Tuesday, June 08, 2004

A is for Allentown...

Allentown is a neighborhood in Buffalo. When I was growing up, it seemed to be both the artists' section of town, and where the gay people lived. For a time, it boasted both a huge arts and crafts festival (the 47th ever is coming up this weekend!) and a large porn theatre (the Allendale, since transformed into the Theatre of Youth).

Mostly, as a kid, I went to Allentown, usually with my dad, to go to the first poetry readings I ever attended, and I took my first writing class at the Allentown Community Center (sadly, gone) with Jimmie Canfield Gilliam, who I studied with this winter, a full 20 years since that class.

When I returned as an adult to Buffalo, Allentown was a natural mecca for me. The first real cafes and coffeehouses of the 90s were there (The Topic, Cybele's), and the most interesting bars (Nietzsche's, of course, and The Old Pink, once known as the Pink Flamingo, now pretending to be called the Allen Street Bar and Grill). Since then, much of my life & the life of my community has taken place in Allentown.

Allentown is still sketchy--people sometimes get hurt there, or robbed. It's a bit far from a grocery store, a library, but is full of galleries (home to Buffalo's only Gallery Walk), a fantastic bookstore which bosts a tiny theatre/art/performance space, and a big Greek diner. Many of my friends also live there (and more seem to be moving there every day...). I frequently think about doing the same; I know its how neighborhoods stabilize, and thrive--the people who live there want to be there. It hurts to think about the neighborhood becoming a place I wouldn't want to be.

The Arts Fest is still one of the summer's biggest events, though my pals and I rarely cross Elmwood Avenue to enter the official terrain. Our territory is the one block of Allen where the real and best stuff seems to be going on. I'll be there in the streets this weekend, waving to friends, buying some local art, enjoying Allentown.

This has been an AlphaBytes collab entry.