ECW: In Memoriam

ECW.  Extreme Championship Wrestling.  I loved ECW in its prime, much more than the “big brothers” that were WWF and WCW.  I think it was just that perfect time when I was getting too old for WWF/WCW, and wanted something to bridge the gap during my confused pre-teen and teenage years.  ECW made wrestling cool again.  The cursing.  The hardcore moves.  The leaps off the balcony.  The WOMEN!  The tables on fire.  But most of all – the crowd participation.  Going to an ECW show, you felt like you were some sort of hipster wrestling fan.  Like you were part of some movement that no one else knew about.  And we liked it that way.  The unique chants that would start up were like war cries for wrestling nerds everywhere.  When you saw some dude whispering to his friend, “What are they chanting?” you wanted nothing more than to punch that fool in the face.  This was OUR wrestling league…OUR little underground secret.  And we really didn’t give a fuck if everyone thought we were crazy for loving it.  Don’t like it?  Think it’s crude or inappropriate?  Fine – get the fuck out.  It was our own sadistic cult.  Ever wonder what it was like in The Coliseum when the ancient gladiators would go to battle?  I’d imagine it was something similar to what would go down inside Burt Flickinger Center at the foot of exit 6 off the 190 every three to four months in downtown Buffalo.

When I stumbled across the news today that the company’s flagship venue, The ECW Arena in South Philly, had officially shut its doors, I thought it would be fitting to write a eulogy of some sort to the wrestling league that provided me with so many great memories and twisted experiences.  Although this has nothing to do with “Exploring Buffalo”, I didn’t have any other place to put it.  So here it is.  You see, ECW has actually been dead since 2001, when owner Paul Heyman declared bankruptcy.  The company was devoured by WWF, who took the opportunity to leech off the name by creating a spinoff ECW tv show, which had absolutely nothing to do with the original company, save for a few rare appearances by washed up old ECW stars.  But meanwhile, the ECW Arena lived on, as the glorified bingo hall hosted other independent wrestling leagues.  With the venue finally closing for real, it feels like the true end of the ECW era.  But god damn…did it leave me with some good memories.

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Buffalo Underground: GCR Audio (with AUTOPUNCH)

This past weekend I had the pleasure of being invited into the studio by my friends in the outrageafunkalicious band AUTOPUNCH for a few hours.  AUTOPUNCH is recording their first full length album, a follow up to their self titled EP they released earlier this year, which you can listen to and buy on their website.  As a huge music fan, who also at one time even maybe considered himself a “guitar player” (I was not good), I was thrilled at the opportunity to see the whole process in action.  What I didn’t expect was how amazing the recording studio itself would be.  GCR Audio, tucked away on the corner of Franklin and North just outside of Allentown, is truly a hidden gem of Buffalo.

First a bit of background on GCR Audio.  For the most part, this article on Buffalo Rising can catch you up, but I’ll give you a synopsis.  As you may have heard, there’s this band from Buffalo called the Goo Goo Dolls.  They have a bass player named Robby Takac, who is truly a pioneer for Buffalo music.  Robby started the Music is Art festival, which showcases almost a hundred up and coming music acts every year, and he is a constant image of the Buffalo music scene in general.  Whether you love the Goos or not, you can’t deny the impact that Robby has had locally.  This vision was continued in 2009 when he opened GCR Audio, a state of the art recording studio like nothing else in the city of Buffalo, or even much of the northeast.  The Goos have recorded there themselves, along with other acts like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, B.o.B, Jessie J, and Buffalo’s own Moe.  Continue on for the story from my visit…

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The Potential of Canalside

The Canalside Project has easily drawn the most opinions/suggestions of any of the other developments currently going on in the City of Buffalo.  Regardless of how you feel about the progress, it is an exciting aspect of downtown which has some serious potential.  However, with the economy in the trash can, as well as the usual bureaucratic hurdles that all public works face, the development seems to be moving at a fairly slow pace.  I wanted to take some time to talk about how I feel about the progress made so far, as well as a few ideas I have for the area.

It’s easy for people to just come out and criticize the project in general, but when you step back and look at it, there really has been some great progress made with this valuable stretch of waterfront at the foot of downtown Buffalo.  Before jumping into criticism and ideas, it’s only fair I recognize the good that has already been done:

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Fall Colors: Forest Lawn Cemetery

When thinking of beautiful places to spend an afternoon, a cemetery usually isn’t the first place that comes to mind.  The truth is, Forest Lawn Cemetery is easily the most underappreciated landmark within the city limits of Buffalo.  Even if you’ve heard of Forest Lawn before, perhaps the feeling of the deceased surrounding you as you go for a stroll has ultimately kept you away.  If that’s the case, you should reconsider.  And I’m hoping this post will help change your mind.

Forest Lawn was another place I first frequented with my parents when I was quite young.  As we drove out, I remember thinking how strange it was that we were going sightseeing at a graveyard, but I also thought it was kind of cool.  Halloween has long been my favorite holiday (even though I hate horror movies), so I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with the mysteries of the afterlife, and the general creepiness you feel crawl up your neck in certain situations like this.  Ironically, Forest Lawn is not that type of place at all.  If you go on a nice, autumn day (like the ones we should have this weekend!), it has more of a feeling of a beautiful park where a bunch of dead people just happen to be buried.  Jump over to see why:

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Fall Colors: Griffis Sculpture Park

photo from NY Travel Guide

It’s been a little while since my last post.  I have a few things in the works, including a profile of the mysterious and often underappreciated Forest Lawn Cemetery.  In the meantime, I wanted to take some time to highlight some places that are fantastic to visit during the autumn months.  Yes, I know it’s depressing to hear that summer is coming to an end, but it’s time to accept it.  Disbursed between normal “exploration” posts will be posts about places I have been that are practically necessities to chalk up on your fall schedule.  Fall is hands down my favorite season, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to last very long in Western New York.  By the time the leaves get a chance to turn full color, they’re already being covered by the first dustings of snow.  It’s also the last chance we have to comfortably do things outside before bundling up like Randy in “A Christmas Story”.

With this in mind, the first installment in this series will be one of my absolute favorite places in the entire region – Griffis Sculpture Park.  Located just south of Springville, Sculpture Park is perhaps the most underappreciated gem that our area has to offer.  I have been going there since my parents first discovered it when I was very young, but I am always shocked to speak to someone that has either never heard of it, or is aware of it but has no idea of the gigantic scope of it all.  Flip over to the other side to learn more:

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Delaware Park – Now and Then

Delaware Park isn’t exactly a hidden gem of Buffalo.  The 376 acre park borders the north end of the city, bridging the gap between the Elmwood Strip, and more upscale neighborhoods like Rumsey and Nottingham.  The park is divided by Delaware Ave (hence the name), and both sides take on distinctly different personalities.  The 243 acre eastern side is dubbed “Meadow Park” and features wide open expanses with tennis courts, a running track, baseball diamonds, and even a golf course.  This is the far more populated side of the park, with the running track looking like a mini marathon race most days…people everywhere.

I prefer the eastern side of the park, the 133 acre section dubbed “Water Park”.  When I lived on West Ferry for a stretch of almost three years during the end of my college days, this section of the park was within walking distance and I found myself spending time in the park quite often.  Unfortunately I’m about a 5-10 minute drive from the park now, but that didn’t stop me from heading over there yesterday to take in some old sights and get some material for a quick write up.  Check it out after the jump:

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Niagara River, Tonawanda

This post will hardly be ground breaking for anyone that lives in the Northtowns, but as someone who lived in the Southtowns all the way through high school, Tonawanda was largely a great unknown to me.  Back then, I knew the town (they really call it a city?) was somewhere up around Amherst, but not as far as Niagara Falls.  My first experience I remember was a trip to the infamous hot dog stand, Old Man River, with my dad when I was much younger.  I think at that time it was because there was a coupon in the Entertainment Book for buy one get one free hot dogs.  I don’t remember much about the area from back then – all that really stuck in my head was the big whale on the roof of the place, and the crazy décor inside.  Since living in Buffalo, and now Kenmore, I’ve been to the river in Tonawanda a handful of times, but never really stopped to take everything in.  So yesterday I took the short drive over there, picked a place to park, and began to explore.  Check it out after the jump:

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