When we’re lucky in Buffalo, snow’s nice at least once a year

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

There’s a definitive visceral satisfaction and joy in watching a machine operated by your own hands so completely defeating Mother Nature.

Of course, snow removal is only poetic when there’s a few inches of the stuff and it’s a windless 32 degrees.

It’s fleeting and wonderful, so I do my best to fully enjoy it when the unlikely great conditions make for a delightful snow blow.

Even slightly more snow, calm wind, or a few degrees falling off the thermometer can easily turn happy, bloviatious SAT word-laden thoughts into gutturally spewed Anglo-Saxon words. But you can’t have one without the other.

There’s no way to feel the fullest high of an easy snow removal without having unfurled a deeply painful and cold “SONAVABITCH” at the senselessness and stupidity of living in such a place as this.

True Buffalove means, to apocryphally paraphrase Marilyn Monroe, if you can’t handle Buffalo at its worst, maybe you don’t deserve it at its best.

And either way,  there’s always the notion that post-snow blowing is the only acceptable time for me to take my pants off in the kitchen. And Bailey’s hot chocolate or a Manhattan.

#BuffaloSnow

Buffalo in the ’30s: Nearly a blizzard on Main Street

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Snow-covered streetcars, buses, cars and pedestrians share the 400 block of Main Street with Hengerer’s, Shea’s Century theater and Buffalo Savings Bank’s gold dome in this shot from 77 years ago.

Buffalo News archives

On Jan. 30, 1939, Buffalo was dealt a surprise 8.5 inches of snow. Two people died as a result of the storm — both as they drudged through the weather on downtown sidewalks. The fact that news accounts mention that the weather event was not an official blizzard, leads one to believe the storm was wicked enough to use the shorthand of “blizzard” whether it strictly fit the meteorological definition or not.

Winter Makes Us Who We Are

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Some of us ski, some of us snowmobile, but most of us dislike Buffalo’s winter weather, and have absolutely no use for it at all. Period.

Hertel Avenue, January 6, 2014.
Hertel Avenue, January 6, 2014.

Sure, that first snow fall is cute, and it’s nice to have a little right before Christmas, but that’s it for snow. And the cold is almost entirely useless.

Yet here we are, living in a place where we don’t really like the weather 5 months out of the year, and we wouldn’t leave for anything.

All of us spend from November to April with a dry cough, a low-grade sinus infection, and chapped, cracked hands and lips.

The cold, colorless landscape can wear on our moods. Prolonged cold and snow can wear on our bodies as we clear our driveways and windshields, and can wear on cars as they try to chug through, too. Even our heartless, soulless machines need an occasional jump or a push to get themselves going when it’s like this.

But that’s how winter makes us who we are.

We’re ready with the knowledge of rocking a car– wheels straight– before a gut-busting almighty shove, and standing by with a pair of jumper cables, ready to hook the black cable to some bare metal in the engine block of the car with the dead battery. We don’t have this arcane knowledge just for ourselves, but also to help bring brightness to someone else’s cold, gray day. We don’t even question that it’s everyone’s responsibility to get everyone else out of the ditch and on to where they are going.

If you don’t have jumper cables, maybe you have supply of cough drops, tea bags and tissues your desk drawer. They are ready, of course, for when your month-long almost cold turns the corner to full-blown sick. They are also there, however,  as an apothecary for friends and co-workers, ready to soothe their aches with a little understanding and help get through not only the day, but the howling, frigid winter with which we all grapple.

Maybe after a lifetimes’ worth of clearing the neighborhood’s sidewalks, the next generation is now clearing yours. We all understand that winter is a group effort in Western New York, and that understanding permeates who we are year ’round.

A Buffalo winter is not like a tornado or a hurricane. There’s no hoping and praying that it skips us. We know it’s coming, and we know it’s going to be long, and we know it’s going to be rough at times. But the thing that’s different about a Buffalo winter– is not only how we deal with it, but how we all help each other through it.

People fortunate enough to head south during the winter months know the feeling of having red, chilled cheeks walking on a plane, and sunny warmth on your face as you disembark.

As good as 80 might feel in Miami today, it couldn’t beat a 52 degree day at the end of January, when you walk outside, feel thoroughly warmed, and smile at the neighbor with whom you were shoveling the side walk only a few days earlier.

Sure, it’s only January, and there is more gray, thick winter to come, but our shared experience, our love for our city, and our love for one another, keep us moving in anticipation of when we can change the sound of howling wind for the sounds of birds chirping in the lush green trees, and change the taste of chapstick for the tastes of our favorite ice cream and hot dog stands.

Stay warm.

This page originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

The Wiping Willow Winter: Muddy Dogs Make Prayers For Snow

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

willowsitsMaybe you hear it in my voice. As a journalist, I’m supposed to, and do, tackle my assignments without prejudice and with a willingness to hear both sides.I hope you haven’t heard it, but over the last few months, I just haven’t been able to hide my disgust. As I read the weather forecast.

I’m not a skier or a snowmobiler, so I really don’t mind the lack of snow. And since I don’t play pond hockey, the fact that the lake didn’t freeze causes me no real alarm (except that typical Buffalo expectation that we’ll all be under 37 feet of snow on April Fools Day.)

Really, I love the warmth and sunshine maybe even more than the average guy. But this year, nothing ruins my day like seeing a high temperature of 43 or 39. Above freezing. Well above freezing. There’s no snow to melt, but the ground does get soft. 

There really hasn’t been much of a winter at all, which is why the winter of 2011-12 will forever be remembered in the Cichon house as the “Winter of the Muddy Paws.”

If you are a dog owner, how can you be excited to hear that its 30 today, but tomorrow we could hit 38? Can you really feel the difference between 30 and 38? Even if you can, good luck enjoying those “warmer temperatures,” since in my house a quick 25 seconds outside in the backyard can equal up to 5 minutes of paw, leg, and belly cleaning.

Willow is good. She sits and will even hand you a paw to be cleaned; very regal for an SPCA mutt. But if you’ve just about finished wiping, and a squirrel pops his head over the fence…. forget it.

I really don’t want to be one of those people who finds something to complain about everything, and I’m generally not that way. Even about our usually mundane winter tasks like scraping of windshields and snowblowing the driveway. No problem. But these dirty paws, five, six or thirteen times a day, sometimes just to do the quick run out and come in for a treat.

It’s affecting my marriage and showing my flaws. So far deep into the spare bathroom towels, I’m not sure whether I’m about to pluck a “good towel” from the linen closet or not. And saints preserve us if there’s an unexpected muddy paw and I reach for the good dish towel.

Even as a lifelong Buffalonian, I don’t know that the weather’s ever had such a lousy effect on me. Another month of snow? No problem. I have furry hats to keep me warm. There is no kind of head gear to get you through muddy paws.

willow in the mud

About now is the point in my rant when someone will mention that they saw these cute little booties for dogs’ paws, so that you can put them on when they go out, and take them off when they come back in. These were obviou sly designed either by someone who has never been around a dog, or by someone who hates dog owners. Willow would, and rightly so, go out in the muddiest part of the yard and roll around in it, covering herself in mud trying to get those booties off her paws. Her paws would stay clean, but the rest of her would be caked in mud.

At this point, if taking out the ice boom means spring is here, for the sake of my mental well-being, I hope the solid-ground-part of spring is around the corner really fast. To think it could be another two months of picking mud covered grass bits from between the toes of this animal could actually have me hoping for a blizzard. I’m losing grip with reality on this.

I really wish I could be one of the proud Buffalonians who can think only of Mr. Softee trucks and shorts when we hit 42 degrees in February, and most winters I’m with ya. But this year, that excitement is marred by the same mark as my kitchen floor: a big muddy paw print.