When I was 15 years old my family moved to the town of Fort Erie, across the Peace Bridge from Buffalo, New York. My mother resisted. Fort Erie was a border town and God knows what evil might make its way to us from the other side of the river.
We never ventured across the bridge. Except once for an Andre Crouch concert where the audience was mostly black and there was dancing in the aisles. I’m not sure which made my parents more uneasy.
“You don’t want to get lost over there and find yourself in the wrong neighbourhood,” my Mom used to say. I can’t remember who they were, but their words of caution lodged in my mind, so although I’ve lived my whole adult life a little more than an hour from the border, I’ve rarely been to Buffalo except to pass through on an express trip south or east.
All this is to say that when I fell in love with the acapella country band Home Free, I wanted to hear them live more than anything. I saw they were doing a Sunday night show at Buffalo State and I thought about it for weeks. Checking every day to see if it was sold out. Finally, on the day of the show I summoned my courage. I pulled up a map, and shuffled on down there on my own.
The border guard was friendly and wanted to know more about the band. I only got lost once and back tracked easily enough, arriving in plenty of time to buy my CDs before the show. The band was amazing. Even better in person than on the Youtube videos I play over and over at home. Driving back that night I felt brave, accomplished, and more in love with Home Free than ever.
I also felt a little foolish. Thinking how I’d let a narrow strip of water and some childhood whispers keep me from exploring my own backyard all these years. Now I know better, I’m going back to Buffalo again real soon. The Albright Knox Art Gallery is one of the finest in America. And many of Frank Lloyd Wright’s celebrated buildings are found here. Heck I might even go really crazy and make the 3 hour trek to the Detroit Institute of Arts to see the famous Detroit Industry Murals by the great Diego Rivera.
Three morals in this story,
1. The Home Free Vocal Band is wonderful and you should check them out.
2. Buffalo is home to some extraordinary art and architecture and you should check that out.
3. Cross the bridge.
Yours with creativity and imagination,