This article will be 50x better if you listen to it while playing the below song.
I am leaving for the city on a business trip.
I have never left Western New York before. Ain’t that pip.
But while I’m gone I know I will miss you all a lot.
“So bring your rich butt back here and buy us all a shot!”
Western New York has been home for 24 years. From Rochester to Buffalo, the memories I’ve made will never be forgotten. I am lucky enough to have the best supporting cast around me for this crazy movie called life; I have an encouraging family, friends that will last a lifetime, and they all stayed with me even though I have drank more Labatt and Genny Lights than any human should drink.
But all those beers would not have gone down as easily without a little help from my friends and family (I mean, they are the ones who introduced me to macho mug).
Everything I own, everything I have made myself to be, and I everything I hope to make of myself has been and will be because of them. Whether it was my parents carting me around to various sporting events or my friends buying me celebratory strawberry margaritas on my birthday (notice the plural on margarita), the Lads have always been there for me when I needed them.
We made some great memories in Rochester and Buffalo; they are two places I will always call home. These two cities will be two pivotal chapters in the book of Joshua Leonardo; they are the two main roots in my tree of life.
Rochester was the first to dig in and oh boy, did it dig in deep.
The degenerate days began back at my catholic school, St. John the Evangelist. I met an equally disgusting group of people that I am still very close with today. We had a group of about 7 or 8 families. All of these families had one thing in common: We were all boys. You can only imagine the trouble that we got into as kids. To make matters better (worse for our parents) I grew up no more than a mile from all these great Lads, so we were together all the time (also bad for our parents). We started our friendships playing wiffleball and backyard football. The games haven’t really changed much, but the drink of choice is no longer Gatorade (although if you ask us on Sunday morning, we might be wishing it was). This family has grown so much since day 1, but I can honestly say that I am closer with ALL of these people than some of my blood relatives. These guys gave me a love of sports, a competitiveness that cannot be matched (they are all taller than me and I will still bust them all 7-0 in 1 on 1), and a group of friends that I will have forever. They also gave my parent’s bakery an employee pool that has lasted the better part of 10 years.
I know I have complained to all of you about the late night/early morning drives back and forth from Rochester to Buffalo, but looking back on it, working at the bakery was the best job ever. I was able to work with all of my family and best friends, Blasting music and singing along all night, and it is literally right next door to my favorite bar in Rochester. And let’s not forget about the Park Ave Fest (although, I am not sure I remember much of them)… But in all seriousness, working at the bakery helped me grow as a man and a professional. For 15 years, I saw my mom and dad work 12+ hours every day, with little to no time off and they never sacrificed being parents. They went to all of our games, parent teacher conferences, and they still had to time to ground us all for being shit heads (which, believe it or not, was quite frequent). But more than just being great parents, I saw how hard they worked and that strong will to keep working hard no matter what was going on in their lives really rubbed off on me. Each day I set out to work as hard as my parents do no matter what the occasion; Whether it’s working my day-to-day job or it’s the 2nd Annual Sunday Masters Bar Crawl, I am going to be working my ass off.
Buffalo was the second city to take root, and damn it, I am sure glad it did.
I was definitely skeptical moving to Buffalo. I had only been there a handful of times and it was only for Bills’ and Sabres’ games. My only real taste of the city was the pre-Sabres’ Chef’s chicken Parmesan and the salty Sahlen’s hot dogs they serve at (I still call it) the Ralph. All I had seen was a bunch of unpaved city streets and muddy fields. But you know how that old saying goes, “Don’t ever judge a book by its cover.” Buffalo definitely has a rugged exterior. All people know about it is that the Bills lose every Sunday and it snows roughly 4 feet at a time. But Buffalo is like a Vidalia onion; underneath those rugged, crusty, smelly layers is a city so sweet it could make ya’ cry.
The people are what make this city so great. They don’t call it “The City of Good Neighbors” for no reason and I was able to experience this first hand. On the fourth floor of Bosch Hall at Canisius College, I met some of the best men anyone could ever meet. We shared some laughs, we shared some beers, and we shared a lot of nights where we lost our dignity. I shared many memories with these Lads: Playing wiffleball in the Field that Bosch Built, drinking my first blue latte, shoveling off ice in the freezing cold for 45 minutes and not being able to play pond hockey because our hands were too cold, and (somehow) graduating college. More than the memories, these Lads gave me a lot of important life lessons. We learned that if you want to get a Sabres player’s autograph, you are probably better off going to Chippewa than the Key. We learned first-hand that the bars being open until 4AM is too late. We learned how many red bull vodkas is too many red bull vodkas. But most importantly we learned that no matter how far away you move, a Lads friendship knows no distance. You can take the Lad out of Buffalo, but you cannot take Buffalo out of the Lad.
I would not trade growing up in Western New York for all of King Midas’ silver! These cities made me. But the most important lesson they taught me, A lesson that I will always carry with me whether I am living in Denver or frickin’ Timbuktu, the one thing that all these amazing people showed me how to do, was how to ALWAYS have fun. I may not go down as the smartest, richest, or funniest person in history, but I will be damned if I am not remembered as being the the funnest Lad on this planet. Whether it was the countless family parties (Italians, you know what I’m talking about), sitting through an 8AM lecture, or going out on a Friday night, life is always better when you are having fun. Thanks to the Lads, these 24 years split between the two greatest cities in the union have been filled with love, laugh, and Labatts.
Through all the beers, uh, I mean, years, these amazing memories and people have molded me into the Josh you all know and love today. You are my rocks. You are my foundation. You are my roots. Without you all, there is no telling where I would have ended up! But, if I had to guess, I imagine I would just be a plastic bag floating through the wind wanting to start again.
I wouldn’t necessarily call this move to Denver a new start, but it’s definitely something new to me. Following the example of my friends and family, I have been trying to embrace change lately because you cannot grow as a person if you do not try new things. I have never experienced this type of change before, but I know I will be ready. How do I know? Because I’ve got some friends in low places who have been preparing me for this experience for my entire life!
So Denver, you better get ready because I am coming for ya’!