Buffalo, Then (Part Two)

This week, the Buffalo News printed a piece on coffeehouses in the Gusto section of the paper. This was very cool and I am super excited for the continued success of coffee in Buffalo, NY. While the scene is growing today, we at Gen X Reactions are more on the side of nostalgia and enjoy a trip down memory lane when it comes to coffee. I am also famous (amoung my small group of family & friends) for being somewhat of an archivist (read: hoarder), which is why I have the following gem from 1997. It was an article on the ‘new’ coffee scene in Buffalo. I’m certain that the 90s were not the only booming time for coffee in Buffalo – I mean it is a Rust Belt city and what substance keeps the working people going like coffee – but it was a great time.

In the mid-90s, we were just getting the Seattle scene wave in the city and it was glorious. You could still smoke indoors, which made the ambiance of the coffeehouses much more mysterious and murky. Baristas talked to patrons like bartenders – the relationship was not merely transactional as it can feel today. Technology had not reached everyone yet, in the form of smartphones and only a few lucky (read: wealthy) kids had cellphones at all. We would sit for hours, playing mancala and chatting with the various people that frequented these spots.

So – without further ado – here is the article that I speak of. Enjoy the nostalgia and be sure to patronize the coffeehouses of today! They are cool in their own way and in 20 years we will look back on them with the same fondness we do for these joints. After all, Grindhaus is Java Temple, Remedy House is Stimulance, Tipico is Topic, and Aroma will always be Aroma. It is all in your perception.

Cover photo of Stimulance coffeehouse was taken by Robert Kirkham.
Not the best headline, but it was the 90s.
Caffe Aroma – still a mainstay of Buffalo, NY
Back when sPot was still The Spot.
References to Hallwalls are so 90s.
Gotta love that ‘coffee ring’. So retro.
Stimulance says, “why drink depression?”
One last capture to acclimate you to the 1997 pop culture scene.

This was truly a great time in Buffalo for coffee and camaraderie. The 90s had it all – grunge, caffeine, nicotine, and that thing where you ingest substances until 4 am and then get up for school the next morning at 8 am like nothing happened – I am pretty sure it is called youth (h/t to Stefan).

2019 is shaping up to be pretty awesome, coffee-wise, too for Buffalo – so check out the Gusto article for more on that. I must say that I was very disappointed that they didn’t include Caffe Aroma in the article, if even just to give a nod with spot and sweetness_7 as one of the originals. At this point, they ARE the original for Buffalo. They also snubbed my favourite coffeehouse in Buffalo: Grindhaus. Why they were left out is confusing since they are an excellent place to get your caffeine fix. They also have awesome food choices for a quick snack or a lunchtime meal – like the VLT with a side of mujadara or a ricotta toast.

Still – lots of awesomeness is finally happening in the Buffalo coffee scene. They have embraced third wave coffee much better than the previous generation embraced fair trade (Stimulance did do fair trade and a cup program, just for the sake of clarity) and the baristas are extremely knowledgeable now by comparison.

The coffee scene in Buffalo has definitely been revived, after surviving a dry spell in the first decade of this new century. So get out there and enjoy!

Peace and happy caffeinating,

Punkgrrrl

Trying to Process

 

In my shoes, a walking sleep
And my youth I pray to keep
Heaven sent hell away
No one sings like you anymore

I’ve had a few weeks to deal with it and I don’t think I’ll ever process the fact that Chris Cornell is dead. I’ve read posts on social media, articles on the Internet, and even listened to interviews of those who claim to be close friends or family. None of that has helped any. Talking about it has made it more real rather than provide any kind of distance. Absorbing all of the music he produced in his short life is the only thing that truly helps, but I think that’s only because that fools my soul into believing he is still alive. He lives on in my speakers and my headphones. He can still affect us when we hear him sing and he can fool us all that he’s doing just fine.

His death gave me an opportunity to revisit the music of my youth: grunge. When I was a teenager, one of the reasons I loved this genre is because there wasn’t a clear definition of it. Those who didn’t know would never know and that was fine by me. I knew that us insiders were in the know and this music was ours. We didn’t need to define it or explain it. We just listened to it and that was enough. Twenty five years later, I am trying to create a playlist on my computer I aptly named GRUNGE4LYFE and I have to be honest—I am struggling with deciding which bands should be included! Why wasn’t there a clear line delineated so we knew who was grunge and who wasn’t?

The obvious components are included: Mother Love Bone. Pearl Jam. Soundgarden. Temple of the Dog. Nirvana. Screaming Trees. Alice in Chains. Mudhoney. Hole. But it’s at this point I get stuck. STP? No—they weren’t from the Pacific Northwest. Scott Weiland only sounded like Eddie Vedder; he wasn’t actually grunge. Billy Corgan did not play grunge music so the Smashing Pumpkins are out. Who else? Do I put the Lemonheads in? What about Bush or L7 or the Foo Fighters? Was grunge over by the time Grohl started his band? Wikipedia has a list of American Grunge Bands, but I don’t follow that, mainly because it doesn’t follow the classification of grunge I have in my head.

My categorization of grunge is: a subgenre of alternative rock that began in the early 1990s in the Pacific Northwest. While many traditional definitions of grunge embrace the style or fashion that includes baggy or torn clothes, I do not. So bands that were founded in Los Angeles or London or New England are not included in my definition of grunge. Maybe my characterization is too narrow. Maybe I am not being inclusive enough. I don’t care. I am not saying that anything outside of this definition is not worth listening to—far from it. I am just saying this is what grunge is and this is whom I included in my GRUNGE4LYFE playlist. Needless to say Mr. Cornell was featured quite prominently in my list.

As I said earlier, it has taken me a while to get over Chris’s death. And I use his first name because although I did not know him personally, he has been a part of my life since I was a teenager. He and I are part of the same generation. He came with me on road trips; he motivated me when I was feeling apathetic; he stuck by my side when other people in my life didn’t. And all that being said, I don’t think I would have counted Soundgarden and Audioslave as my favorite bands. Back in the day the argument was always Pearl Jam versus Nirvana. You were on one side or the other. Soundgarden was in the background just rocking the EFF out not caring which side you were on. And Chris was in the front belting his words out as softly or as brutally as we needed. As we now all know, he carried the weight of his life on his shoulders. He wasn’t healthy. He was in pain and he needed help. Eventually that all became too much and he needed out. Maybe the reason I haven’t been able to come to terms with this death is because he was the one who stuck around. He was able to drop the drug habits that killed Kurt and Layne in one way or another back in the mid 90s. He made it through his twenty-seventh year. He spoke for Generation X when others were not able to and in a way others just couldn’t. Soundgarden broke up and he was still able to go on to do other amazing things and then ultimately get back together with his bandmates. He made it to his fifties. He would be around for the long haul. Obviously I was wrong.

He left us with hundreds of songs and maybe even a handful more that we haven’t heard yet. After I collected all of my grunge tunes into one list and hit shuffle, the first song that came on was “My Wave” from Superunknown. These words seem somehow fitting:

Cry if you want to cry, if it helps you see; if it clears your eyes…

 

Cheers to you, Chris.