One of the best things about living in Brooklyn is that we don’t need a car. One of the worst things about living in Buffalo is how much we do. In Brooklyn, the car stays parked, moved only to shuttle back and forth as needed for Alternate Side of the Street Parking requirements on Monday and Tuesday. We are half a block from the subway line that takes us to Manhattan and one daughter in twenty minutes, and half a mile from the one that takes us to our other daughter’s new Brooklyn apartment. The Botanic Gardens, Brooklyn Museum, and Brooklyn Academy of Music are a fifteen minute walk in various directions, and there are two supermarkets a block from the house, not to mention Fresh Direct and Amazon Direct to deliver whatever we need in groceries. Hair and nail care, Chinese,Italian, Lebanese, Thai, and French food, all within two blocks. We look forward to the day when we sell the car
But not yet. We are in Buffalo for a few weeks without it, having left it behind to ease the Brooklyn move. The train ride up the Hudson is beautiful this time of year, though the scheduled nine hours inevitably extends to ten and a half or eleven, as we are shunted to the side to let the freight trains pass. Goods before people! Then the evening trip on Buffalo’s Subway to Nowhere, where you can’t buy a ticket, but will get tossed off without one.
But all that pales next to car-free daily life. We live at the absolute center of this city, which has 250,000 inhabitants. And we have to walk a mile for a quart of milk. How dare they call this a city? And the second largest one in New York State, to boot! The first few days it rained heavily, and since food shopping required a long walk in that rain, we had a lesson in “eating from the fridge and pantry.” Long on beans and short on eggs. Finally on Saturday we decided to trek to the new Trader Joe’s. The ten minute train ride to the end of the subway was followed by a twenty-five minute wait for the bus. That actually left us on TJ’s corner. We loaded up our backpacks and then waited in the rain for the return bus, and miraculously, connected immediately with the subway.
Since we had stripped TJ’s clean, my backpack weighed twenty-five pounds-Phil dragged it upstairs to weigh it since I was prostrate once we reached home, insisting it must be at least sixty pounds! And for the rest of the week we will only have to walk that mile for milk and eggs.
But limping in another person’s shoes gave me some time to think about what life must be like here for people who can’t afford cars, or gas, which remains a stubborn fifty cents per gallon more expensive than the national average. How do you get to work? What do you do when the bus is late and you miss a connection? How do you cope when it snows? This is Buffalo of the 100 inches a year of fluffy stuff. How do you provide for your family’s food needs when the closest supermarket is a two mile walk away?
We are on the West Side of Main Street, and have that hike to a supermarket. There are no supermarkets on the East Side at all, and there haven’t been any for forty-four years. But that is a story for another day.
Meanwhile, walking everywhere has lat me appreciate a beautiful Buffalo Fall season this year…