Like many arsty, existential males, I am a fan of the film Buffalo ’66. In Buffalo ’66, Vincent Gallo and Christina Ricci have existential adventures of the sort that only occur in American independent cinema. Gallo and Ricci, for example, have dinner with Ben Gazzara and Anjelica Huston, who play Gallo’s eccentric, dysfunctional parents. Later, the couple goes to Denny’s and runs into Rosanna Arquette. In Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo, hip, cultish celebrities lurk around every corner and induce sublime catharsis. A veritable earthly paradise, this Buffalo!
My interest in the film Buffalo ’66 (and, peripherally, my enthusiasm for William Kennedy’s Albany cycle) sparked my initial desire to play upstate New York. Regrettably, my trips upstate have not lived up to the fun-filled portrait painted by Gallo et al. Instead of a cadre of hip, cultish celebrities, my visits to Buffalo featured a small number of friendly non-celebrities at Mohawk Place who watched me play. Meanwhile, a slightly larger number of indifferent non-celebrities hung out and drank beer. There was a general existential vibe, but nothing filmic. And, whatever makers of American independent films may insist, many parts of Buffalo are not even romantic and economically depressed! In one corner of the city, I even found an organic grocery store. I ask you: what reputable American independent film features an organic grocery store?
Of course, upstate New York does have its share of colorful characters. When I played in Jamestown, N.Y.—-an elegantly rusting town 90 minutes south of Buffalo—-I had quite an informative discussion with a spunky innkeeper.
“So, you are a musician—-a singer of songs,” said the innkeep. “On what stage do you perform this evening?”
“I believe the venue I have chosen to grace with my presence is dubbed ‘Mojo’s,'” I replied.
“Ah…Mojo’s…erg!” stammered the innkeep.
I became alarmed by the innkeep’s stammering. “What…what is the problem with Mojo’s?” I inquired.
“Oooh…I don’t know,” said the inkeep. “When I was a little girl my mother told me that they do a lot of coke in the bathroom. So I don’t go there much.”
“Ah,” I replied. “You must be referring to the illegal use of cocaine, a troublesome habit for many addicted individuals.”
“Indeed,” bemoaned the inkeep. “In fact, I must admit—-I’ve never been to Mojo’s.”
“Well, who can blame you?” I asked—-rhetorically, of course. “Who would want to expose oneself to such morally outrageous behavior as illicit drug use?” Later that evening, I made a thorough search of Mojo’s bathroom to investigate the innkeep’s claim. I can report with confidence—-no illicit drugs were being consumed in the bathroom, at least on my watch.
After my bathroom search, I returned to the bar and faced the crowd. The crowd was small and indifferent. Perhaps some illicit drug use would actually improve Mojo’s atmosphere, I thought. Then, I scanned the back of the bar for any sign of Rosanna Arquette. Unfortunately, she did not put in an appearance.