“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you.” -Christian Morganstern

Dorothy wanted nothing more than to ditch Kansas. And when she did, she wanted nothing more than to get back home.

Buffalo, NY is my Kansas. I grew up in B-lo and wanted to bust out of that dinky city. I spent a good chunk of my late teens and 20s wandering the world, trying to find a place where I fit in. Buffalo’s a pretty tightly knit community where everyone is a friend of a friend, and the rule of six degrees of separation doesn’t apply. The only way to escape the grip of my hometown was to run away and fall in love with some other place.

A summer in Central America, semester in Europe, and a healthy stint as a Manhattanite later, I knew where home was. It’s said that home is where the heart is, and my heart’s in Buffalo.

Last weekend, a friend and I took a roadtrip to my hometown. I showed her the house where I grew up and the church I attended as a youngster, introduced her to friends, even brought her to classic Buffalo eateries (Buffalonians, I’m talking Jim’s Steakout, Pano’s and Anchor Bar).

Buffalo is the “city of good neighbors,” and it’s no wonder why. Everyone is smiling, making small talk, basking in mutual hometown pride. There’s no other city where a total stranger at a restaurant bar becomes a new friend instantly, where an otherwise obnoxious accent is as comforting as a lullaby, where you never have to pay cover charges at a bar because you took high school algebra with the bouncer’s third cousin. Only in Buffalo does my frumpy eclectic sense of style warrant compliments instead of sneers. I love my city, where chicken wings with bleu cheese sauce and doughy pizza is our soul food. Where we grew up watching American and Canadian news and children’s shows.

There’s no place like home.