On the 1st August, I hopped on a plane and flew to Buffalo. We arrived just after sunset and came in over the Erie Basin Marina. I could see the lights of the city and the Niagara River snaking off into the distance.
The city of my birth has been busy while I’ve been away. There are new buildings downtown, new restaurants at the airport, and it’s now possible to get poutine in Tonawanda.
Some friends picked me up at the airport, and the next morning they took me to the Greyhound station so I could catch the coach to Syracuse. From there Geoff and I would drive up to Kingston for our cousin, James’, wedding. Waiting at the station in Buffalo, we stopped at the kiosk so I could pick up some breakfast for the coach. I surveyed the powdered doughnuts and chocolate bars and briefly considered a slice of apple pie before deciding on the classic American favourite, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I handed the lady $1.00 and she passed over my sandwich.
“Huh,” I said.
“Well, what were you expecting?” asked my friend.
I dunno. Peanut butter, I suppose. Jam. Two slices of white bread stuck together in the conventional sandwich arrangement. What I got was a truly American experience, and I say this because I’m not sure there would be a market for it anywhere else in the world. There was peanut butter, yes, and grape jam, and they were enclosed in a sealed pocket of dough-type material that was the colour of bread even while it lacked the crusts and fluffy texture. The whole thing came pre-packaged in a bag adorned with bright pink and purple lettering.
I’ve been away a long time, and maybe that’s why I was surprised. This I pondered as I ate my pocket and discovered that I liked it just fine. I am American, after all. I grew up eating Little Debbie cakes and green, watermelon-flavoured applesauce. I embrace the culture that brought the world Reese’s puffs breakfast cereal and marshmallow spread; indeed, I embrace it with open arms and a plate for second helpings.
I settled back in my seat and prepared to sink into a jetlag coma as Upstate New York drifted by in a blur of green fields and maple trees.
Beautiful Buffalo, that place I love, thank God you didn't go and grow up while I wasn't watching.