Anthony Antek will be speaking about “Bipolar Buffalo” at the Hamburg Public Library on Monday, May 20 at 7 p.m. The Lake View resident wrote the book as a way to be creative and pass the time during the winter.
Local author Anthony Antek, from Lake View, is a private person. He doesn’t like to talk about himself, and avoids the spotlight as much as possible. Thankfully for us, the reader, he decided to step out of his comfort zone to deliver “Bipolar Buffalo, A Mosaic of Minds Journey,” a wonderfully written book taking the reader through various stages of his life.
Antek, who grew up Polish, Catholic and bipolar in Lackawanna, breaks the book up into four sections, with 52 nonfiction short stories in all. Each section deals with a particular period of his life.
The book plays on numerous themes throughout, at times guiding the reader through the sociological issues of the day to the historic buildings he hung out and worked in as a teenager. It’s one part history, one part sociology, one part comedy and one part narrative, with some literary “massage,” as Antek calls it, thrown in.
The book starts out with Antek as a child growing up in Lackawanna. and some of the racial issues of the 1950s in Lackawanna. He tells the story of helping an African American boy on the wrong side of the railing on a bridge, the first African American he has encountered on the bridge in his young life.
He writes of playing baseball at St. Francis High School, and the time his team enters a diner with borderline off-color signs on the wall. Antek is caught looking at one, and is benched for the rest of the season, despite being one of the better players on the team. The stories are told with humor and a sense, that even as an adolescent, Antek was searching for more out of life.
The second section of the book, titled “Stepping on Cracks,” is where Antek’s literary skill really shines through. He’s in college now, and he’s about to experience his first breakdown. It’s somewhat painful to read about, but impossible to put the book down. The story is told in such a way that it feels like we are watching the breakdown, as it happens. The reader at once feels empathy for Antek, as well as being slightly embarrassed for him. We feel like we are there.
It’s much the same when Antek describes being in the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, or the H.H. Richardson Complex as it’s now called. From a sociological standpoint, it’s shocking to read about his treatment from the nurses, or “Stiff Whites,” as he calls them.
Antek finds reprieve from life in the institution when he meets a girl named Rebecca and it’s one of the few human moments he experiences in the asylum. When they make plans to meet the next day, and she doesn’t show up, your heart breaks for him. Antek is the underdog in the story, and it’s easy to see why he “writes for the underdog.”
He eventually leaves the asylum, and gets on with his life. He writes about other breakdowns, as well as travelling around the country throughout the rest of the book. He goes to Las Vegas, after turning away from Los Angeles during the riots of the 1960s. There, he works as a dishwasher in a casino and meets comedian Steve Allen. He writes of an encounter with Native Americans at a bar playing pool. Antek says he’s from Buffalo, bringing up a discussion of the animal nearly wiped out by white people in the late 1800s.
There are several themes running throughout the book, including the “bipolar” theme. Not only does it apply to his mental illness. It applies to the Native Americans, and their treatment of the Buffalo as opposed to the white people who killed the animal in large numbers. It applies to the bridge story, where he helps the African American boy off of the ledge, and it applies to the Buffalo area itself, and our collective love/hate relationship with the region. And in the end, there is hope.
“Bipolar Buffalo” is beautifully written, and nearly impossible to put down.
The book also features Antek’s original artwork throughout.
Anthony Antek will be speaking about his book, “Bipolar Buffalo,” on Monday, May 20 at 7 p.m. at the Hamburg Public Library. He will also be at the Broadway Market on Saturday, June 8 at noon and the Patterson Library in Westfield on Tuesday, July 2 at 7 p.m. For more information on his book, check www.bipolarbuffalo.com