Buffalo's Guide to More Pizza and More Time in the Sack

by Stephanie Cole

I hate San Francisco the way people hate the WB's "High School Reunion": it looks good, but I'd cheerfully watch the whole spectacle drown. Distaste notwithstanding, the last time I was in California, I noticed something: not only was almost everyone tanned to a leathery hue, but there was a lot less body mass wrapped in said chamois. It was unnerving: Where was the rest of them? What was all that extra, unoccupied space around people? Was it the much-vaunted "aura," only visible in areas where people say "feng shui" without feeling stupid?

Visiting another, healthier city was a shock to my perception; all that thin-ness being flaunted by the aggregate population was like living in a world of funhouse mirrors. Californians, despite their seeming vapidity and inability to control their automobile emissions, take better care of themselves than people in Buffalo. Huh.

Of course, for every fit, trim San Franciscan just begging to be body-checked off their rollerblades, there was an emaciated waif who could have stunt-doubled as one of the leather whips currently starring in "The Passion.” But this isn't one of those "Women, love your bodies" columns. If you haven't learned to love your body without bending over a toilet or snorting ex-lax, I can't help you. Rather, this is a column about getting exercise in the Queen-sized City…which, come to think of it, maybe could help you.

Mind you, I write this from the central command of a body that, for thirty years, has looked like it needs to run at least another ten miles a day—probably one of the reasons I live in Buffalo, as opposed to a svelter but duller city. I fit in here, and I appreciate the good points of our town with a zeal that puts Don Esmonde to shame. After all, most of the stuff that makes us fat is also what makes Buffalo so great: Drinking to 4AM, wings, good restaurants, and sedentary cultural activities like those at the Philharmonic, the Carpelis, the Albright-Knox, or the Mohawk Place.

Cynics will point out that New York City has even more bars, wings, restaurants, and bums-in-seats culture, but somehow most of Manhattan can wear Vera Wang. I have only three points of rebuttal: New York City also has more money, more plastic surgeons, and more self-obsession. With those three assets, you can pull a Cher, turn back time, and look younger in 2004 than you did in 1987, when you were doing the things that made you look old in the first place.

The point is, people don't live in Buffalo for their health; they live here for the people, the culture, and the architecture. So we drink and eat and have fun and occasionally rally to save old-fashioned buildings wide enough to accommodate our resulting physiques. It's a good life, the resolution to which is aided by the enforced inactivity created by our weather.

All the above is well and good and established, but sometimes you have to pay the piper. It's time for Buffalo as a city to face the facts: if we want to put in a full life-span of drinking, wing-eating, and theater going, it's time to get off our asses and keep our fat content hovering somewhere between "husky" and "more to love." As a City, we should make sure we don't hit "can't shop at normal stores," and "needs to book an extra seat on the plane.” As a community, we should say "yes" to Just Pizza, while also saying "yes" to being able to have sex for more than ten minutes without calling 911.

Therefore, carefully crafted to accommodate the Buffalo lifestyle (busy, entertained, and well-informed), weather (lousy), and wallet (empty except for beer money), I offer the following exercise plans. Each plan is designed to be enjoyable, indoors/weather appropriate, and cheap. Follow these simple guidelines, and the next time your college friend from NYC says "damn, this city's ugly," you'll be able to say "yes, but we can eat a whole pizza and do 50 sit-ups without throwing up;” truly a remarkable feat.


The Fair and Balanced Exercise Plan

Equipment: Fox News, Sneakers, and a stable surface

Everyone loves Fox News! Well, no. For most of us, Fox News is just something you ignore until you're forced to ask the bartender to change the channel. But don't be so hasty in private. If you're at home, Fox News can whip you into shape more effectively than the priciest of personal trainers.

How it's done: Put on your sneakers. Turn on Fox News. Wait until you hear someone utter something stupid, biased, or sensationalistic. Kick the air every time you think the person on screen needs a kick in the pants. When Brit Hume comes on, add punches to your routine. Do a sit-up every time you notice hideous plastic surgery.

UB Should be in the City Pilates

Equipment: Urbanism, Regionalism-induced frustration, a mat

Everyone knows that the 'burbs are the antithesis of a sustainable environment, and Pilates are strength-building exercises based on sustained muscle use. This is your chance: protest Amherst's hijacking of the "jewel of the SUNY system" via contra-thematic exercise.

How it's done: Huh. I really have no idea how to do Pilates. … Lift your leg like you're hovering over a fire hydrant and hold the pose until consolidation of City and County services sounds like a bad idea? Sure.

Delaware Park Scoping

Equipment: Binoculars, notepad, flattering footwear

Spring is here; time to mate. Delaware Park's scenic bike/jogging path is the perfect place to scout for that special someone.

How it's done: Do a lap around the park. Then pick a bench and pretend to bird watch/take notes while actually checking out your fellow Buffalo residents. Find one you like and attempt a flirtation. Every time you get shot down, make a note of what went wrong, and do another lap. Eventually, you'll either find love, or get really in shape. Even if it doesn't work out, you can turn your notes into an amusing Beast column.

Rising Above City Hall

Equipment: City Hall, a doughnut, and a friend

Buffalo has the most beautiful City Hall in the Country. Put a doughnut on top of it and it's the most perfect structure on earth. It also has lots of stairs.

How it's done: Have your friend take the elevator to the viewing deck on top of City Hall, bringing the doughnut with him. Then, you hit the stairs and climb to the top. Once you're there, eat the doughnut. [Reverse peristalsis in a symbolic gesture of frustration at our inability to revitalize downtown is at the exerciser's own discretion.]

The "Fight Socialism" Riverwalk Plan

Equipment: The Riverwalk, a notebook, some legs

The Riverwalk is the path along the lakeshore/banks of the Niagara, running alongside the 190. Why more people don’t take advantage of this scenic byway is beyond me: a mere 10 feet from traffic flying by at a breathtaking 80 miles an hour, this community treasure brings you past the Buffalo Sewage Treatment plant, the Tonawanda water treatment plant, wends through some old factories, and ends in charming Niagara County. But most importantly, it brings you a clear, uninterrupted vision of that socialist worker's paradise, Canada.

How it's done: Get to the Riverwalk. Walk. Look at Canada's non-thruway-coated waterfront. Rejoice in the triumph of Capitalism. Walk some more.

That's it for now. When it comes to exercising, Buffalo, there's just two other things to keep in mind: 1) It doesn't take an expensive gym membership to exercise, it just makes it easier and more fun. 2) You don't need to impress anyone when you control access to 5% of the world's freshwater supply. Keep George "What Environment?" Bush in office and there'll be a day when California doesn't look so good.

Stephanie Cole is a local attorney. For the record, she is actually a fan of capitalism.

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© 2004 The Beast