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03/29/09 01:06 - 54ºF - ID#48228

A book about Elmwood Strip

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Look, someone has actually written a real book about Elmwood strip. It's not a historical piece, but rather a modern fictitious piece of work that talks about Elmwood and the weird, kooky, crazy characters that roam it.

This book hasn't been released yet (March 31st, 2009) but the one review it has on amazon gave it 5 stars.

I'm definitely buying it.


Buffalo Lockjaw
by Greg Ames




Article in the Buffalo News
Literary world strolls Elmwood strip
By Jeff Simon


"Buffalo Lockjaw" does something no book has ever done before.

Here is the great novel about Buffalo's Elmwood Avenue strip and the often scruffy life young people have been living on it for at least half a century - the people one meets there, the ways one spends time in its environs.

"I felt that Elmwood Avenue was the coolest and most interesting place in the world," says its author Greg Ames, 38, who grew up on Dorsett Drive in Kenmore, went to St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute and Buffalo State College.

With the release of "Buffalo Lockjaw" this week, literate Buffalo is likely to know about it. (Certainly "literary" Buffalo -a different thing -will.)

If Lauren Belfer's "City of Light" is, in some ways, the great Buffalo historical novel thus far, Greg Ames' funny, moving and irresistibly readable "Buffalo Lockjaw" is the great Elmwood Avenue novel -the great autobiographical fiction about a certain kind of deeply eccentric Bohemian style that has persisted for young people along the Elmwood "strip" for at least 50 years.

No one has better captured the quality of life lived by young people along the Elmwood Avenue strip than Ames in "Buffalo Lockjaw"-nor has anyone else seemed to know, until now, how much that life was worth capturing. For people who've lived it, or had children who did (or both), "Buffalo Lockjaw" will seem like the inevitable rendering of young Boho Buffalo that has been so oddly delayed for so long but has finally appeared.

It's now official. We're in a Buffalo literary renaissance. Native Buffalo sons and daughters in the writer's trade may have moved elsewhere but they don't seem to be able to stop returning in book form to the city that helped them. Do those writers who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, Lexington, Ky., and Denver exhibit such extraordinary literary fealty to their hometowns?

Doubtful. Buffalo is not just crucial to "Buffalo Lockjaw," it is part of what makes the novel as good as it is-not just the winter weather that forces people to walk against the slicing lake winds with the book's title facial expression but the city's folk legends, its cultural richness, its gallows humor and emotional honesty.

It's a story about a young man who comes back home to his family while his mother is dying of Alzheimer's and brings with him a copy of "Assisted Suicide for Dummies." (Ames' mother, very much alive, in fact suffers from the disease.)

Such gallows humor is very Greg Ames. And very "Buffalo."

The finale of the book is both moving and, in a way that perhaps people in his hometown will understand best, entirely redolent of Buffalo's stoic, gritty mind-set.

"I worried about my father and sister would think about [the book] and they both read it and loved it," says Ames. "They're entirely supportive of me and pleased with me. They're my toughest readers. That was the audience I was most concerned with.

"I think you have to be sort of fearless as a fiction writer. You have to answer to what the story dictates and not worry about what people think about it. If my father and sister had not liked the book, it would have been a disappointment but it wouldn't have changed anything I had written. So I hope my friends in Buffalo will read it with amusement. And I hope my relatives will too. But if they don't accept it that way, it's not my concern."

"Buffalo Lockjaw" is quite raw compared to much of Ames' previously published work in such places as McSweeney's, Fiction International and failbetter.com, which tends toward the humorous and fantastic.

"For a long time," he says on the phone, "I was writing this book and thinking, 'Well, it's not going to be published so I might as well write the purest, most naked book that I could write.' And then when it was accepted for publication, I thought 'oh, no.' "

Ames agrees with TV and film writer Diane English that all those ways of living that come from a necessarily indoor culture in tough winters tend to spawn writers naturally and abundantly.

"Outside of all the drinking, what people do indoors is tell each other stories. I don't know what it's like to grow up in a place like San Diego where it's 72 every day. I would imagine that I would spend a lot more time riding a bike and being out on the beach and doing other things. But when you grow up in Buffalo, you're indoors and with your family. Certain bonds are formed. I can't speak for anyplace else but I do think Buffalo produces a lot of storytellers and dynamic people."

"In some ways the book is all false information. People will quote things and they'll be inaccurate. Somebody says something about Grover Cleveland and names the wrong president."

True information: Ames spent "the first 16 years of my life in Buffalo. And then again, from the age of 18 to 25, I was in Buffalo." The family moved to Rochester when he was 16.

"At St. Joe's I probably had a straight C average. The minute I moved to Rochester (with his family) I didn't know anyone. And I had nothing to do at night but homework. And so I was on the honor roll at this McQuaid [Jesusit] School for maybe six months or so. And then once I met the kind of guys I was looking for -the same type of crew I hung out with in Buffalo -my grades went back down to the low 70s. This raised some alarm with the priests there. And they had determined that that could not happen so they started to shadow me.

"Actually I was kicked out of that school but I was allowed to graduate from McQuaid. I took my Regents exam in a broom closet on campus. I had been kicked out in Feburary. I was allowed to come back three months later in May and I was allowed to take my Regents exam in this utility closet. They would allow me to graduate with a Regents diploma as long as I never returned again."

And if that has the sound of truth well-embroidered by a born writer, so be it. Ames swears it's true.

What he's learned from being the family screw-up is that "if you do all your rebellion early on, you set the bar so low that if you do anything of note, they celebrate it much more. They think 'OK, terrific! You got a job! Good for you!' That's the best way to do it -convince everyone that you're not going to accomplish anything and then when you do come out with something, they think it's wonderful."

Among his formative literary experiences in his 20s was reading a story called "Some of Us Have Been Threatening My Friend Colby" by Donald Barthelme, a writer who, coincidentally, along with the Nobel Prize winning Coetzee, spent a period teaching in the State University of Buffalo English Department.

Ames has been on leave from his life as an adjunct writing professor at Brooklyn College where, if you find the evaluations of his students online, you encounter everything from antipathy (very infrequent) to "I want to have his baby."

"I had to learn how to teach the same way I had to learn how to write." He never read the students' evaluations of him, he says, because "there's always going to be a kid in the class who's like ME. And it drives me bananas. And I understand what teachers must have thought of me. I could light myself on fire in front of the kid and he would still have his arms folded on his chest. And he'd say 'the teacher we had last semester did it much better.'"

Unlikely, it seems to me.




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03/22/09 08:22 - 32ºF - ID#48156

Yes, and it was great!

There, you have it.
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03/21/09 03:36 - 24ºF - ID#48143

faben's painting of me

Look at how crazy good this picture is that my daughter drew.
Although it looks like a photograph that just had a photoshop filter applied to it to make it look drawn, it is not. it was drawn completely by hand, on a tablet and then colored with photoshop. i have the layers to show the work progression. i still cannot believe how life like this is. she did it by looking at my photograph that i often use as my user pic.

she's taking orders if anyone would like to commission her for a portrait. it does not have to be digital, it can be graphite, pen, or something other.

btw, i added the cheesy border. i'm not sure how i feel about it now.


image
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Location: Buffalo, NY


03/16/09 11:20 - 49ºF - ID#48071

drunken mistakes

i fell asleep with my fake green contacts in my eyes last night. and then woke up in the middle of the night with glassy sand in my eyes and was crawling in pain to the bathroom to try to fish those dry sandpapery things out. ugh....pain i tell ya.
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Location: Buffalo, NY


03/15/09 06:30 - 52ºF - ID#48062

penis

i love (e:terry)'s penis!
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Words: 5
Location: Buffalo, NY


03/04/09 09:45 - 19ºF - ID#47942

for e:hodown

I'm not sure if you've already seen this, but I just got an email today from M.A.C. with this inside.

Hello Kity Koture

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Thought you might be interested.



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