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The Mysteries of Buffalo

Best of Buffalo 2009

artwork by Jeremy Maxell

The annual Artvoice Best of Buffalo poll frequently raises more questions than it answers: How many ways are there to misspell Nietzsche’s? Will folks ever stop voting for Joel Giambra in both the “Worst Politician” and “Best Politician” categories? Why do folks persist in believing that Charlie the Butcher is a butcher shop rather than a restaurant?

Why do our readers consistently vote for places that no longer exist (like Mondo Video or New World Records) and places that very nearly do not exist (like Memorial Auditorium)? Why does a joint that opened five years ago keep getting votes for “Best New Restaurant”?

Ours is not to reason why. We just count your votes. But this year we asked our readers to do some creative exploration of Our Fair Region: The contest was called “Mysteries of Buffalo,” and we asked you all to write us a story, fact or fiction, evoking true-to-life people and places. We were flooded with entries.

Some of the stories were completely mad. Some clearly were written under the influence. Some comprised a smattering of seemingly unrelated words. Some misconstrued the contest’s intent, which was probably our fault.

And some of them were terrific. Over the next few days, we’ll post excellent stories by Januarius Kim Welch and Naomi Kelsey, as well as a few others, at But this week we’ll start with a snappy little piece by Lou Rera, which has, in addition to a wealth of Buffalo name-checks (in bold), the virtue of brevity. Brevity is a the soul of wit, said Polonius, and it also is the currency of print newspapers. So, without further ado:

They found Betty’s briefcase in a dumpster behind Bacchus on the south side of Pearl. She’d reported the theft the night before, and made a nasty scene of it at Precinct 6 on Main Street. She was inconsolable, screaming that the thief had stolen a one-of-a-kind package, and a most unusual lithograph of a crazed Michael Niman driving a Hummer—dragging six bicycles chained to the rear bumper. That last item, the litho, was on loan from the CEPA Gallery.

Betty Simon had simply snapped. She threw a chair through the plate glass window of the police station, severely injuring Vincent Gallo, who happened to be lying on the sidewalk shooting odd angle location stills for his latest film project titled Wild Buffalo Bills: An Enigma. If he recovers, the screening is scheduled for Babeville in early 2010.

After being subdued by two guards, Betty was taken to ECMC for observation. Dr. Leslie Fiedler, the attending physician, allowed me a few minutes to speak with her. The following conversation is an excerpt from that interrogation.

“It was like 10,000 maniacs burst into the room. You turned this place into the Buffalo Zoo last night. What gives?” I said.

“I had a rare edition of the complete works of Byron, wrapped in plain Brown paper bound with butcher’s twine. I was on my way to the Central Library to have James Whitmore, the curator of the rare books collection give me an appraisal. I was breathless because on the phone, he’d told me the book was worth a small fortune.”

“Well what happened, Ms. Simon? The report says your dog Brodo bit—let me see here,” I glanced at my notes, “Carl Paladino. By the way I know Carl, and no one messes with him, absolutely no one.”

Robby Takac, you know the guy from the Goo Goo Dolls?—anyway we’d just finished our coffee at Spot discussing plans for an event he had in mind for next year’s Music is Art fundraiser. I planned to use the proceeds of my book sales to fund part of his project. So Robby was going on and on about the people who run the Allentown Art Festival. They’re not very supportive—a bunch of craft heads, he called them.”

“Can you get to the point?”

“Yes, okay, Mr. Donovan, I’m getting to that.”

“You think this a party or something? I ain’t Your Host, so please, get on with it.”

“When we walked out to Chippewa, this guy with a Mohawk ripped my briefcase out of my hand—jumped in a beat-up old van with the words Queen City sprayed on the side, and headed south toward the Rust Belt. I already gave the plate number to one of your detectives,” she said.

Oliver’s new and doing the best he can working with the knuckleheads from the Erie County division.”

“I know who’s behind this anyway. It’s—”

The window blew out with the force of a bomb, glass shards shot into the wall and against the Anchor Bar supporting the wheelchair ramp. Betty had been shot through the forehead. Quick and not so clean. I slammed my fist against the call box.

“Kevin, get in here, NOW!” I screamed.

Kevin’s Gaughan,” a voice shouted back.

After the mayhem and the paperwork, I walked down to the Erie Basin Marina to gather my thoughts. Whoever could Hatch a plan this precise were more deadly than Irv Weinstein’s “Pistol Packing Punks. A young woman like Betty should’ve never been murdered over a copy of a rare book by Byron, and a poet no less. I know we’ll never find the killer. This is after all, Just Buffalo.

Best of Buffalo 2009 Nominations

Mysteries of BuffaloThe Way We EatThe Way We Drink
Where We ShopOur Kind of MusicThese are Our People
Our Culture, Great and SmallThis is Our Town

And the Winners Are...

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