t happened yet, it’s probably right around the corner.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

The Structures of Parkside: An Authoritative Look at the History of Parkside’s Homes

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

 

While the Buffalo Olmsted Park Conservancy now exists to run and maintain Buffalo’s Parks, as first founded, The Friends of Olmsted were concerned not only with the parks and public spaces designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, but also with the streetscapes and other Olmsted designs which aren’t necessarily parks, but are a part of the master landscape architect’s “city within a park” idea.

82 West Oakwood
82 West Oakwood

The Parkside neighborhood was designed by Olmsted as a buffer between Main Street and the serenity of the park meadow. In the early 1980s, the Friends of Olmsted worked to have many of Olmsted’s landscape designs listed on the National Register. In 1986, with the help of the Parkside Community Association, “The Parkside Historic District” streetscape was recognized by state and national registers.

74starin

Part of the several year process in gaining that status involved identifying each structure within the streetscape footprint, and identifying the characteristics of those structures. In other words, some very smart people looked at every house in Olmsted designed portion Parkside and wrote a brief description along with research on when the structure was built.

34-jewett

The final report is several thousand pages long, and actually gives much greater detail on each of the 1109 “contributing principal buildings” of Parkside, but on this page are those brief descriptions of every house. The links below are hundreds of pages, painstakingly scanned, to provide information like this on every house:

117parkside

This is an example of what you’ll find inside… The listing for my home. Sadly, that glass door on the side porch didn’t make it from the early ’80s to 1999 when we first walked into the house.

To find out about your house:

  • open the report by clicking this link. (While it’s a large file an takes some time to download, this method is probably easier that trying to use the reader below.)
  • clicking “Ctrl+F” once the PDF is open
  • type in the number of your house (there made be a few with your number, but this is the easiest way)
  • if that doesn’t work, for for your house number with spaces in between the numbers. (e.g., mine comes up as “1 1 7” instead of “117”)
  • if that doesn’t work, search for your street name then scroll a bit. (note that most streets are broken up odd/even.)

If your street or house isn’t listed, it was not a part of the survey done by the Friends of Olmsted in 1986. Sorry!

Page through the report here:

ParksideHousesSearchable

 

From the Report:

The report states Parkside has “an informal, curvilinear street pattern” largely reflective of Olmsted’s original 1876 and 1886 subdivision plans for the neighborhood. The neighborhood is “characterized by numerous, relatively narrow, 1/8 acre building lots and a preponderance of small, wood frame, single family residences” built between 1888 and 1936.

23-agassiz

The application states, “The architectural character of the historic district is largely defined by repetitive, narrow, late Victorian period houses with front porches and gabled facades built between 1895 and 1915, as well as by standardized American four-square houses, with square floor plans, boxy massing, and hipped roofs with dormers built between 1900 and 1925.”

coverSteve Cichon is the author of “The Complete History of Parkside.”

For more on the book and others by Cichon, including how to purchase them, visit The Buffalo Stories Online Bookstore.

 

 

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

20 Years Ago Today: The Houston Comeback Game

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Van Miller, the Voice of the Bills (Buffalo Stories archives)

BUFFALO, NY – Bills games were big doings in the late 80s and early 90s, but they were always big doing in my house. Among my earliest memories of listening to the radio is sitting in our 1977 Mercury Monarch with mustard colored nugahyde seats, listening to Van Miller describe Joe Cribbs run with the ball. It was only a 5 minute drive from our South Buffalo home to Grandma Coyle’s South Buffalo home, where watching my grandfather watch the game was more fun for me, hearing him curse about Joe Ferguson.

Fast forward a few years, when the Bills actually started winning, and my dad would have his 5 brothers over to watch the game. Football for me became an endless walk to the fridge for another beer for someone.

I remember the excitment, I remember the cheering, I remember getting Bills clothes for Christmas every year, and being able to wear them to school on the “Bills Spirit Fridays” before games days and weeks later.

But the actual games themselves all blend together for me before I started working in sports radio. That’s true with only one exception: The Houston Comeback Game. I remember that I was alone in the living room listening to the game on the awful stereo my dad got for free somewhere. No screaming uncles looking for beers. No one swearing when the team was getting killed. Just me… a high school sophomore, Van Miller, and that cruddy stereo.

I was already taping most of the things I listened to on the radio, but I didn’t tape the game for some reason… Maybe because they were losing early, and then I got caught up in the comeback… I don’t know. But I did tape it the next day, when they played back the second half and OT. And here it is, 20 years later.

In Part One, WGR’s Art Wander introduces a collage of highlights, and then the second half of action with Van Miller, Marc Stout, and Greg Brown at the score 28-3 Oilers. (The audio is low quality so that Bills fans reliving the glory days don’t shut down my website.)

In Part two, the second half continues with Van Miller, Marc Stout, and Greg Brown… After overtime and the comeback complete, Paula Green does the news, and then briefly hear John Otto gush about the Bills. Its my favorite part! (The audio is low quality so that Bills fans reliving the glory days don’t shut down my website.)

I’ve been listening to this and thinking a loy about it, and realizing that a few months after taping this, I started working at WBEN. Then soon producing the Bills games on the radio, and covering media day at the stadium. The starting at WBEN in someways seems like only yesterday. That memory of sitting in my living room listening to this game seems like a a book I’ve read, but not something I actually lived.

Kidney stones, why I TMI, and maybe why you should

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I freely and openly admit it. I often share terrible and ugly and embarrassing things on social media that at the heart of it, even I would rather keep to myself.

The latest example: Kidney stones. After laying in bed writhing and screaming for about two hours, I started to think about what good could come of it. That’s usually how it happens, these TMI moments. Now I can scream and not sleep and annoy my wife (who was, as always, an absolute sweetheart), and just be miserable, or I can try to A.) in some small way cheer myself up by being stupid about this awful predicament, and B.) more importantly, maybe help someone by sharing my experience.

I’m not a whore for attention. Believe me. You should see some of the crap I don’t put on Facebook. But, if something I’d really rather keep private might help someone, I have to share it. We all have suffering in life. It’ up to you what you are going to do with it.

kidneystone

Putting up a photo of a kidney stone is gross. People I don’t know, some of whom I don’t want to know, are now privy to my most personal business. But I gotta tell ya, every time I talk about something that doesn’t come up in polite conversation, I wind up talking someone through something similar. Or pointing out a red flag to someone. Or make something gross and impolite a little less so, so that people address problems in their lives that are easy to avoid because no one wants to talk about them.

So I talk about kidney stones. And poop. And colonoscopies. And you should see the private messages I get. You can’t talk about Celiac Disease or Gastritis without talking about bum problems. Apparently, given the crap I write (get it?), people are willing to talk to me about ways to makes themselves healthier. And if my shitty health (again, hilarious) and my experiences in trying to be healthier can help someone from making mistakes I made, isn’t that worth offending the sensibilities of some Victorian wannabe.

You should be talking about your pains and poop and craziness, too. It could literally kill you.

Physical pains and problems got much easier to talk about when I took pen to paper and laid out feelings about death and relationships here. It’s something else I’ve found to be helpful to me and to others. I don’t know how I could have gotten through some of life’s biggest traumas without writing about them, sharing them, having others learn from my pain, and drawing an amazing amount of strength from that.

Maybe about 10 years ago, when my dad was in the ICU at the VA Hospital, I was sitting in the waiting room as they were doing something that necessitated me being out of the room. As you may remember, in the days before smartphones, people would read magazines in waiting rooms. Remember?

Well, this time, I read a long story by Mike Wallace about his long struggle with depression. As someone who has struggled in a small way with depression for as long as I can remember, this was the first time I’d ever read about someone struggling with it. And nearly losing to it. And coming back again, only to be beaten down again. Mike Wallace, the peppy guy I’d been watching on TV every Sunday for my entire life, felt the same way I felt sometimes.

What a freaking revelation. I read that at a time when I really needed it. I haven’t thought much about what I’m about to say, but I think it really changed my life. For the better. I don’t know what would have been had I not read that.

I’m thankful that Mike Wallace wrote about the most painful chapter in his life to make my burden a little lighter to carry.

Everything that sucks in life sucks a little less when you’re experiencing it with someone else. I draw strength from those who’ve been there and encourage me, and I draw even more strength from those who look to me later for encouragement.

And, just like finding a dead body on the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina or having my union locked out of my job at Channel 4, there are some life experiences that you’d just rather not have… but when you have them, you’d better learn from them. And if you learn and don’t share, what they hell is wrong with you?

TMI? Sure. But share something that matters to you, no matter how personal, and you’ll reap the rewards, I promise.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

What I’m thankful for the hard way… with no buts…

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Since the beginning of November, many of my friends have taken to Facebook and Twitter with something they are thankful for each day.
This is all very nice, people thankful for their spouses and jobs and children and blue skies and flowers and candy.

I don’t diminish that, and I am genuinely thankful for those things everyday. I tend to think most people who are writing about them are, too, but the way it’s written makes it sound to me like “I’ll spend the next 24 hours being thankful for the gift of sight. Then at midnight, I’ll forget that and be thankful for my favorite Keurig K-cup flavor.”

And since I, too, have a tremendous feeling of thanks for “Donut Shop,” I might have kept my misgivings about these thanksgivings to myself, had my wife not at one point said to me, “I’m thankful for this stuff every day! What the heck!!” I was never more thankful for her than right then and there. Or maybe I was sad that my cynicism is rubbing off on her.

I began thinking, though, about how I could put together a list of things I’m thankful for, while still passing my own pretty difficult test of triteness.

I think Thanksgiving is about “thanks with no buts.”

We have buts for everything…. however, for the rest of the way here, I’m working my “buts” off, and explaining why I’m thankful for even some of the bad and terrible parts of my life.

One of the saddest times of my life also offered me some of the most strengthening and reassuring lessons of my life.

I’m thankful for my dad’s death, which of course left some parts of my heart hollow and empty, but the resulting caring and love from so many helped me to understand that there’s a tremendous amount of love and support from so many people for me always, and that all I have to do to take it in is be open to it.

I’m thankful for having people I have wronged as friends and Facebook friends. Even with their forgiveness, their faces serve as a humbling constant reminder of how not to behave, and how to forgive wholly, and how sometimes the hardest person to forgive is oneself.

I’m thankful for people who hate me and tell me so or make it pretty clear one way or another. It hurts, but makes me strive to be a better person. It also reminds me even in dislike, to never hate and always forgive.

This one’s hard, but its true. I’m thankful for the deaths of two little babies I never met, for the understanding their lives and deaths brought to me about life and living. They may have never breathed a breath, but their lives and the joy and pain they brought were not in vain.

I’m thankful for the daily, nagging pain in my joints and eyes, caused by autoimmune disorders. My achy inconveniences give me a distant view of the terrible and deadly illness so many deal with, with a lot less bitching and complaining than I do.

Similarly, I’m thankful for the occasional panic attacks I’ve endured that I better understand and grow in compassion for my brothers and sisters who from time to time lose some ability to control their minds.

I’m thankful for “friends” who’ve let me down… For showing me how special real friends are.

I’m thankful for those relationships that are almost entirely fake– where someone says the right things, but quite clearly doesn’t like or want anything to do with you. Again, very painful, but I find these people carry a certain measure of pain in their lives, and generally need kindness and compassion more than the rest of us.

Many of these awful situations have given me new insight, and made me, I think a better, less judgmental, more loving person.

Maybe I’m most thankful for people who without some terrible circumstance are inertly good and accepting of people…. I’m working on it, but in so much in life I am doubting Thomas. That is, I cannot accept or know until I see it somehow.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and believe.”

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com