thanks for nothing
The night before Thanksgiving is supposed to be the biggest bar night in Buffalo. I’ve lived here all my life, but a lot of my friends have moved away. Still a lot of them come back every year for Thanksgiving. This year, I’m getting a bunch of Facebook messages from them, saying they have plans to go out Wednesday night, but at several different bars.
Over the years, a few rifts have developed among the friends. So, I can see why some of them don’t want to hang out together. But on the other hand, I don’t want to be driving all over town on such a busy night, to see them all. Plus, I wouldn’t mind having a couple cocktails with them. I can take a cab to and from one place, but I don’t feel like going broke on fares, right before the holidays. That’s what would happen if I went to all these different bars.
How do I handle this without slighting any of my friends?
The Straight Skinny says: One Saturday morning in the mid 1990s, a group of my friends met for a hung-over breakfast at a now defunct diner on Niagara Street. (Since you’ve clearly been in town for a while, you may recall the place and its odd collection of toys and memorabilia and the cartoon characters painted on the wall outside. Terrific home fries, nice owners.) The evening before—spent shooting pool at the Rendezvous, also as good as closed, for the terrific gap between its atmosphere then, in its modern heyday, and in subsequent incarnations—and the usual frivolousness had been somewhat muted by news that several of our circle were leaving town, looking for greener pastures.
We were in our mid to late 20s, the slough of despair, when everyone you know seems to have a better idea of what he wants to do with his life than you do. All the friends and acquaintances we had left were leaving for bigger cities, for graduate schools, for whatever. Worse, the younger people on the periphery of our circle were leaving faster than those our age. It was clear to those of us at the breakfast table that we were frozen in place. An acid-tongued friend of mine had once said of me, “He’ll never leave Buffalo,” and at the time I’d resented it: I had big plans. But six years after he’d made the pronouncement, I was still there. He was right.
“Pretty soon,” said one of the guys at the table, “there’ll be, like, six of us left. And we’ll all live alone in warehouses in different corners of the city, and we’ll come by to visit each other.”
That sounded fun. Bleak. Lonesome.
The point of the story is this: You, like my friends and I, stayed in Buffalo through some hard times for both the city and ourselves. I have no doubt that you lost friends to the wide, wonderful world—and I’ll bet that in recent years some of those friends have retuned from their adventure afield to buy houses and start families in this city, where those things are easy to do. Others come home to visit, and you can see that they’re casting their eyes about and considering returning, too.
Meantime, you stuck it out. You made yourself an institution in your neighborhood. Probably you’re even a regular at some tavern or another. Tell them that’s where you’ll be. Let them come to you. This is your town now.
The Straight Perspective: Agreed. If they’re all saying where they’ll be, why shouldn’t you? Pick a bar near your house, since you seem determined to get loaded, and notify Facebook that you will be there, all evening. If your friends come see you (and the good ones will, right?), that’s great; if they don’t, it’s their loss, and you don’t have to feel guilty about anything. If they all refuse to because they might run into their ex-friends, have another drink and start making a new circle of acquaintances.
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