Teddy, Patty, and Stupid Old Sabres Rumors

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The hiring of Ted Nolan and Pat LaFontaine did what it was supposed to do for me. It was a warm, comfortable feeling to know those two guys were down at the arena, and a part of my city’s hockey team again.

Not as warm and fuzzy. Google results autofill November, 14, 2013.
Not as warm and fuzzy. Google results autofill November, 14, 2013.

For me, it’s even beyond hockey. It brings me back to the most fun, care-free days of my professional life. From 1993-2003, my primary job was producing sports talk shows on the radio and sportscasts on TV.

In that position, you got to know that some guys who appeared to be good guys weren’t always when the cameras stopped rolling. Not the case with these two.

Having been in the dressing room at the Aud and Marine Midland Arena, I was lucky enough to know first hand that Pat LaFontaine was a gentleman and always willing to talk with reporters, even after a loss, and even as the old Sabres organization took a year to essentially dump him. 15 years later, we know that the best thing that he could have done after so many concussions was retire, but it was less clear then, and the team’s motives were less than clear. But Pat was a gentleman through it all.

Ted Nolan became an instant celebrity when he came to Buffalo in 1995 because he was cut from the same cloth that we were. A humble, hard-working guy, who liked to see humility and hard work from his players. I think he accepted that celebrity in the same we we hope we would, with class, a realization that he’s no better than anyone else, and just being a good guy. I produced Ted’s hour long weekly radio show on WBEN in those days, and he was the sort of guy that would always pop his head into the control room to say hello to us behind the scenes folks. It’s not that he said hi to me– its emblematic of the way he treated people.

So those are the good memories. But within minutes of hearing the news, I also saw a rehashing of stupidity from decades ago.

Today, we have internet trolls: people with information that either A.) their small brains somehow find credible or B.) information they know is false, but they share in an effort to be funny or malicious. That information is then shared as “truth” by “A.) people.”

Back in the old days, before you could just “broadcast” any piece of stupidity on the internet, people would call radio stations and TV newsrooms with these “hot tips.” I would say almost all of these callers  fell into that A.) category. Many felt that they heard something important, and that they were doing their civic duty to make sure all of Buffalo and America knows this bit of information they learned from a guy whose cousin bowls with a lawyer whose brother is a cop who heard it happened.

These rumors almost always had to do with local politicians and athletes and– as someone who constantly fielded these calls– you kinda got the impression that you were involved in a massive game of “telephone.” There were a few recurring general themes for many of the “tips,” but the details were slightly different.

A few examples: I have received “proof” from callers that nearly every politician is gay and got married just to hide this fact. The call will often go on to say that those same closeted gay politicians are about to be arrested for cavorting with under age boys. I could write down at least a dozen names off the top of my head right now that I have received that anonymous call about. I’ve never heard of any such investigation from a credible law enforcement source about anyone in elective office locally, let alone dozens of them.

We’d get many calls about Jim Kelly when he was taking the Bills to Superbowls, but my favorite– and it was frequent for a few years– was something along the lines of the caller knew a guy who knew Kelly’s optometrist. Jim Kelly wasn’t connecting on passes because he couldn’t see, but was too vain to get glasses. I laughed when I got the same call about Todd Collins.

Of course, the rumor that kicked off this thought train involves Ted Nolan. I hate to put it in print, but I will only to show how stupid it is. The story is now so well versed, that when you type Ted Nolan into Google, it’s one of the options that come up.

Somehow, it’s believed by many that Ted Nolan had sex with Dominik Hasek’s wife. Can I prove that didn’t happen? No, but if you watched the rumor evolve like I did, you wouldn’t believe it either.

This particular rumor started with phone calls alleging, very specifically, that “Ted Nolan was caught having sex with Hasek’s wife in the showers at the arena, and that’s why Ted and Dom don’t get along.”

It becomes even less credible when you know that this was the last in a long line of these variety of calls. There’d been others about Nolan and other players’ wives along the lines of, “This guy was cut because Ted got caught having sex with the guy’s wife in the dressing room shower.”

There were also a few that involved Ted getting caught getting it on with players in the locker room showers. “John Muckler cut this guy was cut because he was caught having sex with the coach in the dressing room showers.”

Wait, you say! If all this Ted and shower talk is going on, there must be some truth to it, right?

Absolutely not. The “Sabres having sex in the dressing room showers” nonsense pre-dates Nolan. The first time I got a call about two Sabres caught having sex in the shower, probably in 1993, I thought I had the scoop of the century. I was quickly slapped down when I told my fellow reporters, who repeated the same rumor back to me with a long line of different Sabres through history dating back to the 1970’s.

The Nolan one stuck, because I think he just might be the biggest, most widely-loved Sabres celebrity of all-time. Not just by hockey fans, but by everyone.  He was a good coach, a good guy, a rough-and-tumble guy, and good looking to boot– Everyone loved him. Except Dominik Hasek. Everybody knows both of those names, so its easy to repeat, and we all love to kill our heroes for some reason. So here it is, 15 years later, and still going, because you’d have to have a pretty big reason to hate Ted Nolan, right?

The one good thing, I guess, is that Nolan/Hasek’s wife stupidity became so rampant that it seems to have ended the Sabres dressing room shower sex rumors forever.

Mostly in jest, I think, it was repeated, or at least eluded to, a whole bunch on the internet yesterday. and probably will forever. But it’s stupid, and it’s made up, so let’s let it die, OK?

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Your 1989 City of Buffalo TCI cable channel guide

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

We just got a notification that they were moving around our cable channels, and I kinda laughed, since I have literally (and figuratively) no idea where any of my 900 cable channels are located anyway.

Every time I pull up the courage watch some TV, I spend 7 minutes trying to turn it on before I can start flipping. After 5 minutes of not finding anything good– but finding a lot of offensive– I go find something else to do.

Do you remember the days when you not only knew every cable channel you had, you also knew the number off the top of your head?

ycdtot

I remember first getting cable, and being amazed at the world that was opened up to me. Dozens of extra cartoons. You Can’t Do That On Television. Sabres Games. Guys speaking Spanish. Getting to watch Congressman Henry Nowak “Live from Washington, DC” on C-SPAN. OK, maybe that last one was just me, but for all of us, it was in 36 or fewer channels. It was fewer in my house, because we never got Disney or HBO. We, for some reason, always had Cinemax and Showtime. (I think they were cheaper than HBO and The Movie Channel at one point.)

Depending on where you lived, Western New York had a handful of different cable companies like Courier Cable, Cablevision, Jones Intercable, Adelphia, and TCI among others, until Verizon wound up gobbling them all up. I can remember looking  in the TV Guide with pre-teen anger at the all great stations people in other towns were getting that we weren’t. Jones Intercable always seemed unfair and a few years behind the times.

TCI served the City of Buffalo for most of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Here is the TCI cable lineup from 1989.

(For all the kids out there, you had to keep this next to the television, because the names of the stations didn’t appear on the screen when you flipped through the channels when your  mommy and daddy were little.)
TCI-Cable-Lineup-1989sm

That’s it! No page 2! No digital tier!

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Longer ago than it might feel… From the 1999-2000 phone book

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It wasn’t that long ago, right? 1999-2000? So the phone book shouldn’t be that different, should it?

As I put two recently delivered telephone directories out for recycling today, I thought I’d go grab a classic phone book off the shelf and give it a look through.

(Thanks for skipping over the why the hell do you have a 1999-2000 phone book question.)

Anyway, flip through, and of course there are some “oooOOH YEAaah!” type moments from things you’ve forgotten over the last 14 (almost 15) years.

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One thing that’s changed: the name of the phone company. It was Bell Atlantic for about 7 minutes between NYNEX and Verizon.

 

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Yay! Coupon for Blizzard Soccer!

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I miss this long neck guy from Forest City Auto Parts. He was on the building that is now a smut shop at Seneca and Bailey for a long time. I think they probably could have kept him on the sign, with just a few artistic changes?

 

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Remember Jim Pachiole screaming at us about Factory Sleep Shop?

 

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How about remember when the most annoying car ads just asked you to say hello to your mother? Note Lockport’s Gambino Ford’s website is hi-mom.com.

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Were you a Frontier Cellular guy or a Cell One guy? Or did you still have a pager?

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My mom probably still looks for phone book coupons when she has computer trouble.

Some how, buffalo.com's 1999 ad looks like it's from 1989. RIP Adelphia and Bell Atlantic.

Some how, buffalo.com’s 1999 ad looks like it’s from 1989. RIP Adelphia and Bell Atlantic.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

If voting isn’t hard, you’re doing it wrong

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

How do you vote? I’ve been doing it for decades now, and I’m still not sure how to do it.

flag

In theory, sometimes it’s easy. There’s a good looking, charming, passionate, good-hearted candidate who shows leadership and with whom you mostly agree on most issues, and the other guy is a criminal buffoon with the mark of Satan on his forehead.

But it’s never that easy. If you’re doing it right, voting is hard. It’s generally the one chance in life we have to choose the people who are some way in charge of us on some level. If you could vote for your next boss at work, would you base it on the letter next to his or her name?

Those letters mean very little to me, as most of the time, they are only two or three talking points different from one another. Even conservative and liberal are ideas that seem to evolve more quickly than they used to, and views I think of as conservative all the sudden are liberal, and vice-versa.

The labels seem vague and useless, but what does matter to me often leaves me scratching my head, too. It’s different every time, and each race has different elements that are more or less important, but nearly every time, I wind up picking as I’m sitting there with my bubble sheet ballot. Just like at a restaurant with a big menu.

This gravy-covered entree sounds delicious, but will likely give me heartburn. I know I won’t be wowed with this lean meat and salad-y one, but it’s almost as tasty and way more healthy.  Sounds stark, but get the baked potato with the gravy one and the ranch dressing on the salad, they might be just about the same.

For me, the worst case election scenario involves two candidates who on paper seem equally appealing to me. One is a candidate who has the best heart, is passionate, positive and forward looking– but is a bit murky or just plain opposite of me on a bunch of big issues.

The other is a smarmy sort of guy– who if he was in business, you might recommend to a friend because he gets the job done– but you’d also recommend that your friend watch this guy, because you don’t trust him as far as you can throw him. This guy, though, shares your vision for the future of the city or the state or the world or whatever.

Isn’t that a tough choice? In my world, it seems to happen in every election. Maybe it’s my decades of “not being allowed to cheer in the press box,” and my role as someone who has to critically examine both sides every time.

I usually finding myself going with the good guy, with the hopes that he or she will make decisions based on what they truly feel is right for the community every time. Or at least most of the time, right? If there isn’t a good guy, I go with someone in whom I see passion. Even if I agree with someone, I can’t necessarily trust that person to do the right thing for the right reasons every time.

I think most people would agree with this, which is why so many polls show people hating Congress, but liking their Congressman. “I met my guy at a spaghetti dinner for the cub scouts and he was great; the other 434 can jump off a cliff.”

I think most of us are charmed by most of the politicians we meet, because they are generally civically minded people who are trying to do good.

There are very few politicians who are “evil,” or deserve to jump off a cliff. There are a few who are in it just for themselves, and maybe a couple more few who just like to see their names on signs on people’s lawns. But even most of those politicians have a pretty large measure of trying to do some good for the communities they serve. They are not evil sociopaths as they are sometimes branded by opponents or people on Facebook.

Sometimes good guys get caught up in baloney, but bad guys look for baloney to get caught up in. So gimme the good guy. I guess.

I find voting hard. I think it should be.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Wait, what? Old-time Buffalo cops CARRIED perps to jail

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

As a guy who people think of as a “historian,” it means that I get to do a lot of  “research.”

Right now, I’m in various stages of writing and research at least 6 or 7 books, most of them having to do with some element of life and pop culture in Western New York. The most fun part of writing a book for me, far and away, is the research.

It’s sort of like CBS Newsman Charles Kuralt talking about his old series “On The Road,” where he’d drive around the country in a Winnebago doing stories about oddities in every day life in America.

“We generally have a story in mind when we hit the road,” he said to WBEN reporter Mike McKay when Kuralt visited Buffalo in the early 90’s, “but we kinda hope we don’t get there.”

I love getting lost in research. It can be painstaking and hit or miss. Even if I know the date of some event that happened in 1963, you have to look through both the Courier-Express and the Buffalo Evening News a few days before hoping for a preview, and a few days after hoping for a recap. It’s often a low-odds gamble to look for something specific like that, and if you did nothing but look for what you were looking for, you could walk away with nothing after 8 hours.

So I end up reading the paper. From like 50 or 100 years ago. So even if I don’t find what I’m looking for, I find out things like Buffalo Police used to carry their suspects to the police station. Like over-the-shoulder WWF style.

I know, right? Read on.

cops-carry-bad-guys-for-TB-590x1024

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

The car dealers of 1950’s Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

We’re going back 63 years here, but these photos show that on many levels, life was simpler not all that long ago.

Two generations ago, you could walk to the car dealership in your neighborhood to purchase your next ride. If you wanted to haggle over the 9 or 10 cars they had, you went in and talked with the guy whose name is on the sign. The buildings are just regular city buildings, many of which still stand today, and you’d never guess were once car dealerships.

It’s just so much different than what we think of in 2013.

Although most of these photos are likely from the mid ’40s or earlier, each of these photos was taken from a collection of ads dated 1950.

The best thing about every single one of these places? None of them are HUUUUGE.

DiBello1950

DiBello Pontiac 1275 Main Street. Its facade is bricked over, but it’s still standing.

DonAllen1950

Don Allen Chevy, 2585 Main at Fillmore. Now the site of an Eckerd. I mean Rite Aid.

Gillen1950

Gillen Pontiac, the only dealer shown outside of the city, at 3445 Delaware Avenue in Tonawanda. Until recently the home of Premier Liquor, it’s now Len-Co Lumber.

LBSmith1950

LB Smith Ford, 1212 Abbott Rd at City Line. Recently abandoned after years as a Ford dealership, the buildings still stand next to LB Smith Plaza, home of Hens & Kelly.

Maxson1950

Maxson Cadillac-Pontiac, 2421 Main St at Jewett. Built as a Pierce-Arrow dealership, Caddys were sold here for about 65 years. Has been a bank for the last decade.

Rooney1950

Rooney Nash, 2705 Bailey St. Neither the car make nor the building have made it. This was where the gas station near the police station is.

TaggartSchutz1950

Taggart Schutz Pontiac 1294 Seneca St. building is boarded up and painted white, but still stands.

TaylorOBrien1950

Taylor-O’Brien Ford, 2837 Bailey Ave, Buffalo. Building still stands with large cement awning next to the 33

AAA1950

Not a car dealer, but interesting old car photos, and AAA– which still does all these things (except the crisp white jumpsuit wearing.)

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

 

@#$%!! Winter already?!?

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I’m not the biggest fan of winter, and I hope it’s a mild one. I’ll take warm over cold any day of the week.

While sometimes I might say I do, I don’t hate winter. Winter is part of our deal here in Buffalo, so I accept it and try to make the most of it.

What really bothers me– what inspires something closer to hate– is the speed with which it all seems to go by.

A very artistic, instagrammy look at Steve Cichon’s snow blower
A very artistic, instagrammy look at Steve Cichon’s snow blower

In the last week, I made a pot of scratch chicken noodle soup, gassed up and started the snow blower, and got the furnace ready and turned on the heat. Mundane chores that bother some people, but for me it’s not that chore, so much as it’s just that it literally could have been last week that I was grilling on the 4th of July, sharpening the lawn mower blade for the season, and getting the fans out of the attic.

Really. All of that could have been yesterday. But right now, I’m wearing 4 layers as I type in the back bedroom of our drafty old house, thinking that I won’t be warm until May. Again, it’s not the layers as much as it seems perfectly reasonable that I should be wearing shorts to take the dog for a walk today, not pulling out the peacoat for its 21st Buffalo winter.

It’s not that I don’t stop to smell the roses. I do, literally. I love nature, and enjoy taking it in. But the seasonal differentiation device in my brain is like an old VCR constantly flashing 12:00. I have no good sense of time, which means time is always flying by.

Flying by, in fact, like a tractor trailer on a dark road in the middle of the night.

When you see those little pinholes of light in the rear view mirror coming over that hill way behind you, it seems like that little spec of yellow might never catch up to you.

Daydream (or night dream, as it were) for a moment, and all of the sudden, that truck is right next to you, loudly rattling past, whooshing and reeking of diesel for about 6 seconds. Then it’s tail lights, until they get small and disappear– Just as two more little white pin pricks of light appear in your rear view mirror again.

Not just seasons, but all the things of life. All that time looking forward to something, only to have it whoosh by and turn into tail lights before you even realize it was there.

I’m not sure if it comes with age or if it’s because we change the way we live as we age, but it wasn’t always this way. I find myself being one of those annoying people who have tell people who are younger than me to take the time to enjoy… time. I don’t put it quite that way, but that’s what I mean. And make sure you enjoy time while standing somewhere other than my lawn.

I wouldn’t want to return to youth. The wisdom and knowledge of age roundly outweigh the creaks, groans, and grays for me.

The one thing I’d love to get back is time that goes by like a Countrytime Lemonade commercial– with twangy music, hazy sunshine hanging just above the horizon, a breeze gently swaying the willow tree,and the feeling that none of it will ever end.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Some of the best of 80’s Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

These are the kinds of thing that litter my hard drive and my attic.

This is what it means to be a “Buffalo pop culture historian,” having this sort of junk at my fingertips. And if I don’t regularly share images like these, people stop calling me a “historian” and start calling me a “hoarder.”

So these are from the Buffalo Stories/staffannouncer.com Archives.

If you survived the decade of the 1980’s in Buffalo, New York, you very well may remember:

goldcircleIn most locations, Gold Circle took over Buffalo area Twin Fair stores in 1982. Gold Circle stores closed in 1988, with many becoming Hills, unless there was already a Hills location nearby (such as on Lake Avenue in Blasdell.)
tricogoal copyRemember when the Trico ad in the boards lit up when the Sabres scored a goal at the Aud? Windshield wipers were invented in Buffalo, and produced in 3 various plants around the city, until Trico closed up shop and moved to Mexico. Also, remember when the Sabres scored goals?

 

gennycreamposterbigA field full of plants growing cans of delicious Genny Cream Ale? Don’t tell me you haven’t dreamed this dream. People will come, Ray… People will most definitely come.

 

chamberofcommerce82This is the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce in 1982. The best part is, the “Talking Proud” hook rug hanging on the wall might not even be in the top 5 most 80’s things about this photo.

 

crystalbeachsuperduperGet your discount Crystal Beach tickets at Super Duper. That’s exciting, but the real excitement, in retrospect, was the fact that you could very likely cross the Peace Bridge by answering one question with “US,” and then getting a “go ahead,” from a customs guy.

 

irvdietpepsi copyThis 1981 Irv Weinstein photo has a strong 1970’s look about it, but the early 80’s had a strong 70’s look about them. For some people in WNY, the 70’s ended and the 80’s began some time in 1992.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

BREAKING: Trader Joe’s Inspires Ambivalence

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This past weekend, we had visits to several box stores on our to-do list.

Since it was Sunday morning, and all of these box stores are each right next to a “box restaurant” where you can get bread-y things for breakfast, we decided to get our Niagara Falls Boulevard visit out of the way before most Williamsville soccer moms are awake to clog the roads and Canadians are still stuck in bridge traffic.

Steve's look inside the Niagara Falls Blvd. Trader Joe's the weekend it opened.
Steve’s look inside the Niagara Falls Blvd. Trader Joe’s the weekend it opened.

There was no line, but I’m not sure the fire marshal would like home many people were packed inside Trader Joe’s this weekend.

There was no line, but I’m not sure the fire marshal would like how many people were packed inside Trader Joe’s this weekend.

We were able to quickly grab what we needed at three stores, and, well, we just happened to be in the plaza that plays host to the most exciting thing to happen to Western New York since Krispy Kreme opened here.

There were parking spots right in front of the store, and there weren’t any Real Housewives of Snyder clawing at each other in a line in front of the store– in fact, there was no line– so we tried Trader Joe’s, especially since we needed to buy something for dinner anyway.

It’s a grocery store. It has a trendy feel, too trendy for my liking, but so does Wegmans where I shop twice a week. They had what I needed to make chicken soup, and they had generic Cheerios on sale. Fine.

There’s my opinion, but people have been all over the map on Trader Joe’s.

They have some interesting inexpensive items. They have some interesting super expensive items. The clerks are either “nice and helpful” or “annoying and too perky” depending on your point of view.

The meat and vegetables were pretty reasonably priced, but you couldn’t possibly do all your shopping there, because the trendy TP looks like its made out of pine cones.

Why do I have to form an opinion on a stupid niche grocery store? We have become a society where you have to love or hate something, and then argue the crap out of why you feel that way.

It’s a store. Some stuff I’d buy, some I wouldn’t. In the 25 minutes my wife and I were in there, three different employees told me they liked my bow tie with buffaloes on it, and three also asked if I needed any help. Based on that, I think it’s fair to say the staff in general is nice, annoying, too perky and helpful.

I just can’t get worked up either way… over a freaking grocery store.

Somehow though, in my ambivalence for TJ’s, as the insiders call it, I feel like less of a man. Like I’ve showed up to a Superbowl party to “just root for a good game.”

“Just pick a team, Sally,” I feel some alpha-male douche snarling at me, and he wants to know about cookie butter and what my feelings are over a lack of “Two-Buck-Chuck” because of our state laws governing wine sales in grocery stores. He hates it, because he has Two-Buck-Chuck in his fantasy league.

I’ve actually been caught in the cross-hairs of a Love TJ’s vs Hate TJ’s battle, with each side trying to sway me with incredible arguments about a grocery store that’s been open for less than 100 hours here in WNY. If only we could corral this passion into something good.

I don’t hate Trader Joe’s. I don’t love Trader Joe’s. It’s meh. But with all this passion about the joint, maybe they should build one in the hole where the Aud used to be.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

Learning to listen

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

My grandfather is 87 years old. His body is failing him, but his mind is a steel trap.

steveandgramps

I used to like to ask him questions about things I’d like to know about, but now mostly I listen when we visit. It’s just another one of the many things I’ve learned from good ol’ Gramps.

Listening is a powerful, underutilized gift. People don’t like to listen, even when they think they are listening. For example, I used to think I loved listening to Gramps’ stories, but I was always asking about specific things. Once I gave up the steering wheel, I really started to enjoy the ride.

Gramps’ mind goes all over time and space. He has a nearly photographic memory for things that happened before he lost his sight a decade ago. He’s starting to lose names of people and places, but he remembers when you give him a little help. That’s not really a new problem either– for as long as I can remember, gramps has called me “AhhhChuckieTommyJimmyEddieAhhGregAhhStevie.”

I stopped by yesterday, and Gramps told me a few great stories about days gone by, as well as his analysis of the world today.

  • His $600 winner on a $2 ticket at the track.
  • Chinese nuclear reactors.
  • As a kid, swiping rejected boxes of Cheerios from the loading docks at General Mills (those were different times.)
  • How the Bills should have won every game so far.
  • All the different places he and his brothers and sisters served during the war. Aunt Olga was with Patton.
  • Bringing pennies to Father Baker.
  • Polish and Russian history.
  • How at 15 he had a mustache, and would go drink at Tippy Toes, and pick up chicks in his 1933 Plymouth.

Listening to Gramps, and knowing how much he enjoys having someone listen, has made me a better listener. I love to tell stories, but I’d rather hear a good story well told, by someone who is enjoying the telling. Even if I’ve heard the story 38 times before. The story is the selfish part for the listener.

Enjoying the joy with which the story is being told, now there’s a skill we all need to practice, with someone who could really use an ear.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com